My Camera Bag of Dreams: found (aka “A Porteen Gear review”)

When my vintage camera bag (including gear) was stolen last year, the seemingly endless searches for a replacement bag at first brought me nothing but frustration and, I confess, several tears for my beautiful and apparently irreplaceable bag. I was beginning to despair of ever finding anything that came close to what I wanted.

Then finally, at long last, I began to find some designs I liked…

When I shared the results of my searching in this blog post I discovered from all of your wonderful comments that I’m far from the only person struggling in search of the perfect camera bag. You’d think bag companies would begin to catch on to this gap in the market! ((Hello any bag designers reading this!! Take notice pleeease?!!))

After much musing, browsing and listing pros and cons for each of the bags on my shortlist, as well as all the bags that you shared in your extremely helpful comments on that post, I settled on… *drumroll* … Porteen Gear.

I was nervous as I was waiting for it to arrive. Had I made the right choice? But the second I saw this bag I was in love. It immediately felt like I’d owned it forever.

Porteen Gear camera bag

(Photo taken at: 1/1250, f/1.8, ISO 100)

Let me talk you through it’s amazingness. This starts all the way from the ordering process.

For the fabrics you can choose either one of her listed pre-designed bags or, and this is where it gets fun, you can choose every single one of the fabrics yourself. For the accent fabric you can pick from any of 73 gorgeous designs, and as if that choice wasn’t difficult enough (I wanted all of them!) you can also choose the colour of the outer canvas (which is treated for water resistance), the inner lining, strap and the leather on the flap.

Porteen Gear bag name badge

(Photo taken at: 1/400, f/1.8, ISO 100)

Robyn responded quickly to my many questions about delivery (I very had a small window of time in which I could get it), fabric choices and so on, always handling any indecision with patience. The bag was made and delivered well inside the time I’d told her I needed it by, and was beautifully packaged with love and care.

After hours of to-and-fro-ing between fabric combinations, I went with the red and gold paisley accent fabric, brown canvas, dark olive lining, olive green strap and chocolate brown leather, and it’s a thing of beauty.

Porteen Gear camera bag

(Photo taken at: 1/500, f/1.7, ISO 125)

The dividers are not removable, but they’re soft and only attached at the ends so are easily shifted to fit whatever gear you have, or shifted to the side altogether to make a larger space. There’s also a large flat pocket at the inside back of the bag, and on the front there’s a large zip pocket and plus two smaller ones to tuck in little things and lens caps, and a pen pocket.

Porteen Gear camera bag with 550D dSLR, 580 EX II, 85mm, 50mm

(Photo taken at: 1/1250, f/1.8, ISO 100)

The thing that consistently surprises me most is the size. The bag looks on the small side, it’s one of the things that I was unsure about. I’d resigned myself to the idea of only being able to fit my camera and a lens or two, but this is like magic. I can easily fit my 550D with 30mm lens on the body, plus my 50mm, 85mm and 70-300mm lenses, as well as spare batteries, SD card case and any other pieces I need with me.

Porteen Gear camera bag loaded with 500D Canon dSLR and lenses

(Photo taken at: 1/800, f/1.7, ISO 125)

Even packed like this, it still leaves a generous amount of space at the top…

Porteen Gear camera bag with kit and 580 EX II speedlite flash

(Photo taken at: 1/1250, f/1.8, ISO 100)

…where I can sit my large 580EX II flashgun quite comfortably. When the cover is buckled down it’s all perfectly snug.

The whole thing is ideal for me. My kit is safe, and the bag is soft and squishy and doesn’t scream “camera bag!” whenever anyone sees it. The craftsmanship is wonderful, the stitching is tight and safe, and the shoulder strap is wide enough that it doesn’t cut into my shoulder even when the bag is full and heavy.

And as a final touch, inside the bag was a little leather business card case and a small pouch that is perfect for all my spare camera and flash batteries.

little Porteen Gear bag

(Photo taken at: 1/500, f/3.5, ISO 100)

I can only think of two cons to this bag. Firstly, while the canvas of the main body is treated for water resistance, and I’ve never felt even the smallest amount of dampness through it, the flap that covers the bag is not waterproof.

The leather panels that form at least half of the flap do help in this respect, and the only time the lack of waterproofing has been something I was concerned about was when I got stuck in a torrential downpour with no umbrella. In this case I discovered that the thick padding of the flap absorbed the rain and held it, so even though it required drying out once I got home, my kit was still snuggly and dry.

