Given that I had the Madison camera bag from Aidecamp on my wishlist since Monoxious' review in April and given it was a birthday gift from some lovely friends, it's a little strange, even to me, that it's taken this long for a review.
But, like with many things in life, what looks good on paper does not necessarily translate into compatibility once the initial honeymoon period has settled and you've stopped treating the object with careful reverence. So how does this comparatively hefty investment piece fare, two months down the track?
First off, the packaging is gorgeous and tastefully minimal. Even the leather zippers were wrapped carefully with tissue paper. It's the attention to little details that carries over in every component of the Aidecamp brand.
And voila: the first thing that drew me to the bag is precisely its sleek, stylish design and its size. The camera bag I used previously was a mass of utilitarian neon and just big enough for one camera, one lens and perhaps the suggestion of an SD card in its tiny front pocket - I ended up basically having to put it into another bag to go out. This is a much better alternative for the ladies (and even some men).
I was a little nervous that the waterproof nylon would look incongruous with the leather accents and gold plating but was pleasantly surprised - its dark sheen and silky texture really pushes the functional material into to a more luxurious look, while being surprisingly stretchy.
Now the main quibble:
I was tossing up between the Madison and Valencia when ordering - I definitely love the shape of the Madison more but I was very nervous about whether the bag could fit my 13" Macbook Pro.
When I messaged Aidecamp asking, they said it 'just fit' the 13", so I took a leap of faith and went with the Madison. Unfortunately, they literally mean it just fits - as in, without a case (though mine is, admittedly, quite thick and padded) and with the mild worry that the thick teeth of the zips will cause small scratches every time you zip up or lift the laptop in and out of the bag (the zippers are a little stiff too - though may become easier with wear).
Add a Canon 5D and, it's an almost impossible squeeze. Even though the handles handled a 7kg strain admirably, 'awkwardly lugging' is probably how you'll be handling the bag with that kind of load (unless you are infinitely coordinated with strong biceps).
Give me the choice again and I would go with Valencia, for sure. Word of advice to fellow 13" Macbook Pro users.
Back to the bag - as someone who survived six years of high school with laptop-bag-induced shoulder bruises/scars/pain, I can't tell you how much I love the stretchy, soft neoprene part of the shoulder strap. The only minus is that the strap is a bit long - even at its shortest, the bulk of the bag dangles just below my hip.
And you have to love the details: the easily accessible side pockets with magnet closures to securely hold your items, the camera compartments that are plush and secure and, of course, the inner compartments that are limited to just the right number to be functional but not confusing.
Sizing issues aside, if you're just looking to go street-photographing or need to attend an event as a guest and the photographer, this bag is a godsend to those who want to merge functionality with style.