Monday, August 27, 2007
Posted by Jason Dunn in "HARDWARE" @ 07:00 AM
When I was preparing for my trip to Hawaii in November of 2006, I wanted to have a great bag for carrying my photo gear. I was looking for something as small and light as possible, but also something that had enough pockets and pouches for my Nikon D200, at least one lens, and a smattering of other equipment. I couldn't make up my mind about which would be a better bag to take, the Kata H-12 Camera Holster with the Kata S-308 shoulder strap, or the LowePro Slingshot 200AW, so I did what any good geek would do: I took both of them.
The Kata bag just looks so damn cool - it looks like it has armour on it. The bag is made of "TST" (Thermo Shield Technology), which is a Super Nylon that is slightly flexible and looks extremely strong. The strap it comes with is horrible though; you'll want the S-308 add-on to make it functional. That's where one of the problems crops up though: the S-308 strap doesn't attach to the H-12 via a zipper or something secure, it's held in place by a single snap at the bottom, and some Velcro in the middle. There's nothing holding the H-12 to the S-308 at the top, so it kind of sags down. The H-12 would look and work much better if the S-308 was completely integrated and anything else is just sub-par.
The interior pouch is big enough to manage my Nikon D200 and my 18-200 lens, which is no small feat because my camera is pretty big when it's configured with that lens. You can re-configure the main pouch using the yellow divider, but only someone with a very small DSLR camera would still have space for something else in that pouch. The two side pouches are medium-sized: you could fit a small 50mm prime lens in there, otherwise you can you use the pouches for the small memory card/AA battery holder they include or the all-weather cover. There's also another front pouch just above the main pouch for a bit of additional storage.
As good as the Kata bag looks, and as functional as all the pockets are, this bag has one brutal flaw: it's just too hard to get open. With the zippers open, the Kata-described "one-handed" clip is indeed easy to open with one hand. When the zippers are closed, however, the bag is damn-near impossible to get open because there's not enough clearance to get your hand under the flap and reach the clip. It takes two hands, working the bag at an angle, and a lot of effort to get the clip un-latched so you can then open the zippers. I thought maybe it was just me, but even my wife was frustrated with the bag on our vacation because she couldn't get it open. The ultimate test tells all though: we were on a cruise ship, and ever time we re-boarded after a day trip they would search our bags. One time I handed the security guard the Kata bag to see if he could open it and he couldn't. Remember this is a guy who probably opens and closes thousands of bags a day. He tried for a good 20 seconds but couldn't manage to get the plastic clasp to release. He eventually asked me for help and watched as I struggled to do the same thing.
Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised by this, mind you, because Kata also makes body armour. No, I'm not kidding: check this out. So perhaps the H-12 bag is ridiculously hard to get open for protective purposes, and perhaps they didn't design it for someone like me who likes to put the camera away when I'm not using it. Regardless of what Kata intended with this bag, and regardless of how well it might protect my camera, I found it so frustrating to use that I haven't put my camera in it since first using it in November/December of 2006. That should tell you a great deal. Kata could have a great bag here if they integrated the S-308 strap and re-designed the closing system, but as it stands now I can't recommend this bag to anyone.
Jason Dunn owns and operates Thoughts Media Inc., a company dedicated to creating the best in online communities. He enjoys mobile devices, digital media content creation/editing, and pretty much all technology. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada with his lovely wife, and his sometimes obedient dog. He likes having a good camera bag.