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Tenba Mini Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag review: Tenba Mini Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag

Relatively light, well-designed, and attractive, the Tenba Mini Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag is my new favorite camera bag.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
4 min read

I've been carrying a backpack for so long it's become a bit of a trademark, and I still like my current model, the exceptionally lightweight Kata Bumblebee DL-210. But it's a bit bulky for urban use -- think bull meets china shop -- it's impractical when I need to swap lenses frequently, and I find myself switching to a smaller bag when I don't need to schlep my camera equipment (which I hate doing). So I've begun the hunt for a more practical solution. Thus far the Tenba Mini Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag has proven to be a winner; it's relatively small and light, comes in enough colors that everyone should like at least one, and it's quite intelligently designed.


Tenba Mini Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag

The Good

The <b>Tenba Mini Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag</b> is a compact, well-designed, and attractive bag that can hold a surprising amount of equipment.

The Bad

There are some odd omissions, such as there being no place for a large keychain, and the nylon exterior attracts a lot of schmutz.

The Bottom Line

Smaller and lighter than a typical messenger bag but still able to hold a pro dSLR body, a flash, a couple of small lenses, and a 13-inch laptop, the Tenba Mini Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag is one of the best-designed bags we've seen.

The bag is made of Cordura Nylon, with a small weave that keeps it from looking too casually rugged. It resists a gentle rain, but I wouldn't take it out in a downpour -- I wish it came with a rain cover. I tested the black model, which turned out to be an unwise choice given my white cat, and in general the bag seems to attract schmutz a little more than smoother, less-dense Nylon weaves or canvas. The inside uses lighter ripstop nylon, and the main compartment incorporates the typical "reconfigurable" padded five-divider system with Velcro flaps that attach to the sides of the bag. I tend not to like these types of dividers, because once I remove them I can never get them back into factory-fresh locations (the larger bags have a completely removable insert instead). But I haven't removed them here as they provide some needed organization for the bag. There's also a padded pocket with a simple Velcro strap for a laptop or tablet.

I hadn't even used the bag yet and already it was showing dust and debris. Sarah Tew/CNET

A dSLR goes into the central divider, lens down, and there are two dividers on either side of the center for flashes, lenses, and other accessories. Two flaps on the central divider fold down to cover the side sections. This comes in quite handy, since it lets you put more stuff (like a compact umbrella) on top of your equipment. Plus, by putting it in with the lens extending to the side over the flap I was able to cram a Nikon D4 with a 24-70mm lens into the bag relatively comfortably.

On the front flap, which secures with Velcro and plastic clips, are two small, phone-sized zippered pockets. They're ostensibly supposed to fit a set of keys as well, but not mine; it only works if you have just a few keys or they lie flat. However, the pockets are designed in such a way that it's possible to put in your phone without zipping it and still be able to open the front flap without the phone falling out. Underneath the flap are two open pockets, one of which I use to stash a media card wallet and the other for my headphones, atop a large zippered compartment.

The top flap has a zipper which allows you to pull out the camera without opening the bag, a feature I really like. Unfortunately, you can't use it as a way to quickly remove the laptop at a security checkpoint, at least not a full 13-inch model.

The body side of the bag has a large, padded zippered compartment with nylon stitched pockets inside for pens, business cards, and so on. It's big enough to hold some random paperwork, and in a pinch I've squeezed my tablet in there as well.

A supposedly waterproof fabric covers the bottom, though I haven't been brave enough to put that to the test, and side loops are intended to hold small Tenba add-ons like a water bottle pouch or media wallet. The shoulder strap extends long enough for me to sling the bag across my body and have it settle comfortably below my hip. I have mixed thoughts about the strap and handle. The hooks and rings of the hardware operate smoothly with no tangling and seem sturdily constructed. The strap, however, composed of grosgrain webbing and a rough shoulder pad, and the handle feel a bit cheap. I think in a year that strap will really show some wear. But overall the whole system seems to balance the bag's weight really well, making it one of the most comfortable messenger bags I've ever carried.

I obviously have some quibbles about aspects of the bag, including it having no designated place for a substantial set of keys (I ended up dropping them in a divider section) and the way the plastic flap clips flop noisily, unused. But overall it's a great, multifunctional bag that's equally useful for carrying large dSLR accoutrements and compact ILC kits.