Camera Bag Review: Vinta Type II (Prototype)

The Vinta Type II backpack has some nice upgrades, but not necessarily the ones I wanted

When the Vinta Type II was announced on Kickstarter, I was pretty excited. The Vinta S series backpack has been one of my mainstays for a very long time. Any time that I’ve brought it out, folks fell in love with it. But in addition to that, I warmed up to it after some time. I didn’t like the lack of quick access, but I learned how to work around that. And even further, I thought that the arrangements of the pockets was a bit odd. To be honest, I still do. But it taught me to pack light and I continued to use it because it’s such a damned comfortable camera bag. I told myself that Vinta would make a much better bag the second time around. In some ways, the Vinta Type II is that bag. But in other ways, I genuinely feel like the company created even more problems.

Editor’s Note: I tested a prototype of the Vinta Type II. Many publications will simply not review a product if they don’t like it; which I have major ethical issues with. If something is great, I’m going to tell the world. If something isn’t fantastic, readers of the Phoblographer have known for years that I have no problems telling the world about it too and that the same sentiment is encouraged amongst the entire staff.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Gets dirty nowhere as easily as the S series
  • Expandable pockets, but I feel like they could be even more expandable
  • More configuration options
  • Fantastic weatherproofing

Cons

  • Not as comfortable as the first version
  • You absolutely have to use the camera pack (a bag that goes inside this bag) if you want to secure your gear.
  • Expandable pockets don’t cater to a whole lot of tripods unless they’re super small.
  • Side strap is too small
  • A part of me liked the canvas look of the S series and would have preferred waxed canvas

Tech Specs

This image was taken from our initial report on the Vinta Type II.

Ergonomics

The Vinta Type II backpack is a pretty gorgeous one. When you look at these images, I want you to know that in hindsight, the material isn’t really all that smooth. It’s a bit more glossy and you can tell for sure that there is a layer of protection and waterproofing on it. For that reason, the Vinta Type II already earns better upgrades in our eyes. The front of the pack has a similar look to the previous S series. You’ll see a bottom pocket that opens up to more pockets, and a top pocket with a flap, then a zipper, and then opening up to more stuff.

Let’s take a closer look at the top first. Those straps close shut via magnets. They let you access the top without needing to undo the straps themselves.

The bottom of the Vinta Type II has a big pocket. This pocket opens up to two small and very thin pockets. All that I’ve ever been able to stuff in there are eye drops, pens, small notebooks, phone chargers, and that’s really about it. Otherwise, they’re unfortunately pretty useless. I can’t even shove more than maybe 5 rolls of film in there.

Turn to the side of the Vinta Type II and what you’ll find is the side bottom pocket. These pockets now have a zipper that expands the size of them, but still barely large enough to accommodate a plastic water bottle or a Coke bottle. So if you’re traveling, you’ll probably end up sticking little to nothing in there.

Then there is that little looped strap which I’ve never totally understood except for aesthetic reasons. It isn’t functional at all unfortunately.

Turn to the other side of the Vinta Type II and you’ll spot the area for tripod storage. I’m using a Manfrotto BeFree tripod there which isn’t really all that large at all. But somehow or another, the Vinta Type II can’t even totally accommodate it. One leg is stuff into the expandable pocket and then the strap is going through the body of the Vinta Type II. But that also means that one leg is free to flap about with your movements.

This, perhaps more than anything else, is the most frustrating part of the Vinta Type II.

Here’s a closer look at what’s going on with what I described. That’s the only way that you can effectively use the tripod slot for the Vinta Type II unless you store it down below.

Let’s deviate away and come back to the front of the Vinta Type II. When you undo the top flap, you find this zippered pocket. When you open the zipper the small field kit comes out. This kit isn’t much different than the previous version. I typically use this to store a flash or film. That’s it. In some ways I find it superfluous to need to have a bag within the bag.

The bottom of the Vinta Type II has an area where you can configure the extra straps that you’re given. These straps are best used to hold a tripod in my opinion. But they’re also great for blankets, shawls, and capes.

Open up the Vinta Type II (which you have to do from the back) and you’ll see the interior. I’ve configured the Vinta Type II so that the bottom padding is removed and the door for the camera pack is folded backward. Otherwise, you’ll need to literally go through two layers of bag to get to your gear.

Here’s what I mean with the camera pack. It’s removed from the Vinta Type II backpack. Now if this were closed up, I’d have to go through the backdoor of the Vinta Type II and then through the door of the camera pack to get to my gear. That’s INCREDIBLY SUPERFLUOUS. If I’m that negligent about my gear in the first place then I probably need to be more cognisant of my surroundings. I’ve never had anything stolen out of my bag and this seems way too OCD in its current design. However, I’m testing a prototype and Vinta has considered my feedback.

