This has to be a first for me as I’ve never actually managed to wear holes in a camera bag before! I’ve used my trusty Case Logic backpack for six years now and despite the heavy-duty materials it’s made from, I’ve finally managed to wear it out.
Rewind to 2012 and I reluctantly decided that my kit had got heavy enough to warrant changing from a shoulder bag to a backpack. I’d stuck with the shoulder bag because I liked the convenience of being able to open the top and get my camera out without putting the bag down. This had great benefits when working on a beach, or in muddy conditions. So, the search began for a backpack with a top opening, so I could still get easy access to my camera. There weren’t many on the market at the time, but I eventually settled on the Case Logic. It wasn’t ideal but it did tick a few boxes and held my camera with 24-70 lens fitted, plus a 17-35, 70-200 lenses, filter pouch etc.
A few weeks ago, I found myself searching for a replacement backpack and the following is an account of that search. This is not intended to be a general product review, as the opinions expressed here are purely my own thoughts based on a very specific “wish list” and any negative comments are based on whether the various bags met these requirements. What was a negative based on my “wish list”, may be a positive on someone else’s list, so please bare that in mind when reading this account. However, I do hope my trials give a useful insight to the process of selecting a camera bag that suits an individual’s very personal requirements.
Once again, top of my wish-list was a relatively compact bag with a top opening, so I could retrieve the camera without opening the rest of the bag and ideally the bag would sit upright, so I didn’t have to lay the straps in the gunge. Also high on my list is a good system to fix a fairly long tripod to the bag and ideally, this would be on one side, rather than the back as I find rear hanging the tripod levers the bag off your back.
The search initially started soon after Janet began a search for a very compact bag for her current kit, as she was looking to downsize and shed as much weight as possible. The first two she tried were Manfrotto NX CSC bags, but they proved to be tiny, so they went straight back. The next bag she tried was the Lowepro Protactic 250 and whilst there was a lot we liked about this bag, once again this proved to be a very small bag and she couldn’t get all her kit it in it. We liked the look of the bag and it’s flexible hanging system for tripods and water bottles etc, so she ordered the larger Protactic 350. However, this still proved to be a very small bag and the top opening was very fiddly in use, so yet more bags went back.
By this point I had joined the search and came across the K & F Design backpack. This seemed to tick quite a few of my boxes, so I placed an order for one of these. However, the moment I pressed the “Buy” button an advert sprang onto my screen for the Manfrotto Professional Backpack 20. This bag looked great for Janet, so yet another bag was duly ordered. In the meantime, my K & F arrived and it seemed pretty adequate, if a little bulky, but I hung on to see what Janet’s Manfrotto was like.
When the Manfrotto arrived, it proved to be a very similar, if slimmed down and better-quality version of the K & F. The Manfrotto was slightly bigger than Janet had wanted, but was such good quality she elected to keep it. Wex had it listed at £160 which made it expensive, but she got hers from Amazon for £100, which suddenly made it very good value.
I was expecting to go for the slightly deeper Manfrotto 30 bag, but Janet’s bag looked so good, I tryed my slightly bigger kit in it and decided that I preferred it to the K & F bag. So, yet another bag was returned, thank goodness for Amazon Prime!
Ideally, I would have liked the bag to be a centimetre or two wider and deeper, as the bag did prove a little tight to fit 77mm diameter lenses, but the quality won the day. Now I’ve had the bag for over a month and had a good chance to try it in the field, I have to say I am very happy with it, as it ticks quite a few boxes on my wish list.
- It’s a very rectangular design, so very compact, which I like.
- The dividers are quite strong and support the camera well. Much more so than the K & F.
- The top opening works well, so I can retrieve my camera without fully opening the bag, unlike the Lowepro bags.
- The main opening is also good, so I can get to the rest of my kit when I choose to.
- Initially the bag did seem a bit tight to take my camera with an L-bracket fitted, but as things have settle in, this has ceased to be a problem.
- However, this bag would be tight for anyone who has 77mm diameter lenses fitted with lens hoods.
- The bag does have a choice of rear or side mounting for the tripod, but in reality, the side mounting would only be for a very small travel tripod, so I’ve had to settle for using the rear tripod mount. Add in that the tripod straps were very small, so I’ve had to substitute bigger straps, to take the weight of my Vanguard CT283 carbon fibre tripod.
- The rain cover is bulky and unlike the Lowepro bags, there’s no obvious place to store it without loosing storage space inside the bag.
- All in all, a very nicely made compact bag, which was just what I was looking for, but it may prove a little bit tight for many people.