Quick Review: Manfrotto Bella V Bag

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Wes7, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. Wes7

    Wes7 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 22, 2011
    My new E-P2 came in, and with it, a Manfrotto Bella V camera bag. I thought I would throw up a quick review with my initial impressions from using it for the past couple of days.

    I bought the bag as a replacement to a cheapy Targus bag that was party to the destruction of my old E-P1. I wanted something that was relatively small and offered good padding. The less it looked like a camera bag, the better, though this was not critical in my decision. I wanted to be able to carry the camera, a few accessories like batteries and SD cards, and my most used lenses. I have a bigger bag (a Chrome Mini-Metro with a BBP camera insert) for when I need to carry more.

    I chose the Manfrotto Bella V because it was about the right size, was pretty inexpensive, and had a simple closure system that would allow easy access to the camera and lenses. I swap lenses A LOT when shooting, so this was critical. One of the things I really liked about the Manfrotto was that it was shorter than most bags which are made for a DSLR. I got the bag in the Cord (or dirt) color, as no black or white bag would stay that way for long here.

    The construction of the bag seems to be pretty good. Time will tell if seams and fabric are made to last, but they seem tough enough. Both the strap and carry handle are sewn through to the bottom of the bag, which was a nice surprise. I definitely am not worried about them blowing out and dumping the bag. There are plastic stiffeners on the sides and bottom, which provide a lot of structure and keep the bag from collapsing. The padding is thick and firm, but not overly so to the point of being needlessly bulky. The bag is padded on all sides. There is a zipper around the lid, so you can zip the main compartment up when it is not in use to provide more protection for the contents. This is a little superfluous, as the lid seals pretty well. I can't see anything falling out of the bag, even without the zipper.

    One nice touch on the Manfrotto bags is the metal female side of the side-release buckle. It definitely adds a touch of class. In person, the cord color is a very greyish tan. It is a very attractive color. The bag itself is nice and stylish, particularly with the red accents. It looks like a camera bag, if you are really worried about that.

    The bag comes with two dividers, one full-length and one that folds down. Only two thirds of main compartment are covered in the material that receives the velcro, limiting how far over you can place the dividers on one side. This seems like an odd choice, though it does not affect my set up whatsoever.

    I have the bag set up to take my E-P2 with EVF-2 and a lens attached, along with my Konica 135 3.2 and Nikon E-series 50 1.8, both with adapters attached. I usually have the Panasonic 20mm attached to the camera, but any of the lenses can be attached and the camera will still fit, lens down, screen up. It is tight with the Konica attached, but it just fits. I have added a small half divider from my old bag to better create the shelf the camera body sits on, but it isn't really necessary. I also carry an extra battery, cleaning cloth, body cap and spare lens cap, and an SD card in the front pocket. I can fit all of this kit in without trouble. It is possible I could have downsized to the Bella IV, but it would be very tight. The Bella V is a great size for this kind of setup, with just enough room left that everything doesn't feel cramped.

    In use, the bag is comfortable and easy to access. The strap is unpadded, but the bag is light enough (even loaded) that it has not bothered me. The carry handle is well designed. It stays out of the way when you don't need it. It is very easy to get in to the bag to get the camera or swap lenses, thanks to the single-buckle closure and the shortness of the bag. The bag is lined in a light grey fabric that, combined with the short depth, makes it really easy to see what is in the bag. Note that the bag will not, in any way, conform to your body, so if having a box strapped to you is going to bother you, this is the wrong bag for you. On a bag this small, it hasn't bothered me. It probably would on a larger size.

    I only have a few complaints thus far. The front pocket could use a little more organization. As it is, it only has a small pocket inside made for a Manfrotto Pocket-series tripod. This seems like an odd choice since those tripods are made to stay on the camera. The pocket is useful for SD cards or even a battery or cloth, but I could use one or two more small pockets. As it is, all those things just go in to the front pocket loose. The main buckle, while easy to release, is a bit difficult to close with one hand. This is in part because the male end is not on an adjustable length of nylon, and is instead fixed in position. If you have a lot in the front pocket, it wants to stick straight out instead of up. The other part of the problem is that the metal female end of the buckle has no flex. Right now, the closure is a bit stiff. I think as the male buckle wears in, this part of the problem will improve.

    Overall, the Bella V is a well thought-out, inexpensive bag that is, critically, designed with CSCs in mind. What complaints I have are minor. Thus far, I would recommend it to anyone looking for a cheap bag for a small M43 kit.

    I will keep this updated as I use the bag more. If people are interested, I can also add pictures of my setup.
    • Like Like x 3
  2. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Real Name:
    Thank you for a very good review! But it could be even better if you added pictures :)
  3. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    Thank you for taking the time to write this review. Very informative.

    Satisfy my curiosity. Of the hundreds of camera bag products available, what specifically led you to this particular brand? I remain perpetually interested in how people make the decisions about what they are passionate about.

