Review: Vinta S Series Backpack Camera Bag

More and more, I’ve been leaning away from messenger bags and towards backpacks. No one has really gotten what I want perfectly, but some are close. When you consider what Vinta makes, the Vinta S series of backpacks seem very much in line with what lots of photographers would want. They’re stylish, minimal, low profile, and able to carry a fair amount of gear if you’re a mirrorless camera user. The company markets it to being used by outdoor and landscape photographers very often. But in real life use, it seems to be better for city trekkers.

Pros and Cons

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Pros

  • Low profile
  • Nice looking
  • Super comfortable. Essentially it’s the most comfortable backpack I’ve ever worn. Heck, I’d lay back and sleep in this thing!
  • Dividers give the contents lots of cushioning.
  • Best as either a camera bag or a travel bag, not both in one.

Cons

  • Dividers are a bit tough to work with.
  • Absolutely no quick access
  • Very little room for extra stuff like a water bottle, etc.

Tech Specs

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Specs and description taken from the Vinta website

Introducing VINTA’s first backpack the S | Series is a necessity for every traveler & photographer. The compact and clean design can accommodate for a wide range of uses. Whether you are climbing up a mountain or exploring a new city.

  • Slot for up to a 15″ laptop
  • Removable inserts
  • Fit full-frame DSLR camera, +3-5 lenses
  • FIELD PACK included
  • Leather details & magnetic snaps
  • Light-weight and durable poly fabric
  • Waterproof material
  • Gun metal details

Dimensions: 11.5 x 15.75, 5.5

Weight: 2.2 lb.

Ergonomics

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If you were to look at the Vinta S series camera bag you’d most likely reckon that it’s just a rucksack. Indeed, your mentality would be that some hipster bloke is walking around with a bag that’s designed to look pretty nice. Indeed, it is very nice.

One of the bag’s strongest features is that it doesn’t look like a camera bag at all. Instead, it just seems like something that a person who wants a nice backpack would have.

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In some ways it really is. So we start this ergonomics tour with the front pocket. Each pocket closes with magnetic claps that are very nice. This front pocket has two pockets built into it. Each are thin–like, very thin. This book stuffed into the bag was kind of pushing it.

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On each side, you’ve got these extra-hipster-skinny-jeans pockets along with these D-rings. You can attach what you’d like to the D-ring, but these side pockets are almost useless for anything other than business cards, a phone, or maybe batteries.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not putting my phone in a side pocket.

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Turn towards the bottom of the bag and what you’ll find are these optional straps. They’re designed for toting along a tripod on your journey.

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Open up the top of the bag and you’re treated to a zipped pocket. Inside this pocket is another pocket. Vinta gives you a little kit/pack to put into here. In my travels, I haven’t needed to use it. You can take out the divider up here to separate it from the rest of the stuff inside.

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Then there are the most comfortable straps in the world. Seriously, they’re super squishy, well built and just oh-so-comfortable. If they made beds out of this material I’d fall in love and pony up any amount of money needed.

The back of the bag is also very cushioned and comfortable.

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Open the bag up and you’ve got a lot of room for various cameras, lenses, etc. The bag is thin though, so you can’t really accommodate a big DSLR with lots of lenses. But you can surely try to stuff as much into here as you’d like.

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In my opinion, this is best for mirrorless camera users. Though if you’ve got a DSLR lens or two, this bag should be enough to suffice your needs.

Build Quality

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In terms of its own build quality, the Vinta S series of backpacks are pretty solid. They feature canvas and leather as part of the design and feel very durable. I’ve taken the S into heavy rainfalls here in NYC and the gear inside didn’t seem to suffer at all. In fact, the S shrugged off the rain a lot better than my jacket, scarf or hat did on those particular days. Granted, the Olympus OMD EM-1 Mk II and the other Micro Four Thirds gear inside are also pretty weather sealed so even if something happened, it wouldn’t have mattered much.

Everything that Vinta did in making this bag results in its clearly showing off quality craftsmanship. However, I’m not so sure that I can say the same thing for its actual design–which I’m pretty torn on.

Ease of Use

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While the design of the bag is awesome, in real life use it has a few issues. I’m not the only person that feels this way. A few photographers in camera clubs and collectives that I’m part of have expressed the same sentiments to me.

