As you might imagine, we’re bag and camera nerds over here at The Radavist. A lot has changed with cycling and photography since the days of pedaling around with a 35mm SLR jammed into an Ortlieb handlebar bag on tours and overnighters. The name of the game is simplicity nowadays, relying on handlebar straps rather than proprietary attachment methods.
There have been several wonderful handlebar-mounted camera bags that have come to market over the past few years, and the latest comes from Cedaero. The Two Harbors, Minnesota-based bag makers announced their new Viewfinder Camera Pack recently and John got his hands on a production model a few weeks before the launch. He’s spent some time with it and is ready to give you an Initial Reaction breakdown review below so read on…
Viewfinder Pack: On the Bike
The Viewfinder bag is named after the device on a camera showing the field of view, used in framing and focusing the picture. In an older 35mm SLR camera, you look through the lens, via a series of mirrors that reflect the image, allowing you to frame the photo. In modern mirrorless cameras, the viewfinder displays a digital image of what the lens sees, allowing for a more precise and exact preview of the scene.
It’s the perfect name for a handlebar bag, even if you use rangefinder cameras!
Of which is what I have used in the Viewfinder camera bag exclusively up to this point. I’ve enjoyed taking either my medium format or 35mm rangefinders in the Viewfinder bag on rides, eyeing up abstract photos of our town and my rides. One of which is my favorite gravel loop that leaves from town and climbs into the aspen stands before descending singletrack back down.
This ride is a great litmus for testing gear, as I’m acutely aware of what works and doesn’t after taking a test product out on that particular loop.
Before we get into what works and what doesn’t, let’s look at the product specs:
- Exterior: 1000D Cordura nylon or 15oz Martexin Waxed Canvas
- Interior: Velcro Loop fabric/200D nylon lining
- #5 YKK zipper
- Moveable/removable divider
- Dimensions: 8″L x 4″W x 6″H
- Capacity: 2.8 Liters
- 100% made in the USA
- Weight as measured on my scale: 11.2 oz or 318 g.
- It’s narrow, fitting between even narrow drop bars.
The Viewfinder retails for $124.95 and the Light Meter shoulder strap retails for $24.95.
I opted for the tough 15oz Martexin Waxed Canvas Viewfinder, but you can also choose a lighter weight 1000D Cordura fabric. There are a total of twenty color options for the bag, or you can do a custom bag design with color options for the webbing and the outer fabric for $139.95.
As you can see, there’s a large flap that protects the bag’s contents, with a single clip closure. A zipper closes up a small pocket, perfect for SD/CF cards, film rolls, lens clothes, or yeah, snacks.
The entire bag is padded to protect your precious cargo, with a divider included, allowing you to allocate as much room as you want for your camera and accessories. It’s sized for a mirrorless/SLR camera and a small zoom lens, or a rangefinder body and a prime lens. I used the divider to hold my flash on my M7. It also fits a Mamiya 7ii, or my digital Sony A9ii with a small tele zoom.
It attaches to your handlebars using heavy-duty velcro webbing and plastic d-rings, which easily fits around a 31.8mm handlebar, allowing for plenty of hook-n-loop bite, securing the load.
What’s nice about the Viewfinder is how well it functions as an off-the-bike camera bag. It’s sized perfectly for walking around town, going to music venues, museums, etc. The Light Meter strap is adjustable and is compatible with Peak Design Anchor Links for even quicker deployment.
The velcro straps lay flat, as do the handlebar D-ring attachments, so you won’t feel something hard and plastic digging into your hip or back. This setup is so comfy that I found myself wearing it like a sling pack as much as using it as a handlebar bag. Oh and depending on your camera, this Light Meter shoulder strap doubles as a camera strap. Mind. Blown! ;-)
No product is perfect, and every product is a work in progress, in my opinion. So, of course, there are going to be subjective improvements found with the use of any piece of gear. So far, my only major qualm with the Viewfinder pack is the flip top closure. I wish it used a magnetic closure system – something similar to what Andrew the Maker uses on his Little Hatch bags. This would enable you to GTS (get the shot) and get rolling on your bike faster. Capturing fleeting moments is about the speed at which you can access your camera. This addition would put the Viewfinder bag over the top!
A faster closure would help because it’s hard to ride, put the camera back in the bag, and close it with one hand. Especially since the flap opens toward the rider, instead of away from the rider like other bags I’ve used and come to love.
When I brought up this point to Cedaero, it was brought to my attention that they like using all made-in-the-USA materials, and magnetic closures are made overseas.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the Viewfinder bag. While Cedaero sent this to me for free (after I tried paying for it!), I would gladly buy one. Then again, re-read the first sentence of this review!
The Viewfinder bag is in stock and shipping today from Cedaero. If you have questions, drop them in the comments and I’ll answer them for ya!