Finding the perfect bag for the job has been one of my biggest struggle. Over the years I bought a lot of bags (I want to say 10 but shhhhh don’t tell my wife). I tried small messenger bags, big messenger bags, camera suitcases, sling bags… But on the field, none of them truly fulfilled my needs. Especially when I travel and need to carry my gears and my laptop to work and edit on the go.
That’s when I started considering backpacks as a potential good compromise to fit all my gears while giving my back and shoulders some relief.
When I started looking at camera backpacks online I didn’t expect Manfrotto (that I knew mainly for tripods) to be in my consideration set, and even less be the brand offering what looked like my “holy grail”: The Manfrotto Manhattan Mover-50.
The below image displays what I typically need when I’m out for a photoshoot. It doesn’t look like much but not many bags can fit it all!
. 2 professional DSLR bodies (Canon 5D Mark IV)
. 3 lenses L serie
. a 15 inches Macbook Pro
. 1 flash, a lot of batteries
. a lot of batteries, 2 chargers, 3 memory cards holder and 1 external hard drive.
I also need to carry headphone, Macbook Pro charger and some USB cables. (not shown on the picture below) Will everything fit? Let see that!
When it comes to a camera bag I’m very picky (my wife would say “not just with camera bags!”). I know exactly what I need and what I want. What I’d loved at first with the Manfrotto Manhattan Mover-50 is how discreet it is. It doesn’t look like a camera bag. No big logo, very “urban” gray color. It could very much be a regular backpack for your day to day commute. And actually it can, as the camera compartment is fully removable from the rest of the backpack.
In addition to this main insert, you have a lot of pockets everywhere. And every single one of them has a clear purpose.
In terms of build quality, the water repellent ballistic fabric is sturdy. The fabric can handle light rain with no problem, but in case of very very bad weather you can always put the rain protector included for additional peace of mind.
The bag can take a lot of weight and you’d have to probably use this bag for years before it shows any sign of wear.
Zippers look solid but I’ll have to use the bag for a few months before having a definitive opinion on this specific point.
Shoulder straps are tough and secure. Stabilization straps on the front and at waist level help keeping the bag balanced – it’s perfect when you are on a hike or riding your bike. I would have loved this waist level straps to be removable when I don’t need it. It would have made the bag even more discreet.
Another strap, just above the back compartment, allows you to slide the bag on any kind of trolley. This is very convenient when I travel.
The laptop and tablet compartment can easily fit a 15 inches Macbook Pro. I’m sure I could even try a slightly bigger laptop than mine, but I don’t have any handy to confirm for sure.
Manfrotto chose to put this laptop compartment on the front and not on the back as I saw it on many backpacks. I really don’t like to have my laptop on a back of a camera bag. It makes it very stiff and uncomfortable for my back.
There is a double webbings in the front of the bag which allows you to attach a tripod safely wedged on the lower pocket. If like me you don’t use a tripod on every of your shoot, you can easily attached some other things like a skateboard or a bike lock for example. Smart!
A very important point for me was to be able to put the 2 camera bodies with lenses mounted on it because I don’t switch them that much on a shoot. Being able to do so makes me more efficient.
The good news is that everything fit the secured back access compartment. Pretty rad! I still have enough room for extras on the easy top access space! (see image below)
What I really like about this compartment is how thick the dividers are. I’m very confident my gears are safe from any shocks or unexpected hits. I saw a lot of trendy photographer backpack that looked very nice on the outside but when it came to the quality of the inside it was below the standard I would expect for a professional camera bag.
The top access is big enough to fit a DSLR with a lense mounted on it. I didn’t try with a big zoom but my 5D Mark IV with 50mm f1.2 L is pretty big, and it has no problem fitting in. There is also a divider allowing to separate the camera from other things like my wallet and my headphones.
As you may have noticed I’m very enthusiastic about this bag. It meets 95% of my expectations especially when I travel. I know I can have everything I need with me, at all times, as it fits airline size restrictions for carry-on bags. To be honest I was travelling for a wedding abroad recently and I was able to get on the plane with this bag + a carry-on suitcase, with no need to check-in any of those. Versatility is definitely a big plus as you can use it both on a shoot or as a daily regular backpack when your are not on a job.
Some people prefer messenger bags, and that’s fine when you don’t have too much gears with you. But from a professional photographer perspective, a clever and well built backpack is definitely a must.
If I had to improve two things on the Manfrotto Manhattan Mover-50, it would be to make the waist strap removable when you don’t need it, and make zippers sturdier than they already are. But all in all this bag is the best I have tried in a very long time. I really love it. Well done Manfrotto!!
As I mentioned, I have been on the look for the perfect bag for quite some time. Given the price of such bags I always reached out to the brands first to see if they would agree to lend me a bag so I could try it out before committing to buy it.
Before Manfrotto, no other brand ever responded to me. That’s why I want to thank Manfrotto for their partnership and their trust. The team has been amazing and have let me full freedom on what I’m writing
If you need more technical details about this backpack, please visit Manfrotto Manhattan Mover-50 page on Manfrotto website.