PDN Review: Tenba Messenger Camera Bag

June 8, 2010
By Dan Havlik

Tenba Messenger Bag

There are over 20 pockets in this messenger-style, body-hugging bag from Tenba.
Have you ever wanted not to look like a photographer? I mean this in all seriousness. Whenever I have to run out the door for a quick shoot, I agonize over which camera bag to take, always trying to find the one that won’t draw attention to itself. It’s hard when so many bags these days scream: “I am a photographer, get out of my way!” When you live and work in a big city with lots of (occasionally) grumpy people and potential thieves, this can be a problem.

A friend has come up with an amusing solution to this. Instead of using a fancy camera bag, he just plops his $6,000 DSLR/lens combo into an ugly tote bag and goes on his merry way. While I admire his moxy and love this inconspicuous approach, I think I’m more comfortable with something that keeps my gear more secure.

Consequently, my go-to photo satchel these days has been Tenba’s Messenger Camera Bag. This is a wonderful on-the-go bag with a stylish but understated urban design and plenty of room for a fast, out-the-door shoot.

Designed after bike courier bags, the Messenger Camera Bag has a soft, slightly unstructured exterior that hugs your body and prevents inadvertent sideswipes against cranky city dwellers. Though it looks casual, the bag’s made of a durable, military grade construction that safely repelled a sudden rain shower while I was on a shoot.

Unlike actual messenger bags—which are basically just one big pocket—Tenba’s Messenger Camera Bag has over 20 pockets and enough room to fit multiple DSLR bodies and lenses along with flashes and assorted accessories. Lately I’ve been carrying a Canon 1D Mark IV with a new 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II in it and while that fills the entire main bag, it fits. I can also squeeze an iPhone, notebooks, pens, business cards, lens cloths, camera manuals and all sorts of other goodies into the bag thanks to the generous number of small pockets. The top flap also zips open to reveal dedicated, color-coded slots for memory cards.

The cushioned strap doesn’t cut into my shoulder when the bag is fully loaded and there’s an extra hand carry strap on top that lets you grab the bag whether it’s open or closed. Comfortable mesh-ventilated cushioning on the side rests against your body and rubberizing on the bottom protects against dirt, scratches and moisture.

As usual with Tenba’s bags, smart, small touches abound. In particular, I liked the Velcro Silencer which won’t alert shy subjects—or nosy New Yorkers—that you’re taking your gear out of your bag.

If you’re in the market for a stylishly inconspicuous camera bag and don’t mind looking more like a bohemian bike courier than a glamorous pro photographer, Tenba’s Messenger Camera Bag is the perfect thing to sling over your shoulder as you’re running out the door. Just don’t forget to put your camera in there before you hit the street.

Tenba Messenger Camera Bag

A great, on-the-go shoulder bag
for urban photographers.

Only enough room for a stripped-down shoot.


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