Photo packs have come a long way in the past decade, especially those that are targeted toward outdoor and adventure photographers. Alaska-based adventure photographer Dan Bailey takes a closer look...
Particularly for those of us who enjoy street photography or simply always want to have a camera at hand, one of the more frustrating versions of “the quest for the perfect bag” is to find an everyday bag. I’m talking about the kind of bag that can carry a small camera kit along with a laptop, cellphone, and whatever other widgets you need with you. Something that isn’t overly showy or bulky, but isn’t completely unprotected either. The Messenger Mini Photo-Laptop Bag is one of Tenba’s solutions to this oh-so-common problem.
Here’s what Tenba has to say about the Mini Photo-Laptop Bag:
“The Tenba Messenger is an urban-inspired laptop bag that’s designed to hold everything you need for a day; on vacation or at work; at school or at the gym. Adjustable dividers let you configure the interiorfor a wide variety of photographic or video equipment, and removing the dividers converts the Messenger Mini into a perfect, general-purpose carrying bag.”
The Messenger Mini is more or less shaped like a small to medium sized messenger bag. However, unlike most messenger bags, it is padded all the way around and doesn’t form to your body. The bag is divided into two internal spaces, a laptop slot and the main camera section. The camera area is further divided in thirds. The center space is intended to be used as the place where your camera would sit facing down with lens attached. The remain spaces are sized to easily fit f/2.8 pro size lenses as is, or they can be further split with padded dividers. The shoulder pad is more padded than you would typically see on a messenger bag. But other than that, the Messenger Mini has the usual assortment of pen/phone/gum pockets that any good bag of this style has these days. It comes it a rather large assortment of colors for a camera bag. You’ve got seven choices, from the basic black or gray to brighter choices such as burnt orange and plum.
Hands on test:
The Tenba Messenger Mini is is bigger and somewhat bulkier than what I had been using most often as my “everyday” bag, a Domke 803. So my first impression was “This sure seems big for an everyday bag. Look how fat it is!” To be fair, the Domke is a quite small, and perhaps more importantly, quite narrow bag and there are few that match it in that regard. But that having been said, the size of the Messenger Mini quickly ceased to be an issue for me. For one thing, the space available in the Tenba is a much useful the DSLR photographer than the space in something like a the 803. The fact that you have the space for f/2.8 zooms or fast primes opens up the “useful!” door for many photographers. I’m sure there are people for whom no bag can hold everything they might want to leave the house with, even for a trip to the coffee shop down the street. But for the rest of us, this bag carries just about the perfect amount of gear for a day out shooting. The possibility of filling the bag with all that weight is probably the reason that the Tenba got such a bulky shoulder pad. While slightly too “grippy” for my taste, the pad is really quite comfortable, even fully loaded.
The laptop slot functions just as a laptop slot should. It is designed for tablet devices or small laptops, a 13" macbook is the size I’m talking about here. Large or even medium sized laptops are simply not going to fit. Tablets fit well, though as they aren’t as thick as even a small laptop, they can bounce around a little. There are plenty of the standard small pockets and slots for pens, notepads, batteries and the like. Without wasting time describing them all, I will say that there hasn’t been any time where I thought “I wish there was a place for my _______”.
One really outstanding feature is the fact that you don’t have to open up the main flap to access your camera. There is a zipper on the top of the bag that allows you plenty of room to reach in without looking and grab your camera. It’s not the same as having the full flap off, but it’s a lot quicker and more discreet than undoing the buckles and riiiiipppppping the big velcro patches. That zipper is a small thing, but it is a feature that I have long wished was on many of my bags.
I can’t lie, the Tenba Messenger Mini photo/laptop bag has rather swiftly earned a place as one of my most frequently used bags. I take it to the bar, family dinners, trips to the zoo, and so on. Yes, it’s not exactly the most svelte bag I have ever used. But it also holds the gear I want it to hold and makes it far easier to access that gear than the smaller bags I used in the past. Finally, let me say again that the zipper access on the top of the bag is a stroke of brilliance as far as I am concerned. I use this bag all of the time and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to others.