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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hands On with the Kata LightTri-317 PL Torso Pack

Kata bags are extremely well made and this one is no exception. The Pro-Light LightTri 317 PL Torso Pack is part of Kata's Egonomic Photo (EPH) system: A system of bags that share common features and connection points, and all work and connect together. The torso pack can be configured with the backpack, with the waist-pack, or with both, for a carrying system that can enable the photographer to transport a large quanity of photography equipment on their person.

The Pro-Light line of bags is designed to be exceptionally lightweight, yet full-featured and aimed at the professional. They are made of durable fabrics and feature Kata's own specially-developed Aeriform foam, an extremely lightweight cushioning material, in the padded areas. Each bag has a specially formed foam-encased spring steel spine in the front of the bag to help it maintain its structural integrity and provide shock absorbancy.

Although outwardly it appears to be a rather small bag, it is deceptively roomy. Used alone, it is able to hold a full sized DSLR with grip, with a 70-200 lens attached (hood reversed), two additional lenses, a flash, and another small lens in the side pouch that attaches with a velcro flap. The top opens from both ends with a double zipper,so gear can be gotten too from either end of the bag. There are additional closure reinforcements of a velcro flap and a buckle at each end. This method of opening/closing is proving to be an enormous convenience, especially when changing lenses out of the bag. One can open just part of the top, either side, or can open it all the way across, with a nice wide opening and not flap up in the face.

The inside of the bag is brightly colored so black equipment stays visible and easily identified. Conveniently, this torso bag has a flat bottom and can sit upright on the floor or ground in such an orientation as to be readily gotten into and will not easily tip over.

The bag comes standard with three dividers, one of which has a velcro-flap closure pocket for small items such as memory cards. The front side of the bag has a large, single-compartment zipped pocket, and there is another "secret" zipped pocket on the back, or body side of the bag. Included with the bag is an all-weather protection cover: Waterproof for rain and dampness, and a reflective side for sun protection. Three straps with connectors to attach the torso pack to other bags in the EPH system are also included. The exterior pouch connects to two straps on the tall edge of the bag with a flap that connects back to the pouch. There are two strong velcro connections between flap and pouch, one on the back of the pouch, and one on the bottom, for added security.

This is one seriously well-made bag.

In order to use the LightTri 317 PL with a backpack in the EPH system, the sling strap close to the bag at the bottom, and midway into the padded portion on the top (see image). The EPH strap are connected at these points, at at the point where the extra support strap connects while in sling mode to connect to the backpack.

The Pro-Light LightTri 317 PL Torso Pack, generall speaking, is roomy, durable, and very convenient in terms of carrying and accessing camera gear. There are, however, a couplei issues found with this bag, that may just be personal preference but are worth taking into consideration.

Carrying the bag takes a little figuring out. The illustrations and photos of the use of this bag indicate that it should be worn on the left shoulder and carried to the side or in front. However, doing so, there's the problem of the additional strap. If carrying the bag in front of the body, the additional strap comes around from the back to clip in to the third connection point. If turning the bag to a side or back carrying position (as in a sling bag), the additional strap is not in a position to be used.

However, if the bag is worn over the right shoulder to left side, it can be swung around to be carried on the back in a regular sling bag manner. But when doing so, the upper portion of the bag leans away from the body. This can be alleviated by buckling the second strap to the third connection point and cinching everything snugly, but it really does need to be snug. It seems the "lean" is caused by the strap-attachment design, with the top strap attachment location being a bit below the top of the bag (see photo below).

This particular strap attachment location, however, lends itself to easier access from the side and a more comfortable carry in the other possible, non-slingbag, positions.
It may be preferable to shift the bag around and carry it under one arm, and it works quite well this way. And when carrying it under the arm, it can be easily worn on either shoulder. This is a big benefit as being tied to using just one shoulder for a heavy bag full of camera equipment can cause shoulder and neck fatique.

Additionally, in regards to the large roomy pocket on the outside of the bag, what would be desirable, is maybe a couple smaller pouch/pockets in the pocket. The large pocket holds a lot, but smaller items are requiring a considerably amount of digging around to locate. This is strictly a convenience, but one that would be a fairly simple addition.

In spite of these two issues, not enough good things can be said about this bag, and about Kata products in general. Overall, this is an outstanding bag that lives up to the Kata name and reputation. Expensive photography gear can be carried with confidence, knowing that it is well protected. The bag feels trustworthy. And the bag itself seems to be one that will last through many outings and years.

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Images not bearing the melephoto 2010 stamp are courtesy Kata. The unit used for review was provided courtesy Kata.

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