Manfrotto Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack review

Manfrotto Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack review
Review

Snap Verdict

There’s a rising trend for executive style camera bags, multi-use with slick looks that wouldn’t look out of place in the city.

manfrotto.com / £149 / $169 at time of review

Intro

I recently looked at the Vanguard VEO Select 49 and was impressed by the design and concept. It was the first time I’d come across a true executive-level camera bag, and I liked it.

Now Manfrotto has got in on the act with a very different looking offering, but one that has very similar function. It’s a camera bag but with a choice of ways, it can be used.

It’s more multi-tool than hybrid transforming from backpack to messenger to handle bag and back. But I’ll admit that although I was taken with the style I’m worried about the jack of all trades approach.

 

Features

Usually, a backpack is pretty straight forward, the main section to hold the cameras and lenses, then there’s an accessory or personal area and a few pockets dotted around the interior and exterior.

Looking at the Hybrid and that all checks out, but for a bag that looks small, there’s a heck of a lot to it.

First up Manfrotto label it as a 3-in-1 camera, that’s a backpack, shoulder bag and handle bag. Handle bag may be an executive label but to me, it’s like a cross between a canvas briefcase and a holdall.

The main cavity is spacious with room for DSLR with lens and a further two lens or the CSC equivalent. The internal dimensions are 27 x 15 x 42 cm with the camera insert measuring 25.5 x 14 x 19 cm

The inside of the bag is divided into two sections, with the small top section for personal effects and the larger main cavity also divided in two with one side being designed as a removable section.

On the outside, the front panel enables you to slot a tripod leg through and there’s a small strap at the base that can be pulled out to secure the tripod in place.

On the back there’s a padded slot for a 14-inch laptop, in reality, a 15-inch MacBook Pro fits snuggly.

On the other side is an expandable pocket for a water bottle, an essential these days as long as it’s not one-use plastic. Then there’s a zipped pocket behind the front panel.

The bag also comes with a separate rain cover and a decent messenger/shoulder bag style strap.

Size-wise the external dimensions are 28 x 19 x 43cm, so nice and compact, about the same size as most medium shoulder bags and it all weighs in at 1.2kg.

Build and Handling

When the backpack arrives it comes packed with no shoulder straps visible. A quick search and you find them hidden neatly in the top zipped section.

Once extracted they clip neatly into hoops at the base of the bag. The straps themselves are moderately padded but this lack of padding is partially made up for by their width.

I used the bag at a show recently and found the bag well weighted with a Sony Alpha 7 MK3 and MacBook Pro loaded. Not sure I’d want to carry much more but for the day on the show floor it was fine.

What did become apparent during the day was the use of the 3-in-1 design was exquisitely worked out. On the way to the show, the backpack approach worked. It’s easy to carry and hassle free as backpacks should be.

Then when I arrived at the show, I tucked away the shoulder straps and popped on the strap. The bag was now for all intense and purpose a shoulder bag. Again the strap width was just enough to take the weight of the bag, and I had access to my laptop and camera when needed.

Then there’s the grab handles. These can be used for when you want the bag to be a handle bag / holdall, and again incredibly useful. Unclip the shoulder strap and pack it away in the top section and it’s ready to go.

The handles are lightweight and once unclipped from one another drop to the side of the bag and don’t get in the way of the flap, an issue that I have had in the past.

The bag is just exceptionally well designed.

Access to my camera is good and I’m able to pack in a good amount of kit along with my laptop. The amount of space in the top section is a little tight and I found it was a good place to stick the shoulder strap.

A lightweight pack-a-mac would fit into the top section alongside the strap but some vigorous and forceful packing is required.

Performance

Out in the field, the bag works well for carrying a light amount of kit, the width of the straps is just enough to take the weight of an A73 with three lenses.

Used as a backpack it’s definitely a light use bag although exceptionally well made. The design of the shoulder straps and lack of or a waist or chest strap mean that the full weight of the kit does fall on your shoulders.

But, then so what, this isn’t a bag to take trekking the Yorkshire dales, this is a backpack that’s more likely to be used around the tech-savvy streets of Manchester or Liverpool.

In that urban setting, this bag excels, adapting to the environment quickly. It gets you to your destination comfortably and then converts into a usable shoulder bag for fast access to kit and lenses.

Later as you sip on a latte in a packed cafe, the backpack now converted to handle bag slips neatly under your seat, staps and all neatly tucked away to avoid tripping fellow customers.

Verdict

When I first saw the Advanced2 Hybrid I was sceptical, a 3-in-1 camera backpack sounds like a great idea but would it really work?

After the test, it was apparent that the design has been exceptionally well thought through.

This is a bag aimed at the city photographer, the style is minimalistic. It’s not aimed to be a shout out design like an urban bag, this is just a solid camera bag that adapts to its environment.

City life maybe it’s home environment, but as a pack to grab as you go for a country walk, it’s not bad either. Although the lack of padding in the shoulder straps and with no waist or chest strap it’s best for short walks rather than epic hikes.

Taking it back to the city and used as a backpack it worked exceptionally well. I found that I made full use of the conversion between backpack and shoulder bag.

Once swapped to a shoulder bag the side flap gave quick access to camera and lenses, working as well as any dedicated shoulder bag.

When it came to the third conversion, the handles are always there, so it’s not so much a third state, it just always is. The handles are always on the side of the bag and I it’s only when the shoulder straps are packed away that they really come into use.

Although handy these two staps did get in the way, and the need to clip them together, while simple enough to do, was a hassle.

However, when used they were extremely useful, so I wouldn’t simply give them the chop. It would have been good if as with the other straps these two handles could be neatly packed away, but they can’t.

Aside from that slight, and it is slight, niggle about the handles the rest of the bag is exceptional. My early doubts about the 3-in-1 design quickly evaporated and at the end of the test, I have to say this is one of the best bags I’ve used for a long time.