Review of Tenba Discovery Photo/Laptop Messenger (637-341)

I have an upcoming trip to Israel/Palestine/Jordan in January (their rainy season). I wanted to get a camera bag to carry all my stuff, but I did have some particular desires based on previous travel experiences. I have previously used a Case Logic SLRC-205 SLR Camera Sling (Black). It's a nice bag, but it's rather bulky for what can be carried in it and doesn't make the best use of its space. It can't really be put down on the ground, and my lens hood often snagged on the 'hammock' system that is used. I didn't want a backpack, because I wanted to get things quickly without having to remove the bag. So, I decided to go with a messenger style bag with the following considerations:

In order for this all to work, I checked out all sorts of configurations to maximize space, and what I ended up with is this layout:

That's the two lenses on the bottom with room for miscellaneous stuff, and the 2 cameras on top that can be easily pulled out. The internal dimensions of this layout are 12.5" (32cm) wide by 8.5" (23cm) high by 4" (10cm) deep.

I ended up investigating at least 50+ bags. (I don't have access to a decent camera store, so I mainly was using reviews, pics, and dimensions of bags given on the web.) The one that ultimately satisfied all those requirements was the Tenba Discovery Photo/Laptop Messenger Mini (637-341 - Tenba site link). I wasn't exactly sure if it was going to hold the camera and lenses, because the dimensions given for the interior of the bag were listed as 12.5" by 9.25" by 4-5.5". These indeed turned out to be the interior dimensions of the bag, not of the removable camera insert. It's dimensions turn out to be 12" wide by 7.75" high by 3.75" wide. The bag is somewhat expandable, and as you will see below, everything ended up fitting just fine! (BTW, clicking on pics will provide a larger image.)

The listed external dimensions of the bag are 13.75" (35cm) wide by 10.25" (26cm) high by 5.5-6.5" (14-16.5cm) deep.

First Impressions

It looks and feels like a high quality bag. Materials and zippers are top notch. The Tenba site says the bag has a "tough, water-repellant nylon exterior," and it is true. The contrasting gray accents are much darker on my bag than appear on the Tenba site pics. I prefer it, since it gives a more subtle appearance to the bag. The bag is light--only two pounds! Padding is quite sufficient without taking up too much room. The bottom looks very durable, and the bag does stand up nicely. The velcro patches are very 'velcro-y.' The bad thing is that it takes some effort to open the flap, and it is noisy. The good thing is that even with the bag fully loaded, I could carry it by the handle, and it stayed closed even without the two clasps being secured. The strap is comfortable and adjustable, and the bag can be worn over either shoulder. The shoulder pad is appropriately grippy, but it does not move. Overall, a very positive first impression.

The Bag in Use

The picture at the top of the page and the one below show the bag fully loaded with more stuff than I will ever be carrying around. Even with it loaded, it has been comfortable to carry around.

So what all is in the bag?

Flexible tripod, stabilizing strap, inflatable travel pillow, Pentax DAL 55-300, Pentax K-x with Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6, spare padded divider, rain cover in pouch, earbuds, business cards, hand sanitizer, K-30 battery charger and cord, pen, pencil, chapstick, rubber pad (for filter removal), 13 ultrabook, a 10x7.5 book (fits in rear pocket), Pentax K-30 with DA 18-135, lens cap, cleaning cloth, Pentax K-30 AA battery holder, 4 spare AA batteries, water bottle, string tripod, Pentax remote control, rocket blower, DA 35 f2.4, lenspen, case with 62 mm Marumi Super DHG Slim Circular Polarizer for DA 18-135, USB OTG dongle, USB SD card reader

Comments:

  • Here's my review of the flexible tripod. It fits fine in the side pocket, but it--or a monopod--could fit under the flap and be held securely. There is no way to attach a travel tripod unless it were laid across the top of the bag.
  • The bag does not come with a stabilizing strap, but I use an old small camera bag strap that I can use as a waist belt and attach to the clips on each side of the bag. It keeps the bag from moving around if I'm doing some serious hiking with it.
  • The 13" ultrabook fits well in the dedicated slot. I could get an old 10" netbook in there, but the slot really is not designed for something nearly an inch fat like that is.
  • A regular size magazine will fit in the rear pocket.
  • BTW, the USB OTG dongle and SD card reader allow me to take the camera's SD card and plug it all into my Android smartphone to view pics on the larger phone screen.
  • I didn't have anything in the front flap zippered pocket, but that's a good place to put tickets, hold a lens filter, etc.

Some additional pics:

View of the bag with both the top flap and front pocket open. I do like that the front pocket is zippered. It's a bit tight getting anything to 'fat' in the slots in the front pocket, but the mesh zipper pockets can hold things like the battery charger and cord.

These next pics show the top opening and how I have the two cameras situated. They are in there snugly, but they feel to be well protected. It actually works quite well to get to either camera quickly.

The rain cover goes on quite easily. There are two snaps to keep it on the bag. It doesn't completely enclose the bag, but the assumption is that the backside will be up against your body.

The rain cover pouch is part of the rain cover, but it is not attached to the bag. It's squishable, but it takes up space with the pouch. I've ended up not storing it in the pouch but slipping it between the camera insert and the bag interior where it's really not noticeable. I think the Lowepro bags might be better where the cover can be tucked away in an appointed slot as part of the bag. On the other hand, this unattached cover will be easier to dry out after it gets wet.

I had read one comment that noted how there was a gap at the top when carrying the bag by the handle. You can see what this looks like here with the fully loaded bag. It would be possible but difficult for something small to fall out. There is no gap when using the shoulder strap.

You can also somewhat see here (and more clearly on some pics above) Tenba's "exclusive, triangle D-rings" to which the strap attaches. They actually do work rather well to help keep the bag stay closer to the body.

One negative to note, however, that is somewhat visible here. The triangle D-ring is holding up well, but the black paint has already scratched off the strap clip where it has been scratched by the D-ring. I'll have to see if that ever becomes a rust problem.

Bottom Line

Overall, with limited use so far, I am really pleased with the quality and functionality of this bag. It holds quite a bit of gear, allows quick access, and is comfortable to carry.

The bag is available in either black/gray or sage/khaki for about $107 at Amazon or $110 at B&H.