Life after Photoshop is all about image cataloguing processing and effects but I also like to pick out interesting bits of kit to try them out, and the Manhattan Changer-20 really caught my eye.
I’ve got a cupboard full of camera bags and none of them are exactly right. They’re all good at a couple of different things, but not all the things I might need to do on a typical day on my magazine work, which involves commuting, writing and photography.
What I actually need is a tote bag with handles for easy manoeuvring on my train commute and with easy access to my laptop, plus a camera compartment big enough for a body and 2-3 lenses, plus somewhere to keep a drink food, umbrella and a notebook.
But I also need a shoulder bag for the walk from the train station to the office. And, if I have to cover any kind of distance on foot to a photo shoot, I need a backpack to take the weight over long distances.
So when Manfrotto demonstrated the Manhattan Changer-20 three-way shoulder bag at our offices I thought, ‘this is the bag for me’, and asked to see one for review.
Size and capacity
It’s a fraction larger than I’d like, if I’m honest, but otherwise it’s brilliant. Inside, the camera compartment takes up only about two-thirds the volume and it lifts out easily if you just need a regular bag. I tend to shoot with one body and 2-3 lenses, seldom more, so the camera compartment is just about the right size. If you shoot with two bodies and more lenses it’s going to be too small.
Alongside the camera compartment there’s room for an umbrella, water bottle or thermos flask, laptop charger, portable drive, sandwiches and anything else you want to slide in there. Access is easy because of the wide-opening zip-up top. It looks like your bag has a little pair of ears on the corners (groan), but the extra width of the opening means it’s easy to get stuff in and out.
The laptop sleeve is fixed to one inner side of the bag, it’s pretty well padded and my 13-inch MacBook Pro goes in easily – you’d probably get a 15-inch model in there – and in front of that is a smaller padded sleeve for a tablet. I use both, so that’s perfect. On the other inner side is an unpadded zip up pocket for notebooks, documents or anything else you want to put in there.
The really clever stuff happens on the outside. On both outer sides there’s a large velcro-secured pocket for stowing any straps you’re not using.
Both sides have flexible carry handles you can pull out when you want to use the Manfrotto as a tote bag – perfect for handling in trains, planes and cars.
Or you can stow these away and clip on the supplied shoulder strap. You can put this over one shoulder or pass it over your head so that the strap is across your body. The bag swings round smoothly for use as a sling-style bag, offering easy access to your camera kit.
I especially like the backpack arrangement. This consists of two straps stowed away in one of the outside pockets. The ends clip to the base of the bag and there’s a sternum strap for a bit more stability if you need it. If you’ve got a lot of kit to carry and big distances to travel you’d probably want to purpose made camera backpack with padded straps and a shaped back, but for a modest amount of kit and journeys of just a couple of miles, this should be fine.
My favourite feature is tucked into a zip-up pocket on the base. It’s a fold-out tripod flap that goes around the legs of your tripod and clips into buckles on the back of the bag – you then tighten the straps to secure the tripod. I’ve used some pretty ropey tripod holders on backpacks in the past, but this one holds the tripod horizontally not vertically and feels really secure. This is just brilliant.
Anything else? Well, there’s a small zip up pocket on the back that would be perfect for passports and boarding passes and another larger pocket on the other side, again secured by a zip and this time one protected by a weatherproof flap, that you could use for other documents or bits and pieces.
Oh, and you also get a weatherproof cover you can slip over the bag if it starts to rain.
So is this the perfect bag?
Realistically, there’s no such thing. Now and again I’m bound to want a small shoulder bag for some outings, a big backpack for others or a neat and compact briefcase for meetings, but the Manfrotto Manhattan Changer-20 three-way bag is the only one I’ve found to date that can handle the whole of my regular working day as a commuter, journalist and photographer.
Cost? $120/100, which I think is pretty good considering what you’re getting here.
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