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Monday, January 17, 2011

Hands-On With the Kata Bug-205 PL Camera Backpack

So one large camera backpack is pretty much like another right? Well, in some ways, yes. After all, the function must somewhat dictate the form, and with a similar shape, there are only so many ways to configure the interior, shape the exterior to carry on one's back, and configure the straps and such to carry comfortably on the shoulders.

In spite of some basic design limitations that cause a backpack to be a backpack, Kata has evolved the backpack into something that's just a little bit more.

For starters,the back of bag is designed in such a manner to encourage airflow, keeping the back much cooler while carrying. There is also a strap to fit over the handle of a luggage trolley. The fully padded laptop compartment (large enough to hold a 17 inch laptop) has with a moveable (velcro attached) padded "bar" to go across the top. This is useful if the power cord is to ride in the same compartment, providing a padded sparation between the two. In addition to the standard zipper closure, there are also buckles to provide further security.

The ergonomically designed shoulder straps, constructed of Kata's Aeroform foam, have attachment looks for the attachment of a camera when the provided camera strap is used on the camera. The strap comes with a neck piece that detaches with clips. The clips can then be attached to the shoulder straps to take the weight of the camera off the neck and put it on the torso.

The center of the main compartment opens separately from the rest of the lit to facilitate the removal of the camera from the center portion of the interior without exposing the remaining contents.

As with other Kata products, the Bug 205 comes provided with an elements cover to protect the bag and enclosed gear from the weather.

But with the Kata Bug 205, the beauty is in the details. This backpack features parachute zipper pulls that are easy to grasp and zip, even with gloves on. And not one centimeter is wasted. The lid of the bag has three pockets: One in the center portion, and one each on the sides. These are large and roomy and easily accessed for holding a variety of accessories. The outer sidewalls have zipped pockets, two each, one larger, one smaller.

The shoulder straps are shaped to contour around the shoulders in such a way that they stay in place and do not crowd the neck. There are not only adjustments at the bottom of the straps to lengthen and shorten, but also at the top, to increase or decrease how far they sit from the top of the bag. The texture on the underside of the straps keeps them from slipping. In fact, this backpack has several points of adjustment that can be used to create a custom fit on the individual carrying it.

Three exterior sides of the Bug 205 bear the double loops that can be used for the attaching of additional kata accessories such as the tripod holder.

The interior of the bag can hold a large assortment of gear, including a full size DSLR with a 70-200/2.8 lens attached. This main compartment also has a beanbag that attaches to the floor of the bag with velcro to support the lens while transporting (think: Repurpose beanbag to steady lens on a surface in the absence of a tripod).

But perhaps one of the more useful features in the interior (in the opinion of the tester) are two smallish drawstring pouches that have a velcro strip on the bottom to attach to the inside of the bag. These pouches have proven to be extremely useful for carrying spare batteries, flash triggers, and other small items that don't necessarily fit easily in one of the other pockets, and doesn't necessarily need to be accessed readily.

Like the LightTri that was previously reviewed, the Bug 205 is part of the EPH (ergonomic photography) system. There are attachment points on the top, sides, and bottom for attaching either the waist pack, a torso pack, or both, enabling the carrying of enough gear to load a small pack mule. The Bug 205 was tested attached to the LightTri 317, with both bags fully loaded. First of all, that is a heavy load to carry. While the lightness of the weight of this bag line is helpful in that regard, it must be stated, that this particular combination is just not a good fit for a smaller stature person.

When the backpack is worn alone, the waistbelt helps to relieve the weight on the shoulders by transfering it to the hips. Attaching the torso pack requires the removal of the waist belt in order to use those attachment points to attach the torso pack. It was just not possible to cinch things up tightly enough to transfer the weight off the shoulders and on to the hips. However, this may not be a problem with a few more inches of height and girth (the testor is only five feet four inches tall). Being able to still use the waist belt while the torso pack is attached might help. It would be interesting to see how the weight distribution occurs when the backpack is used with that combination instead of the torso pack.

Regardless, this is a fantastic backpack with some unique features. It is ideally suited to transporting a large kit and for travel, as it complies with most airline regularions for carry-on luggage.

Available from Amazon:

The unit used for review was provided courtesy of Kata. More information on Kata products can be found at Images that do not bear the Melephoto 2010 logo are property of and used courtesy of Kata.

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