Like Magic, This Bag Converts: Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III Review

Backpacks distribute weight on both shoulders for more comfort, but shoulder bags offer fast access to gear. For photographers stuck in the middle, there’s the Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III camera bag. Part backpack, part shoulder bag, the Advanced Hybrid III allows photographers to convert from a backpack to a shoulder bag with just a few zips and clips. But, is the Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III a useful convertible, or is it a bag that’s just stuck in the middle?

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I took the Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III for a hike — and then easily converted it to a laptop bag. While the bag doesn’t have room for more than two lenses and a body, the versatility could make it a favorite for flexible photographers — or just the indecisive. 

Too Long, Didn’t Read

The Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III is both a backpack and a shoulder bag. Made for a smaller camera body, two lenses, a laptop and/or tablet, and tripod, it’s a versatile, comfortable bag. A dedicated backpack and a dedicated shoulder bag may have more room, but it’s hard to top the Advanced Hybrid’s versatility

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Versatile design that works as a backpack or messenger bag
  • Laptop and tablet slot
  • Luggage pass through
  • Water resistant fabric
  • Room for personal items
  • Tripod straps as well as two side pockets
  • Removable divider system with quick, versatile shelf

Cons

  • No smaller dedicated pockets for SD cards or pencils
  • Limited room for gear with up to two lenses
  • Quality of the rain cover is poor

Gear Used

I stashed my Fujifilm X-T4 with the 50mm f1 WR, 90mm f2, and 16-80mm f4 lenses. (Lenses were stored only two at a time, not all three at once.) I strapped the Manfrotto BeFree aluminum travel tripod to the front. I also carried this as a laptop bag with my 15-inch MacBook, a computer mouse, and two external hard drives.

Innovations

What sets the Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid Backpack III apart from other bags is that hybrid in the name. It works just as well as a backpack as it does a shoulder bag or even carried by the grab handles. It is the third reiteration of this bag, however, so there’s nothing that’s crazy innovative here. Compared to earlier versions, it updates the divider system and makes a few small adjustments to pockets.

Tech Specs

Manfrotto lists the following specifications for the Advanced Hybrid III:

  • Weight: 2.67 lbs
  • Internal Dimensions: 10.63 x 5.91 x 16.54 in
  • Camera Insert Dimensions: 7.48 x 4.53 x 8.27 in
  • External Dimensions: 11.02 x 7.48 x 16.93 in
  • Color: Black
  • Volume: 15 L
  • Tripod Connection: Yes
  • Laptop Compartment Dimensions: 10.63 x 0.79 x 16.14 in
  • Material: Synthetic Fabric
  • Number Of Lenses: 2
  • Personal Compartment Dimensions: 0.79 x 4.33 x 3.35 in
  • Storage For Personal Items: Yes
  • Types Of Gear: Mirrorless, Tripod, Foldable drone
  • Type Of Bag: Backpack
  • Water Repellent: Yes

Ergonomics

The Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III is both backpack and shoulder bag. A removable shoulder strap clips onto two loops at each end. Or, hidden inside a zipper at the back panel, you can pull out backpack straps that clip to the bottom of the bag. There’s also two grab handles for a third way to carry. If you’re traveling, there’s a slot in the back panel that allows you to slip the bag over a rolling luggage handle.

The main compartment is accessible from what would be the side if worn as a backpack or the top when worn as a shoulder bag. Gear sits in a removable cube. This will accommodate a mirrorless camera or DSLR with one or two lenses. It won’t fit camera bodies with a built-in battery grip like the Canon EOS R3. The cube has a drawstring closure that can also be folded completely out of the way. With the new divider system, you can fold the divider to tuck a shorter lens underneath the camera body along with a longer lens attached to the body. While the short lens is under the body, it’s still easy to unfold the shelf for a quick lens swap.

While it looks like the main compartment could accommodate a third long lens, this area of the bag is outside the padded insert. This spot could be used for a drone, gimbal, or personal items. The top of the backpack (side of the shoulder bag) also unzips for another small spot for personal items or accessories.

The flap at the clamshell opening for the main compartment has two smaller pockets with a fold-over fabric flap closure. I didn’t feel the closure was secure enough for SD cards and, unfortunately, the bag doesn’t have a dedicated tiny pocket for them.

The side of the rear panel unzips to accommodate a laptop. It was a snug fit around my thicker 15-inch 2015 MacBook Pro but it fit. There’s a smaller pocket inside that can be used for smaller tablets. I don’t love wearing my laptop up against my back because it makes the bag stiffer. But in this case, I just converted to a shoulder bag when I wanted to carry my laptop. Still, since it only carries two lenses, it wasn’t terrible when fully loaded with a camera, two lenses, a laptop and a tripod.

