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

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The Good The Tenba Mini Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag 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.

8.0 Overall

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.

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.

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