When I used to shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II, I had a whole system based on the Kata 3n1-20. That thing was superbly designed. It was a backpack that could be used as a sling for lefties and righties. It had a trolley system so you can use it as a roll-on bag. It even had a tripod/monopod holder that I regularly used. It was great. It was always ready. I could pick up and travel with me anywhere in a moment’s notice. It could carry the pro body, 5 lenses, all the chargers, miscellaneous gadgets, and even an iPad. But, fully laden, it weighed up to 40lbs.
The switch to the FF mirrorless Sony A7 has been a joy. Superior image quality at half the size and weight. With the smaller camera, I was also able to significantly lighten my gear. To quote Lotus cars founder Collin Chapman:
“Simplify, then add lightness”
In the 5 years that I used the Kata backpack, nothing was torn or ripped, all the zippers worked, and everything worked like new. I’ve been all over the world with that backpack. I loved it and would highly recommend Kata. To my dismay, they didn’t really make anything I liked for mirrorless cameras. I thought about going with something “designer,” made out of leather, and fashionable, but my camera bags travel with me a lot and they take a beating. Stylish buckles wear out. Leather (even when treated) is vulnerable to water. Importantly, I wanted something light and low key.
Nowadays, my camera bag is a Tenba Messenger DNA 8. It is compact, light, and about the size of a toaster. The material is synthetic but it attractively resembles denim. The shoulder belt is made from the same material as car seat belts, and it is padded in just the right place. The main flap closes with velcro, not my ideal method of closure (since I can’t stand the sound of it), but it is very secure and reinforced with Tenba’s patented Fidlock magnetic snap lock system. There are quick access zippers at the top of the bag so you can whip out the camera without having to pull open the front flap. Very neat.
This bag is small, so it just fits everything I need, and I mean just. The battery chargers go with my carry on luggage (ideally chargers should always travel together with the camera). The shoulder belt loops are made from metal but the carabiners on the belt itself is made of plastic. I’m sure they’ll be the first things to wear out, but I’d only have to swap out the belt instead of the whole bag. There are extra small slots on the front of the bag, covered underneath the flaps. But once you fill up the bag with stuff, you really can’t put anything significant in there.
If you paid attention to the featured image, you’ll notice a small black bag attached to the left of the Tenba. That’s just my Yashica T4 Super D in its separate camera case, attached to the shoulder belt loops via a carabiner.
This is everything I have in my Tenba, nothing superfluous. In no particular order:
- Sony A7 with the Zeiss Sonnar 55mm F/1.8 with hood
- Leica 35mm f/2.8 Summaron
- Meike MK300 speedlite
- Yongnuo RF 603II wireless transmitters
- 2 extra camera batteries
- A bunch of extra AA, AAA, and a CR123 battery.
- CB Mini-RC Flash bracket
- USB card reader
- Model releases and Photo Usage Licenses
- A chrome Fisher write upside-down space pen
- A waterproof case for my iPhone if I needed to do underwater photography or video.
- Earplugs (for noisy flights)
This is almost a perfect setup for me. It’s small, inconspicuous, and light. It weighs 4.5 lbs ladened and holds everything I need for travel/street/portrait photography. If you took out the flash accessories, it will hold another lens. I do wish I could fit the battery chargers, and there is a larger Tenba Messenger DNA 11. But honestly, I rather choose this over the extra bulk. All in all, great bag.