The long Intro [take a min to read]
It’s been a while since I’ve done a gear review. The original blog I was running is not active anymore, for different reasons I’ll dive in at a different time, but now I still have this vivid memory of writing thousands of words of gear reviews and having the time of my life testing gear, taking photos of it, and writing about my thoughts.
This was normal for me, I’d do 2-3 back or camera accessory reviews each month. It was also a quest to get the items I wanted for free. This was 6 years ago, before the real hype of influencers and our current inability to tell which opinions are true and which are “paid for” literally or by free stuff.
Time went on, I got tired of having my apartment be overloaded with gear. At some point I started accepting things I wasn’t really into and still having to do reviews on those.
This was the point where I called it quits with blogging the way I was doing it. I got tired of shooting bags for free, or mostly in exchange for getting them in my hands. I wasn’t making money with any of this. So I took the blog down and simplified my life. Shut off social media posting as much as possible and went dark for a while.
Fast forward to December 2018, and my friends from Cecilia Gallery (shopcecilia.com), the guys who were a part of my original camera strap review and my skyrocket launch into gear reviews, reached out and asked if I’d be interested in testing out and writing about their new camera backpack. I said yes. I thought I’d be fresh enough to sit down and write a review at that point.
I got the bag, loved playing around with it, and thinking through the pros and cons that stood out for me. But really never made the time to sit and write. Or even to shoot the bag. Months went by, I kept postponing this process.
Then last June I shot the bag with my good friend Xenia (@xenialeo) and that was definitely a fun process. I sat and edited the images pretty quick, but the words would still not come to me.
And so here we are. I’m pouring myself some hot water for yerba mate, rocking in my IKEA chair in the living room, and typing these words in Google Docs on my ThinkPad X1 laptop.
Nothing here is sponsored, by the way, these details are for a better and more realistic visual.
At some point, I shipped the backpack back to Cecilia and treated it as a loaner. It felt like the right thing to do. Especially in a time where I was trying to sell as much stuff out of the house as possible in the last year.
So now that you know the back story, I can say that I’m back to writing and shooting and sharing. With that, let’s dive in and take a look at this buttery smooth leather camera backpack from Cecilia Gallery.
My typical format for the gear/bag reviews used to go like this:
- The look - pretty explanatory and pretty important to me
- Ergonomics - how comfy the bag is for its purpose
- Functionality - tech stuff and capacity
- Conclusion - final thoughts
So let's dive in and chat about this soft smooth buttery leather backpack that also fits 13" laptops.
The package arrived. It was a good size box and I knew this is about to get exciting. I had a family trip coming up to Northern California and then Lake Tahoe for New Years. I didn’t want to pack much, so this backpack was a perfect choice and great timing too.
I opened the pouch it came in and the first thing that really impressed me was the feel of the leather. At $449 (also available from B&H), this is a really really expensive bag in my opinion. And if you’re wondering what exactly you’re paying for, the first time you touch the bag will give you 85% of the reasons.
[SIDE NOTE] Cecilia also has a variety of messenger bags and leather straps.
In the package I also got a super awesome card wallet to store my SD cards. That one became my companion on most of the shoots for the next year.
Back to the backpack. It has a pretty nice shape, actually keeps its shape over time, which I can’t say about the majority of bags on the market, and has a very minimal look. I loved not having “This is a camera bag!” vibe to it as I carried it around. You get just enough pockets and zippers and an insanely awesome back padding.
The side profile of the bag is clean, the overall shape has pleasant smooth curves, and there are no gigantic brand logos anywhere. All around, it’s a win-win-win.
Inside the bag, you’ll be greeted by very nice light grey tones. In my opinion, there is nothing worse than trying to find something in a bag with a dark or black interior where you literally can’t see anything and can’t tell one thing from another.
The camera compartment is also grey. I’ll talk more about padding later, that has always been my obsession point.
Black back padding is very comfortable, looks great, and will make for comfortable long city walks. The one thing that I wasn’t 100% sold on was how the bottom of the back is the same soft creamy to the touch leather as everything else on the outside of the bag.
The more I kept putting the backpack down, the more I was worried about dirt, scratches, and much faster wear in general. I can’t say these worries came true, but I also haven’t used the bag for multiple years of daily wear.
Leather is very durable and ages nicely. Small scratches can be cured with regular cleaning and conditioning.
I am a huge fan of big open access to gear, so the zipper that opens the whole back is always my preference. What usually happens is the zipper doesn’t go all the way around and doesn’t open fully or you need to use both hands and force the zipper to keep going. None of that is happening with this Cecilia backpack.
