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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review of the Jo Totes Betsy Bag

I have this thing for camera bags. 

Last year, I shot my first wedding without a proper camera bag and let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. I'm not even going to go into detail because it's that embarrassing. After that, I immediately knew that I needed to get a camera bag, a pretty one, ASAP. I found Kelly Moore and her bags and after a bit of a decision process, I bought the B-Hobo in Red. I have used that bag every single day since buying it last year in July, and if every day has been $1 worth, I've already got what I paid for twice over. Or more. 

The thing is, I sometimes get bored, and I decided last month that maybe I was bored and wanted to get another bag. To give myself a little variety - to be able to switch bags if I wanted to. I am often horribly indecisive though, and picking a second bag was one of those times. I began looking at Jo Totes and liked some of the bags she had. However, none seemed exactly right for what I was looking for and how I would use it. The other Kelly Moore bags didn't seem right either, and I didn't want a second B-Hobo in a different color. So I decided to wait.

Then, last week I saw on my Facebook news feed that Jo Totes had their new Betsy bag out. I checked it out and after 5 minutes of decision making, I hit the Buy Now button. I'm weird like that - sometimes it takes me days or even weeks to make a decision about something not all that serious. And other times, 5 minutes, DONE. I bought the Betsy bag in Mustard and then waited patiently for its arrival. Now that it's here, I thought I'd give you a pictorial tour of it, in case you are wondering what it's like up close. 

When I'm shooting, I wear my camera bags messenger style. One of the things that I love about my B-Hobo bag is that it has interchangeable straps. There's a shorter shoulder/purse strap and a longer cross body strap so you can carry it messenger style. You can choose which strap to clip on and how to wear it. Lots of other bags I've looked at have normal purse straps and then the option of attaching a longer strap. I don't like that though, because when you are carrying it across your body, the purse straps are still there and get in the way. That's one of the reasons why I loved this bag and decided to buy it. You can choose how to wear it and which strap to put on it. 

[This is the messenger strap with the shoulder pad. I didn't photograph the shorter strap but it looks similar to this strap, without a shoulder pad, and it's maybe 2 feet long or so.]
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The shoulder pad snaps on and helps to prevent a fully loaded heavy bag from digging into your shoulder as your are carrying it or shooting with it.
The top of the bag has a flap that comes over it, and the end of that flap has a zipper across it. When you unzip the zipper, there's a big hidden pocket in it. I'm not sure what I will carry in there - Matt suggested granola bars or other small snacks and I think that might be a good idea. Something smaller and not too bulky would fit perfectly in there. 
When you flip that zippered flap backwards, you get to the inside of the bag. The bag zips closed which is great for protecting your gear. If you want to use it as an easy access shooting bag, you can just leave the zipper open and then use the flap to protect your gear while shooting.

The metal pieces are silver and seem very sturdy.
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The front of the bag has two smaller pockets that have hidden magnets to help keep them closed. This would be where I would probably store my batteries and CF cards, or else maybe my phone and my keys and things like that.
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On the back side of the bag, there is a huge zippered pocket. This pocket is primarily designed to fit an iPad. Because I have plans to get an iPad this winter, I thought this was a great feature. 
For now though, I can use it to hold my wallet, paperwork for sessions, directions to my shooting locations etc. The manilla folder that is shown won't fit in the pocket the horizontal way, but it will fit in vertically if the zipper is left open, and that's ok with me! Less to carry in my hands as I'm hauling all my gear to my car.
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The bag's inside is a light gray color. 

The bag comes with 3 padded velcro dividers that give you total freedom to customize how you want your bag. Unlike other bags where on the inside, there's just some small strips of pre-attached velcro where you can attach your dividers to [limiting your options for configuration], this bag has the whole bottom made of the looped part of the velcro. You can see what I mean in the photo above. See how below the Jo Totes tag, you can see the looped part of the velcro stretching along the bag? This lets you place the dividers anywhere you want to.

I want to be able to carry a camera body with a lens attached in my bag. I decided to only use 2 of the dividers it came with. This gives me space for my camera in the middle. Depending on the size of the lens attached, I can put it in the way it's shown here [probably only fits this way with the 50mm] or I could put the camera in with the LCD down and the lens pointing up. This way, it could fit in there with a much bigger lens on it. There's room for 2 lenses, one on each side, or even more if you want to stack lenses. I carry my water bottle with me everywhere, so it's the perfect size for that.

*Note: A 70-200mm will fit in this bag, but [at least with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII] the top zipper will NOT close with the lens in it.
The shoulder strap is adjustable, letting you determine where you want it to hang and how long you want it to be. I like it to rest on my lower back, hip and it does this well.

This bag is more rigid than my B-Hobo bag, and I'm not sure if that's because of the structure or the design, or if it's because it's new and I haven't been out shooting with it. As of right now, I am using it as a way to carry back up gear to my sessions, and I am using it as an on the go purse too. It stands up on it's own so you can set it down while shooting and not have to worry about your gear falling out.
These photos sometimes make it look more light buttery than mustard colored. The bag is mustard colored, but like everything - the lighting it is in determines exactly how it looks. It looks much more mustard under artificial indoor lights than it does outside in the sunlight. I was a little bit worried that I might not like the hue of the color, but I think it's fun and goes with most other colors.

All in all, I'd say it's a great bag that gives you a lot of flexibility in configuring it. It's a bag that could be used as an everyday bag/purse/diaper bag, and it can also be used as a shooting bag. The bag is reasonably priced, as far as pretty camera bags go, and in my opinion - if you are going to use your camera bag a lot [whichever brand or style you get], you'll get your money's worth.

Hope that helps you get a feel for the Betsy bag and if it's the right fit for you!

*Disclaimer: I bought this bag with my own money and I am getting nothing in return for my review. 


  1. I lOVE this bag and i still need to get something to use other than my big bulky nikon camera bags haha! Even your first post about the hobo bag and it had me lookin all over for one of those too! :) thanks for the post! (I also love your hairpiece in the photos! super cute!)

  2. Thank you so much for the review on this bag, I wanted to know if the pocket would fit my i-pad and am thrilled that you wrote that!! Thanks!!

  3. I'm so glad you posted your review! I've been spending the past 3 days going back and forth between this bag and the Mille. I was thinking the Betsy might be too big but, after seeing your photos, I think I need the space. Once I started thinking about all the stuff I throw in my purses, not including camera gear, the Betsy will be perfect!

  4. Thank you for your review. I have been debating and can not decide. This helps. I just wish it would close with the 70-200. =)

  5. Laura, thanks for this review! Now that a year has passed, how's your Betsy bag holding up? I'm debating between this and KM's B-Hobo which you also own, so I'm wondering which one you love better and which one stands the test of time :) I would really love your opinion.

    Thank you in advance... I really appreciate it!


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