I’m the type of photographer that doesn’t necessarily need quick access to my gear. I shoot portraits, and so I’m not shooting anything majorly pressing that can’t be re-posed, repositioned, etc. In that case, not allowing me to have quick access to my gear inside is kind of understandable. However, I’ve become spoiled by offerings from both zKin and WANDRD that take different approaches to quick access. WANDRD gives photographers access through the side on one corner while zKin has a whole area towards the front that unzippers. If you want to access all the contents of your rucksack, then you need to go through the back of the bag and unzip it. Vinta didn’t build any sort of quick access into the bag. So everytime you want to access something you need to either put it near the top area to be accessed through the top zipper, or you need to take the pack off, open it up, get what you need, and move on. And I guess that’s not so bad, but I’m so spoiled by what other companies offer, and if Vinta allowed me to even access the lower part of the bag’s interior contents I’d be much more satisfied.

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But then there are other issues with the build. For a city dwelling and working photographer, this bag makes a lot sense. It’s compact enough to be kept on your back when on subways, it forces you to keep your kit lightweight, it’s low profile, etc. In fact, I find it significantly better for city shooters.

Once you take it into the wilderness though, you start to run into issues. When I go hiking or exploring, I’m used to bringing one or two different knives with me. The smaller one can easily be stored in one of the incredibly slim side and front pockets, but my larger Bowie knife from the Army? That’s not going to be able to fit into there and still give me quick access to it even from its scabbard.

Those other pockets are often where I keep things like spare batteries, books, keys, and other essentials like snack bars, bottles, etc.

Then simple and small things like a water bottle can’t be easily stored. If you’re carrying a flask, that makes sense and is easier to work with. But most standard canteens and water bottles won’t work. If you have one, you’ll probably want to put it into the small little bag/kit that they provide to be stored in the top of the bag.

Indeed, if you’re going out for a hike you’ll probably want to have this bag and other things taken along with you.

Conclusions

Vinta has made a solid attempt at a camera bag for photographers dwelling in cities; but I’m not so sure I can recommend it for folks in the ‘burbs. When you’re in a city, you’ve got lots of access to anything you could probably need during the day. You can pack this bag with your gear, and if you need lunch or something you can then go buy it somewhere. So for that reason, it can work for city dwelling photographers that don’t need any sort of quick access. But if you want to carry a lot more than just your camera gear, you’ll need to find a way to configure the bag to really work for you. You’ll probably be keeping your kit very minimal. Most of all though, that’s probably what Vinta is trying to do here.

If this bag allowed quicker access via the front, or even had more pockets on the side and front, it would be much higher up on my list of must-have camera bags. But these points are major marks against the Vinta–which seems to emphasize security a bit too much to the point where it inhibits a lot of practical needs for photographers.

Update: 1/8/2017

I’ve spent a really, really long amount of time with this bag. Does the lack of quick access still annoy me? Yes. Can I live without it? Yes. Do I wish that it could hold more stuff? Yes, but I’ve learned how to make things work with this bag. I’ve taken it out into the snow in NYC and it’s survived with no problems. It’s still incredibly comfortable though I wish that it had buckles to make the straps come even tighter onto my chest. I don’t always like that I need to unzip the entire back to get to my gear or that I need to sometimes step off to the side to switch to something else, but I pretty much do this with any backpack that I use. I really wish that I could take a water bottle or an iced tea bottle and put it on the side, but I can’t.

What I really love about this bag though is that it works so very well on the NYC subway even when the L train gets super crowded. I’ve also made it hold loads of gear. Just today it held three cameras, five lenses, a pack of film, chargers, flashes, a microphone, etc. It’s an extremely versatile bag, but if the front of the bag allowed me to have quicker access to my gear, the top was a roll style, and the side pockets accommodated water bottles, this would pretty much be the most perfect camera bag on the market save for those of us who need to carry tripods. For those folks, you’ll need another side pocket to accommodate to bigger tripods. Sure, you can stuff it underneath, but then it’s going to poke everyone on public transport.

Of course, that isn’t an issue if you’ve got your own car.

The Vinta S series of cameras bags receive five out of five stars. They’ll run you $249.