Women’s camera bags – you’d think they’d be easy to find, right?

Women's Camera Bags: ThinkTank Lily Deanne Review

Friends, this is going to be so much more than a review of the Think Tank Lilly Deanne Women’s Camera Bag. It’s going to be a saga.

A saga of what I wanted. A saga that will be long (but not a fraction as long as the time I spent researching this decision). A saga of why I chose this bag over the other women’s camera bags that I looked at. And a saga that, ultimately, has a happy ending.

Thank you, by the way, to those of you who advised me on the Digital Photography for Moms Facebook page. I looked at each and every recommendation you made.

I’ve been using this old Jill-e medium for years. I can’t even remember when I got it it.

It holds ALL my camera stuff. Lenses, external flash, batteries, gray cards – you name it. It’s held up exceptionally well too, except for the scuff marks. (Thanks, husband, for not being more careful when you pack the car for vacation.) I’ll continue to use it many more years.

There is just one thing the Jill-e won’t do: it’s not big enough to hold my laptop. More and more lately, I’ve needed both my laptop and my camera at the same time. Whether I’m traveling for work or on a working vacation, or simply working from a coffeeshop for the day, I need them both. Carrying a camera bag AND a briefcase is too much. 

On days like this, I don’t need all the camera equipment – maybe an extra lens or two.

Women’s Camera Bags: The Search

After lots of thought and research, I decided that I didn’t want to combine this camera/laptop bag with a purse. I don’t want to carry the camera and the laptop into the grocery store with me on the way home from work. I don’t want to carry it all with me to the restroom or going out for dinner on vacation. I have a small purse with a built in wallet that holds all my essentials. It’s a great combination with my new camera bag.

Having made it this far in my decision making process, I came to a roadblock. It turns out that there aren’t many women’s camera bags that hold both a laptop and a camera with its accessories. I don’t need anything too girlie or froufrou. But I did want my bag to to be attractive and not masculine looking.

I narrowed down my choices to the ThinkTank Lily Deanne and this Ona Capri:

Women's Camera Bag Ona Capri

The Ona Capri is my style, perfectly – I love that leather look.

I combed through all online reviews for these two bags. I went to my local camera store to test them out.

The Ona was slightly bigger and held my laptop easily (more on that later). However, it didn’t have anywhere near the amount of  pockets and organizational tools that the Lily Deanne has. Also, based on the Amazon reviews, I was concerned about how easily it would scratch. And seeing it in person confirmed these worries. It was scratched already, from nothing other than people handling it. (And yes, I know that leather scratches and that these scratches contribute to the “patina.” Well, I’m pretty sure that this bag would go from patina to beat-up-looking in not very long.)

Based on the leather and the lack of pockets, not to mention that the Ona is much pricier, I decided on the Lily Deanne. But the Lily Deanne comes in three sizes! Which to choose?

The Lucido (the smallest) holds a camera and a lens or two, but not a laptop. That was easy to rule out.

The Tutto is the largest of the line – it’s huge (2 to 3 inches deeper than the Mezzo). I ordered it and returned it. It was unattractively huge on my body (I’m short!). While it would have easily held my laptop and most of my camera equipment, it would also have gotten too heavy quickly. If I had wanted to replace the Jill-e altogether, however, the Tutto would be a good option.

So I settled on the ThinkTank Lily Deanne Mezzo. I chose the chestnut color (brown on black) over licorice (black on black).

ThinkTank Lily Deanne Review

ThinkTank has been around for years – it has a sound reputation for high quality and durable products. And this bag does have great quality. Would you like a tour?

You can see from the top photo that the front has two pockets with a magnetic flap over the top. Lift that flap and you’ll see that there is another full-width zipper pocket on the front, plus a zipper for the main compartment under the flap.

The side-by-side front pockets have magnetic closures. Each has slots inside for memory cards, pens, business cards, etc. (I love all these magnetic closures, by the way. No snaps or buckles to mess with.)

The full-width zipper pocket on the front has a slot inside it as well, plus a loop where you could attach your keys if you supply a carabiner. This pocket is perfect for a phone. And, depending on what you have in the main compartment, you could fit plenty of purse stuff here too (small wallet, brush, tissues, etc.).

The shoulder strap is thickly cushioned and very comfortable.

The cushioned area is about twice as long as the cushion on my Jill-e. This extra length distributes the weight more evenly and is softer on the shoulder.

Let’s move around to the back now. It has a drop in pocket that would be great for magazines, or maybe a kindle or small tablet. It also has a pass through to loop over the extended handle of a suitcase.

Each side of the exterior has an expandable pocket that can hold a water bottle, sunglasses, etc.

Ready to look inside?

In the main compartment, you’ll find 4 pockets and 3 velcro separators (I’m only using two, as you can see in the photo above). ThinkTank calls the interior color “robin’s egg blue.” I usually think of robin’s egg as a pale blue. This blue is definitely not pale. I like it, regardless. It’s bright enough that it’s easy to find what you are looking for inside.

The first interior pocket is the laptop or tablet sleeve. ThinkTank says that this pocket will hold up to an 11 inch laptop. I have a 13 inch Macbook Pro. It fits, but just barely.

Opposite the laptop sleeve is another full-width zippered pocket. It’s directly behind the full width zippered pocket on the front of the bag – you probably can’t put a lot in each of them, but you could stuff one or the other.

On each side of the interior compartment is a stretchy pocket that would be great for camera batteries:

So let’s get to the important stuff. How much can this baby hold? In the photo below, you can see my laptop, my Canon 6D with the 24-70 on it, my 70-200, and my 85mm and 50mm stacked on top of each other. That is all of my lenses!

Women's Camera Bags - think Tank Lily Deanne Review

The bag did zip with all that equipment in it, but as you can see, it’s bulging a bit.

Women's Camera Bags - Lily Deanne Review

Also, the top flap doesn’t close all the way to its magnets when it’s this full:

Women's Camera Bag - Think Tank Lily Deanne Review

But let’s get real here. One bag with all this weight is going to be way to heavy for me to carry through an airport. When I travel, I don’t take all my lenses. The 24-70 and the 70-200 are usually plenty. I’d pull out those other two and stick my laptop charger in the main compartment.

With a realistic amount of equipment in this bag, it’s perfect for me. It will be heavy, yes, but I can wear it crossbody to distribute the weight. It will be manageable. And for a day at the coffeeshop with one lens? Perfect!

Last but not least, I should tell you that this bag comes with a rain cover. Living in Texas, I don’t anticipate using it. But it might be something that some of you would use.

I am quite pleased with this bag so far. I’ll update this article if anything changes after extended use. But based on the apparent quality of the bag, I don’t expect it to wear out or break.

Are you looking for women’s camera bags? I’m curious about which features are must-haves for you! Post them in the comments below.