Manufacturer: KATA Ltd.
Requires: Camera gear and a desire to walk around with some of it
MSRP: US $95 - UK £94.95
As a long time camera user, one of my biggest problems has been in finding some way to efficiently carry my kit around with me, without having to carry a large camera bag. I had a Lowepro Magnum which worked well for me on fixed and location shoots. However on days when I'm doing a walkabout and want to carry my kit around with me, the Magnum proved irksome. I really needed a backback or sling style bag with enough storage to meet my needs.
Lo and behold, I came across a release for the T-214 from KATA. I knew I had to try one out.
KATA is a company which began by creating body armor and gear for the Special Forces Group of the Israeli Defence Force. Kata then branched out into making more products for the military security, video/photo and high tech markets such as: personal body armor, combat & security, functional vests, backpacks, lightweight protective carrying systems for sensitive equipment, bags and cases for photo and video cameras and accessories.
The T-214 and much of KATA's other gear reflects this history. It looks the part, like it would be protective, strong and very usable — a real piece of heavy duty photography gear. From the protective armor-like padding on the front to the concealed pockets and secure fastenings and straps, the T-214 is built for a rough and tumble existence.
On opening the package when it arrived, I was impressed by how well produced and useful the T-214 looked. I was also a little confused by one of the straps until I realised it was there to secure the T-214 when it was slung around my back. The main compartment is also very secure because of the use of a double zipper system and a velcro flap and the strong click-lock fastener used to secure them. The main storage compartment can house a long lens, camera body with medium zoom lens and either another lens or some other accessories.
In my case, I store a 70-210 F4 lens, a 50mm F1.8, Canon Eos 5D with 28-105mm F3.5-4.5, Canon EX550 Flash and a Sekonic 508 lightmeter, all of which fit with ease. In addition to this I store my extra memory cards in the side pocket and a couple of manuals in the back pocket. The front expandable pocket, which I’ve yet to use much as I’m looking for a decent portable storage unit, easily fits my O2 XDA Exec PDA.
Having used sling bags for years I was quite comfortable with the Kata T-214 configuration and straps, and over several days I was very happy with the performance of this bag. The mesh on the back of the bag also helped keep me cool in the hot undergound system here in London.
I also rigged up a spare third-party velcro dividers to vertically stack my 50mm and 28-105mm lenses in the central bay. Kata should supply one or two additional dividers — they literally triple the number of possible internal configurations. I also tried placing a small ultralight PC into the compartment at the back of the bag and although it fit, it wasn't something I could do with comfort or peace of mind. The excess strap length was also a bit of a bother, so rather than cutting it, I coiled it securely using a clip.
The only other shortfall was an obvious solution to fastening a decent tripod. I tried rigging something for the bottom edge of the bag but couldn't come up with a solution that made me happy.
I did not try the Bag in Kata's so-called EPH mode, where it can be attached to a back pack and slung around the front, but can see how it would be immensely useful in this configuration. The T-214 is not a bag designed for sports use, as it will not support the storage of the longer lenses common in this type of photography. However for the journalist and photographer who doesn't use these long lenses it will more than fulfill your requirements.
Cons: The main sling strap is too narrow through it's lower end as it passes beyond the padded section and attaches to the bottom of the bag. The result is frequent twisting which over time will cause premature wear to the strap and the seam. The solution is quite simple — just sew or tack a small section of strap to the wider pad — but Kata should redesign the strap.
Pros: Compact, light and strong. Excellent construction. Fast and easy access to your equipment. Lots of secure and useful storage. When I first got news of this product, I knew I had to try it. The T-214 more than met my expectations and quite comfortably allowed me to roam around without getting into any discomfort. This bag is the perfect walkabout bag for day shoots in the city or for rambling or orienteering in the country. Highly recommended.