    As an example, I chose the Panasonic :43: system because of the light weight of the equipment, the interchangeability of the lenses, and near-DSLR image quality.

    My segue from DSLRs was facilitated by prior ownership of a Panasonic "point and shoot" model.

    I ask this because I spent several months researching and trying almost a dozen bags before finally settling to those listed in my signature line.

    I still remain interested in others; balancing my current needs, budget, and desired aesthetics.
  4. WJW59

    WJW59 Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 20, 2011
    Any chance you could do a review &pics of the Pacsafe? What do you normally carry?

  5. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    I'll do one next weekend. Just completed processing a bunch of photos of a wedding that I did almost a month ago. Gonna turn in shortly. My eyes are toast.

    I carry the following in the Camsafe 100:
    • Panasonic GH2
    • Panasonic GF1
    • Voigtlander 25mm attached to the GH2
    • Panasonic 20mm attached to the GF1
    • Olympus 12mm in a padded pouch
    • Olympus 45m in a padded pouch
    • Spare battery for the GF1
    • Lens caps for all of the lenses
    • Lenspen
    • Polarizing fillter, ND2, ND4, ND8, and UV all in 72mm
    • Step up/down rings
    • spare SD card
    • Olympus FL-14
    • 2 AAA batteries
  6. Wes7

    Wes7 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 22, 2011
    I will try to get pictures up today. It was too dark in the house yesterday!

    I mentioned it in the review, but I will flesh it out more. I wanted a small bag, with depth fitting a M43 system, easy access, and good looks. I also needed it to be cheap. I would love a Wotancraft or a Billingham bag, but they cost more than I make in a month right now.

    I searched through all the shoulder bags on B&H and Adorama, and this bag had the best combination of style, size, and usability. I also looked at the Domke F6 (too expensive, not enough padding), a couple Lowepro bags (not quite the right size/shape, didn't like the looks as much), and a Safrotto Billingham look-alike (didn't like it as well, and it cost a little more). The Manfrotto had the right features at the right size for my current stage in life.
  7. Wes7

    Wes7 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 22, 2011
    As promised:

    PB280353 by Brandi and Wes, on Flickr

    Note that the bag is smaller than it appears in this picture.

    PB280356 by Brandi and Wes, on Flickr

    This show my setup. The black divider sandwiched up against the tall grey divider did not come with the bag. It is the same height as the grey and red divider is when it is folded. I put it there to help hold the camera in position, but it isn't really necessary.

    Note that the grey, tall divider is as far to the right as it can go and still have full velcro engagement.

    PB280354 by Brandi and Wes, on Flickr

    Notice that there is enough room for an E-P2 or E-P3 with VF-2 attached. I am using my old E-P1 as a stand in here. The Nikon E-series 50mm is on the left, under the grip, along with the VF-2 pouch. The Konica 135mm is on the right.
  8. Wes7

    Wes7 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 22, 2011
    I wanted to update this review now that I have been using the bag for a couple months.

    The setup I showed above has worked really well. It is very fast to get to the camera and lenses. As I hoped, the main buckle has become more flexible over time, making it easier to use one-handed. Thus far, the materials are holding up well.

    I used the bag most recently for a week-long trip to Cape Town which involved travel on a variety of planes, trains, and mini-buses. The bag worked very well in this environment. I was able to comfortably carry the following in the bag with easy access to everything:

    - E-P2 with VF2 and a lens attached
    -Panasonic 20mm, Nikon 50mm F1.8, and Konica 135mm F3.2
    -Body cap and extra lens cap
    -Small Moleskin notebook
    -Two extra batteries (front pocket)
    -One extra SD card (front pocket)
    -A pen and pencil (front pocket)

    The bag was comfortable and lightweight with this load, and I carried it literally everywhere as our room for the week was not secure.

    A few observations:
    -It would be nice if the strap had swivels, but it isn't much of a problem as-is.
    -The grab handle is well implemented and a very nice feature when getting in and out of transport.
    -The bag is waterproof enough for regular use. I don't think I would trust it in a long downpour or a deluge, but it will easily protect your gear running through the normal rain showers most of us see.
    -The bag is definitely identifiable as a camera bag.
    -Using a large sling strap with the bag is a little unwieldy, as there isn't a lot of extra room for stuffing the strap. That said, it was a very minor annoyance, and using a thinner neck or sling strap would largely eliminate the issue. I would like to find a strap that lacks metal hardware so I don't have to worry about keeping the strap off the LCD screen when it is in the bag. This would entirely eliminate the problem.

    Overall, I am very pleased with the bag thus far. I would definitely recommend it for anyone using a similar three-lens setup, and I will consider Manfrotto's other products when I am in the market for a larger bag that will carry my camera kit and a laptop.
  9. capodave

    capodave Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 4, 2010
    Southern Cal
    Real Name:
    Thanks for the update!
    Looks like a great bag.