You open with ease, the back opens fully, and you have full access to everything inside. Love that.
The top portion of the backpack is more or less designated for personal items that are not camera gear. I could fit my wallet, headphones, Moleskine large hardcover journal, and lots of other things in there. Keys can go into the small front zipper pocket, it’s just the right size for that.
The top pocket and the camera section have a zipper in between them too. So if you want, you can have a simple big space inside.
My laptop got its own little cave in the back pocket. Obviously the laptop ads a lot of weight and bulk, so I opted in to mostly carrying camera gear and no laptop in this one. The bag is incredibly light for being a leather one. So I really wanted to keep weight to the minimum and stick to a few simple gear setups:
- Sony a7RII with 50mm Zeiss Loxia (now replaced by Samyang 35mm F2.8)
- Sony RX100IV - favorite and most underestimated camera on the market I think
- Leica M6 35 mm film camera with a case of film rolls
- Cardholder - also from Cecilia (will make for a killer gift for any photographer)
- Battery holder (right now I use MindShift Gear cases) for all my digital cameras
I haven’t really messed around much with the tripod attachments, I don’t have a need to carry a tripod and sold all of mine.
The little side pocket/zipper - great for little extra items, snacks, and such.
Overall, I really love how everything in this bag can have its place and you won’t confuse what should go where. It’s a really well-done layout of this backpack, I think.
The size can seem to limit and you can’t fit your 30 pairs of shoes and 5 cameras in there, but on most days there is no need. Carry only what you really need. That’s my new moto.
This backpack is not what you’ll take on a 3-day hike. This is a bag you use for city life, travel, shoots, and just to carry things around every day. So if you treat it for the daily city carry that it is, the backpack is super fun and convenient to use.
One of my big no-no moments with any bag is the quality of the camera compartment padding and protection.
I had issues with Filson camera bags, and with most camera bags in general. I can’t stand when things are too slim, velcro is weak, dividers don’t stay in place, and a whole array of other problems coming from the camera compartment being the last thing on the things to spend money on when making bags.
I want my gear secured, in place, with sturdy dividers that are thick/protective enough, and where things can be reconfigured, but each combination of sections is still keeping its shape and protection qualities.
Cecilia has all these same issues. I wish a bit more $$$ went into figuring out how to make the camera section be the icing on the cake. But here is the thing. I never really got super bothered with the camera insert not being on par with my personal standards. My gear was ok and nothing fell out or moved around.
Overall, for a minimal setup, I think this backpack is on point. I can’t say that my personal style of what I carry and wear fits with this bag on a daily basis. I’m usually in between moto and outdoor look. But if you started looking into this bag, most likely this can be your daily companion.
The Card Case: yes, please!
Now that you’re familiar with my thoughts on the backpack, let’s chat for a few minutes about the card case. The case is really quite different from what I used in the past - a rugged Pelican card case and a velcro ThinkTank orange SD card case.
This Cecilia card case it one of my favorite camera accessories of the past years. It has an amazing feel in your hands, it’s super fun to use daily, it keeps the cards in places and doesn't stretch out or lose shape, it’s easy to spot in any bag, and it’s not bulky or heavy.
I used this case for about a year until I went back to a rugged water-resistant case for outdoor trips. If you don’t plan to fall into creeks and rivers or get stuck in the rain somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, this Cecilia case can be your only case needed to keep your cards organized and secure.
I really like this one. Again, this is not a sponsored opinion. Just what I personally think and want to share.
Let’s wrap this up with a few final summary thoughts.
I’ll try to make this short and punchy. Here we go. 10 takeaways from this review:
- I’m back to writing and blogging and sharing, it feels good!
- Got this backpack from Cecilia, I’ve known these guys for years, we’re not strangers. Sent it back after a few months of use and treated it as a loaner.
- The camera backpack has the best leather feel of all camera bags in my opinion.
- The bag has every section dedicated to a specific use, which makes this bag fun to use. You get used to where things should be very quickly.
- The grey interior makes it super easy to find things.
- I’m not a fan of camera dividers and their thickness, velcro, quality.
- The price tag is quite steep, on par with what Ona Bags charges, but still a lot.
- You mostly pay for a really well-made design, leather, and back padding.
- The bag is great for minimal setups, won’t work for outdoor and hardcore travel stuff as much.
- Expect more gear stuff and more personal blogging here regularly moving forward.
Thanks for taking the time to explore this bag with me and read some personal things along the way. Stay tuned for more. I feel like I want to be sharing written words again.