Review: Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack (The In-Between Bag)

With the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack, photographers get a slim and versatile bag.

When I first saw the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack, I was at Ira Block’s apartment in Manhattan. Ira, who hails from National Geographic, designed the bag with the folks at Tenba. Though it’s marketed as a DSLR shooting option, it’s probably more correctly labelled as an offering for those who use bigger mirrorless cameras and have the lenses that go along with them. But the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack is sort of an odd choice. It’s got the depth and length of most camera bags, but it doesn’t have the width, purposely. It’s designed to keep you minimal, sort of. Think of it as a bag for the in-between crowd–and there are a lot of you out there.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Lots of low profile pockets
  • I can carry most of the gear I need. Though you can use it with small flashes, I can’t pack a Profoto B10 in here with ease.
  • Designed for the photographer who will shoot on a location and then edit later
  • Small enough to come with you in a busy subway while not taking up a lot of room
  • Weather sealed
  • Lots of great dividers
  • Pockets are in comfortable spots to reach and use, but you’ll need to take the backpack off every time you want to use the bag

Cons

  • I wish it could accommodate a 13 inch laptop, but I understand why it can’t
  • Tenba desperately needs more bags in canvas and leather
  • If you put a tripod in the side, it becomes unbalanced unless you have something equally as heavy in the other side pocket.
  • Not that attractive

Gear Used

We used the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack with the Canon EOS R and a number of lenses.

Tech Specs

From Tenba’s website:

The 16L backpack achieves pro performance in a compact size. No one should have to compromise on quality just because they want to carry a smaller camera system. The 16L backpack will fit 1-2 Mirrorless or DSLR cameras with 3-5 lenses, plus a 10-inch tablet. It also fits a DJI Mavic and other compact drones. And it weighs a scant 3.2 pounds (2.6 without dividers).

Ergonomics

The Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack is a camera bag that is designed unlike many others. It’s essentially what should be a sling camera bag but with two straps to make it a backpack. It has the length and depth of most backpacks, but doesn’t have the same width. There are also a ton of pockets all around it that are inconspicuous to most people who will look at the bag.

In the above photo we can find two of those pockets unzippered. These are much different than many other options out there. Most of the time I stored keys, chapstick, and eyedrops in here.

On each side, there are pockets to hold various things and straps to keep those things in place. During my testing I used tripods and big thermoses. Once you make the bag balanced, you reap the maximum comfort benefits of the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack. Unfortunately, that sometimes will mean that you need to pack extra. If you have a thermos in one side, you’ll need to stuff something in the other side. At times, I put my jacket in the other slot.

The top of the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack has a small pocket that I found to be my favorite to use. I put chargers, wallets, keys, batteries, etc in here. It’s small and allows you to have quick access to many things. If you’re traveling, put your passport here.

There are a few layers of front pockets. One has pockets in them and allows you to put small things inside of those pockets. The other pocket, which is located a bit behind here, is best for storing a tablet when needed.

The back of the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack has an airflow system to keep your back cool and prevent sweating when you’re wearing it during warmer weather. Additionally, there is a ton of padding and lumbar support to make carrying this bag extra comfortable.

Open the back of the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack up and you’ll find where you store your gear. There is a decent amount of room here, though a wider backpack would let you accommodate more gear. The flap holds a bunch of pockets for storing things like microphones, filters, gels, SD cards, etc.

The Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack’s padding is thick and will do more than enough to protect your precious gear. If anything, I’d say it’s even a bit too much padding. It didn’t need this much, but it’s functional enough.

Build Quality

“Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack is in this odd place between being minimal and not. The Rucksack is minimal for sure. The Tenba is kind of wanting to be minimal but not wanting to shoot a number of assignments that are due that day. “

The Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack is designed first and foremost for a photojournalist who doesn’t need to have a laptop with them in the field. Many these days edit on tablets or they just don’t need to do much editing at all. In addition to that, a photographer who wants to keep things light will appreciate the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack’s function and form over fashion. Though to be honest, it’s got a weird shape to it. Where most backpacks have a rectangular shape in some way or another, the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack is more of an edged-out oval. This appearance is thanks to its lack of width while the depth and length are still akin to many other backpacks. It’s far more functional than my Billingham Rucksack 35, and it can carry more gear comfortably. However, the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack is in this odd place between being minimal and not. The Rucksack is minimal for sure. The Tenba is kind of wanting to be minimal but not wanting to shoot a number of assignments that are due that day.

