In partnership with Cecilia, we’ll be giving away one of these packs in the next ten days. Head down to the bottom of the review to find the entry form.
Cecilia started out by making leather and alpaca wool camera straps. I reviewed several of these in the past and found them to be beautifully made. Since that review, the brand has expanded its product catalogue to include camera bags. Today we’ll be taking a look at their latest backpack, provided for review by Cecilia to coincide with a 30% sale that they are currently having.
The Mercator is a 16L camera and laptop backpack that will hold a DSRL or mirrorless kit, as well as a 15″ laptop. The bag is also available in a smaller 14L size called the Humboldt. While I’m reviewing the black leather Mercator, you can safely use this review to judge the smaller Humboldt pack, too. Although different in size, the design and features are identical.
- Exterior: 19″H x 11.75″W x 6″D (48.3cm x 29.9cm x 15.3cm)
- Interior: 17.5″H x 11.25″W x 4.5″D (44.5cm x 28.6cm x 11.4cm)
- Weight: 3.2 lb (1.45 kg)
- Exterior: 17.5″H x 10.75″W x 5.75″D (44.5cm x 27.3cm x 14.6cm)
- Interior: 16″H x 10.25″W x 4.5″D (40.64cm x 26cm x 11.4cm)
- Weight: 2.85 lb (1.29 kg)
It’s clear right away that this is a premium product. All the Cecilia bags are delivered in a soft cotton bag to protect the full-grain cowhide leather. Even before you open the bag, you’ll be greeted by the smell of that leather.
With the bag in my hands, the first thing I noticed was how soft and supple the leather was. I have reviewed a few bags in the past that had leather elements to them, but this is the first full leather bag. I was expecting it to be harder, and perhaps a bit more rigid. The softness was a pleasant surprise and ultimately leads to a bag that feels more comfortable and less “boxy”.
Carrying a Tripod
The Mercator and Humboldt packs are equipped with a system to comfortably carry a tripod on the front of the pack. A hidden zippered pocket on the bottom of the bag reveals a tripod cup to hold the feet, and a top strap is located in the front zippered pocket. As with the rest of this bag, the hardware and straps used for this system are extremely high quality.
As well as the tripod cup, you’ll also find a rain cover in the zippered bottom pocket. One thing to note is that the zippered pocket cannot be closed when the tripod cup is being used. This means that the rain cover could fall out and dangle behind you. The cover is tethered to the bag so you won’t lose it, but you might want to remove it and stuff it into one of the interior pockets if you often see yourself carrying a tripod on this bag.
One side of the bag features a tall zippered pocket. The pocket is lined with the same soft, high-quality liner that’s found throughout this bag, so it would be a great place to safely store items such as sunglasses or a mobile phone.
The opposite side of the bag doesn’t have any pockets on it at all. I found this to be a shame because it would have been the perfect place to put a water bottle pocket. I often carry a bottle, or coffee mug with me when I’m out and about in the city, and with this bag, I struggled for a place to put it. I generally don’t like to put things like that inside a backpack with a camera and a laptop.
Camera storage is accessed via a large zippered back panel. The space is suitable for a non-gripped DSLR or mirrorless system with about 4-5 additional lenses. For me, the standout feature of this part of the bag is the wonderfully soft, expensive feeling material that has been used throughout the pack’s interior. This material also covers the camera section dividers, allowing you to create a nice soft space for all your expensive gear. More than enough dividers are provided for every conceivable orientation and size of gear in this section.
In the rear panel of the bag, you’ll find a lined and padded laptop pocket with a leather tap to secure the device. The Mercator will hold a 15″ laptop, while the smaller Humboldt will hold up to a 13″ laptop. The padding in this pocket is just right. Not too bulky, but plenty enough to protect your laptop from any sharper or harder-edged objects in the camera section.
On the front of this panel, you’ll also find a pair of zippered pockets for your laptop cables and maybe a hard drive or two. The pockets are layered, so the uppermost pocket actually extends behind the lower pocket, giving you much more depth than you initially expect to find. A nice touch.
The top section of the bag is a multi-purpose space. There’s enough padding, and the lining is soft enough, that I would not have a problem placing a camera in this section with a lens attached to it. Alternatively, you can simply use it for all your non-photographic items.
A zippered interior pocket in this top section provides the perfect place to store a memory card wallet and other smaller items such as batteries, a lens cleaning cloth and a couple of filters. Any additional filters can also be placed in one of four additional leather sleeve-style pockets. Two of these are on the inside of the pocket, and another two can be found on the back side, accessible via the back panel entry.
As you can see from the photos above, this upper space can be accessed from the top of the bag, or within the rear panel of the bag. Additionally, the divider can be removed entirely to give you one single large volume in the back of the bag.
Shoulder Straps and Back Panel
The back panel of the bag has thickly padded sections made from EVA moulded foam. It’s comfortable for a bag of this relatively small size, and I also think the material and design of this part of the bag is a nice contrast to the rest of the bag. The moulded-in logo looks great and adds to an already premium look.
The shoulder straps have an equally generous amount of foam padding, though it should be noted that there is no sternum strap.
As I have come to expect from Cecilia products, the quality and craftsmanship of this bag is absolutely top-notch. Frankly, it is beautiful, and even from a distance, it manages to exude style. Yes, you do pay a price for this level of quality, but If you’re looking for a smart camera bag to use around the city or travel with, the Mercator (or Humboldt) should be on your list.
Where to Buy – 30% Discount
As I mentioned at the start of this review, the Cecilia backpack is available in two sizes. There’s the 16L Mercator that is pictured in the review and the 13L Humboldt. The bags are identical in their design and features, so this review also applies to the Humboldt. You should choose the Mercator if you want to carry a 15″ or 16″ laptop, or the Humboldt if you want to carry a 12″ or 13″ laptop.
At the time of publishing this review, the backpacks are available for a 30% discount when purchased directly from Cecilia.