Review: Langly Alpha Bag

Elegant is not the first word that comes to mind when photographers think of most camera bags. Boring is more like it. The Kickstarter-funded bags offered by Langly change all that.

Based on World War II rucksack designs, a Langly bag looks like something you’d find in a high-end men’s clothing store rather than a camera shop.

“World War II is an obsession of mine, and for some reason rucksacks are really hot right now,” says Langly creator and photographer Evan Lane.

This fresh take on a primarily utilitarian category of bag feeds many a photojournalist fantasy. Now you can feel like Joe Rosenthal while you’re shooting flowers in the park. Thoughtful details like brass hardware and vegetable-tanned leather straps complete the indulgent escapism.

“Photographers have an aesthetic eye,” says Lane, “so it makes sense to have a bag that is aesthetically pleasing.”

There are two versions, the Alpha and the Delta. The Alpha primarily uses straps, and the Delta has one strap holding the main flap down, with zippers used for the other closures.

You won’t be embarrassed to wear the bag out on assignment, or through the streets of Barcelona, Paris or any other major fashion hub. Nor need you worry about Langly putting form over function. The padded camera compartment at the base holds a couple of camera bodies and lenses, and the rear laptop compartment fits up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro.

One of the ways Lane was able to keep the design so clean was by cutting down on straps. There are only the necessary straps and buckles for keeping the flaps closed. You’re not going find any of the fancy waist belts or chest straps that come standard on a modern backpack. But, hey, that’s the price we pay for looking good, right?

The exterior surface of the bag is crafted from waterproof canvas. I hate worrying about getting thousands of dollars’ worth of gear wet, and the well-protected material thoroughly allays those fears. You can feel the waxy, waterproof coating, and the canvas is thick enough that you could hack it up and start building a tent. The Langly’s unassuming exterior also serves as a sort of camouflage from potential thieves on the lookout for a standard black nylon camera bag.

This isn’t the bag I would take with me on assignment to Afghanistan, but that’s only because it’s too small. Lane claims the bag’s upper compartment can hold clothing for a multi-day adventure, but I say it’s more suited to an extended day trip that requires extra layers.

I’m not the only one impressed by the Langly line — the company is well past its original Kickstarter funding goal of $30,000. Lane says the money received will go toward production costs, and he hopes to have the bags in his backers’ hands by the end of July. The rest of the public will have to wait until later this summer to order one on the Langly Bags website.

On the Kickstarter page, the bags costs $160. But when they’re released on the web, both the Alpha and the Delta will retail for $200 each. In the world of quality camera bags, that’s not an outrageous price. And if you consider that you might pay similar prices just to buy a regular retro backpack in a high-end store, it’s actually kind of a steal.

Update, 10 July: The original version of this review referred to the bags as being California-made, as they were at the time of publication. Due to high demand, Langly’s bags are now made overseas. The review has been updated to reflect this.

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