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Tenba Shootout Bag Review
by Ben Stafford -  12/19/2006

Last fall, at the Photoplus Expo in New York, I came across the Tenba Shootout line of camera bags.  Since I go pretty much everywhere with a computer and camera (often several cameras), the Shootout caught my eye.  It had some impressive specs, including weatherproof features, and according to the specs, had room to fit a laptop with a 12-13 inch screen (my Dell XPS m1210 has a 12 inch screen).  After I got home, I got in touch with a representative of the company and they sent me a loaner to review.

tenba shootout
(view large image)

I asked for, and received, a Small Shootout, which has room for one digital SLR, four lenses (up to 200mm), a flash, and will handle most 12” laptops.  The small size Shootout has external dimensions of 16” L x 12.5” W x 11” D.  The interior dimensions are 14.5” L x 11” W x 5” D.  They have three other sizes to choose from:

Features

The Shootout is constructed of water resistant, sturdy nylon.  It’s constructed very well and looks very rugged and I would trust the bag with plenty of expensive hardware.  There are plenty of straps to allow adjustment for wearing comfort, for accessories, and to keep your load secure.  The nicely padded shoulder straps are augmented with an equally padded waist strap and a sternum strap.  You know that when a bag comes with a manual on how to fit the bag to your body, that it’s serious about being comfortable.  To add to the comfort factor, every area on the bag which touches your body is covered with wicking, padded panels.

tenba shootout
Harness detail (view large image)

There are plenty of exterior features before you even open the bag.  The zippers are weather sealed.  There are compression straps along the side of the bag to keep your load secure, or you can swap them around to attach to another piece of rolling luggage.  Elastic straps criss-cross the back of the bag so you can stuff in soft items like a jacket.  Straps on the bottom of the bag provide an opportunity to secure a monopod, ground cover, bedroll, etc.  Two large, padded side pockets provide more storage and access to the main compartment.  A Velcro panel in the side pockets can be opened so that you can grab a quick lens or accessory from the main compartment of the bag.  There is a zip away panel that covers the backpack straps so that you can streamline the bag.  If you use it as a backpack, this zip-away cover can be tucked into a small pocket on the bottom of the bag.  In another external pocket, you’ll find a rain cover that will fit over the entire bag when you need it.  There is also a carrying handle on the side of the bag if you need to carry it like a suitcase.

tenba shootout
Rain cover in pocket (view large image)
tenba shootout
Bottom webbing straps (view large image)
tenba shootout
Access through side pocket (view large image)
tenba shootout
Straps tucked away (view large image)

To accommodate the many popular sizes of tripods, there is a “multi-stage tripod carrier” that can adjust, in stages, to fit whatever you can throw at it.  If you don’t have a tripod, it can be zipped completely closed into a slim pocket that could handle airline tickets, maps, or magazines.

tenba shootout
Tripod pocket (view large image)

Included with the bag are a memory media wallet with lanyard and a cell phone wallet with lanyard.  The lanyards can be attached inside the side pockets, so you’ll never lose your media.  The lanyards are long enough that they’re easy to access even with the bag on your back.

tenba shootout
Memory card wallet (view large image)

To access the main compartment, a zipper goes entirely up one side of the bag and down the other to provide complete access to the interior of the bag.  Inside, the feature set is still pretty long.  Most important is the camera compartment.  It is fully customizable and well padded.   Velcro attached panels let you configure the interior to exactly fit your equipment.  Additional Velcro straps exist to keep your equipment from coming out of their designated area.  This padded compartment is actually completely removable so that you can take the bag on a non-photo trip.

tenba shootout
(view large image)

Along the top of the bag, is a somewhat short zipper to access the flat compartment meant to hold your laptop.  An additional stiff polyethylene panel provides protection, in addition to the foam padding, for the contents of this compartment.

tenba shootout
(view large image)

Impressions

I was really impressed with the quality of the bag.  It provides the features pretty much necessary to create a bag that can handle the elements and still be comfortable to wear (for most people).  Weatherproof zippers, water resistant, lightweight fabric, a rain cover, and a sophisticated strap system all combine to create this impression.

As far as the interior, I was also impressed and very confident in the abilities of this bag to protect my equipment.  On a winter trip to Colorado, I managed to fit in two digital SLRs, two compact point and shoot digital cameras, and all of their chargers and accessories.  They were packed in so nicely, that I didn’t worry as the bag got tossed around the car that we traveled in.

Unfortunately, my Dell laptop (XPS m1210) did not fit as well as I would like.  I was able to get it into the pocket, with some work, but I felt that the fit was a bit too tight.  Even though my laptop is a 12” model, it’s a bit thicker than other 12” computers.  Also, I use an extended battery that protrudes from the back of the machine.  The thickness and extended battery both conspired to make the laptop fit more snug than I was comfortable with.  Luckily, this can easily be prevented if you’re able to “test drive” the bag before you buy (or find a vendor with a good return policy).

Another instance in which a test drive will be good will be testing the comfort of the bag on your back.  I’m a little larger than most folks (size 48 suit coat) and was able to get the bag adjusted to my body, but the shoulder straps were at their ends and the buckles ended up essentially in my armpits, which wouldn’t be comfortable while hiking  to your shoot location.

All of the additional features of the bag (tripod pouch, side pockets with access to interior, etc) were all very functional and impressive.  Every feature contributed to the value of the bag.

Where to Buy

The easiest way to find out where to buy the Shootout is to go to Tenba's web site (www.tenbagear.com) and click the "Where To Buy" link on the top of the page. You'll be able to find it at most camera stores.

Conclusion

The Tenba Shootout is a high quality, rugged backpack – perfectly suited for landscape or nature photographers who need a comfortable bag that can handle the elements and keep all of their equipment safe.  An “expedition quality” harness system provides the ability to fine tune the straps to keep your load comfortable if you need to hike several miles to your shoot.  The interior compartment is well padded and easily customizeable to keep your equipment secure in just the way you need it to.  Bottom line, I highly recommend this bag – just make sure you can do a test drive with your equipment to see if you can wear it comfortably.