For the average photographer, a good photo bag is similar in a way to a spouse and a car: perhaps you regularly forget your anniversary, but you know the technical parameters of the car by heart.
Well, I cannot tell the last time I had a suitcase or a proper travel bag, but there are about three photo bags at home that I carry around on a daily basis and I know all their details intimately. Because I need them, and because all have their own roles. Of course you need a backpack because it is comfortable to carry around. But since it is inconvenient to load and unload, you also need a shoulder bag. If you have lots of gear, a bigger one is better, but for quick photographic runs, a smaller one is advisable as well. Nicely explained, huh?
This time, we’ll ask your attention for introducing a small bag, one with a serious brand. Its front sports the logo for National Geographic—an American nature magazine with a past of more than a hundred years, that needs no introduction to photographers, or perhaps even to everyday people. Of course, the bag is not made by bored editors and journalists in their spare time, this is just the repacking of a well-established brand. Although the small carrying case is made in China, there’s a renowned company behind it—Kata, which, I believe, don’t need a lengthy introduction either. They acquired high esteem in the past few years in the bag and case market. The esteem is fully justified as their products represent a high quality and thoughtful design. This is also true of their bags bearing the National Geographic brand.
The typical camo green color, massive parts and the exterior all hint at the hard life of the renowned magazine’s nature photographers. I don’t know how many of them use actually such bags, but with one of these on your side, you can picture yourself as a photographer of the wild jungles deep inside. So, besides the established brand, the manufacturer built on this feel, and they did everything to make you feel so when you take the product in your hands.
The piece we got is the NG 2343 model. It is classified as a Small Shoulder Bag. Its external size is 16x16x22 cms (6.3″x6.3″x8.7″) and weighs 0.65 kgs (1.44 lbs). Inside, you have 15x12x18 cms (6″x4.7″x7.1″) for placing your gear. According to the manufacturer, this is enough for a smaller DSLR, a compact camera or a DV cam.
The exterior reminds one of the military gas mask bags, once so fashionable. I am not a textile expert, but it is of glass pearl fabric, similar to denim and stronger sackcloth, undemanding in the positive meaning of the term. Officially, it is hemp/wool, which, despite its rough texture, has a more natural feel than widely used plastic coatings. Dust and lighter stains are less eye-catching on this color than on a black carrying case, but apparently it also bears wetness worse. We didn’t have the heart to put it outside in the rain, neither to drown it under water, but at a first glance, the exterior soaks through quite quickly. I said, “at a first glance”, because the material is treated against water and keeps it away to a degree. The gear is protected in other ways since the interior coating is of a pale brown plastic material, also moderately water-proof. In addition, the bags was fashioned so that the gaps, e.g. the cover openings can be hermetically zippered to keep dust and water away.
The cover closes by two really massive patents at the bottom. They close easily and open hard to make unauthorized entry more difficult. After folding the cover upward, the closed weather-proof coating is still there to bypass.
After opening the double zippers, you can fold the internal cover upward, and thanks to the velcro strip above it, you can fix it when rolled into a cylinder to prevent unwanted interference with frequent camera removal. The back of the inside contains a flat pocket for smaller accessories. Two velcro-fitted separator cushions allow division of the inner area. You can use these to form the inner compartments holding you camera and its accessories.
We tried to tuck the mid-range DSLR we had at hand into the bag, along with a 24-105mm zoom lens, and although pretty tightly, but still they fitted in. So this is the maximum you can pack inside, but an entry-level DSLR and a matching kit lens is what fits in comfortably. Perhaps, if you arrange things neatly, another small lens can be loaded in the bag. Of course, the internal holding space has lining on all its walls, although not as thick as in larger bags. Those are about 1 cm (0.4″), while this one is about half that thick.
The cover, when folded up, reveals another “larger” holding space. There is a zippered front compartment with two pockets for memory cards and two for pens, and a relatively large holding space. We put a mid-sized external flash here which went in nice and tight, and perhaps a few little things fit beside it.
The NG bag comes with a brutally massive, woven plastic strap, similar in color to the carrying handles and the interior. Some larger models would yearn for the impervious metal clasps found on this bag instead of their plastic spring hooks. The spring hooks and other metal parts have been treated and worn to display the hard wear of long decades. I cannot tell what could tear these metal clasps out, or the adjustable-length shoulder strap into pieces, but apparently, they could carry a grand piano up to the fourth floor without problems.
Besides the mentioned pockets and internal compartment, the front outer part of the cover has two small velcro-fitted pockets, one right under the National Geographic logo. They are just convenient for storing smaller cell phones or MP3 players.
In addition to all this, the rear of the bag also holds a zippered pocket for safely hiding your papers or flat accessories.
We managed to fit the following things into the shoulder bag while being able to close all compartments:
Internal holding space:
Canon EOS-5D body
Canon 24-105mm F4 L lens
a few small accessories (a smaller filter or two)
- Canon 430EX flash
2 CG memory cards
a few small things (keys, tiny flashlight)
grey sheet/color calibration sheet