Date: 26/06/2015 | By: Mathieu
Designed for Mirrorless – The Tenba Switch 10 Review
When I saw the press release and promotional video for the new Tenba Switch series, I immediately liked the concept. The bags don’t look so different from other messenger bags at first, but they incorporate a couple of ideas that I find really interesting. There are so many bag options out there that it is often difficult to choose the right one. You might go with the brand you’ve always used, or choose the cheapest option you can find online or in a camera store.
But sometimes it makes sense to choose a bag that has been precisely designed for the gear you are using. Since I review and use mirrorless cameras everyday, what made me most curious about the Tenba Switch was the fact that it has been designed especially for mirrorless cameras.
Thanks to MacGroup, the official Tenba distributor in the UK, the bag was sent to me as soon as it arrived in Europe and I admit that I was quite excited to test it.
The Tenba Switch 10 Main Specs
Is the Tenba Switch the best mirrorless camera bag I’ve ever tried? Let’s find out!
- Exterior Dimensions: 12W X 9.5H X 5.5D in. (30 X 24 X 14 cm)
- Interior Dimensions: 11.5W X 8.75H X 4D in. (29 X 22 X 10 cm)
- Tablet Compartment: 1.25W X 7.75H X .5D in. (29W X 20H X 1D cm)
- Weight: 700g
- Front pockets: 6.3” W x 4.7” H x 1.6” D (16 x 12 x 4 cm
- Exterior Materials: 420 denier jacquard nylon with a durable water repellant coating.
- Interior materials: Soft, brushed tricot and ripstop nylon.
Design and build quality
The Tenba Switch comes in three versions: the 7, 8 and 10 with the numbers relating to the size of the bag. I chose the biggest because it can house a tablet up to 10 inches in length such as my iPad Retina. The 10 version is also similar in size to messenger style bags I’ve used and enjoyed before: the Lowepro Event Messenger 150 and recently the ThinkTank Urban Approach 10 (review coming soon).
The bag comes with a black faux leather cover that gives the Switch quite an elegant appearance. The design is simple and discreet, a quality I’ve always appreciated especially when walking the streets of a big city. Actually it doesn’t look like a photography bag at all, and that is another nice characteristic. The unique feature of this bag is that this faux leather cover can be replaced with 5 different covers (sold separately). Whether you prefer a splash of colour or a different material, you have the option to change the look and feel of your bag.
At first I thought that the removable cover was a cute idea but not particularly useful in the real world. Well, I admit that I’ve changed my mind after using the bag for several weeks.
The black faux leather transforms it into an elegant bag for an outing in the city or a meeting, but an extra cover such as the Black/Gray camouflage cover can be ideal for nature walks, for example, or where there is a higher chance that the bag will become wet or dirty. I would definitely prefer to clean the camouflage version than the faux leather version.
Removing and replacing the cover is quite easy thanks to the zipper. Tenba uses YKK zippers and all the ones included on this bag are robust and smooth to use. As for the removable cover, Tenba states that the zipper won’t loosen during use so there is no risk that the cover will partially detach itself from the bag. In my experience, I actually found that the zipper did loosen a little a couple of times. I think it is a simple matter of checking it before going out.
The Tenba Switch is made of nice and light materials with the main fabric being nylon with a water repellant coating. Tenba also provides an external rain cover for inclement weather conditions. The bottom of the bag is reinforced with a water and abrasion resistant panel, which means you can rest your bag on humid surfaces without any fear. It is easy to clean and a very welcome feature. My Lowepro Messenger bag, by contrast, is now quite dirty at the bottom.
The front cover includes two flaps at the corners that can be extended on the outside to prevent water from entering the bag. Alternatively, they can be folded inside for extra protection.
Overall the bag feels light and is not too rigid which means you can fit extra small objects inside with ease. When fully loaded, it becomes slightly deformed but the gear remains easily accessible from the quick zipper on top.
Ease of use
Now that the presentation of the bag’s characteristics is done, let’s see how comfortable it is to use on a daily basis. The removable cover includes a “Quick Zipper” on top that allows you to remove your camera without the need to open the flap. Tenba has integrated this on many of its bags and I find it a really comfortable solution. When fully loaded and carried on your shoulder, I recommend that you put the camera at the centre as it is easier to remove from the quick zipper than when stored at the side. However, with larger cameras such as the Samsung NX1, it is a little more difficult to pull the camera out.
In my opinion, the Quick Zipper should be incorporated on all camera bags of this kind.
