I’d never heard of Kata Bags before they offered a review sample of their new MiniBee-120 PL Backpack for DSLR cameras and gear. Turns out they are a member of the Vitech Group, to which Manfrotto also belongs. Manfrotto serves as the US distributor of Kata Bags, and it is also a maker of camera gear. I own one of the Manfrotto tripods. They make good gear, so I knew Kata Bags would also be quality gear. I’ve been looking for a bag big enough to hold two cameras, a few lenses, and some other accessories, and I wanted something that wouldn’t break my back. I was happy to give the MiniBee a try.
Many of the photos can be clicked for an enlarged view.
Kata Bags describes the MiniBee-120 PL as “a professional, multi-featured, on-board backpack, designed to provide the best carrying, storage and working solutions for a DSLR”. I can’t find any information about the fabric used for the bag, but it might be ripstop nylon. The bag is black with red accents. There’s a Kata logo on the front top.
The bag measures 18.3″ tall X 12.6″ wide X 11″ deep, and it weighs 4.5 pounds when empty. It should meet the carry-on requirements of most airlines.
Hidden inside is an aluminum skeleton that gives the bag a stable structure, helps distribute the weight, and protects the contents. The metal frame is aided by other structural pieces in the back of the bag to protect your spine and in the front flap to protect your camera and lenses.
You can see the “Gecko Harness” in the above picture. Kata Bags say they developed the Gecko Harness System “to provide outstanding ergonomic compatibility and a perfect fit to your back and body. The innovative 3D injection design and micro hatched texture secure the harness on your back at the right angle to allow a better shooting experience.” The shoulder straps have a thick, flexible, molded EVA foam padding that encompasses the thin webbing used for the shoulder straps. The padding is very comfortable and cushions your shoulders. They stay in place well. There’s a lot of extra strap, so you can adjust the bag to fit your shoulders.
The MiniBee also has a couple of locking straps that fits across your chest to hold the shoulder straps in place. That bag isn’t going anywhere until you want it to.
The MiniBee-120 is loaded with pockets. In the above picture, you see three pockets. Along the side is a zippered, gusseted pocket that can hold a wallet, phone, or similarly-sized item. The gusset will keep things from accidentally falling out. Along the top of the bag, you’ll see a zipper that opens up to hold a netbook or up to a 13″ laptop, a tablet computer, papers, or the like. There’s also an open pocket at the very back labeled with a laptop icon. This icon apparently indicates this bag can also hold a laptop, but this open pocket – although the right size to hold a 13″ MacBook Pro – is not for a laptop, but for using a rolling trolley. We’ll give those two pockets a closer look later.
The back of the bag is cushioned with an Aeriform foam (made of EVA and EPE). The orange stripe down the middle of the back seems to be a location for one of the aluminum straps that protect your spine. It’s impossible to see in the picture, but the orange stripe has the Kata Bags website printed on it in gold lettering.
You’ll also notice a strap that crosses the bag horizontally just above the orange stripe (bottom photo). This strap is used to attach the bag to the InserTrolley from Kata Bags. It’s a rolling trolley for when you don’t want to wear the bag, and it’s an optional purchase. I did find the strap fit on the extensible handle on my rolling suitcase, but the MiniBee was too tall and extended above the top of my suitcase’s handle. The padded sleeve marked with the laptop icon is to be used in conjunction with the InserTrolley.
There’s a grab handle on the top of the bag, as you can see in the top picture.
You’ll also see three zipper heads with semi-circular orange pulls; there’s actually a fourth pull not shown in this picture. These pulls are designed so you can open just the top half of the main compartment, just the bottom, or the entire main compartment.
The back of the bag has a zippered pocket that extends to the bottom of the bag. You can carry a laptop, netbook, tablet computer, magazines, papers, or the like in this pocket. The yellow bar extending out the the right side of this pocket is a removable, padded divider. You can use it to “shorten” the depth of the pocket if your device doesn’t require that much depth.
The interior of the MiniBee is lined with bright yellow fabric. This is a very nice feature that makes finding things inside the bag much easier. Small black accessories don’t disappear into the depths of black-lined pockets in the MiniBee-120 PL.
The front flap also has aluminum stiffening, as you can tell by the curved shape you can see in the top picture. There’s also a zipper pocket on the front that contains another of the stiffeners. I’ve partially pulled it out so you can see the structure. There’s also a strip of narrow webbing inside this pocket, under the stiffener. You can attach accessories to that strap or to many of the other attachment points sewn into the exterior of the bag.
The main compartment is filled with Aeriform dividers that are covered in a fleece fabric. Two vertical dividers form a pocket to hold a DSLR with a 70-200mm lense installed. Kata Bags says it will not fit a camera with a grip. It can also be used with video cameras. The vertical dividers have Velcro on the ends that grip the fleece fabrics. You can adjust the attachment points to give the camera compartment a bit more width. There’s one horizontal divider inside the camera compartment.
There are two side compartments with three horizontal dividers each. Kata Bags says you can fit 6-8 more lenses, flashes, and other accessories inside these pockets. One compartment has a see-through mesh, zippered top to keep your gear from falling out of these pockets.
The strap sticking out of the bag is made of webbing, like used for other straps on this bag. It has Velcro tabs on the ends, and it can be moved to secure your camera into place.
Some accessories are included with the MiniBee. The above photos show the Elements Cover that protects your bag and equipment from rain when installed as shown in the top picture. The cover has a pull string that cinches it tightly around the bag.
When you install the Elements Cover with the silver side out, it reflects the sun away from your equipment on hot days.
The strap and pocket shown here can be attached to the various loops on the exterior. Slide two legs of your tripod into the pocket, and you’ll be able to take it along. Another picture in the documentation that came with the MiniBee showed the strap also being used as a tripod carrier. It seemed to be attached to the strap hidden under the reinforcement strip inside the front zipper pocket on the front flap.
Here’s the MiniBee-120 PL loaded up with my camera gear. In the top row, I have the (left to right) Elements Cover, two lenses in felt bags, and the battery charger and a filter case. My Nikon D3100 is stowed on the left side of the camera compartment. I’m using the Nikon D5100 to take the picture, but its holster case fits handily into the right end of the camera compartment. I should be able to carry both my cameras in this bag. The bottom row with the zipper cover has an empty pocket, two flash units, and another empty pocket. I can fit small things like my camera remotes and extra batteries into the empty pockets.
I also have a bunch of camera cables and booklets that I’ll probably carry in the zipper pocket intended for a computer.
The MiniBee-120 PL is heavy when loaded up with all this equipment. The backpack design spreads the weight across both shoulders and my back, so it’s easier to carry than my other bag with a single shoulder strap. I haven’t tried carrying it for hours on my back, though. (Hey, that’s what my husband is for – to carry the heavy loads! 😉 )
My daughter, Rachel is modelling the Kata Bag for us in this picture. She’s only 5’2″, but she’s not overwhelmed by the size of this bag. It’s very compact, especially when you consider everything that I fit in there. She said the padded straps were comfortable, and the weight of the bag was negligible when compared to the bag full of notebooks and textbooks she lugs around every day.
The Kata Bags MiniBee-120 PL is a great camera bag for anyone who needs to carry around a lot of equipment with their DSLR. It’s relatively small, but you can pack a lot of camera equipment inside and still have room for a laptop and/or tablet computer, too. The size of the bag doesn’t overwhelm, and the careful attention to padding and metal reinforcement makes the bag surprisingly comfortable to carry. It’s an expensive bag, but I’m betting what you’ll carry inside is much more expensive. The MiniBee-120 PL is a ~$220 guardian for your equipment.