I have a strong dislike of most camera bags, everyone’s needs are different but most camera bags are heavy, over-engineered and expensive for what they are but a protective camera bag of some type is often a necessity especially in camera-hostile environments. My preference has always been to keep my camera, lenses and associated equipment in lightweight Exped drybags inside my backpack or daysack, unless I’m working on location or at a wedding when a Think Tank roller bag is more useful and practical. Apart from an assortment of now discontinued CCS bags which I occasionally still use, my personal criteria are that camera bags should have adequate padding to protect the contents, be uncomplicated and waterproof. For canoeing and kayaking and occasional walk-about use, I have been using Ortlieb Aqua Zoom and Aqua Cam bags for several years. Touring cyclists, canoeists, kayakers and anyone else who indulges their interests in wet or dusty environments will be familiar with Ortlieb products. I often take a camera canoeing or kayaking with me so protection against water is paramount. Ortlieb employ top quality materials and no frills designs and the Aqua Zoom and Aqua Cam bags are typical of all Orlieb products.
I use the Ortlieb Aqua Cam specifically for protecting my Leica MP with a lens attached and two other Leica lenses . I use the Ortlieb Aqaua Zoom for a protecting a Nikon FE with a short prime or small dslr such as a Nikon D7100 with a zoom kit lens. It would also be ideal for smaller mirrorless and M4/3 cameras like the Sony A7R, Fuji X or Olympus OM-D ranges. It will not, however, take a large dslr such as a Nikon D4.
The Aqua Cam is a small bag with a quoted 7 litre capacity, big enough for a small camera and a couple of lenses. It has an interlocking seal which is fastened by a slider. It does need the occasional very sparing dab of silicone dry suit zip grease to keep things working smoothly, but the seal is watertight. There are four ‘D’ rings, two on each side to attach the shoulder strap or the optional harness which allows the Aqua Cam to be worn on the back or on the chest. There are two belt loops at the rear of the bag. I have no need of the harness, so I can’t comment on it’s usefulness but the shoulder strap is adjustable and long enough to be worn across the body to improve security. The strap will slide through the shoulder pad and it is very easy to move the bag around from the back to the front in order to access the contents.
The Aqua Cam comes with a basic padded insert, but this is barely adequate. Fortunately, it is designed for using standard cameras bag dividers with Velcro attachment, so I added a few spare dividers to improve the function by creating two seperate compartments for lenses and a central compartment for film and other bits and pieces. Two flaps support my Leica MP above the lower compartments.
This fairly typical of the contents of my Ortlieb Aqua Cam bag in use as a compact travel outfit: Leica MP with 50mm Elmar-M f2.8, Leica 35mm Summicron f2 asph, Leica 90mm Elmarit-M f2.8 with an assortment of film and filters and other bits and pieces.
I have used Think Tank dividers to improve the layout and function of the internal padding. Two end compartments hold lenses and the central compartment holds film and filters, etc. The materials are heavy duty and should last for several years of reasonable use. The interlocking seal needs an occasional dab of silicone drysuit zip lube to maintain efficiency and after several years of use and thousands of opening and closing cycles, it shows no sign of wear or leakage.
The central compartment holds film and filters and is covered by two flaps that form the ‘platform’ for the camera body to sit on above. Velcro fastening ensures that the insert maintains the boxy shape of the Ortlieb Aqua Cam bag. All seams are welded and are totally watertight, as is the seal which is opened and closed by a plastic slider. The Ortlieb Aqua Cam will protect the contents from the heaviest downpour as well as brief full immersion.
The ‘lids’ of the two end compartments raised to show the lenses in situ. Lenses are held securely in place with no contact with any of the other items in the bag.
The three compartment lids close down and are held in place by Velcro to form the ‘tray’ for the Leica MP body and attached lens.
The camera in place. Ortlieb have devised a perfect bag for traveling with a small camera system. It’s practical, comfortable to carry and suffers from none of the unnecessary features that so often only add bulk and weight to other camera bags. Above all, it does what it has been designed to do and will protect vulnerable and expensive photographic gear from water, mud, sand and dust.
The Ortlieb Aqua Zoom is made to the same standard as the Aqua Cam bag. There are four D ring attachments for tying the bag down or attaching the optional harness and two belt loops on the back. The strap and pad are adjustable and long enough to wear the bag across the chest even with bulky clothing. The seal is the same as before but with the added advantage of being a roll-top design that securely clips into place to give an even more reliable seal for full immersion. I have used my Ortlieb Aqua Zoom bag on numerous sea kayaking trips and it has never leaked.
The seal rolled down and fastened in the same way as Ortlieb dry bags to provide a watertight seal against water ingress.
The padding is a little more basic that the Ortlieb aqua Cam, it it simply a shaped minicell foam insert that maintains the shape of the Aqua Zoom but does afford some protection for the camera against bumps and knocks. The Aqua Zoom is ideal for my Nikon FE and a couple of small prime lenses or a dslr with kit zoom lens similar in size to a Nikon D7100 and 18-105mm. It’s an ideal waterproof bag for smaller dslr’s and mirrorless cameras.
Ortlieb Aqua Cam and Aqua Zoom camera bags are a good solution for protecting valuable camera gear against rain, sand, dust and spray. They aren’t cheap bags but I can confidently say that mine have performed faultlessly within their intended use where a Peli Case is not a practical option. Recommended.
Ortlieb Day-Shot Waterproof Camera Backpack.
After six months of use in varied conditions, I have also reviewed the Ortlieb Day-Shot Backpack as an option for taking camera equipment into wet or dusty environments. My full review of the Orlieb Day-Shot backpack can be found here.
Manufacturer’s Link: Ortlieb Day-Shot Backpack