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Camera Bags for Ladies: Review of Jo Totes and Epiphanie Bags

by Cara St Hilaire, May 2013 (updated June 2013)


I’m known in my house as the bag lady. I have a purse, a diaper bag, a laptop backpack, and a camera bag with me most of the time. When I come home and drop all of my bags on the kitchen floor, I usually get a look and a sigh from my husband.

I’ve been trying out different solutions to reduce the number of bags while I have my camera with me and the number of ugly bags while I’m at it. I’ve wrapped my camera in cloth diapers in my diaper bag to eliminate my boring, nylon camera bag that is too small to carry an extra lens and an external flash anyway. I’ve switched to a diaper bag that doesn’t look so much like a diaper bag. I’ve downsized my daily purse. Still, I’m the bag lady. If only my camera bag was also my diaper bag…or if only my camera bag and purse were combined, I’d be happy.

I went on a hunt and found that many other women photographers, particularly mothers, were also trying desperately to simplify the bag situation. Bonus: there are tons of styles that these two companies offer that are as attractive as any handbag you’d carry.

Jo Totes and Epiphanie both have solved my problems. Here’s how.

Jo Totes

Betsy

The diaper bag

Features

  • adjustable strap
  • a large side pocket
  • two small front pockets
  • a roomy zippered pocket in the front flap that folds over to close the bag
  • adjustable, velcro compartments inside
  • smooth, silky material lining the inside main compartment
  • an optional shoulder pad
  • color options: black, brown, mustard, or teal

The roomy Betsy (11 × 15.5 × 4) is made of very high quality faux leather. You can adjust the strap to carry it over your shoulder or across your body. Of the three bags I tried out, this worked the best in terms of a combined diaper bag/camera bag/purse, though I’d only suggest using as a diaper bag for a short trip and you’ll still need to take bottles/sippy cups with you separately (there is no separate compartment to keep liquid away from your camera equipment).

There’s room at the top of the inside compartment for items that are soft (that you wouldn’t mind bumping into your equipment); in the front flap for kid’s snacks and a wallet; in the inside compartment for longer things like a planner or book; and the front pockets hold keys, film rolls, filters, or any other smaller items you may have. The camera compartments can be configured to your needs with strong velcro. I easily fit a DSLR, telephoto lens, film camera, and external flash inside.

Price
$109

Gracie

The purse

Features

  • optional shoulder strap and cross-body strap
  • three pockets in the front (two magnetic and one zip)
  • two zippered pockets inside
  • a quick-access non-zippered compartment on the side WITH a zippered pocket inside
  • adjustable, velcro compartments inside
  • smooth, silky lining
  • color options: black, magenta, greige, butterscotch, mint, teal, mustard

The Gracie eliminates the need for an additional purse while taking your camera out. You can easily fit a DSLR body, an extra lens, and an external flash in the adjustable compartments inside (you could squeeze in one more lens and even a tripod as well). There are so many other pockets for the rest of your stuff, from an iPad sized zipper compartment inside the bag to keys and incidentals in the roomy front pockets. There is also extra room on top of the equipment divider inside for other extras as well because the bag is tall and very spacious (13 × 13.25 × 4.74).

Price
$119

Epiphan!e

Clover

The laptop bag

Features

  • a roomy, super-soft interior compartment
  • three pockets (one zippered inside pocket, one zippered outside pocket, and one easy-access pocket in the front exterior
  • braided shoulder straps
  • optional cross-body strap
  • adjustable, velcro compartments inside
  • optional shoulder pad
  • colors options: grey, black, camel, teal, red

The large (18 × 13 × 6.25) Clover definitely eliminates the need to carry both a laptop bag and a camera bag and the wide shoulder strap makes it a little easier on your shoulder to carry that much weight at one time. If you are going out on an all-day shoot, this one bag would work fine as a combined purse/laptop/camera bag because of the extra pockets that would allow for a cell phone, money, keys, and other necessary items (though don’t plan on taking anything that isn’t necessary). I was able to fit two lenses, a dslr body, a small tripod, and a Holga into the main compartment. The blingy keychain is a fun added touch.

Price
$184.99

Final Thoughts

All three of these bags offer a solution to your bag lady problems and they are simply beautiful. They obviously aren’t perfect for every situation (wildlife photography, for example), but for daily hauling of your commonly used equipment or for when you have to hop on an airplane and go, they are just right. They also make a great gift, as seen in the Mother’s Day Gift Guide.

For more information and different styles, visit Ephiphanybags.com and jototes.com


Text and photos © 2013 Cara St Hilaire.

Article revised June 2013.

Readers' Comments


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Mj Carbo , May 10, 2013; 06:45 P.M.

89 years of joy and sorrow written on my mother's face

Mj Carbo , May 10, 2013; 06:47 P.M.

My surrogate granddaughter, Nina, who can't wait to get out there and experience life!

Louis Meluso , May 11, 2013; 08:41 P.M.


Portrait of Mom at 90

Our Mother at 90

Cara St Hilaire , May 13, 2013; 09:28 A.M.

Louis and MJ - thanks for participating. I'm dropping you a direct email now.  

Landrum Kelly , May 16, 2013; 01:04 P.M.

Louis, what an extraordinary photograph!  I love her expression, and the range of tones is incredible.

 --Lannie

Holly Worthington , May 18, 2013; 07:15 P.M.

Bittersweet and fun Mother's Day, showing my Mom with Alzheimer's how to play on Photobooth!

jacqueline molesworth , May 26, 2013; 01:14 A.M.

 

Lynda Morris , May 30, 2013; 01:46 P.M.

Alex S. , December 08, 2013; 04:44 A.M.

This is a very well written review, Cara.  You did your homework.  Excellent use of details.  Your human interest beginning was to the point.  You showed the need for these bags based on your personal experience.  A model review in all respects.

Given the tenor of modern life, men might find use for these bags too.


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