After a few years away from the hobby (passion) of photography, I recently rejoined the ranks. Years ago I had a couple of Nikon and Canon 35mm cameras with a bunch of different lenses and other accessories most photographers find themselves with. A simple “Camera Bag” sufficed. A couple years ago I moved to digital photography. Sold all the 35mm stuff for about 10 cents on the dollar, ugh! And I bought a Nikon D70 with two lenses. Again a simple over the shoulder, top opening camera bag was all that was needed.
When I returned to photography a couple months ago, my goal was wildlife photography. I sold the D70 and bought a Nikon D90 and my lens collection now numbers over 10. Lens addiction is a heavy burden. I also acquired a very good tripod and ball head mount. All of this gear will need to be portable and easily carried. The wildlife will not come to you in most cases. you have to go find them.
Wildlife photography would require hiking over some difficult terrain and an over the shoulder camera bag wouldn’t do. I started researching various backpacks designed specifically for photographers. The descriptions available from the various online vendors are lacking. So I decided to drive the three hours to New York City and see and handle them for myself. I decided I wanted a side entry bag so I could actually access the camera and lenses without actually removing the bag from my body. A number of companies make an “over the shoulder” backpack. But I focused on one brand in particular that seemed well made and had a few features I likes KATA
KATA has it’s background in designing products for military use. In 2005, Kata joined forces with other well know photography accessory companies Manfrotto, Gitzo, Avenger and other.
Here’s what I wanted in a bag:
- Relatively small, needed to fit on an airplane as carry on.
- Side Entry with a separate section for misc gear.
- Shoulder use and full backpack use
- Space for a Mini Laptop
- Camera body and min of five lenses
- Lots of places on the exterior to attach other stuff like tripods, telephoto lens cases, etc.
The KATA 3N1-22 seemed to fit the bill perfectly. I drove down to NYC to check it out in person. As it would be, no one had them in stock. Seems this bag is extremely popular. I returned home and contacted KATA directly to see where I could buy it. They informed me that B&H Photo had just been shipped a large order so I called them and ordered it at a very good price and received it in two days. Nice!
The construction of this bag is extremely durable. From the type of fabrics used to the zippers and how straps, buckles etc are attached it appears it will service for a long time.
As you can see above, the camera with a lense attached lods from the side. The bag can be carried on one shoulder and swung around in front of you to access the camera and lenses as needed without removing the bag from your body.
A video here shows exactly how this is accomplished VIDEO
But like many things I purchase, a few modificatons were in order.
The bag has four “buckles”. Two on the bottom and two on the middle section. For the life of me I can’t see what the bottom buckles were for and they were always in the way when I was trying to open the main compartment. They were easily removed.
The two large buckles in the mid section were not as easily removed as they are sewn into the bad as an integral part.
I also think these will secure the main and side compartments during severe hiking and transportation. But they are ALWAYS in the way when opening and closing the compartments. So I modified them with a couple of rubber bands through holes made into the covers. In this way they store out of the way when accressing the compartments.
I heated up a screwdriver blade and “burnt” a couple of slots into the compartment covers. A couple strips of bicycle inner tube rubber, superglued together and the buckles are out of my way.
With that done, the bag becomes very usable. As noted earlier, there are two ways to carry the bag. On one shoulder or as a complete backpack
As you can see, the unused straps store very nicely, out of the way.
The top compartment is a nice addition, but be careful about the zippers. If you close the compartment with the zippers meeting in the middle:
And you pick the bag up by the top handle, the bag will open and dump all your gear from the top compartment on the floor.
I ultimately removed one of the zipper pulls and simply use only one zipper to close and open the top compartment.
The bag includes a real nice rain cover that will come in handy at times.
My Mini Laptop fits right into the compartment on the back.
It is wide enough to accept my D90 Nikon with a 70-300 VR zoom lens attached
A large “D” ring on the back can be used to hange a tripod or an extra large telephoto lens in a lens case. KATA offers an accessory tripod mount for this bag but my tripod was too large so I simply bungie cord it to the backpack
All in all, I really like this backpack. It does exactly what I expect of it at a reasonable price.
More pictures here