My perfect camera bag doesn’t exist, it probably never will, however, with each new backpack that arrives on my desk, we get one step closer.
Manfrotto’s latest RedBee 310 is a 22l backpack and looks wise it’s certainly got the look.
I love the detailing. Manfrotto has managed to balance simplicity with striking design, and although it’s blatantly a camera bag, it modern and stylish.
Inside is a large cavity that can be divided in any way you like using the internal divides. The flexible dividers enable plenty of choice over the layout.
During the test, I switched the divides between a style for day pack use and another for a weeks road trip through Portugal.
In day pack configuration I used the quick access side pocket, of which there’s one each side to get access to the Sony A73 with 70-200 f/4.
Then as I was travelling around I created a top section for personal effects, and left the rest of the bag for camera, filters and two lenses, with a BeFree GT on the side for good measure.
In use the bag performed well, holding the kit that I wanted and enabling easy access. When the back is flipped fully open, the zipped mesh divider helps ensure that kit stays in the bag as you reach in to extract your laptop.
I did find the lack of small exterior pockets annoying, just one would have been good, and although the bag was comfortable, there was just something about the back design that wasn’t quite right.
However, the negatives are just picky, and for the size, the RedBee 310 is one step closer to backpack perfection.
The RedBee 310 is aimed at enthusiast and pro photographers with a simple, stylish design that is ultimately functional.
Accessibility is key to the design, and the flexible inner divides enable you to customise the way your kit is laid out inside. The clever bit is that Manfrotto has designed the bag with multiple access points so that you can divide the inside of the bag around your style of photography.
At the top, sides and back of the bag zipped panels enable fast access, a feature that other bags rarely do 100% right, but here it’s all well balanced.
There are plenty of other photography backpacks out there with similar features, but here the RedBee 310 is just more refined. The zips are of excellent quality, and the bag is reinforced in places that always ensure there is no rucking of the bag as you try to unzip a section when out in the field.
Initial impression are good, a great sized bag with plenty of features and the ability to truly customise the inside to my style of photography. Materials are good quality, and the bag offers plenty of padding and thus protection for the kit.
Keeping things simple is always good, but the lack of small external pockets is a worry, and although two side access panels are good, I always like to have a pocket or at least strap to secure a bottle somewhere on the exterior.
I’m also a little worried by the simple back design which is well padded but doesn’t feature the usual moulder structure. However, only a full test and a week in Portugal will indeed show how the bag performs.
The RedBee 310 looks great, it simple black material with flecks of a red set of the 22l capacity. The quality of materials is reflected in the weight at 1850g, not too heavy, showing that this bag is designed for enthusiasts and pros rather than weekend photographers.
Inside the cavity is open with flexible inner velcro divides that can be configured as you see fit. In the bag when it arrives is the usual Manfrotto idea sheet which highlights how those dividers can be arranged for different uses and kit.
From drones to DLSR, Mirrorless and video cameras, there’s a configuration that will suit, and on the side, there are tripod loops.
On the front of the bag is a larger divided pocket which is ideal for paperwork, passports and kindle.
Flip the bag over, and the entire back unzips. When the back is open and laid it does so without pushing the base into the bag, something that can often be an issue with other backpacks.
On the back of the flap are two slots, one for a 15-inch laptop and the other for a tablet. There’s also a clear zipped section for memory cards or anything else slim that you want to store.
When accessing through the back, the section is protected by a mesh with a further zip in place to protect the kit.
Throughout the make-up of the bag, a mix of materials is used including nylon, RipStop and Synthetic Fabric which are all mixed to great effect.
Externally the dimensions are 33 x 27 x 50cm which is ideal as a carry on luggage. Internally the dimensions are 31 x 17.5 x 44cm with the large laptop section measuring 29.5 x 4 x 44cm so large enough for a MacBook Pro 15-inch.
Pricing for the bag is set at £159.95 which puts the bag at the top end of photo backpacks of this size. For this money however you get a pack that compares well against the quality and features of the likes of the Vanguard Alta Sky 45D and the Tenba Shootout.
The only features the bag seems to be lacking are an external pocket, some airflow on the rear to keep your back sweat free and a decent waist strap.
Build & Handling
As ever the quality of the Manfrotto product shines through. The materials feel high quality, and all seams, stitches and zips are solid.
Opening and closing the bag the zips are all well supported so in use there’s no rucking of the material as you open up one of the access panels.
Another sign of the quality and thought of design is that all panels open without pushing back or distorting other parts of the bag. When you open a panel you get full access rather than a slot or pull through which means that it can always be easily accessed.
The two shoulder straps are well padded, but the chest and waist strap are a seeming afterthought designed to be used only when absolutely essential rather than to help spread the weight for extensive treks.
Those straps offer some adjustability at the base to raise or lower the bag on your back, but there’s no top adjustment. This is the bag for single day use rather than multiday.
