Review: QamaySF All In One Waxed Canvas X Grid Bag

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Arguably, the Phoblographer is the first place many folks come to when they want a camera bag: and no, we don’t get them all for free. Every now and then I get bored, surf the web and look around for camera bags; and that’s how I came across the QamaySF All In One Waxed Canvas X Grid Bag. They’re not a well known brand like your Tenba, ONA, Filson, Think Tank, etc. QamaySF is a bag manufacturer here in the US. Rather than hit them up, tell them that I run a large photography blog and use the powers I’ve created over the past six years to get a free product as a review sample, I went ahead and bought one. Why? I wanted the same experience you folks get.

So what makes this bag so special? It promises a heck of a lot. Not only do you get a camera bag that can be a shoulder bag, but it can be a backpack, hold a 15 inch laptop, hold a tripod underneath, has waxed canvas, and can hold a load of gear. Plus, it looks like nothing else really out there.

At least that’s what I thought before purchasing it. Judging from their product photos and promises it seems to make, you’d think to yourself that you’re getting the ultimate camera bag in some ways. But in other ways, it’s the ultimate let down.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Versatility
  • Can hold a lot of gear
  • Straps allow your skin to breathe pretty well
  • Low profile
  • Lots of pockets and well made pockets at that

Cons

  • Wish that the front flap could close down at a lower point to prevent anyone from looking into the bag when the inside zipper is undone.
  • Not at all a comfortable backpack
  • The Tripod holder isn’t really a tripod holder. Instead you just configure it into a backpack with rear set of D-rings and you stuff a tripod under there.
  • It’s very easy to get your hands into the bag if the zipper isn’t closed.
  • I’ve had gear almost fall out of here when putting the backpack on
  • Shoulder straps could use padding to be a bit more comfortable.
  • Shoulder straps could benefit from becoming even tighter so that the bag doesn’t hang off of your back
  • Some folks may want more padding to protect the gear, but I didn’t really have a major problem with it in real life use.

Gear Used

During my testing, I used the QamaySF All In One Waxed Canvas X Grid Bag with the Sony a7r II, Sony a6300, Sony 70-200mm f4 OSS, Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master, Sony 24-70mm f2.8 G Master, Canon 6D, Sigma 35mm f1.4, Sigma 85mm f1.4, Phottix Odin, Phottix Mitros+, an Apple MacBook Pro 13 inch, and a Vanguard Nivelo tripod.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the product page.

Product features:

– water repelent
– adjustable shoulder straps with leather accents
– 1 magazine pocket at the back and 1 padded adjustable divider, 2 side pockets, 2 front pockets,
– 1 D- ring for keys, 1 pocket with pen holders and small items.
– zippered main compartment
– straps are removable linked by antique finish doghooks
– fits 15″ Laptops with Camera Gear
– tripod holder
– Paddings are removable
– 2 straps and 8 D-rings to interchange bag into a backpack, hand bag or messenger bag

Style: X Grid
Color: Fatigue Green
Weight: 4 lbs
Dimensions: 19 x 5 x 14 in
Materials: 100% COTTON CANVAS, GENUINE LEATHER

Ergonomics

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The X Grid bag is one that looks super low profile, and in most cases I’d honestly think that the only thing that would be in a bag like this would be art supplies. But it’s a camera bag.

The front of the bag features a locking clasp, pockets, and the front flap. Said front flap is ripe for putting all sorts of cool things. Remember those buttons that your favorite punk rock band out sell? Decorate the heck out of this thing with those buttons and people will only be drawn to said buttons vs the contents.

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When opened up, you get access to the front pockets, which have button claps. Plus here you can see the only locking buckle for the front flap. It seriously needs another one that is lower to close the bag more securely.

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With the bag turned to the side, you’ll see identical pockets on either area. They’re quite good and it’s easy to stuff things into them like a lens/sensor cleaning kit. You’ll also see D-rings for the top shoulder strap configuration. More on that later.

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Open the bag up and what you’ll find is a zipper that can close all of it up and protect the contents inside. The dividers here are thin, but allow you to stuff more gear into here when you need to. The dividers also come out so you can reconfigure it.

