Jack Paulus was one of our early Kickstarter Backers and we've appreciated him keeping in touch while on his travels with his Top Shelf Camera Bag. He sent us his review and a bit about his experience using it thus far.
JP: Any mobile photographer who has been taking photos for any length of time knows what the search for a good camera bag is like. You want it to be comfortable for long carries while at the same time you want to be able to access your gear quickly. But since you can’t have it all you have to make trade-offs.
Backpacks are great for comfortable long carry but they have very slow access to gear and often require you to put your bag down on dirty surfaces to access anything. Sling bags give you fairly quick access to a single piece of gear, typically, through an annoying zipper on the side of a bag yet these bags are often uncomfortable for long carries with all of the weight in a single strap. But you had to pick one or the other; for the longest time I thought that these inherent constraints were something that I would just have to live with and that there was no other way. I stand corrected.
When I first saw the Top Shelf on Kickstarter my mind was blown. Here was a camera bag that could convert easily between both a backpack and a sling but better yet, in sling mode you could access ALL of your gear AND do so extremely fast. I have not looked back since.
The design is so ingenious that I don’t have to stop walking or even slow down while swapping the bag from backpack to sling modes. With a little practice it has become second nature.
I have spent months traveling with the Top Shelf carrying different types of gear for the purpose at hand. The flexible interior allows me to change the configuration easily. This allows me to carry, for example, a camera with 5 lenses for airline travel and then once at my destination I can set aside some lenses in order to add my travel tripod INSIDE the bag. Yes, the bag is designed to carry tripods on the outside but when you are shooting in places where you don’t want to advertise what you have inside your bag you have the option to hide your tripod inside for discreet carry with plenty of room for gear; the exterior of the bag is designed to not scream “camera gear inside!” enabling me to keep a low profile.
And gone, too, is the regret of having to place a bag on the ground in order to access gear or change lenses. The Top Shelf is, well, a shelf that keeps you away from the mess and dust of normal surfaces to change lenses, hold a laptop or whatever else you may need.
Rarely am I impressed by the design of everyday things but the Top Shelf is that unique product that causes me to gush. Well done BEVISGEAR.
Jack has been taking photos ever since he bought his first camera at the age of 12 with paper route money and after a multi-decade long career in the movie industry, he does photography full time and is based in Mexico.
You can find Jack's work here: