New Bag Review: Manfrotto Pro Light Bumblebee M-30

This one is geared towards photographers that follow my blog and more of a “hands on” type of review

Like many photographers, I have a bag for each major situation I will be in.  There is the waterproof backpack for going out on adventures in a canoe. My lightweight backpack has a nice tripod strap system and is wonderful for going out on long hikes where I will need both photography equipment and supplies for the hike.  The massive backpack is only used for hauling all of my gear to events or locations.  The rarely used, but very important Pelican hard case for those really extreme situations.  The most important bags for me, however, are my messenger bags and I have a few different sizes of them. These are what I use when I’m doing portrait sessions, at weddings, out for walks with my family, or doing short distance landscape photography trips. They are versatile and allow me to maneuver really well when in crowds.

The largest of my messenger bags was getting a little worn out and I wanted something that had enough volume to hold my largest telephoto lenses. In the past, I had usually went with either Lowepro or Tamrac for the majority of my bags. But I really didn’t see anything that enticed me and I started to look at other lines. I had read that Kata merged into Manfrotto and their bags were now being sold under the Manfrotto line.  This lead me to find their new bumblebee line and I decided to pull the trigger on the Pro Light M-30 variation.  I have since used this bag for two wedding events, 11 portrait sessions and a few landscape photography hikes.

My first impression was that this is a very well made bag and should hold up well to professional use. It was described at being able to be able to hold a DSLR with a 70-200 2.8 IS attached, so I decided to give that a try first and it fits just fine. I also slid my Sigma 150-600mm lens in there and it also fits no problem. This a beast of a lens and really doesn’t fit shoulder bags very well. So this fact alone sold me on this bag.  The internal padding is as expected for a messenger bag and should protect from minor abuse.  If you look at the photo below, you can see that the straps attach to the bag on the back and at an angle. This is a little different from other bags and I wasn’t sure how it ride on my body. I am happy to say that I actually prefer this and it feels a little more snug when I’m working my way through crowds of people at events. The Velcro on the main lid flap is very loud, so I really can’t see myself using it for events. There is a built in flap that allows you to cover the Velcro and rely solely on the buckles to keep it close. But what I really like, is that there is a top zipper on the lid flap that allows you to access everything inside your bag. I was even able to get into the smaller front area via the top zipper.  This is incredibly handy and one of my favorite features of the bag. The front zipper area isn’t as large as I’d like it to be, but it is good enough to fit some batteries, memory cards, a pen, business cards, lens filters, and a few other accessories. I am also able to put a larger speedlight in there for when I may need one. It’s a tight fit, but it works fine enough for me. It’s important to note that there isn’t any padding in the front area, so anything in there isn’t going to fair as well if you get into a fight with your bag. The front flap itself also has a zippered section that works great for stowing away small things like paper itineraries, band aids, small snacks, lens cloth, gum, etc.  Inside the bag, there is also a laptop sleeve that is well padded and should most 15″ laptops.  I don’t plan on bringing a laptop out with me on active shoots, so this area works as a fantastic place to store more of my unused filters and lens caps. It’s easily accessed via the top zipper as well and wide enough that they don’t stack up much in there. There are a few different attachment points and the zippers have great pull strings. It also came with a chest strap that allows you to keep the bag tight across your body, but I forgot about it and it isn’t pictured below. I have never used it and I don’t see myself using it unless I was using this bag while on a bike or out skiing. Also not pictured is the rain cover. It’s the middle of winter here and I have it tucked away in my office and failed to include it in the photos. I have tried it on the bag and it fits perfectly. I plan on using one of the mesh water bottle pouches to stow it when I’m out in the rainy seasons.

No bag is perfect and this one has a few things that could use improvement. First off, the pad that is on the strap likes to move around on it’s own. This is common with most of my bags and is no different with this one. The strap itself is wide enough that I usually just take the removable pad off and not worry about it. If you aren’t used to carrying a loaded bag around for hours at a time, I would recommend easing into using it without the pad. Another aspect of the strap that I don’t care for, is that it has a buckle for doing quick adjustments.  This buckle is so easy to use that sometimes it comes loose on it’s own and adjusts itself. I don’t need this feature and I really don’t like things moving on their own, so I just shortened one side of the strap and moved the quick adjustment buckle to the bottom of it’s side.  Not a perfect work around, but it is working fine for me. There are two mesh water bottle pouches on the sides of the bag, but they are only suitable for smaller sized bottles. I can’t see myself using them much and I have been just putting small things like my keys, a multi-tool or snacks in them instead.

The price of $135 to $150 is going to limit the market a bit and I think this bag is targeted towards the more serious photographer. I don’t mind spending money on quality and this bag will fit my needs for a long while.

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