I want to talk about Timbuk2’s new camera bag called the Informant Sling, but let’s take a quick test to see if you are in the target demographic. If your idea of serious photography is taking a phone snapshot of your dinner plate so you can post it on your Facebook status, you can stop right here. If you are a full-time professional tog who always shows up with 3 camera bodies and 25-lbs of glass plus screens/reflectors, this one probably isn’t for you either. If you are a paparazzi walking the fine line between getting the moneyshot of LiLo and getting run over by her Mercedes as she searches for another bandwagon to fall off….hey, actually this might be the bag for you. Rather, if you want to bring a good quality SLR and some extra lenses with you by foot or bike through the urban landscape and amongst its denizens, then you definitely want to take a look at the Informant Sling.
The Informant looks like a smallish, typical messenger bag; that is, it looks like a Timbuk2 or one of their countless imitators. But what at first glance appears to be a flap to the main compartment really just opens for a couple slim pockets. The discreet two-way zipper on the back upper edge of the Informant gives access to a soft-padded camera compartment, and re-positionable velcro dividers keep lenses, flashes, and bodies from bumping uglies. My test sample (size medium, 11-L volume)) will fit 3 lens plus a flash tower with the camera, though with a battery grip, the body is a little awkward fitting into the bag while mated with anything longer than a prime lens. This medium size Informant also has a discrete pocket for iPad or other tablet, which is becoming a common tool for serious digital shooters. There is also zippered mesh pockets for things like memory cards or filters, and there’re straps on the bottom of the bag for lashing on a tripod.
Since the camera compartment opens towards the sling wearer, access is optimal, especially when I need to swap lenses. No seriously, I had totally outgrown my old camera bag. Once your photography moves to the stage where you’re juggling lenses in between exposure bursts, you’ll need a bag with well-thought ergonomics. And while no one is claiming that Timbuk2 is the first and only to make a handy camera bag, the Informant is remarkably well-suited to the two-wheeled community. It’s an ambidextrous sling, going over either shoulder with a “shorty cam” at either end to one-handedly adjust strap length and a re-positionable cross-strap. After having years ago converted from single-strap shoulder bags to backpack-style bags, I notice that the Informant Sling is a little less stable on my back since I ride in somewhat long/low position, but ultimately the Informant wins because it’s so easy to swing the bag into a different position. In front of you to get a lens, beside you for security within a crowd, on your back for high mobility. And you’re never more than a few seconds away from whipping out that camera for a shot.
Should you prefer a backpack-style bag, Timbuk2 does one called the Snoop Backpack as well as a bag closer to the classic Timbuk2 called the Snoop Camera Messenger. One reason you might consider the Snoop Messenger is that it has a waterproof TPU liner, while neither the Informant nor the Snoop Backpack do. Even without the liner, the Informant does come with a rain cover to enshroud the whole bag, and the rain cover does not affect how you might wear and ride with the sling. But no matter which camera bag from Timbuk2 you choose, none of them have logos of words like “camera”, “photo”, or “Canon”. These are bags designed to clandestinely carry your premium equipment, all deep cover and s***. In this crazy world, there are hunters and the hunted, so these are the bags to use if either you don’t want to be a target for thieves or you want to blend in while you’re searching for that perfect shot. The only way Timbuk2 could have camouflaged the bag better is if they had made it look like a diaper bag. …no one wants to steal the contents of a diaper bag.