Build Quality

Let me get the bad out of the way first: the Vinta Type II is nowhere as comfortable as the first S series bag. The S is arguably the most comfortable backpack that I’ve ever used until you put on a thick coat. But no matter what, I couldn’t get into the Vinta Type II without difficulty. To help you understand this, consider the fit and cut of some men’s button down shirts (and women will be able to understand and relate to this with dresses or shirts as well.) When you move your shoulders, at times it feels like you’re about to bust out of it or your shoulders are going to have problems moving about. That’s how I feel when I put the Vinta Type II backpack on; it feels like an uncomfortable button down shirt. Then the Vinta Type II doesn’t even have a strap system to go across your chest to give some extra comfort of some sort. At this point, I feel like that’s an industry standard feature.

Then you have to go through more than one layer to get to your gear. That’s annoying in and of itself.

So is there anything good about the Vinta Type II? Yes. It’s got some of the absolute best weather sealing that I’ve ever seen for any camera bag. It’s also a novel way of ensuring that you don’t get your gear stolen. But in the long run, I can’t really justify this to myself. I mean, the S series was great because you had only one layer of bag to go through. But two layers unless you modify it, hmmmm.

Ease of Use

With all of this said, I want you to know that I’ve been in touch with Vinta. And here I want to show you our correspondences. I said:

The bag just came in. Two BIG questions:

1. Apparently I have to use the field pack that comes with it because there is no velcro on the interior of the Type II that will allow me to configure my dividers the way that I was able to do so with the Type 1. Correct? Meaning that it’s mandatory that we use the field pack.

2. Is there any way the detach the zippered door from the field pack? Otherwise, I have to go through two layers of camera bag basically to even get to my gear.

Please help; at the moment this doesn’t seem well configured at all and maybe I’m doing something very wrong.

They got back to me pretty quickly:

Hello Chris,

Thanks for reaching back out. Your questions are valid, but with the Type II design, we wanted to do something different. We wanted the design to be such that on a shoot you refer to the field camera kit for quick access to your lenses instead of on the backpack. Our modular format allows us to be able to switch in and out of regular usage if you aren’t always shooting with your camera kit.

We have more and more studio photographers using our bags, as well as long term travelers, and this allows for added safety for the longterm travelers, and once again, the modular switching from one function to the next.

You’re right in saying that you now have to go through two layers to get to the backpack, and I’ll chat with the designer to see if perhaps there’s a way for the Camera Pack to have a way to zip off, because I think that could be a very valuable feature.

Please let me know if you have any other questions for us! Also, if you prefer the design of the S Series, the Type I bags will likely maintain that design, but with added features. Once we have those in, I can send one along if that’s your preference! Thanks again for your time and energy on this!

So the day before Thanksgiving, I sat down and penned this response:

I’ve got some follow up questions after using this bag two days in in the field:

1. You’re saying “We wanted the design to be such that on a shoot you refer to the field camera kit for quick access to your lenses instead of on the backpack.” But then what happens to the rest of the backpack? Wouldn’t someone take the entire thing with them? I know that I’ve taken my Vinta on press trips and stuffed flashes in the little field pack (located up top) and my cameras and lenses down below in what’s now the camera pack. But it’s incredibly difficult to stuff a speedlight, lenses and a camera into that thing total. And if I do that, then I’d still prefer to put it all on my back (via the backpack) and hold my light stands and light modifiers–therefore freeing up my hands so that I don’t need to carry the camera pack by hand. Let me know if that makes sense.

2. Isn’t the Camera pack essentially the travel pack but with dividers and Velcro?

3. What I’ve been doing is unzipping the camera pack, folding the door for that back, taking out the extra padded divider on the bottom of the bag, and stuffing the unzipped pack into the Vinta Type II. This has allowed for faster access. But even so, this bag seems tougher to break in than the original did. Considering how well built these zippers are though, the only other thing that I would say is make a zipper around the front lower pocket region so that I can open it up and access my gear faster. I’m highly confident that if using the same zippers, I’d still have that security within reason. I spoke about this with Vinta’s founder a while back at Lomography and he seemed adamant about only using the back; which I understand in some ways as a location shooter. But at the moment, that’s hindered by needing to essentially go through two layers.

4. The side pockets only unzip to a certain area. It would be really nice if the zipper went all around and expanded the pocket even more so that I can properly put a tripod like a Manfrotto BeFree or a Vanguard VEO in there. Also water bottles; I just came back from a trip with Sony in Sedona and our water bottles were pretty big.

5. The last bit of feedback that I’ll give is that I’d love straps that go around my waist or that can connect the two backpack straps together. It makes hiking a million times easier and I tend to do a ton of hikes.

Besides these tidbits, which I’m going to state in my review, this is an almost perfect bag. I’ve shot my product images and tagged you guys on Instagram already. And I’ll be working on this review on Monday after some extended use over the weekend.

Conclusions

As you can tell, I’m not totally in love with the Vinta Type II. The S series bag is a better bag in my opinion. But with a Kickstarter that is bound to be successful, I hope that Vinta takes my feedback into serious consideration and adds more to the functionality vs just the style.