On the front, a velcro closure pocket can hide the grab handle. A second zippered pocket sits right in the same space. Two well-disguised slots hide tripod straps. When the straps are tucked away, the opening for their hideyhole blends with the stitching on the bag. 

The three different carrying options and the tripod straps are easy to hide. The bag maintains a minimalist look in spite of its versatility. Manfrotto does a good job of creating places to tuck straps so there’s nothing banging off the bag when you don’t want it. The shoulder strap is the only one without a dedicated hiding spot and needs to be unclipped and tucked in one of the smaller pockets.

The Advanced Hybrid isn’t quite as comfortable as a dedicated backpack or a dedicated shoulder bag. But, it’s not uncomfortable. The straps are padded, but not terribly thick since they need to tuck away easy. I wouldn’t use this bag to carry 50 pounds of gear — but it is comfortable enough to carry 1-2 lenses and a laptop.

Build Quality

The Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III is made with a sturdy black nylon. It feels durable, yet offers a more minimalist look than the athletic look most nylon bags adopt. The interior divider system also feels well made. I wasn’t worried about my lenses bouncing around or getting scratched in this bag.

The materials are treated to repel water, but the zippers aren’t weather-sealed. For anything more serious than a spilled coffee, there’s a stretchy rain cover that goes over the front and sides of the bag. It doesn’t go over the back, so it’s designed to protect when being worn as a backpack.

The rain cover doesn’t have the same sturdy feel as the rest of the bag, however. The elastic unstitched on one corner before I had even used the rain cover. Then, it left little threads behing on the bag. The cover also doesn’t have a hideyhole like the various straps do.

Ease of Use

Switching the bag from shoulder to backpack mode is easier than it sounds. The shoulder strap unclips in two spots. Then, the backpack straps pull out of the zippered hiding spot and clip in place at the bottom of the bag. That’s it. It’s both simple and short to switch back and forth between different carrying modes. And you’re not left with random straps hanging off the bag.

In shoulder bag mode, gear is quick to access from the clamshell opening. The opening is the same in backpack mode. Gear is located in about the same spot as a quick access door on a dedicated backpack. You can take one strap off, pull the bag towards you, unzip, and pull out the camera.

Typically, I prefer bags that unzip fully to see every little lens compartment. But, this bag is only designed to hold two lenses. I wasn’t really bothered by the smaller opening at the side rather than a larger opening at the front or back. If you need to get the second lens out, then you must already have the camera out and ready to swap lenses. That makes the shelf design of the dividers a non-issue. It’s quick, snug, and easy to use.

Conclusions

Likes

  • I love how versatile this bag is as a backpack or shoulder bag.
  • Despite being a smaller bag, it still fit my 15-inch laptop.
  • The luggage pass through will be nice for travel, and during regular use is a nice moulded back panel.
  • The fabric is water resistant. (Unfortunately, the zippers are not sealed.)
  • There’s lots of room for personal items.
  • It has a hidden tripod strap system and there’s still two side pockets too.
  • The diver shelf is quick and easy to use.

Dislikes

  • I really wish there were some dedicated SD card pockets.
  • It’s not made for a lot of gear, with just room for a body and two lenses.
  • The rain cover is not as well built as the bag.

The Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III is a bag with an identity crisis — but that works out well for photographers that can’t choose between a backpack or a messenger bag. With the Advanced Hybrid, you can choose between the comfort of carrying gear on two straps, or the speed or a shoulder bag. It works equally well as a camera bag or a laptop bag or to carry both. Roughly half the bag is reserved for personal items or larger accessories, while there’s both two side pockets and tripod straps.

I would have liked to see a few smaller pockets — you could stash SD cards in one of the larger pockets, but I prefer having multiple SD card pockets to organize the empty and full cards. It also lacks smaller details that would help it move even smoother from camera to laptop bag, like a pocket for a pencil and a space for business cards. The rain cover that shipped with my sample was also defective, with stitching on the elastic coming loose. Hopefully, that’s an uncommon error, but the cover doesn’t feel as robust as the rest of the bag.

As a wedding photographer, I typically go for the larger backpacks with waist belts and room for a few lenses and flashes and a second body. But, I could easily see photojournalists grabbing this bag, as well as photographers that always want to bring a camera and lens with them.

I’m giving the Manfrotto Advanced Hybrid III four out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a photographer and tech writer based in Michigan. She shoots weddings and portraits at Hillary K Photography. A mother of three, she enjoys hiking, camping, crafting, and reading.