Inside the main compartment you will find the usual dividers that you can reposition according to your taste and the kind of gear you want to carry. There are two main dividers that can be partially folded, which is useful if you want to make room for your camera’s built-in grip. There is also a smaller divider but honestly, I wish Tenba had included a few more. With mirrorless cameras, you can carry very compact lenses especially if you are a Micro Four Thirds users. You can easily fit a tiny 45mm 1.8 and 17mm 1.8 for example one next to the other but at the same time, you want to be able to separate them with a divider so that they don’t scratch each other. You will also find two little pockets on the sides that are designed to house lens caps, as well as be used for spare batteries for example.
I would say the longest lens the bag can hold vertically is the Fujifilm 50-140mm f/2.8 with the X-T1 (without additional grips).
The 10-inch tablet pocket is on the rear and is external, which means you can access it independently. The front side of the pocket is thick enough to protect your device, and it has more than enough room to fit something extra like a small book. This also means that you can fit the tablet with a cover attached and not just the device itself.
On the front there are two pockets. The first one is a full length cover integrated into the bag’s main body. It is perfect for documents, USB cables and basically anything that isn’t too thick. Then there is the front accessory pocket that has two little stretchy pockets inside for batteries, cleaning cloths, a smartphone or other small accessories. There is also a metal key ring and a D ring to attach car keys or other small tools.
The front cover has two magnets that make it easy to open and close the bag, and keep the front cover in place. There are also two snaps that provide a stronger closure.
This is another thing I really appreciate about this bag: it is easy to open and is really silent. You don’t have to deal with velcro or buckles.
However I admit that the latter might provide extra security if you are very concerned about your gear being as well-protected as possible.
On the sides you will find two pockets where you can house a small bottle of water or something else of a similar size. There are also two loops that allow you to attach extra small pouches or compatible products within the Tenba product range.
Last but not least, at the bottom there are two straps to which you can attach a tripod. This allows you to carry everything you need in one solution. Personally, I don’t like carrying around my tripod in this manner – it weighs you down and makes it impossible to place your bag upright on a surface.
There is only one thing that I don’t like about the Tenba Switch 10 and that is the shoulder strap. But there is a solution…
The strap is robust and made of the same material as a car seatbelt. It integrates a non-slip shoulder pad that consists of a simple rubbery surface. However, what lets it down is the thickness – there isn’t any extra padding around the shoulder pad. This is the main reason I find it uncomfortable to carry on my shoulder when the bag is fully loaded. I often carry the bag with the strap across my chest so that the weight is more distributed, but doing this is even more uncomfortable as the strap puts more pressure on the side of my neck. I wish Tenba had thought of a more refined solution that included a thicker and more comfortable shoulder pad. Actually they could have designed it with the same colour/material as the removable cover and given you the option to change the style of both the cover and the pad.
Now, a solution could be to spend a few extra bucks and purchase a shoulder pad separately. You can find many online and even Tenba has one! It is a shame that it isn’t included because many other bags, including cheaper bags, have a proper shoulder pad. Just make sure to purchase a shoulder strap that can be wrapped around the strap as it cannot be removed from the bag.
All this said, I don’t want to be overly negative because everything else about the bag is excellent. I simply felt it was worth mentioning, as customers expect their purchase to be perfect (and rightly so).
How much gear can I carry? A practical example
Below you can see a picture and a list of all the camera gear, accessories and various tools I can fit inside the Tenba Switch 10 bag. In this example, the bag is loaded to its maximum capacity. I’ve also included a tripod but personally I prefer to carry it separately for the reasons mentioned above and also because mine has a portable bag of its own.
- Samsung NX1 with 16-50mm f/2-2.8 and lens hood
- Sony a6000 with kit lens and leather strap
- Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 with hood reversed
- Nissin i40 speedlight
- Rain cover
Front full length pocket:
- Cleaning cloth
- iPhone USB cord and charger
- 1 x BP1900 battery (NX1)
- 3 x NP-FW50 batteries (Sony)
- Lowpro memory card holder
- Car keys
- Tenba straps for the tripod
- iPad Retina (3rd generation)
Side external pockets:
The Tenba Switch 10 is definitely becoming one of my favourite bags for carrying around mirrorless cameras. It is cleverly designed, has some unique features such as the removable cover and has enough pockets to carry around lots of different accessories.
My only complaint is directed at the shoulder strap. It lacks a comfortable shoulder pad that would ease the pressure on your shoulder and neck when the bag is fully loaded. However, this can be resolved if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars and purchase a removable shoulder pad, which I am going to do because I like the bag and want to continue using it.
What I like about the Tenba Switch 10:
- Clever design and easy to use
- Elegant design with the default faux leather cover
- Lots of pockets and compartments
- The removable flap is a nice idea to change the style of your bag according to the situation
What I don’t like about the Tenba Switch 10:
- The strap lacks a thicker and more comfortable shoulder pad
- Carrying the tripod at the bottom makes the bag a bit too heavy
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