Fast forward to the present. These bags no longer come under the Kata brand, being instead not just distributed by Manfrotto, but manufactured under the Manfrotto brand as well. The Bumblebee backpack I received kind of resembles the old Bumblebee, but that’s largely superficial. So has Manfrotto improved the backpack in the redesign? (Spoiler alert: read past the first few paragraphs to find out how I really feel about the bag. Don’t be dissuaded by my introductory comments.)
The reason I’d requested the larger Bumblebee-230 was because the 130 was touted for CLC mirrorless systems. And since I’d planned to use the pack with either with my Nikon D500, possibly with battery grip, or D610 and various lenses, the larger bag seemed the logical choice.
So the bag arrives. And now I remembered one thing that had always bothered me about the original bag. The design of the backpack harness adds depth to the bag and it extends out in front like someone who’s had a few too many beers. What that means is, this bag will very likely not fit in the overhead bin on any aircraft I’ve been on, despite claims to the contrary. OK, technically it may fall under carry-on guidelines. However, you can’t argue with airport personnel or airline crew, especially if you’re among the last to board – what they say goes, and if they say it’s not a good fit, it’s not a good fit. And this is not the time when you can turn around and shift gears to a sleeker, more airline-user-friendly bag.
Okay, forget about air travel. What about everyday use? Well, try using public transit with a backpack that sticks out as far as this one does. You won’t get many smiles from the people you’ve jostled. Then let’s head to the woods. As you attempt to negotiate narrow trails and dense thickets you realize it’s going to be a tight squeeze and you approach the hike with some trepidation.
That aside, the interior design is a bit odd. There’s an upper shelf with an aperture for a lens to stick through. But the aperture is not centered over the central channel in the lower part of the bag, so how exactly do you fit things properly? You have to shift one of the main dividers over to align everything.
What’s more, the interior is dark. And the foam is thick – too thick, in my opinion. Yes, I like my gear cushioned and cuddly in a pack, but the thick foam kind of imposes itself and gets in the way. It takes on a cavernous appearance.
Okay, you’re saying, pull out the upper shelf and stretch the two main red dividers to their full length. Well, guess again. These were apparently fitted for the 130 and they’re too short to extend fully top to bottom in the larger 230.
So, where does this leave us? Well, all is not lost. In fact, there’s quite a lot to be said for this backpack.
The pack is well constructed and will deliver years of good use. The backpack harness works admirably. I especially like the padded pocket in the padded waistbelt – keep a lens or flash here (a 70-300 will fit, although a flash would be a better choice, just in case you hit a lot of bumps in the road).
And the bag is comfortable. Which brings us back to the backpack harness. The waist belt does a beautiful job of keeping the weight off your shoulders. More to the point, it puts it on the hips – exactly where it should be. Few photo backpacks (or I should say backpack manufacturers) understand this, or even among those that do, few follow it in all their backpack designs.
Carrying a tripod comes second nature to this bag. There’s even a laptop sleeve. And there are enough pockets to house all essentials. Well, except for a jacket. The outer front zippered pocket should have been pleated to allow more room. I tried getting a lightweight jacket in there without luck.
I should also mention that there are two ways to get inside the bag. The upper and lower sections zip open separately. However, there is a flap that stands between the zippers on one side. Lift this flap up (it uses Velcro-type hook-and-loop material) and you can gain access to the entire interior with one smooth zip movement.
Who Should Use This?
Bumblebee-230: bird and wildlife photographers with long, fast lenses. (130: the smaller pack may be better suited to a wider range of applications, such as street and travel photography, as well as hiking).
Still a great concept, despite my nitpicking; comfortable harness system with airflow mesh back panel; protective; well padded throughout; water repellant, with rain cover providing added protection against torrential downpours; spacious but deceptively so since movable, padded dividers are quite thick; difficult to see inside bag, unless you zip it open fully; heavy for a Pro Light bag.
Manfrotto had an opportunity to take the Bumblebee and make it the photo backpack for the ages. They dropped the ball. At least when it came to the Bumblebee-230. I imagine the smaller 130 would have been more to my liking. Had I seen the bag up close or perhaps if I’d paid closer attention to the product pages, I would have realized that. The large bag is best if you have a fast, long lens attached to the camera. For anything else, I would likely choose the smaller 130 instead, which would have assuaged most, if not all, of my complaints.
So, is the Pro Light Bumblbee the photo backpack for you? Give it a shot. In the long term, you’ll find it has a lot going for it. Again, consider the size and fit (for your gear, as well as you) before you decide.
I will say one more thing for this pack. This is the most comfortable Bumblebee photo backpack of any I’ve used to date. More to the point, it should be easily wearable for an extended outing on the trails.
PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS/Bumblee-230 (per Manfrotto)
Weight: 93.47 oz
Material: Nylon, RipStop, Synthetic Fabric
External Height: 20.9”
External Length: 12.6”
External Width: 10.2”
Internal main compartment height (H): 20.1”
Internal main compartment length (L): 11.8”
Internal main compartment width (W): 7.5”
Laptop Compartment H: 20.1”
Laptop Compartment L: 11.8”
Laptop Compartment W: 1.2”
Distributed by/Order From/More Info:
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