When we took the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack out for a number of runs, we tested it in the rain. Thankfully, the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack protected the contents inside and resulted in no problems. While you don’t have to worry about weather sealing, what the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack could improve on is the ability to access any of the pockets without removing the bag from your body. There are straps to keep it locked in and a waist strap, but when you spin the bag around to access the content it’s not comfortable at all. Instead, you’ll have to take the bag off of your back and get to what’s inside. This isn’t awful and surely not the end of the world. But where this situation is a bit more critical is with needing to change lenses. This bag surely isn’t a quick access option. But you can mitigate this by sticking two cameras in there and putting the lenses you need the most on each camera.

The zippers and the pockets are all high quality. Many of the pockets have further dividers to put things like painkillers, eye drops, chapstick, wallets, business cards, etc in there. The large flap interior also has a lot of storage for various things like lens filters, lav mics, etc. Overall, the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack is built very well for most photographers, but those who need quick access are going to find that they’ll want to reach for other backpacks or slings instead. In fact, this bag would have to have an incredible sling due to its size. But then it wouldn’t be balanced.

Ease of Use

“So where does the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack really excel? In situations where you are photo walking and only need the camera and lenses. the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack will do everything you need.”

To access your gear, the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack has to come off of your back and the photographer needs to go in via the rear of the bag. The addition of a zipper on the side that lets a photographer go into the bag would ease issues with quick access, but that could also potentially make its contents more susceptible to theft. Once you understand that this isn’t a “quick access” bag then you’ll adapt accordingly. It’s a bag designed to carry the essentials and a photographer’s bag first and foremost.

Using the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack is pretty simple. You just need to open up the main compartment, rearrange the interior dividers to suit your needs, separate your filters and gear, and that’s it. Otherwise you’re using the two main side pockets for tripods and thermoses. While the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack securely holds these items in place, there are times when I was a bit scared that they’d fall out. However, I was proven wrong. That extra feeling though is nice to have, even though the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack doesn’t grant it to me. Luckily, the other pockets don’t give me this feeling. The various other pockets are in very inconspicuous places that you’d really need to look at to find them. This helps with keeping some of your most important items secure.

What’s even nicer is the direction of air flow that’s designed to make sure that the photographer’s back doesn’t sweat when using the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack. It still rests comfortably on your back, but you won’t sweat like crazy; and that’s nice in that it translates into you not needing to necessarily carry more than one shirt. In fact, it’s a bit difficult to store a shirt in this bag unless it isn’t a button down. You’ll surely need to fold it down and perhaps stuff it into the main compartment. That’s where an everyday bag would make more sense. So where does the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack really excel? In situations where you are photo walking and only need the camera and lenses. the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack will do everything you need. Otherwise, you can use it on actual shoots as a photojournalist or documentary shooter.

So who would benefit from the Tenba Shootout 16L DSLR Backpack?

  • Photographers going to a studio where lights are already present
  • Photographers shooting on a location that don’t have a deadline of that day
  • Photographers who roll around with just a small flash, lenses and their camera
  • Any photographer that doesn’t feel heavily pressured to work on a deadline. If you’re a type A personality but keep your editing rig at home, you’ll be just fine

Conclusions

Likes

  • Makes you carefully consider what gear you bring
  • Build Quality
  • Comfort

Dislikes

  • Months into using it, I’m still wrapping my head around it and how I can use it more effectively.

The Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack is an interesting in-between bag. The truth about it all is that this is the bag that I’d need to use most of the time that I’m testing gear. But for lots of gigs that I do these days, it makes more sense for me to tote along the DNA Backpack instead. In fact, my Sony gear lives in that while my Fujifilm gear is inside a Vanguard Havana and my Canon gear is in my Portage Supply Kenora backpack. In situations where I need to bring a camera and two lenses, my Billingham makes the most sense. But in situations where I need to bring a few cameras and lenses, the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack fits the niche. Though in my mind at that point I might as well pack my Profoto B10 light as I’m not a major fan of speedlights these days.

Will I use the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack again? I’m sure I will be as it makes a ton of sense for me to do so. At this point, my qualm is with Tenba’s not making more canvas backpacks. I really want them to. If they took the DNA Backpacks and just delivered a canvas version, it would be the ultimate backpack in the market. Of course, the Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack isn’t going after the same crowd. Alas, Ira’s style and mine are far different. Where he most of the time wears all black and can be minimalist, one could label me a bit more akin to a modern swashbuckler. As a result, my tastes are different; but I completely defer to the need for a bag like this in the market.

The Tenba Shootout 16 DSLR Backpack receives five out of five stars. If you don’t need quick access, this bag is for you at $199.95.