The Tenba DNA 15 Messenger bag is squarely aimed at photographers on the go who need to carry all of their essentials while still being small enough to be travel-friendly. Messenger bags are rarely designed to lug around multiple camera bodies and lenses, but somehow the guys and gals at Tenba have found a way to keep the DNA 15 messenger small on the outside, but big on the inside. Could it be the answer to so many photographer’s prayers for a compact bag that can carry a good amount of gear without sacrificing quality? Let’s find out in our review.
I have been using the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger bag for a couple of weeks now. During my time with the bag, I have traversed the city, hit a few trails, and completed a couple of photoshoots. My goal has been to use the bag in a variety of situations so that I could really put it through its paces. I have to say that, although it is not without its flaws, it has surprised me with its versatility. The DNA 15 Messenger is a very capable bag, and for the price, you won’t be disappointed.
Full disclaimer: Tenba sent us the DNA 15 Messenger not only to review but to keep as well. This has not affected our judgment on the product. All of the thoughts and views expressed in this review are our own.
Pros and Cons
- The DNA 15 provides quick access to your camera and lenses
- You can easily tote a 15-inch laptop, a 9.7-inch iPad
- The bag is comfortable to carry around for long periods
- The bag is TSA friendly and provides resistance to the weather
- It has a great design that doesn’t scream, “I’m a camera bag!”
- The zipper ring pulls feel cheap compared to other parts of the bag
- The interior padding is on the thin side
- Closing the top zipper with one hand when fully open can be a challenge
We used the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger bag with a Pentax K1 II, A Pentax KS2, an Olympus OMD-EM1 II, a 15-inch Chromebook, a 9.7-inch Apple iPad, and a variety of lenses and accessories.
All technical specifications of the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger bag have been taken from the official Tenba website.
“The DNA Messenger Bag was designed to deliver the kind of year-round, all-weather, rugged performance of a true bike messenger bag, but with an interior that’s tuned to protect delicate cameras, lenses and computer gear. This is a bag you can confidently carry directly from a job to a social event, and it boasts many of Tenba’s signature features, like the Whisper Hook™ closure, Fidlock magnetic clips, Quick Access top zipper, removable padded camera insert and body armor base panel.”
3.00 lbs ( 1.4 kg )
16 in. W x 11.5 in. H x 8-9 in.D ( 41 X 29 X 20-23 cm )
15 in. W x 10.5 in. H x 7-8 in. D ( 38 X 27 X 18-20 cm )
1 DSLR/ Mirrorless
2-3 lenses Up to 200mm f/2.8
Up to 15″ Macbook Pro
The Tenba DNA 15 Messenger bag has been designed for photographers who need to carry the essentials. Because of this, The Tenba DNA 15 Messenger’s size has been kept small, but despite its small outward appearance, you’ll be quite surprised at the amount of gear you can cram into it. Here you can see the bag from the front. The design of the Tenba DNA 15 is minimalist, and that’s one of the things I like about it. This is not a bag that screams to passers-by, nor does it give away the fact that you might be carrying expensive gear inside of it. On the front, you’ll find some simple branding, the two Fidlock magnetic clips, and the two front pockets.
On both ends of the Tenba DNA 15 messenger, you’ll find two stretchy, expandable pockets that can house water bottles or any other small accessories you can think of. In this shot, you can also see the zipper that sits on top of the bag. This zipper gives direct access to the camera compartment, and it is quite honestly my favorite feature on this bag.
The back of the DNA messenger 15 is just as spartan as the front. There are no markings of any kind back here. What you’ll find is a pocket large enough to hold a surprising amount of accessories such as notepads, magazines, and accessories such as chargers, cables, and batteries. The black strap is secured to the body of the bag via velcro. If you wish to tote this bag around over the handle of a rolling bag, you just slip the handle underneath this strap.
Underneath the front flap, you’ll find another four pockets. I found these quite useful, and they are the perfect size to hold items such as a phone, some keys, a flash trigger, spare memory cards, and so on. One thing this bag is not lacking is compartments for your gear.
Here you can see the main compartment of the bag. The interior is really spacious, and it will allow you to carry the essentials with you wherever you go. When I took this picture, my Pentax KS2 with an 18-135mm attached is in the central compartment. That camera body is flanked by a 30mm f1.4 Sigma lens and an Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro. The empty compartment housed an Olympus OM-D EM 1 II with a Sigma 16mm f1.4 attached to it.
On either side of the bag, you’ll see the two flaps covering the corners. These flaps are what will keep your gear dry should you find yourself caught in a downpour. It’s also worth mentioning that the bag does come with a weatherproof cover, as well. While I didn’t get to take the bag out into the rain, based on previous experience with Tenba bags made from the same materials, I have no doubt the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger will stand up well to light to moderate rain.
