Tenba Messenger Camera Bag SMALL Review - tons of photos


Mu-43 Regular
Jun 16, 2012
DISCLAIMER: There is a little bit of confusion regarding the Tenba Messenger Camera Bag SMALL vs. Tenba Messenger Bag Small. They're two different products which you can see by clicking the links - a rather uninspired choice of names, if you ask me. Further in this thread, I am going to review the Tenba Messenger Camera Bag SMALL.

The Camera Bag Small was one of those purchases that took a good six months to finalize. I kept seeing the bag in the shelves of my local camera retailer, but for some odd reason I couldn't get myself to buy it. While I liked the chunky little cube with the look of a military satchel, I was constantly put off by the lack of room for a laptop. What helped me decide making the purchase was the acquisition of an iPad SD reader - with this, I could do basic mobile editing while retaining a small form factor. However, it is a "dedicated" photo bag - it will fit your gear, but nothing else. Forget an afternoon at the mall, you won't be able to carry a jacket or a water bottle.

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The goal was to fit everything you see in the photo above in a small-ish bag, easy to stow away in a vehicle and comfortable to carry. Save the obvious in the image (camera, lenses, batteries, flash) the two black pouches on the right side are the emergency power kit (top) that also holds the air blower and some cables (iPad, iPhone) and the First Aid Kit (bottom). Missing is the Ultrapod which you will see in another image below.

Tenba's website shows the bag in black. I couldn't find it in Canada, and since the olive drab was readily available in store I decided I won't wait and order it online. Like all Tenba products, the quality is bar none - I couldn't find a single flaw. It also feels very sturdy and well put together, and the padding is solid without being bulky. The strap is interesting, with an anti-slip material that resembles the coating on a skateboard. However I'm a little put off by it, because a) it's too short to be worn cross-body over a winter jacket - no really, it's short! - and b) the padding is sewn instead of gliding free along the strap.

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Back to the padding... This is actually an ICU the size of the bag, that can be removed and used for other carry solutions that you may have available. It also gives the bag its shape. When removed, the bag remains just a soft cloth thing - I guess it makes it easy to wash. Like. :thumbup: It came with some interesting dividers which I initially hated, but one of them has an U-shaped cut for a lens (more on this below). There are no small dividers however, I had to find some old ones to keep the lenses separated.

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And so it was time to fit the gear inside. I took a 3-image sequence showing how I separated the 75 and 45mm, and how the OM-D sits on top of them by means of another horizontal divider. The camera is fitted with the P14mm which rides in the U-shaped cut of the divider I was mentioning earlier. The good part about this divider is that it allows me to carry any lens on the camera without changing its place in the bag. Like. :thumbup:

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The top flap of the camera has a dual safety feature, in that it can be closed with the snap buckles and a large velcro strip. This one can be in turn silenced, and the silencer usually lives hidden in another pocket inside the bag. The iPad could fit in this pocket, however I chose to store it between the ICU and the back wall of the bag. YMMV.

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Once the camera and lenses in place, it was time to fit every other doodad and knickknack in the remaining (outside) pockets. Speaking of which, this bag is a pocket galore. 4 pockets under the flap, one built into the flap (which I forgot to photograph and demonstrate :dash2: ) and two large side pockets which in turn contain one, respectively two other zippered hidden pockets. The flap pocket has two dedicated SD card holders, but I found out they're quite useless, as the cards fitted within won't stay put if the flap is lifted.

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The Ultrapod can be seen in the photo above. It's a very convenient little folding "table" tripod, that can be attached to bars, branches, sticks or other stands, or simply set up on the ground. Below, more details of the side and "hidden" zippered pockets.

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Last but not least, I like the small details added into this bag. For instance, the top access zipper enabling access to the gear without having to open the complicated flap. I have a love-hate relationship with this opening, because it's rather awkward to quickly draw and put back the OM-D with the grip attached. Yet it would work perfectly for a non-gripped camera, and/or fitted with a pancake lens. It's usable, just not as fast as I'd like it to be. For convenience, a carrying strap was also added - a feature I first saw in ThinkTank bags. Apparently everyone followed suit. Nevertheless, it's still an useful feature.

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To sum up... I like the convenience and sturdiness of this little bag. It doesn't stand out much despite being a dedicated camera bag, and it's roomier than it looks. What I don't like is the too short strap. Also, I didn't test it in any rainy weather, despite Tenba claiming it's "water-repellent nylon." (No, there's no weather cover either.)

And to close, here's some eye candy for you guys, the setup used for this review. I know you like behind the scenes shots, so here's mine for inspiration :)

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Mu-43 All-Pro
Feb 26, 2014
The wife and I have the Messenger Large bags. We needed the extra room to carry several lenses, two bodies, a 15" Macbook, and an iPad. Tenba Messengers are a great family of bags!

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