The back is smooth and straightforward with two pads either side and a slight recess for your spine. The design although simple works and is surprisingly comfortable although the lack of lower back moulding means that the bag can start to feel heavy if the bag is fully loaded.
As I found there’s a balance in the load that can comfortably be put in the bag. Just right and the bags comfortable to carry call day, just tip the balance of weight and you’ll know about it.
It wouldn’t be my first choice for a long trek, however, with one A73, a couple of lenses, filter set and tripod attached, the bag is quite comfortable to carry for a full day. Add a laptop, and you’ll start to have second thoughts.
The bag is aimed at Pro users, and the inner divides and the ability to access the kit through multiple points does make this a winner.
I configured the bag so that I had a large upper section, which contained sunglasses, rain jacket and multiple other bits and pieces, while below I stashed the camera and two lenses.
Access to the camera and lenses through the side panel was quick and easy and at no point other than when first loading the bag was there the need to open the back panel fully.
Once treking was out of the way, and a few meetings sorted I switched the inside of the bag; still with the side access, but now with a laptop, card readers, the 100 adapters you need for a MacBook Pro and paperwork.
Again the bag adapted and proved versatile.
When it came to handling there was a lot to like. The fully opening back enabled the easy loading of the bag in the configuration that you want. The zipped pocket on the inside of the big flap was a great addition, and the mesh over the kit made sense.
That mesh helps to keep things in order when accessing the laptop and tablet slots on the back of the back. It might seem like a bit of a faff for a bag this size, but it’s better than it not being there.
Chest and waist straps were a little light, especially when the rest of the bag feels like it should be designed for some heavyweight kit transport. The shoulder straps are well padded but after a day lugging your kit around you do wish for a slightly better design for the back, and support straps.
As soon as you start using the bag you’re hit by the positives. The inner dividers are easy to assemble, and it’s clear where they can and cannot go.
The fact that the back of the bag opens completely really does enable you to get a good idea for the layout and fine-tune the configuration to your needs.
Setting the bag up to your style of photography doesn’t take long, and the handy visual guide that Manfrotto provide helps with the positioning of the dividers.
The position of the access panels also guides you to some extent, and after a couple of weeks with the bag, I found two different configurations that I liked and were easy to swap between due to the flexible divides.
Because the inside has so much flexibility the bag, one configured will suit your way of working, so if you like top access for your camera, you have it. Likewise, if you want side access, then that’s possible as well, whether your a lefty or a righty.
Of course, other bags have this level of flexibility, but here with their RedBee 310, it’s all very refined.
It’s that refinement that other manufacturers should take note of. Make sure access panels open fully and don’t distort the fabric, make sure zips are well supported, so the material doesn’t ruck up and don’t skimp on the cost of zips, you need ones that work smoothly so you can get to your kit.
The one failing of many Manfrotto backpacks is the quality of design for the back. If like many photographers you suffer from back or neck pain then a lack of decent chest or waist straps is a real issue.
Also while the back design is comfortable for short half day treks with a medium load, once the pack is full that comfort reduces considerably.
The RedBee 310 is a fantastic backpack for everyday use. It packs in the kit and with the flexible inner divides, and multi-point access is configurable to suit your needs.
But, there’s plenty of competition out there for this size of the bag, and they all have their merits. The RedBee is one of the best-looking bags out there with storage and the usability making it shine out against the competition.
However, I do have reservations. While there’s no doubting the quality and the design of the actual bag, that depth of design and thought doesn’t seem to have fully crossed over to the comfort of the back.
The straps are well padded, and as a day to day backpack it takes the weight well, and those shoulder straps perform amicably.
Weigh the bag down with all the kit you need for a shoot, and you’ll start to suffer after an hour or two, but then is that pushing the use of this bag.
Looking at its use realistically, packed for shooting landscapes with one Sony A7 camera body, filters, a couple of lenses and a tripod and I could carry the bag all day.
Likewise trekking through the forest and photographing wildlife with a Canon 5D, 100-400mm, 100mm Macro and monopod not a problem.
But, load it with camera, tripod, personal effects and laptop, and I’m pushing the comfortable load.
How does that compare with the alternatives? Only the Vanguard Alta Sky 45D lives up to all those requirements, but then that’s a multiday bag.
Then you look at the price, and for £159.95 you realise that it’s a bargain, really no other bag in this price range offers quite so much.
For any keen enthusiast or Pro, the RedBee 310 is an ideal choice. Plenty of storage and the custom configuration and access is second to none.
The only downside is don’t overfill it. You feel obliged to as there is so much space, and the quality of the bag will take it, but you might not come off so well.
For anyone needing a good solid backpack for landscape, wildlife or just carrying around a moderate amount of kit then the RedBee 310 is ideal.