Arcus from Moshi: A backpack for the fashion-forward photographer

Arcus from Moshi: A backpack for the fashion-forward photographer

I have amassed quite a collection of photo backpacks over the years, in all shapes and sizes. Most are purely functional, and even those that look good, like my , clearly define themselves with functionality first. So I was very curious when Moshi, known for their fashionable accessories, asked me to test out their new Arcus backpack prior to launch at CES. I was impressed that while it is stylish, it could also fit my laptop, tablet, phone, paperwork, jacket, and camera with two lenses. So I was happy to give it a try. What I found was a pack that will make a lot of consumers happy, although it may not be rugged enough for most professionals.

Overview of the Arcus

The pack comes configured as a more-or-less standard backpack design, but if you add the optional photo insert, then you get a zipper on one side that opens into a camera-friendly compartment. It can hold a small DSLR, or in my case the mirrorless Fuji X-Pro 2 that I’m also reviewing. If you only use it for camera gear, then you can fit an additional lens and a flash, or a couple other accessories. In my case, I found I needed to use the camera compartment for my Surface Pro’s charger, and a backup battery for my phone, so I was only able to fit one extra lens. The nice thing about the side pocket is that you can get to it easily if you have the pack over one shoulder. That makes it simple to grab your camera without putting the pack down. also lets you do this, but it isn’t designed to fit a laptop.

The “main” backpack zipper opens the backpack into sort of a clamshell (side panels keep it from flopping open completely). Within that opening there is a padded laptop compartment, a padded tablet slot, a phone slot, and two smaller pockets that I found useful for travel mice, lens clothes, business cards, small cables, etc. It doesn’t have much in the way of specialized pockets for pens or business cards, though. I also found I could keep my file folders & paperwork in the main portion of that compartment.

The top compartment of the pack was just large enough for my packable jacket liner (nice for when you walk out of a CES event into the 40 degree Las Vegas night). There is also a crush-proof zippered compartment inside the top cover. It worked well for sunglasses, but it was a little hard to get things in and out. A cinchable outside pocket was perfect for a water bottle, and there are several zippered compartments around the outside that were great for stashing business cards I received and other random small items.

The biggest thing I missed was a way to attach a jacket to the outside of the pack. Some packs use a mesh for that, others a simple cinch. Even a couple D-rings would have helped. Clearly the fashion-conscious designers of the Arcus didn’t want to ruin the lines of the pack with something so unsightly. I can’t entirely blame them, but for working photographers there is always something that needs lashing to a pack. Fortunately for me, Nite-Ize was giving away Gear Ties, so I was able to snag one and “twist tie” my jacket to one of the shoulder straps.

Fashion yes, sturdy yes, rugged not so much

The company is proud of its choice of material, and indeed it held up well over the course of a week of heavy-duty use. It didn’t show marks or scars, and is supposed to be pretty easy to clean (although I haven’t had to yet). The pack’s construction is also quite sturdy. I felt comfortable carrying it in various configurations, setting it down (although depending on how it is loaded it may stand up, or be top heavy in one direction or the other). My only serious concern, and it is a major one, is the zippers. The zippers are very cute, and initially they work perfectly. But the one for the camera compartment in particular just isn’t designed for the kind of heavy wear and tear it is likely to get in use by a professional photographer. Mine jammed within a couple days, and then part of it separated below the pull, and finally the two sides of the zipper managed to become offset as well. I am completely sure that I am “to blame” for my rough handling, over-stuffing, and hurried attempts at access, but pro bags are supposed to take the abuse without complaining or failing. (I’ve reached out to the company to see if they have plans to upgrade the zippers, but have not heard back).

In short, I really like the design of the bag, and it is one of the few that I’ve used that received unsolicited compliments and questions on the show floor. But I wouldn’t trust it for extended heavy-duty use unless you plan to be very careful with the lightweight zippers. You can purchase the