- Review Price: £225.00
If you’re a professional or a keen and fairly affluent amateur photographer, you’ve probably got substantial amount of kit including a couple of DLSR bodies, four or five lenses including at least one big, fast telephoto, a large dedicated flashgun, a battery grip, a large tripod and enough memory cards, batteries and assorted cables to stock a medium-sized branch of Currys.
Top quality camera equipment is large, heavy and expensive; a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS USM telephoto lens, one of those big white ones used by about half the world’s wildlife and sports photographers, is 45cm long, weighs 5.36kg and costs about £6,000. Of course the trouble with owning all this stuff is that you have to take it all with you whenever you go out for a day’s shooting. I mean suppose you really needed your 600mm f/4, and you’d left it at home because it was too heavy? The ”horror”…
Unless you’re married, the only sensible solution to carrying a lot of heavy equipment is a decent rucksack, and they don’t come much better than this R-106 photographic rucksack from Kata. I’ve used and reviewed some consumer-level Kata bags before, and I’ve been pretty impressed by their clever design and excellent construction, but The R-106 is in a completely different league. This a camera rucksack for professionals, and it’s not mucking about. If you need to drag fifty grand’s worth of kit half way round the world and then half way up a mountain, this is the sort of bag you want to be carrying it in.
The R-106 is a dual-purpose bag, in as much as it has been designed with both still and video photographers in mind. Its main compartment is big enough to hold a professional video camera such as a Sony Z1, and is also big enough for a DSLR with the 600mm f/4 lens I mentioned previously. It easily has enough space for two DSLR bodies, several large lenses, flash, grip and other accessories. The internal dimensions are 34 x 20 x 52cm, but as well as this it has two very large detachable side pockets, and also five smaller pockets, two outside and three on the inside.
Like most Kata bags, the design of the R-106 is clever and practical. The main compartment is fairly straightforward; a large area with a range of detachable dividers which are attached with Velcro and can be re-arranged to suit your equipment. They include two full-length dividers that are thicker and stiffer, to make a central tunnel for those long lenses. As well as the dividers, the main compartment also contains a movable rigid hoop to provide additional crush protection. The interior is lined with a soft bright yellow fabric so that it’s easier to locate small objects deep in the corners, and it has anti-static properties, useful when using delicate electronics.
As well as the main compartment the R-106 has a large and thickly padded compartment for a laptop computer, situated between the main part of the bag and the wearer’s back. It is easily large enough to hold even a big wide-screen computer, and has moveable dividers so that smaller machines don’t slide about inside.
The main part of the bag is thickly padded throughout, and the most vulnerable areas have additional protection from a semi-rigid ribbed structure the Kata calls Thermo Shield Technology (TST). This covers most of the main flap, as well as an area on the back of the rucksack, against the wearer’s back. The main flap unzips most of the way round for full access to the interior, but also has a secondary zipped flap for quick access to the central tunnel, where the main camera and lens would usually sit. All the zips are very heavy duty, and are rather stiff when the bag is new, although I dare say they’ll become easier to use over time.
The external shell of the bag is made from high quality heavy-duty nylon, coloured dark grey and blue/green. It is shower resistant, and comes with a slip-on rain cover for extra protection against the elements. The bag comes with a few accessories, including two mesh bags with Velcro patches that can be attached anywhere in the main compartment, and a handy tripod holder, which is can be attached to either the front or sides of the bag via a system of straps and hooks. It can accommodate even quite large tripods, which can be secured to the bags many loops with straps that are also provided.
The R-106 is designed to carry heavy loads, and to that end it has a very well designed and extremely comfortable adjustable harness system. It has a wide, stiff and well-padded hip belt to take most of the weight, and fully height-adjustable shoulder straps. It also has a chest strap to help keep the weight well balanced. This too can be adjusted for height, but I would have preferred it to also be elasticated like the straps on the better hiking packs, since this makes it easier to breathe freely. Also located on the shoulder straps are two loops for attaching a camera. The R-106 comes with two straps that attach to your camera and clip into these rings, useful if you’re carrying a large and very heavy pro DSLR. The straps are compatible with Kata’s a excellent reflex E camera strap.
One additional feature of the bag’s design is the facility to insert a specially designed optional trolley with an extendable handle into a sleeve behind the harness, turning it from a rucksack into airport luggage.
I’ve taken the R-106 out on several long walks across Dartmoor, loaded with two DSLRs with lenses that I’m testing at the moment, plus my own DSLR and lenses, and a large professional tripod, for a total weight of about 25kg. I found it to be extremely comfortable to carry even when fully loaded and walking over rough ground. Most of the weight is supported by the hip belt, reducing fatigue and promoting a good natural walking posture. The only real problem was the position of the tripod, which had to be removed from its straps whenever I wanted to get something out, although to be fair this is nearly always a problem with camera rucksacks.
The Kata R-106 is a well-designed and well-made rucksack for larger professional camera systems. It offers a very high level of protection against shocks and adverse weather, and even a certain amount of crush protection. Its excellent harness system makes light work of heavy loads, and the provided accessories add a further level of versatility that will suit any need.
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