During my search for a new camera bag, I came across the Ape Case AC580 Tech Messenger. This unassuming yet stylish bag appealed to me with it’s $80 CAD price tag and attractive choices in colours.
It looked different and cost less compared to other camera bags I was considering. So, I bought one to see if it will meet my needs.
My first impressions
The entire bag feels well padded and looks like it can offer decent protection to the gear you carry. That said, the capacity is more like a medium despite the “Large Tech Messenger” name on Amazon.
I chose the teal colour because it looked more fun and active. Some even described it as “cute” and “Pokemon-like”. While I had initial reservations of my choice, I am happy that it turned out looking better in person than in photos.
Overall, it’s an attractive messenger bag that doesn’t scream it has a camera inside.
The teal flap is held down using Velcro and underneath that is a zippered pouch. It provides decent security from theft and rain. Having the zippers concealed under the flap is a good deterrent from would-be pick pockets and it additionally serves as a cover for rain in the event you are caught without an umbrella.
Water resistant zippers
It’s also good to see water resistant zippers used on a bag at this price point. However, there is one serious design flaw with the zipper for the back compartment.
When fully closed, the zipper does not seal completely. For the purpose of water resistance, having a hole exposed to the elements is counter to keeping moisture out. While I think it will be okay for light rain now and then, don’t expect to keep it out for long periods.
The shoulder strap
The strap has a curved padded shoulder pad and the length can be adjusted from both sides. So, you are able to wear the bag on your left or right shoulder as a cross-body. Unfortunately, the strap is attached in a way where you cannot remove/replace it without having to unstitch and resew the strap back on.
The main compartment
How much space is there?
When I got the bag, the first thing I did was see how much it can hold. The bag has two compartments. The main compartment is the front pouch that’s under the teal flap. Unzipping it will expose the compartment allowing you to see everything in the bag.
I was able to comfortably fit my Canon 6D with 35mm lens inside and still have enough space for an additional lens if needed. With a DSLR, you are limited to only placing the camera in sideways.
You will not be able to close the zippers if you place your camera in facing down or have a battery/vertical grip attached. This is because the shape of the bag is narrower at the top (kind of like a purse, do not judge!) and really limits your flexibility.
Is the bright nylon interior safe?
Looking inside, the interior of the bag came at a surprise. It is lined with a bright yellow nylon lining.
Having used a number camera bags in the past, I have grown to expect a soft material instead. I don’t have the same peace of mind with my glass and camera being safe against more abrasive material like nylon. But I also understand that this really comes down to how you use your bag and value your gear. If you always put your lens cap back on, have a screen protector, or don’t mine cosmetic wear and tear, this becomes a non-issue.
The bright yellow inner lining also feels flimsy and loose, but it does provide very good contrast to whatever that is inside the bag. I also think that if water were to ever penetrate the exterior of the bag, the nylon lining inside might be able to resist some moisture from getting to your contents. So, it has an unintended benefit of keeping your gear dry.
Dumbest divider system I have seen
This leads me to the biggest conundrum I have with this bag. The inside perimeter of the pouch is lined with two parallel strips of Velcro, followed by one short strip at the bottom, and comes with two movable pads. One pad is the standard divider you see in most camera bags and the other is a small two-inch block; meant to support your lens presumably.
Because of this poor design, you are limited on how you can configure your pads. You cannot adjust the standard divider too high or low without risking the Velcro not holding on well. Or, if you have a short lens like me and want to keep the camera as far to the right of the bag as possible. The Velcro at the bottom of the bag does not reach far enough to where I want the small padded block to be. I am then forced to shift my configuration over a little and lose overall storage capacity for the sake of making sure my lens is properly supported.
The second compartment of the bag is at the back and can be accessed through an exterior zipper from the top.
Inside this compartment contains:
- a soft felt like sleeve large enough for a 11” tablet.
- two open pockets
- one zippered interior pocket
The pockets themselves are made from the same yellow nylon material and don’t offer any rigid structure or padded protection.
They don’t hold much more than notepads, phone, wallet, tickets, transit passes, travel documents, or anything that is generally flat. Storing anything larger would cause the back of the bag to bulge; making it not as comfortable to carry.
My final thoughts
After using it on a couple of outing, I found the bag to be comfortable to wear as long as I don’t over-stuff the back compartment. It hangs close and conforms well to my side or back without much bounce or swing to it.
Camera bags in general are very personal, there is no such thing as a perfect one for every situation. For the Ape Case Tech Messenger, my feelings are rather mixed. It holds what I need it to hold. It looks good and doesn’t draw much attention. It just not as flexible as I like it to be. But at half the price of everything else I was considering, I think it is a worthwhile compromise.