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Behind the main gear area is a spot for your laptop or documents. It’s best to stuff your laptop into there. In backpack configuration, your laptop will also help give the bag a lot more of a definitive shape.

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So here’s the bag in one backpack configuration. On the back of the bag is another pocket where you can slip things into and on the bottom are four D rings on each corner. Depending on where you connect the straps, the bag can be more or less conforming to your back. The straps themselves also adjust, but never short enough to really be comfortable.

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Here’s the bag in shoulder configuration. Generally this makes more sense to use.

Build Quality

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So while nothing about the bag actually feels cheaply made or like it’s going to break at any minute, the layout is awkward for many of the reasons that I talked about in the Ergonomic section and I will continue to talk about in the Ease of Use section.

It’s a sturdy bag, but seemingly based on designs that are antiquated and not updated for modern living. Frankly, I’d love to know what the heck the designers were packing into here when they designed the Grid.

Ease of Use

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 10.32.24 AM

This is a screenshot pulled from their page. It’s really low resolution, so you really need to look closely to figure out how they configured it. The most attractive thing to me about this bag was the promise of a shoulder bag or backpack configuration in one. Unfortunately, it’s not so clear how they stuffed a tripod under there on the first look. When you get the bag, you realize that they stuffed it by configuring the backpack straps in a way that holds the tripod when on your back. The problem in real life then becomes the issue of taking the bag off and making sure that the tripod doesn’t slip out and hit the ground or your leg.

That was a challenge that I honestly never figured out.

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Image shot by reader Brad Wickham. Check out his Vimeo portfolio!

So when you have the bag in shoulder configuration, you can throw is around your chest or around your shoulder. It’s often more comfortable to have it around my chest and to keep the bag a bit tighter. Even when I loosened it a bit, the bag doesn’t allow you to have the quickest access to gear. It’s kind of annoying.

Where the shoulder bag configuration excels is for travelling. The bag is excellent on planes, TSA approved, can hold loads of gear and just overall works well. It’s nice for travel, but there are other bags that can do the same thing, are more comfortable, and can hold the same amount of gear.

The straps themselves are very well made. They let your skin breathe and don’t cause sweat stains on your shirt, but padding would be nice to make it more comfortable. Additionally, they’ve got a genius and very powerful hook system that makes it well built.

Then there is the backpack configuration.

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Image shot by reader Brad Wickham. Check out his Vimeo portfolio!

When configuring to a backpack, you’re probably best off using the two D rings on the bottom that are furthest away from the front of your body. With the shoulder straps pulled as tight as they can go, the bag hangs off your back and eventually ends up really hurting you.

The other idea is to put the straps across so that they form an X (top left to bottom right, top right to bottom left). That works better, in fact it’s much better: except that it’s then really tough to access your gear because you need to take the entire thing off, go into the bag, get the goods, and somehow slip back into it. Further, sometimes it’s just better to unbuckle the straps.

Both ways make it really tough to use gear; and I’m not a fan of either way especially considering that i you don’t want your gear to fall out of the bag then you need to zipper the interior closed shut.

Conclusions

At the moment, QamaySF has the bag listed as sold. Will I continue to use it? Most likely not for camera related stuff. But it’s an excellent travel bag and for that reason I may bring it to stuff clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc into it when in the shoulder bag configuration. But the bag let me down in many ways. And in other ways, I felt and continue to feel very mislead.

This opens up an even bigger discussion though: we need a proper camera bag that functions as a sling/backpack or works as a shoulder/messenger when you need it to. You can easy the Everyday Messenger Bag by Peak Design, but I’ve got a number of problems with that bag: the most of which is the lack of an ambidextrous design. Shoulder bags are perfect as they are these days: both in messenger and tote configurations. Backpacks could use some refining and slings are a bit better. But a bag that can do everything is going to be a big challenge.

Unfortunately, this small company struck out one too many times.

Two star Phoblographer Star rating

The QamaySF All In One Waxed Canvas X Grid Bag receives two our of five stars. Look elsewhere if you want a backpack or a messenger bag.