Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Camera bag review: Kata 3N1-20 DL

For years, I have been a fan of the Tamrac Velocity 6x sling bag. It is a fairly small camera bag which carries one body and two-three lenses, depending on their sizes. Normally, you wear the sling strap over the left shoulder, and when you want to move it from the back carrying position to the front, you slide it under your right arm. The lip opens towards you in the front position. In both positions, the bag stays fairly level, so you don't need to keep the lid closed when standing still.

However, I often need to carry more stuff as well, say, some clothes, books, a water bottle, and so on. In those cases, I often bring another backpack as well. Handling both a backpack and a sling bag at the same time is of course not very elegant. So I was looking into a bag which replaces both, when carrying more stuff.

I found the Kata 3N1-20 DL, which is like a backpack, but it can be worn both as a sling bag, and as a regular bag. Below it is shown in the sling configuration. When worn on the back, it appears like a normal backpack:



Just like the Tamrac Velocity 6x, it can be slung under the right arm, and then ends up horizontal, with the lid opening towards you:



The bag is symmetrical, so if you prefer to wear it the other way, both sides open, by the zipper which goes all the way around the bottom of the bag.

There are two straps, and by default, they are both connected diagonally. They are colour coded, so that you'll know which to connect where (white-to-white and black-to-black):



With the straps connected diagonally, you can wear them both on your shoulders like a backpack. This is good for transportation, when you don't need easy access to the camera. You can also undo the straps and connect them non-diagonally, if you prefer, like a normal backpack.

when you need easy access to the bag contents, you only wear one of the diagonal straps over the shoulder. This puts more strain on one shoulder, and is not good for carrying over a long period.

Just like all the Kata bags, the inside is bright yellow, which is a nice effect:



The inside is divided into two compartments. The lower is accessible through the zippers which cover both sides, and the very bottom of the bag. This is the largest space inside, and can be configured as you want by using velcro dividers. It may take a bit of experimenting to find the layout that suits you the best. This space can easily contain, say, two camera bodies and four to five lenses, depending on their sizes.

There is another room inside, which is available through the top lid. This room cannot be divided with the velcro sections, and is good for carrying, e.g., books, clothes and other stuff you might need. You can also merge both the two rooms by opening a zipper, to create one single room inside, accessible through both the sides and the top. Further, there are two smaller pockets, one on each top side. Neither of the rooms fit a normal size laptop.

Unlike the Tamrac 6x sling bag, this bag changes configuration from horizontal to vertical when slung on the back. So you must always take care to close the side room when slinging it to your back to get it out of the way. I find this to be a bit clumsy, compared with the Tamrac 6x.

Considering that this is a rather large bag, it does not have much in the way of smaller pockets for keeping memory cards and other stuff you don't want to get mixed in with bigger items. Also, there are no outside mesh pockets for carrying water bottles and the like. This keeps the bag looking sleek and stylish, but is not as utilitarian as some might have desired.

On the outside, there are some straps for connecting, e.g., a tripod, but you can realistically only attach a fairly small tripod to this bag. It does come with two extra straps for this purpose, which is probably adequate.

There is a yellow rain coat for the bag included. You can put it outside the bag when needed, and it is kept in place with a flexible string around the edges. I have stress tested the rain coat in heavy rain, and it did keep the bag dry. But when using the rain coat, you cannot access any of the pockets.

Here, the bag is shows with the lower, largest compartment, open. The zipper which allows the side rooms to open traverse the whole front bottom of the bag, and it is opened all the way below:



Below, I am showing the bag with an example configuration of the velcro dividers. I have packed the bag with some of my favourite equipment. When opening up the side pocket, the Panasonic GH3 is revealed, with the Lumix X 45-175mm tele zoom lens mounted:



Removing the camera and opening the lower flat, I have, clockwise from the bottom left, Lumix-Leica 45mm f/2.8 macro, Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake, Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye, and Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN.



Finally, under the upper flap, I have the Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8 premium zoom lens:



Conclusion


This bag looks stylish and sleek, and the functionality is quite good. It combines both the sling and backpack carrying styles in a good way. Unlike the Tamrac 6x, you must always make sure to close the lids before swinging it back to get it out of the way. In terms of ergonomics and flexibility, it could have scored a bit higher, and appears to have dropped some outside mesh pockets and smaller bags to achieve a more clean look. Not a bad choice, but it might not suit everybody.

3 comments:

  1. It would be nice if you could add some pictures of the inside of the bag, with and without gear.
    Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree with you, that is a good suggestion. I have added pictures showing how I filled the lower part of the bag with my favourite equipment.

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    2. Thanks! This was useful!

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