If you really want to push this bag to its extremes, this is what you can fit inside of it. I was able to fit a Pentax K1 II, a Pentax 150-450mm, a Rokinon 14mm f2.8, the Pentax 77mm and 43mm limited lenses, my 15-inch laptop, my iPad, a flash and a bunch of cables, batteries, and more small accessories. Do I recommend doing this? Only if you’re in a pinch. But like I said, the inner compartment is designed well enough to carry as little or as much as you need.
Overall the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger is built really well, and this honestly comes as no surprise because Tenba has been knocking out well-made bags for years. However, it does have a couple of issues. For the most part, you’ll be incredibly happy with what your money will get you. Buy the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger and you’ll have a bag that can carry essential gear with minimum fuss, and feels great to hold and carry around all day thanks to the well-padded strap.
The outer of the bag is made with a water-repellent 600 denier Helix material, and you’ll find quality YKK zippers, along with heavily-reinforced stitching. The quiet whisper hook velcro (pictured above) is strong and durable, and the magnetic clasps that secure the front flap are a delight to use. For me, though, the ripstop nylon zipper pulls feel really cheap compared to other elements of the bag, and the very thin padding between the compartments is a little concerning.
Nothing terrible has happened to my gear while inside the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger, and I can’t say I have been gentle with it, but I would still have liked the padding to have been a bit thicker. It’s odd that the padding is thin, seeing how this is a bag a lot of people would consider traveling with (the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger is TSA compliant). For the price you pay, though, you’re going to get a quality bag. The padding and zipper pulls may not bother you like they bothered me, and really, in the grand scheme of things, these are minor gripes seeing as how well built the bag is overall.
Ease of Use
The Tenba DNA 15 Messenger is an easy bag to use with a few really great features, but again, it’s not perfect. First, the good stuff. The Tenba DNA 15 Messenger bag is well designed, and while the inner compartment can’t be configured very much, you’ll find the layout to be just about perfect for any gear you carry around. The magnetic clasps on the front flap are secure, yet they are easily opened with one hand. The whisper hook velcro is also secure, but if you pull down on the flap and then lift up, the flap opens up much more quickly and much more quietly than usual. This is a great feature and means opening your bag quickly will not draw much attention to yourself.
My favorite part of the bag is the zipper on the top, which allows you to get to your gear quickly and easily, but it also happens to be a problem area. The YKK zipper is incredibly easy to open, and you can get your gear out quickly; the problem comes when you try to close it back up again. The top of the bag has very little structural integrity, and because of this, it’s next to impossible to close the zipper back up one-handed.
To close the zipper, you have to grab the end of the bag with one hand, and then pull the zipper with the other. That’s a problem when you’ve just put your camera in your hand. This means you’ll either have to take your shot with the bag open (which will be an issue if it’s raining), or put your camera down (which means you’ll miss your shot) and then close the bag. If the top of the bag had a little more rigidity, this would not be a problem, but it doesn’t. You can see in the image above that the opening just will not come together when trying to pull the zipper with one hand. Apart from this, the bag is incredibly easy to use, and it’s honestly a delight to carry around. The strap is well padded where it needs to be, the bag almost molds around your hip and feels very comfortable, and despite the closing issue, the top opening provides quick access to your gear. Just be careful not to open the bag that way in the rain.
- The ability to travel light, or with a little extra
- Quick access to your gear via the top flap
- The Tenba DNA 15 Messenger is really comfortable to carry for long periods
- The cheap ripstop nylon zipper pulls
- Not being able to close the top flap one-handed
- The thin padding on the interior
Overall, the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger is a solid bag, and despite its quirks, I thoroughly enjoy using it. This bag is just about perfect for those who like to travel light, and the fact that it is TSA compliant is a huge bonus. Photographers who love going on photo walks with a small amount of gear will appreciate how comfortable the bag is, and for those who like to carry larger lenses (think 70-200mm f2.8), like sports or portrait photographers, you’ll appreciate how versatile this bag is. It is a shame about the top opening: I wish it could be closed one-handed. But, in the grand scheme of things, it’s a flaw I can live with, and I’m sure you could too because this bag does everything else really well. Honestly, for $174.95 (at the time of writing), the Tenba DNA 15 Messenger is hard to beat.
The Tenba DNA 15 Messenger bag scores an incredibly respectful four out of five stars. This bag offers outstanding value for money, and while it does have a couple of annoyances, I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a messenger style bag that costs under $200. If you’d like to get one for yourself, head on over to Adorama.