Two months ago a quest was started to find a camera bag to hold my monolight–and the Tenba Large Messenger bag seemed like an ideal solution for solving this problem at the time. I have a lot of camera bags for different needs and situations. Typically, one would go for a roller type of camera bag or a backpack. My problem though is that I hate backpacks and find them not very useful on the NYC subway system when travelling. Roller bags–though very useful and quite nice, still slow me down more than I’d like to.
Tenba has years of experience in the camera bag world, but do they have what it takes to tackle a specific need with an item targeted at a general market? And can it really hold all that gear in the photo above?
Pros and Cons
- Doesn’t look like a camera bag
- The low profile look will be of huge value to photojournalists
- Can hold a ton of gear
- Excellent padding on the shoulder, perhaps the best in the industry
- Dividers are very customizable
- Sex appeal is a bit low
For this review, I needed to stuff the Paul C Buff Einstein E640 with Umbrella reflector into the Tenba Large Messenger bag. However, I also needed to fit cables, two PocketWizard Plus III radios, and a Minolta Auto Meter IV F.
Specs taken from the listing on Tenba’s website
2.2 lbs(1 kg)
17.5W X 12.5H X 5.5-8.5 in. (44 X 32 X 14-22 cm)
17W X 12H X 5-8 in. (43 X 30 X 13-20 cm)
16.5W X 11.5H X 1.5-2 in. (42W X 29H X 4-5D cm)
Fits most laptops up to 17 inches
The Tenba large messenger bag truthfully looks like something that a college student might carry around. There is a zipper at the top of the bag for quick access to what’s inside. But on the front panel there are also two side pockets (which aren’t very deep) and buckles to hold everything down and in place.
The top zipper is very well designed with an additional cover over it. In real life use, this means even more protection for your gear. It’s a very subtle touch but it works out well just in case you happen to accidentally keep the zipper open.
To ensure that the front stays down, there is also lots of velcro. Unlike Think Tank, Tenba doesn’t incorporate silencers to do away with that giant ripping sound that you get when you open the bag up. If you don’t care about that, then more power to you.
There are also lots of pockets here in the middle for extra storage.
When you look at the inside of the camera bag from a top-down perspective, you can see just how much storage there is. There is a whole removable compartment in the main pocket. There were originally dividers, but I’ve since removed them. Plus there are loads of other pockets in front and behind the compartment.
The bag is also packing some extra storage space in the rear. I can comfortably fit my Macbook Pro 13 inch Retina in here if I wanted to. Otherwise, it normally stores cables or flattened light modifiers.
Around the shoulder strap is some branded padding. It gets dirty easily, but that’s not such a major problem in the grand scheme of things. In fact, I love this padding–it is by far the most comfortable I’ve used.
To be fair though, I’m saying this during the winter months in NYC. Once the summer rolls around, this padding will surely make me sweat under the hot sun here mixed in with the humid climate.
The two pockets that I mentioned at the start of the ergonomic tour typically hold nothing more than my PocketWizard Plus III radios and can even store the mini cables that come with them. The radios totally fit into the pockets, but this image was taken just to show off that they indeed fit into the front flap.
Lastly, I put my Minolta Auto Meter IV F around the shoulder strap for not only quicker access, but easier storage. When I’m scouting locations, I like to walk around with my hand held meter and figure out what the ambient lighting will be like before I start creating my own scenes.
What the Tenba Large Messenger Bag trades off in sexiness it more than makes up for in endurance. I couldn’t find a single flaw in the design of this camera bag and it is tough as nails. With that said though, I sometimes miss the soft touch of the Think Tank Retrospective series.
Due to the significant padding on this bag, it totally protected my lighting gear and was very comfortable to carry. When I’m travelling to a shoot, I usually have this bag around me, a seven foot umbrella in its case, a light stand, and another small camera bag to carry my camera and a lens or two.
If this bag can manage my lighting gear, it can more than do what is needed to a DSLR, lenses, flashes, etc.
This bag was taken out into the rain, snow (yes it’s March and NYC still is getting snow) and on the NYC subway. It took all the rough and tumble that a normal commuter goes through and stood up to the environment like a champ.
My only concern was that since I was often taking the bag off and putting it on the ground, I would have liked either a bit more padding or solidified plastic to protect the bottom. But that’s just my OCD nature–and many of you may not necessarily feel the same way.
So can the Tenba Large Messenger Bag keep up with the demands of an insane strobist like myself? Surely. When I talked to Tenba about the bag and initially opened it up from the box, I was a bit skeptical. However, it surprised me. It’s rare that I’m surprised, but I really haven’t been this shocked since I tested (and hated) the Olympus OMD prototype–and then bought the production version.
With all of their experience in the photo industry, it only makes sense that Tenba’s bags are just this good. But once again, we wish they were a bit snazzier in the looks department.
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