In past few years, camera bags have evolved faster than ever. First it was the move from the older “over the shoulder” style bags that were the standard for many years for most professional photographers. More recently the move has been to a backpack style of camera bag for most photographers.
Kata, a bag manufacturer that has become more popular in the recent years, has been producing camera backpacks for a while now. In the last year however, they have made a giant leap forward in camera backpack technologies. With the release of the Bumblebee series of packs, Kata has answered the call to bring a lighter and more comfortable “hiking pack” to photographers.
Forest’s Review of the Bumblebee 222
The Bumblebee 222 looks like the kind of backpacking backpack that one might take for an overnight trip. When you look inside however, the bright yellow interior and Velcro dividers make this a totally viable and protective camera bag. (Previous to using this bag, I have almost exclusively used another Kata bag, the R-103.)
The 222 bag is really split into two parts, the top half and the bottom half. The bottom of the bag is specifically designed to cradle your photography gear. For me, it is easily able to hold all of my Canon photography equipment. This is what I carry in the bottom portion of the bag.
- Canon 1D Mark III camera body
- Canon 17-40mm Lens
- Canon 50mm f/1.4 Lens
- Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 Lens
- Canon 70-200 f/4 Lens
- Lensbaby 2.0
- Filters and batteries
The amount that the bottom half of this bag can hold is quite amazing. It’s amazing how well the dividers keep everything contained and organized.
The top half is equally useful and well designed. The top half of the bag is simply a large open area that is easily able to hold the things you want with you that aren’t photography related (or don’t require extra protection). When hiking I always prefer to have a jacket and other useful items with me, and the top pocket suits my additional needs.
The outside pockets are extremely useful for holding extra memory cards, batteries and any other little items that you might want to bring along and access quickly.
Now, when you first try on the bag, I think a lot of people will be put off by the shoulder straps. They are made of a rubbery material that feels very weird – definitely not your normal backpack straps. They may seem quite uncomfortable; in fact I had my doubts about them at the start. However, after a small break-in period, they began to mold to my shoulders and a short while after that, they became extremely comfortable. When considering this bag, you really need to wear it with gear in it for a few hours so that the straps will mold to your body. After that you should be able to hike for hours without really feeling the straps at all.
One of the negative aspects of the bag is the waist belt. Most hikers know that one of the most important things on a backpack is the waist belt, as that is the thing that relieves the pressure from your shoulders. On this pack, even with the straps pulled as tight as possible, the waist belt is simply too big for me (granted I have a very small frame). It’s really just too loose to be called effective.
–Forest Chaput de Saintonge
Neil’s Review of the Bumblebee DL-210
Ever since I got my first camera, I’ve been looking for the perfect camera bag. For many years, I wasn’t sure it existed—I fiddled with all brands and many styles and, until recently, didn’t find one that fit most my needs. Then, when Kata became an RMSP Educational Partner a few years ago, the rep gave me several models with varying features to show our students. Recently, I decided to see for myself how these bags performed and spent nearly an entire day loading each one. And for the most part, they were great; but playing with them in my living room is one thing—the real test is taking them into the field. So that’s just what I did with my son Forest last week in Glacier National Park. We each carried a different Kata bag: I carried a new one (Bumblebee DL-210), which was quite a bit smaller than Forest’s (Bumblebee 222), as I was carrying a smaller camera and less equipment. After a full day of shooting, I’d rate this bag a 9+ on a scale of 1 to 10. That said, had I been carrying my professional Canon gear, I would have needed a larger bag. But with what I had with me it worked remarkably well.
What I liked:
- For its small size, it carries a good amount of equipment.
- For plane travel, it would easily fit into an overhead compartment and/or under the seat.
- The bottom half of the bag holds a good amount of photo equipment and the dividers are easily arranged.
- The top half of the bag is one large compartment in which you could store a sack lunch, extra clothing, etc.
- A 15-inch computer fits nicely in the padded compartment.
- On one side of the bag, I fit a water bottle; on the other, I fit a small Gitzo tripod
- There’s a small front packet for papers, cell phone, small binoculars, etc.
- The rain cover is small and stores easily, but is always ready if needed.
- The small waist strap easily fit my bear spray to make it handy (and I do recommend carrying bear spray if shooting near or in Glacier or Yellowstone).
- The price from B&H is only $135.00, which is reasonable for a very nice backpack.
What I don’t love:
- The waist strap could be more substantial to divide the load more equitably between the shoulders and waist; as it is, your shoulders carry most the burden.
- A large telephoto zoom (such as a 70-200mm or 100-400mm) won’t easily fit in the bag, if at all.
So while the Kata Bumblebee DL-210 is not quite the perfect bag—keeping in mind that not only is perfection elusive, but entirely subjective—it comes darn close.
Kata has done a great job designing a lightweight pack that still does a wonderful job of keeping your camera gear safe. The only nice addition would be a sizing system, allowing smaller users to have a tighter waist strap.
–Neil Chaput de Saintonge
Read other articles by Neil Chaput de Saintonge
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