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Kata 3N1-10 camera backpack review

A girl can never have too many shoes, and for us photographers, we can never have too many camera bags!

I probably have a dozen of camera bags and pouches at home. But when i go out to take photos, quite often none of my camera bags suit my needs and I just need to get one more camera bag then it’ll have everything I need. Only problem is, 3-4 one more bag later, I’m still wanting to get just one more camera bag!

I don’t really know why I always want one more bag. Maybe it’s because my gear is keep changing but another reason is most camera bags are designed for one particular use. You felt like a particular bag was perfect for you and completely suit your requirements so you went and bought that bag. But after you used it for a while, your requirements change and unfortunately the bag can’t adapt and suddenly it’s not your perfect camera bag anymore.

I got a slingbag, I really like sling bag as it allows me to access my camera and lenses easily. But after using my slingbag for a while, i found the penalty of using a sling bag is that all the load is applied to one shoulder. It’s ok if I’m going out for a short walk, but when I go out for a long walk, my shoulder becomes really quite sore. So even though i really like the bag, I only use it when I know I won’t walk too long. That really limits the chance I can use that bag. It is a shame as otherwise it is a really nice camera bag.

A while ago, I saw some people mentioned about the Kata 3N1-10 camera bag on NikonJin’s forum.  So after some quick serach on the internet, I noticed this bag has some very unique designs. And I decided to do a review on this bag and see how good this bag is.

 

I have now been using this 3N1-10 almost every day in the last 3 weeks, including a 3 day trip where the Kata was my only camera bag.  So let me share my thoughts and comments of this bag.

 

Kata is one of the most popular camera bag brand. But for some strange reason, I’ve never used a Kata bag before! This is the first time I’ve ever use a Kata camera bag. 

When I received the bag, the first thing I noticed is that the bag is really quite light. But at the same time very well made with high quality material used everywhere. I also really like the look of the bag, it looks very smart and does not look like a typical camera bag.


 

There is decent amount of paddings inside and outside the bag. The bag is quite comfortable to wear and should protect the gear inside quite well.


 

The bag has 2 main storage compartments, the top compartment and a camera compartment. But there are also lots of small pockets at various places.

 


 

What makes this bag really different from all the other bags available is it’s unique multi carrying mode design. By changing how the back straps are connected, the bag can be used either as a left sling bag, right slight bag, backpack or even a special X configuration.

Each mode has it’s own  advantages and disadvantages. Sling allows easy access to the camera gears but put all the load on one shoulder. Backpack mode shares the load on both shoulders so you won’t feel so tired easily when carrying heavy gears or walking for long distance. The disadvantage is that you can’t access your gear quickly. The X mode is basically sling mode but with another strap also connected to share the load. This way, it is as comfortable as a backpack but you can also quickly disconnect that secondary strap and turn it back into a sling bag for quick gear access.

The good thing with this multi carrying mode design is that instead of buying a sling bag and a backpack and having to choose which bag you want to carry, you can just setup the bag depends on what is most suitable for you.

Wearing the Kata 3N1 in backpack mode

Backpack mode is the most comfortable carrying mode.

 

Sling mode allows quick access to your camera gear

 

Using it in sling mode

 

One strange thing I found when I first started using this bag in sling mode is, I almost always put the strap on the wrong shoulder initially then I have to swap to the other shoulder. I don’t really know why as I never have this problem with the other sling bags I’ve used before. I gave the bag to a few different people to try and most of them did the same thing as well! But the good thing is, after you made the same mistake a few times, your brain would teach itself and you’ll be eventually start wearing it correctly.

X mode – A mix of sling and backpack mode

 

 

There are a total of 4 pull-taps for the camera compartment zip. This is to allow the bag to be used in (and switch between) any of the carrying option easily. But probably because of the shape and design of the bag, when I first got the bag, I found it was not that easy to zip and unzip it. But then after using it for a week or so, ,zipping and unzipping the bag seems a lot easier and faster. I don’t know was it because I’ve “run-in” the zip a little bit or was it just because i’m more familar with the bag.


