When I decide to spend my hard earned money on new gear and tech for my photography I do exhaustive amounts of research on products. Not only the stats of the products, but how they perform in real life, what current owners of products think of them, even what kind of company is selling the product. Are they a huge organization that doesn’t really care about its customers, is customer service good, is it outsourced or local, are they a start up or mom and pop company, do they employee or seek input from the pro’s actually using the gear in the field.
As an Urban photographer the gear I buy has to be rugged. Withstand rain, dirt, potential tearing from metal or broken glass. And I can’t have it looking like something a photographer wears. Many hours have gone into researching stuff that disguises, not makes me scream photographer when I am walking around in the city.
There have been two things that a lot of my peers have been asking my opinions and advise on lately. Camera bags and jackets. There are millions of bag designs on the market, and as a bigger guy it can be a bit of a chore to find the perfect fitting jackets, ones that both fit well, have room to layer and let you keep your mobility. So for my first formal gear review on the blog, I review the SeV/SCOTTEVEST – Essentials Jacket.
SCOTTEVEST or SeV as I will call it from here on out, is a small independent U.S. company owned and operated by CEO Scott Jordan that specializes in travel clothing. So it makes sense that I was first introduced to the brand by famed travel and humanitarian photographer David duChemin, he pretty much swears by this stuff, so I thought I would check out the website to find out more.
Scott made a name for himself with his travel vest, and now has an ever growing line of clothing. After researching all of my options, I went with the Essentials Jacket. I decided on this because not only is it a great light weight jacket, but you can zip off the sleeves and turn it into a vest. It can be worn as a jacket or vest and I have found it makes the perfect base layer to wear under rain gear. A HUGE plus because now I can keep all my stuff organized and dry!
Now if there is one thing that I think we can all agree on it is how ridiculous photographers can look when they are walking around wearing a traditional photography vest that has all the pockets on the outside completely stuffed and bulging. This is where SeV comes in. You see with exception of the normal hand pockets on a jacket (which aren’t at all normal on this coat), all of the pockets are on the inside. In fact, on this particular jacket there are 19 pockets for all your carrying needs. They come in all different sizes from two pen pockets all the way up to a pocket that can fit magazines or as the SeV website now proudly claims iPads!
There are three hand pockets, two on the right and one on the left. On the right, there is a small rear pocket with a zipper which you can keep a point and shoot or phone or something like that in, the front hand pocket has both a zipper and magnet closure, so even if the pocket is unzipped you don’t have to constantly worry about things falling out. Oh and I should mention the two front hand pockets (left and right) are HUGE! The inside of the right one has a seperate change pocket and an elastic loop to hold a water bottle, yeah you read that right, a water bottle! It also contains a key ring on a springy loop, think of it as a curled telephone cord with a clip on the end, which keep your keys in your pocket till you need them.
On the left is what you would think would be just one hand pocket. However, that pocket has a zipper in it which creates either two separate pockets or one huge one. This works great if you need to have your wallet on the outside for easier access, you can keep it zipped in the inner pocket out of the reach of pick pockets.
On the left side there are layered document pockets. Here you can keep your wallet, passports, and other things like plane tickets. Beneath it is the large pocket that holds magazines books or the famous iPad.
On the right side is a pocket for your sunglasses, which even comes with a microfiber cloth for cleaning! A pocket for a small digital camera, and inside that pocket is an even smaller pocket with a velcro closure that lets you keep extra memory cards or batteries for your camera.
There are two pockets located at chest level with a translucent panel that are for your smartphone or iPod. The translucent panel is touch sensitive so you can control you iPod touch or your iPhone right through the pocket without having to take it out. Also included is their trademark PAN or Personal Area Network. This lets you route all of your wiring for your headphones or whatever though the inside of your coat keeping everything tangle and snag free. See in the photo below the top of the PAN in the collar where my headphones are looped. This is huge for me, my main camera bags for walking around the city are messenger style bags, and when wearing a bag across my shoulder I either have to put my headphones on first, which leads to my bag strap pulling on them as I shift around, or I have to put my headphones on after my bag so they are on the outside, but then I have to take my headphones off every time I want to remove my bag which is a major annoyance. With the SeV I route my headphone wire from the iPod pocket up the inside and through the red collar loops and center velcro strap. Now my headphones are in my jacket and come out from behind my head, I no longer have to worry about them being pulled by a bag strap or taking them off. There are even two small mesh pockets on the inside of the coat where you can put the earbuds when not in use, keeping them completely out of sight!
The pluses and minuses
The overall quality of this jacket is a 5 out of 5 for build. Good durable fabric, quality stitching at the seams, the main zipper is metal not some cheap plastic thing that will fail. All of the pockets both outside and inside have access to the PAN, with openings clearly marked with red stitching.
One thing I wish that SeV offered was tall sizes. It is great that they have sizes from Small all the way to XXXL, but I have long arms and a long upper torso, so the jacket is a little shorter then I like, but that isn’t a stopper, I got used to it quickly, and honestly the jacket has spent most of its time lately without sleeves in vest mode so its not prob at all.
There are only a few other minor things that I would suggest that would make this a perfect jacket, but again these are only minor things. They have to do with the top of the PAN and how my particular headphones function with the jacket.
I use earbud headphones from the company Shure. These are not your traditional iPod headphones these are top quality earbuds from an industry leading audio company. You can see in the picture of the collar area, the earbugs have a connection at the base of the ‘Y’ where they go to the left and right ears, this is so that if something gets tugged on they come apart at this connection and there is less of a change of damaging the connection on the device. Also the earbuds have a soft foam insert that forms to your ear. What I have found is that the red elastic loops and the center velcro holder at the collar are all a little to small. The red loops you can work around by separating the headphones at the mid connection and routing the base cable through the loops.
The center velcro strap which is used to organize which direction the earbuds go, I wish was a little taller so that I could keep the ‘Y’ connector securely in there instead of looped against my back. It’s not that it isn’t comfortable under normal use, but when I wear my camera backpack with 20 lbs of gear in it, you can really feel the connector and it can become uncomfortable if you dont put it in the right place, I have also had the earbuds disconnect at the ‘Y’ on a few occasions making me have to take the pack and the jacket off to redo the connection.
The last thing, with the earbuds having foam inserts, I have found the earbud storage pockets just a slightly too small, while they still fit you have to be very careful inserting and removing the earbuds from the pockets so that you don’t rip the foam off the stems.
Again these are all really minor things that I have experienced with my particular setup and usage and it wont stop me from buying more from Scott and SeV. In fact I also own the Microfleece Pullover, which is great for just tossing on when you are just running out to do some errands on a cold day.
Drop me a note if you have any other questions, or if you happen to be out shooting in the city with me, don’t hesitate to ask to check out the Jacket.