Review: I Use the Lo & Sons Claremont Camera Bag for My DSLR

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  • The Claremont by Lo & Sons ($298) is the perfect camera bag. It’s stylish enough to pass as a purse but specifically designed to protect a DSLR — minus the utilitarian look or bulk of a standard camera bag.
  • I’ve owned a DSLR for four years, but the Claremont is the only reason I’ve started packing my “real” camera for trips again.
  • On a recent trip abroad, I used it as an everyday travel purse as well as a camera bag. It’s pricey, but it’s been one of the best travel bags I’ve found in a while.

Four years ago, I invested in a DSLR camera. While iPhone photos suffice most of the time, they aren’t always able to capture the truest representations of an experience. So, to extend the shelf-life of my best memories — and the most beautiful places I’d ever visit — I was willing to part with a few hundred dollars.

What I didn’t anticipate was how clunky owning a “real” camera really is, or how unattractive most of the necessary accessories are.

If I wanted to bring my camera anywhere — either to a local NYC exhibit or on a tiring, sweaty day of tourism abroad (all the occasions I’d bought it for) — I had to pick between three equally unappealing options: commit to buying and carrying a heavy briefcase-like camera bag, throw it haphazardly into a backpack with the rest of my loose possessions, or wear the DSLR around my neck like a $400 rock necktie. In the end, it spent more time gathering dust than shooting photos. In the four years that I’ve owned it, I’ve probably brought my DSLR on only one or two trips.

But, before a recent trip abroad, I stumbled across a camera bag that solved virtually all of my usability problems: The Claremont ($298). It’s the unlikely Goldilocks design for anyone who wants the usability of a functional nylon camera bag, but can’t quite compromise on either the weight of such a bag or utilitarian, proud-dad-at-middle-school-dance look.

It hails from the buzzy bag startup Lo & Sons (you probably know the name for the company’s weekender, The Catalina ($128)), and is sculpted out of soft full grain leather. Up close, it looks indistinguishable from any other high-end purse (it won’t scream “steal me, there’s a camera inside”), but was designed specifically to schlep a DSLR. Inside, the bag has a plush quilted lining, pockets for two extra memory cards, and a removable divider to separate the camera from an extra lens. It comes in three versatile colors (black, light grey, and sienna brown) to go with any outfits you pack for that three-week-long trip, and an external pocket can house everything from lip balm to your wallet and/or passport for easy access.

A few weeks ago, I used The Claremont as both a travel purse and camera bag interchangeably. For a trip that ranged from the dress code of upscale bars in Paris to lazily biking city streets in the French Riviera, The Claremont worked seamlessly — meaning I also didn’t need to waste space packing a second purse.

For how much it holds, the bag is deceptively small — no bigger than a roomy crossbody. At the airport, it held a small book, phone charger, travel wallet, and keychain inside. Externally, my passport, lip balm, and main cards remained handy in its zipped outside pocket. On long tourist days, it packed lip balm and cards in the external pocket and my DSLR, two extra memory cards, sunglasses, and a small travel wallet inside.

It’s also deceptively lightweight. Even though it feels substantial and well-cushioned, it didn’t feel like it added any more weight than a standard crossbody bag would.

An external pocket makes it easy to keep travel documents accessible.

At $298, it’s still an expensive purchase for an already expensive tool. But, if you’re like me, it might be worth it for the usability of a camera bag that’s essentially an everyday purse tricked out for a DSLR. However, if you’re looking for a camera bag with room to spare, this probably isn’t for you. It can fit a small extra lens, but you’ll probably have to rearrange things to get your camera out if you’re planning to stack sunglasses and a wallet inside as well. For me, this was ultimately a small price to pay for the convenience and look of the bag.

All in all, the Claremont has been the perfect model of a subtle camera bag, and it’s been ideal for someone who wants to use their DSLR often but isn’t willing to compromise on style or comfort in order to do so. It’s a steep price at $298, but it’s worth it to me if you’re willing to spend the same amount altogether on a travel crossbody and a camera bag you may be inspired to use far less often. After getting it, I’ve brought my DSLR out for days in Central Park and international vacations — and I can’t remember the last time I thought to do that before.

Lo & Sons Claremont Leather Camera Bag, $298, available in three colors