I like camera bags. A lot. At last count I have over fifteen of them and yet I still haven’t found the perfect one. Truth is, there probably isn’t one, but that doesn’t stop me from looking.
When I first saw the Kalahari Kapako I thought, Oh that’s quite nice but way too impractical. It’s just going to be too small and I’ll never get all the doodads in that I’d need, even on a small shoot.
The exterior khaki canvas with mustard-brown suede detailing, along with its desert campaign styling, looks to be a leftover from the props department of an Indiana Jones movie. The only modern touch is the use of ubiquitous click fasteners for the top flap. Lift that top flap away and an old-school brass zip keeps your camera gear well secured.
All the interior compartments are lined with what the Kalahari website calls a lubricious material! To be fair, that is probably a Google-translate fail from the German original, but anyway the lining is very smooth and attractive.
While the bag might appear to be ideal for a small- to mid-size camera, I had no problem fitting a Canon 5D Mark II, 50mm f/1.4, 16–35mm f/2.8L and 70–200mm f/2.8L IS in between the adjustable dividers of the main compartment. And there is enough space to put in another prime lens, stacked above the other with one of the adjustable dividers hinged in-between for lens protection.
The interior compartment’s base is a padded but sturdy material that should protect your lenses from the occasional bump and drop. If you like the floppy canvas bag look though, you can remove it.
There are many small zipped or domed compartments for all your photographic bits and pieces, but most are only useful for a slim wallet, a passport and a used bus ticket. Attempting to squeeze anything three dimensional into them just puts pressure on the gear in the main compartment.
However, after using the bag continuously for a week, I discovered two more really useful (but nearly hidden) pockets. They are tucked away on either end of the bag between the shoulder strap and the main compartment. They have a drawstring, which to my mind is a bit like overkill and is space consuming, but necessities like spare batteries, lens caps and peanut slabs drop in easily without bulking up the bag.
I like to have my lenses and vital gear close to me while I’m working, and to that end, with the Kalahari always on my shoulder it was a perfect solution. The Kalahari Kapako always sits snugly against the body and is perfectly placed for lens changes without needing to put the bag down first. The shoulder strap is well contoured so it doesn’t tend to slip off like many other bags are wont to do, and overall the bag was comfortable and practical in daily use.
Also, it is a very quiet bag! No Velcro fasteners or flaps and the soft finish canvas means you are not drawing attention to yourself in quiet situations as you attempt to do a fast lens change.
Above all, because of its old-school styling, it just doesn’t scream out that you are a photographer. So, despite my initial misgivings, I am now a complete convert. So much so that I’m going out to buy it!
This review is from D-Photo issue 50. Get your copy here.
- Type: Shoulder bag Colour: Khaki (black available)
- Capacity: Three full-sized lenses and a mid-sized DSLR
- Exterior size (WxHxD): 14x26x43cm
- Main compartment (WxHxD): 10.5x20x31cm
- Outer fabric: Canvas, suede
- Inner fabric: Lubricious material (!)
- Weather protection: Not stated
- Weight: 1100g