 

The 3N1 comes with a raincover. When you don’t need to use it, you can easily put it inside one of the small pockets inside the bag, and it only takes 5-10 seconds to pull it out and covers your bag when it rains. And while I don’t think Kata said the bag itself (without the raincover) is waterproof. I have actually used the bag and walk under rain for 10 minutes without the raincover and the inside of the bag was still completely dry when I checked it after the walk.

When you don’t need to use the raincover, you can easily store it inside the bag or attach it to one of the zip.

 

One of the most important question people ask when they looking at buying a camera bag is, what sort of gear can you fit in the bag?

The 3N1-10 is the smallest bag in the 3N1 family, according to the manufacturer, the 3N1-10 is designed for carrying a DSLR w/mid-range zoom lens+ 1-2 lenses+flash. There are two bigger bags in the family. 3N1-20 and 3N1-30. The 3N1-30 is the biggest of the three. There are also three 3N1 bags that also allows you to carry a laptop. The model numbers are 3N1-11, 3N1-22 and 3N1-33.

This is the main camera compartment:


It comes with a little pouch for storing your memory cards.

For me, in the last few weeks, I’ve tried using the Kata 3N1-10 to carry different combination of gears, but most of the time, I was using it to carry the following gear inside the camera compartment:

 

Nikon D800 or D700 DSLR

+

3 of the following lenses:

Nikon AF135mm f/2D DC
Nikon AFS 16-35mm f/4G VR
Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G
Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.4G
Nikon AFS 28-300mm VR

I can fit the D800 + three lenses from the list above into the main camera compartment easily. If I swap my gear with a slightly smaller setup, for example a Nikon D5100 with lenses like the 18-55mm VR, 55-300VR…etc then there should be more than enough space for me to fit another lens or a speedlight into the camera compartment.
Unfortunately once a battery grip is attached to the D800, the camera becomes too tall and can no longer fit inside the bag in normal configuration.

 
I’ve tried to see how much gear I can squeeze into the camera compartment, and this is probably the maximum amount of gear I can fit in without breaking anything.

a Nikon D800 with 16-35mm f/4 VR attached + a 85mm f/1.4D + a 50mm f/1.4G + a  28-300mm VR.

This is pretty amazing for a fairly small bag. And to be honest, I can probably still upsize one or two of the lenses, but it’s already quite a tight fit with the gears listed above. I normally wouldn’t carry that much gear in this bag.

And then there is a top compartment, that can be used to store your personal stuff or another lens or even camera if you want.

 


I can fit quite a number of small items in there easily. And it is actually big enough to fit another DSLR with a small lens attached. My D800 + 50mm f/1.4 sits comfortably inside the top compartment.
 
There is one very cool thing that I only notice a few days ago! There is actually a zip between the top and camera compartment, and you can open it up and you’ll now have one huge compartment instead! With the two compartments combined, you can now fit big lenses that you were not able to fit before.

For example, previously there is no way i can fit my Nikon AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 VR into the bag:

Now, I join between the top and camera compartments, and the bag can fit the 70-200 f/2.8 VR easily!

 

 

There are still room for a few more lenses!

Conclusions

Kata 3N1-10 bag is a very unique bag. Kata has spent a lot of time and effort when they are designing this bag. I really like the multi carrying modes as it makes the bag a lot more versatile. I wouldn’t have used this bag for my recent 3 day trip if it’s just a normal sling bag. While it’s not a large bag, you can still fit a decent amount of gears inside the bag. And the option for joining the two compartment together gives you even more flexibility, I can probably fit a 400mm f/4 in this bag!!
And then all the little things like the provided raincover, memory card pouch, multi zip pull-taps really made me like this camera bag even more!
I did find a few minor issues when using this bag, for example I always put the strap on the wrong shoulder, and unzipping the camera compartment takes a bit of effort. But I believe they are mostly because of the bag’s unusual and unique design and once I get used to the bag a bit more these issues all seems to have disappeared.

So if you are looking for a small-medium size backpack or sling bag, I highly recommend you to check out the Kata 3N1-10 or one of bag in this series.

 

Model: Rachel Ryan

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Photo-by-Richard/113755425305636

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