Review: HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag

An odd mix of frustration and satisfaction

There are so many things about the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag that could have made it the absolute perfect bag for the commuter in a city not as densely populated as NYC. At the same time however, the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag can be easily converted to be a sling bag for everyday use–and that’s where I feel it excels the most. Photographers (most of them) may appreciate just how comfortable the sling can be. Others may like the weather sealing and the semi-stylish design. And yet others may really enjoy the fact that it doesn’t look like a camera bag. Indeed the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag has a lot going for it: though at the same time there are things that show HEX still has some way to go when it comes to design.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Weather sealed design
  • Pretty comfortable if you wear your sling from left shoulder to right hip
  • Very thick padding that can be used as extra cushion for your camera gear
  • Doesn’t look like a camera bag
  • Seemingly areas where you can’t even get into and so that can throw off robbers. As I always say though, you should always be attentive of your gear anyway.

Cons

  • No ambidextrous design, and so it caused a whole lot of pain for me to test this bag. My back has never been happier to stop reviewing a bag.
  • The dividers don’t stay in place even with mirrorless camera gear. So when you open the bag up, expect some jumbling about.
  • Sort of difficult to stuff a 13 inch Macbook in there.

Tech Specs

Specs for the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag taken from their website listing

  • Tarpaulin Exterior
  • Anti-Skid Bottoms
  • Waterproof Zippers
  • Fits Up To 13″ Laptop
  • Exterior Tablet/Phone Pocket
  • EVA Foam Protection
  • Adjustable Interior Dividers
  • Airmesh Back
  • Tripod Straps
  • HEX-Blox (TM) Custom Storage Spacers
  • Dimensions: 17″L x 10″w x 6″H

Gear Used

The HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag was tested with the Fujifilm X-H1, Sony a7r III, Leica M4-P and various lenses for all three systems.

Ergonomics

The HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag doesn’t really look like a camera bag. There’s a zippered pocket on the front with another zippered pocket attached to it for smaller things. But when you look at it, you’d think that the main point of access would be the top buckled area. And in fact, you’re wrong. This flap lifts up only to give you an area to store your passport or something. It’s one of the biggest “gotchas!” I’ve seen in the bag world in that this is super deceiving. That, and at certain points the zippers seem to jam or are difficult to unzip or zip.

Instead, your main point of access is this side panel. There is a pocket here for really small stuff but the entire zipper unveils the inner contents of the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag. We’ll get inside the bag in a moment.

Turn to the back of the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag and you’ll see what I believe to be the worst sling configuration I’ve seen when it comes to ambidexterity. It’s designed to go from left shoulder to right hip and feels comfortable if you’re the type of photographer that packs their sling like this. If you’re not, then you’re not in luck and I genuinely despise that. The strap buckles around you to accommodate those of us who enjoy our cheeseburgers once or thrice a week.

On the other side you’ll get straps. These are best for storing a tripod. On a very personal note, I’ve never been a fan of putting my tripod on the side as it tends to throw off the weight of my bag on my shoulders. Putting it up top or on the bottom has always been the best solution for me.

We’re coming back to the front of the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag again and here’s a shot of that front zipper opened up. There are pockets inside for easier organization.

Open the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag up and you’ll find a zippered section with dividers on the flap. But you’ll also see the inside section. Here I’ve got the Fujifilm X-H1, Sony a7r III, Lomography Neptune lenses, Rokinon 50mm f1.4 AF, and the Fujifilm 23mm f1.4. See those dividers? They never stay in place even with the velcro that’s being used and connecting all the points. That’s one of the most frustrating things about this bag.

Build Quality

Let’s start with the good things about the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag: it’s weather sealed as hell. I’ve brought it out in snow, rain, and sun and it’s worked pretty darned well. Combine that with the extra thick dividers that can come with the bag and your gear will be wrapped up better than a child put in too many layers to walk around in the snow. I think hobbyists who are a bit too careful about their gear will appreciate this.

My qualms with the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag are with the zippers jamming at certain turns; and this pertains for every single zipper that has to go around an area, particularly the front pocket zippers and the side pocket. Then there are the dividers that don’t stay in place. Those things are the biggest problems for me only after the lack of ambidexterity.

Ease of Use

Putting on the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag can be done by simply slipping it over your torso, but the most ideal way to work with it is by unbuckling the strap and then buckling it up over your chest in the same way that one would with certain helicopter belt buckles. There is no quick access at all no matter what shoulder you wear this on. I’ve put it on a number of friends and even people who aren’t photographers and no one could sling the bag around to access their gear quickly. Instead, you’ll need to take it off, set it down, access the gear, zip up, buckle up and be on your way. For some folks, that may be a tad excessive. Beyond this, there is no sort of belt system to the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag for more added comfort. You may say to yourself, “Well, duh Gampat, it’s a sling you dummy!” The problem though is it’s a sling that’s really boxy and that should be a backpack.

Let’s get deeper into this. The HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag can’t accommodate an iPad or even a Macbook Pro. So if I’m using the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag, then I’ll basically just be bringing camera gear about and that’s it. What that means is that on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I’m not in article production mode, I can try to stuff a laptop in there but due to the lack of ambidextrous ergonomics, it’s a literal pain in my side and back. That’s a major bummer, but it also means that my back will be better off due to the lack of even weight distribution since I’ll probably work off my phone or my iPad. Again though, that’s what a sling is for.

For long walks, it does a good enough job when it comes to comfort due to the excessive padding. But again I state this thinking from the perspective of a person who would wear the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag from left shoulder to right waist. As a person who prefer right shoulder to left waist (I’ve been doing this since my wedding and photojournalism days) I couldn’t be happier to take this bag off of my torso. Perhaps this is the biggest problem with the otherwise pretty great attempt at a camera bag.

When you take the dividers out of the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag and use it just to store clothing and such, the bag becomes a whole lot better. It’s even more comfortable, and doesn’t need to be as functional. Perhaps this is actually it’s best configuration–not as a camera bag.

Conclusions

Here’s where I’m going to be completely transparent: the HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag is a nice bag for the photographer who brings maybe one camera with a few lightweight lenses. By that, I’d emphasize that they should be mirrorless and not DSLRs. The dividers fall out of place way too easily to perfectly secure the gear. There are extra pads that are very nice and can sort of help with this but ultimately just end up protecting your gear on one side or another. It’s weather sealed, and when the dividers are out, it’s a nice travel bag.

On the other hand, it isn’t ambidextrous. Also, I really hate that the dividers fall out of place and the zippers tend to jam at certain points. It means I’m doing more maintenance than I’d like to with my bag. I acknowledge that other folks may be totally fine with all this though, but I’m not.

The HEX Raven DSLR Sling Camera Bag receives four out of five stars. They’ve got some problems to fix for sure.