Like I said, this hasn’t been something I’ve worried about (although I’m considering buying a water repelling treatment before the autumn rains return), but in interests of a helpful review I thought it worth mentioning.

Porteen Gear camera bag flap with fabric and leather

(Photo taken at: 1/400, f/3.5, ISO 100)

The second con is not necessarily a con for everyone. The flap is fixed down with only one buckle around the centre. This fits securely and is adjustable to keep the kit protected whether the bag is stuffed to capacity, or contains only a few items. However, while it keeps the kit in, it doesn’t keep people out.

I work in a very pickpocket prone area of London and I’m a trifle paranoid about my kit after having it stolen once. I would like to have it a little more guarded from prying fingers. Even if it was maybe two buckles instead of one in the centre, I would feel less nervous when in crowds.

However, neither of these issues are anything that could have a negative impact on my complete adoration of this bag. I’ve been using it for a few months now and love it more each time I reach for it. The leather is still impeccably shiny, and the fabric has not worn so much as moulded itself to fit my kit.

I’ve found my Camera Bag of Dreams.

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8 thoughts on “My Camera Bag of Dreams: found (aka “A Porteen Gear review”)

  1. I’ve been checking out the porteen gear too & I was so happy to come across your review (I really wanted to see more photos of the bag) . . . so, thanks! Now I know what my husband can get me for Christmas! 🙂

    • I’m so glad this was of use to you!
      I wanted to do a review with as many photos as possible because it was what I wanted while I was researching the bag myself.

      Can you let me know what fabrics you choose for your bag if you do decide to get a Porteen Gear? I’m fascinated by the limitless combinations! 🙂

  2. So, it took FOREVER :), but I finially decided to go with this combo:

    accent color: brown gold tapestry
    leather: mahogany
    strap color: brown
    waxed canvas: brown
    interior: wineberry

    (I want it to pop on the inside & Robyn said that this will compliment the brown gold tapestry. I thought about going with the olive interior, but with her feedback, I ultimately decided to go with the wineberry interior)

    I placed my order today, because this is when things start getting hectic for her with the holidays & all. Robyn said that it will go into production this week. I won’t have photos until Christmas though, because it’s a gift (I fell like a little kid counting down the weeks :D). I CAN’T WAIT!!!!

    Thanks again & I’ll post photos in December!!!
    – Lisa –

    • Hi David,

      Thank you for these helpful links!

      I think I shall have to look more closely into where to source some of these in the UK. It’s hard enough to find worthy camera bag at all, never mind in this country. In the end my only option seemed to be buying my Porteen Gear bag online at a time when someone could bring it over to the UK for me. That shall be my next task I think, once the Christmas rush dies down.

      Thanks again!

  3. Hi Vrinda, your bag looks great! Can I find out if the leather for your bag is mahogany? I can’t seem to find the same shade in the Porteen website.

  4. Your bag is beautiful! I have never seen one that pretty and still be so practical, I love it! Let me ask a stupid question. I was playing with my settings, mainly to try and learn where everything is. I was trying to see how low the f stop goes and my every day lens doesn’t go any lower than 3.5. Should I be using a lens that gives the option of a lower f stop or is this ok? It’s an 18-300mm Tamron macro.

    • Thank you so much! I’m as in love with it now as the day it arrived.

      There’s no such thing as a stupid question! 3.5 is a pretty standard minimum f/stop on a zoom lens, probably changing to around f/5.6 when you’re zoomed in? There are two main ways that the aperture will affect your photography. One way is the light it allows in; with the ability to have a wider aperture (smaller number) you’ll be able to shoot much easier in lower light conditions. The other way it affects your photography is the softening of the background of the image, with a wider aperture you get more blurring (or “bokeh”) in your backgrounds, however using your telephoto lens with a little creativity you’ll be able to make as much use of bokeh as anyone else.

      I don’t know whether you’ve seen this post: http://blog.vrindawebb.com/2013/04/28/an-investigation-into-focal-length. It may be useful in your experimenting; your magic lens will cover every focal length that took me 5 lenses to cover, and at the same aperture as I used. It’s all about learning how to use what you have to the best of your ability. No need to upgrade just for a pretty number, there’s so much you can do with the lens you have that you’re yet to discover!

      Of course if you do decide to get a lens with a wider aperture, I highly recommend the 50mm f/1.8 in whatever make your camera is. It’s relatively cheap and ever so much fun to play with. It was my first prime lens (fixed focal length, no zoom) and I never looked back.

      I hope this helps a little, I’d love to hear how you get on!

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