steve losh
 

Posted on July 24, 2015.

I posted this review on Imgur and Reddit a few days ago, but figured I would blow the dust off my blog and post it here too.

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I got this bag a few months ago. I’ve used it to shoot around town and flown/traveled with it a couple times. At first I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I’ve warmed up to it now and really like it.

I bought it at the Geographic Bags site for about $50 new. It’s sometimes on Amazon if Nat Geo is out of stock (affiliate link).

I use it for two main things: a day bag for walking around town, and a “personal item” on a plane where I load it down with all my camera gear to save the weight in my carry on.

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I like the branding/styling a lot. I’m pretty sure Nat Geo licenses the branding to Manfrotto to actually make the bags, because when mine came the return address on the shipping label was a Manfrotto warehouse.

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The construction is really nice. The stitching seems pretty solid, if a bit uneven in places, but this is meant to be a working bag, not a piece of art. The leather bits seem hearty. The buckles are okay (not amazing, but good enough for the price).

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Attachment points for the strap are solid. The strap is not removable, unfortunately, but at the price I’d rather have a solid, permanent strap than a removable one with flimsy connections.

The strap itself is fine. It’s strong and I don’t see it breaking any time soon. It’s a little bit thin, so if you load the bag down a lot it can start to dig into your shoulder a bit. Luckily…

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There’s an optional shoulder pad you can buy for the strap.

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It’s got nice thick padding, and velcros around the strap.

(Please excuse the cat hair in all the photos).

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I use it when I’ve got more than a couple of pounds in the bag to save my shoulders. When I’m using it as a day pack I take it off.

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The back handle is great for carrying it if you’re wearing a backpack, yanking it out of places, etc.

There’s also a little strap on the back — it’s designed for sliding the handle of some rolling luggage through it so it can rest securely on top. The stitching on the velcro bit on it is fraying a bit for me. I don’t really care because I never use it anyway.

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There are two small, sleek pockets on the front. They’re not huge, but they’ll hold something wallet or small notebook-sized.

I wouldn’t keep a wallet in them though, because they’re too easy to access/pickpocket.

For day trips I generally use them to hold lens caps while shooting, for lens cleaning cloths, etc. When I fly I use them to hold a polarizer and neutral density filters (77mm filters, in their plastic cases, will fit nicely (not pictured, sorry, I forgot)).

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Once you unbuckle the top flap there’s still a zipper protecting the contents.

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The flap has some nicely patterned fabric to break up the brown.

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The front pouch is good for holding some small stuff. It’s got dividers for holding really thin things like pens and notebooks.

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The inside lining is nice and bright so it’s easy to find small things.

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The bag itself has one big main compartment. There’s one small padded divider flap with a velcro bit to hold it down.

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It doesn’t hold very much, but it’s enough for a Kindle or small book.

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The bag also comes with a padded insert included. It’s got the same pattern as the other bits of the bag.

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There’s a thin handle for yanking it out of the bag if you need to.

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Same golden lining.

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There’s a padded divider inside that divides the insert into roughly 13 and 23 sections. It’s got a fold sewn in so you can fold it over a lens to protect the top if necessary.

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That divider can be removed if you want to just use the whole space of the insert. I never do.

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Nestled inside the main bag. It looks pretty snug…

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But it doesn’t take up quite all of the bag — there’s still room next to it for something.

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That’s it for the bag itself. Let’s pack it!

I like using this bag as my “personal item” on a plane. It’s small enough to fit under the seat, and if I put all my camera gear in it I save a ton of weight/space in my carry on (I never check bags).

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I shoot with a Pentax K5 II with a battery grip and L plate. Unfortunately this bag isn’t large enough to hold a gripped, L-plated DSLR with a lens attached ready to go, so you’ve got to store the body separately.

In practice this isn’t a huge deal. I can take out the camera and carry it with its strap as I shoot, and use the bag to hold the spare lenses. Then I disconnect them once I’m finished shooting. It’s a bit more work, but worth it for the space savings.

If you don’t have a battery grip, the camera CAN be stored with a lens attached in the camera insert.

If you want to keep a gripped & L-plated DSLR with a lens attached in a shoulder bag, the Think Tank Retro 10 is a beefy bag that will work. It’s a lot bulkier though, so it’s best suited for non-flying.

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Three lenses that cover everything I need right now. 16-50mm, 50-135mm, and 200mm, all constant f/2.8 and weather sealed like the body.

Sometimes I don’t bother with the 200mm, which frees up a lot more space. Or sometimes I take a few primes, which also frees up space. I just wanted to show the max you could cram into the bag for this review.

I’ll probably ditch the 50-135 and 200 once the 70-200mm comes out for more savings.

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The two big lenses go in the insert, the smaller one goes outside.

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Close the insert lid.

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I like to have just a bit of extra padding, so I grab an extra divider from another bag.

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It lays on top of the end cap of the small zoom, just for some extra cushioning. I’m probably just paranoid.

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I can’t fly without headphones or I go insane. I like keeping them in my personal item because it’s easier to get them out once you’re on the flight without fucking around with the overhead bin.

I use Marshall Monitors. I know they’re big and bulky, but I can’t stand using earbuds for more than an hour or so at a time. These fold up nicely and have a couple of other features that are really nice, so for me they’re worth the space.

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I nestle them on top of the small zoom.

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The body goes on top of the camera insert and big lenses.

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I tuck the strap (Black Rapid Metro) between the body and headphones. I could store it separately, but I have the carabiner loc-tited shut so it’ll never, ever come off.

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Next necessity for flying: Kindle!

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I could save a bit of space by ditching the case, but I like it…

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It fits well behind the divider in the main section.

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Main section packed!

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A few other miscellaneous things.

Sometimes I charge both batteries the night before and ditch the charger. It depends on how long I’m traveling for.

I like to have my sunglasses in my personal item to use as a makeshift sleep mask. Not quite a good as a dedicated one, but since I’m bringing them anyway…

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This is a pretty tight fit, but it does fit.

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Front packed!

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The straps buckle (barely).

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The main fabric of the bag seems like it wouldn’t be too bad in the rain, but I bought a rain cover for a National Geographic backpack, so I figured I’d try it on this bag too.

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It fits.

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It’s a bit loose because it’s designed for a backpack, but you can cinch it up with the elastic cord and it does the job.

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It’ll fit in the front pocket too.

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Time for the final verdict. United’s site says a personal item should fit within 9” x 10” x 17”.

We’re good on the short dimension.

(Cardboard boxes to prove I’m not cheating.)

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About half an inch past 10”. I doubt I’ll ever get called out on that (especially since we have room to spare in the other dimensions), but it’ll squish a bit if absolutely necessary.

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Plenty of room to spare on the wide dimension.

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That’s it! Obviously you can mix and match stuff as needed (swap a lens for a flash or water bottle, etc).

I hope this was helpful! I’m quite happy with this little bag. It’s great for just walking around town, or turning my personal item into a brick of camera gear to free up room in my carry on.