I am a photographer based in Nantes and I often travel for work (landscapes, interior architecture, reportage, mobile studios…). My backpack is a very important travelling companion. I love to walk and it can become very tiring to carry a backpack on your shoulder over long distances. I had 2 cameras + 4 lenses in a shoulder bag: the result, at the end of the day, is of course pain in my neck, shoulder blade and shoulder. Most often, a backpack is necessary quite simply for its load capacity. Nothing can beat a backpack when you have to travel on foot or with a weight to carry. In general, for shooting landscapes, I prefer a comfortable backpack with a large capacity, such as the Bumblebee-220 PL, which enables me to go on long hikes. However, I needed an everyday bag suitable for serious reportage trips, which needed to be relatively compact and, above all, had to allow me to carry my 15-inch MacBook Pro everywhere I went. The Multipro-120 PL backpack fits this description perfectly and, as its name suggests, is a multi-purpose bag.
I’ll start by describing the Manfrotto Multipro-120 PL. It is a medium-sized bag in appearance: H x 44 cm L x 33 cm W x 27 cm for a weight of 1.87 kg. In comparison, the Bumblebee-220 PL: H x 52 cm L x 34 cm W x 28 cm and a weight of 3 kg. The difference in size didn’t seem enormous but, when it comes to capacity, there is no comparison. Made in a black, water-repellent material with red topstitching, the zip-pulls are quick to use and easy to see, a feature common to all top-of-the-range Manfrotto models. A main opening on the front of the bag gives you access to all of the compartments. This opening can be made wider or narrower to facilitate organising your equipment. The bag is completed with two additional openings: one on the top and one on the side. The laptop and documents compartment is positioned against the back of the carrier and has a zip that widens it by a further 5 centimetres! This space can hold documents of up to 30×40 cm!!! Finally, there are also two side pockets: one open and elasticated for a small bottle and the other with a zip for small accessories.
The relatively compact size of the Multipro-120 PL allows you to store it easily and negotiate narrow spaces without too much trouble; however, it hides a serious load capacity. At most, I pack it with 2 Pro cameras + 5 lenses, including a telephoto lens and a flash. Adding my computer and a few documents, my backpack is packed and weighs 12 kg on the scales. You can easily fit a 70-200 F2.8 mounted on a camera. A flat storage space inside can be used to hold filters and the 2 central separators include spaces for memory cards or other small accessories. The opening on the top gives access to an extra compartment in which you can keep your computer charger and a strap, for example. This space is separated from the rest of the bag by a large, removable separator. You can remove it to increase the main storage space. By moving it downwards and folding up the red separators in the main compartment, it can be used to obtain a larger compartment for personal items. All the separators are fixed to the sides by velcro and can be moved around as you like. Take care, because the bag is quite deep and your equipment may not always fill it to the top; I suggest that you block anything that risks moving about with a separator placed horizontally, to avoid everything becoming jumbled up during a chaotic journey. A handle between the two shoulder straps completes the bag’s transport ergonomics. Filled to capacity, this bag allows me to manage numerous reportage situations, but it gets a bit heavy, so it must be comfortable to carry. Manfrotto chose thick shoulder straps in EVA foam, which really work well, although they are a bit stiffer than fabric straps. Once the bag is on my back, I find it most comfortable to pull them down a bit and secure the chest strap.
The stomach strap is well made though not padded; it can be removed easily using a patented attachment system and I prefer to do without when I have a lighter load. The shoulder straps have 2 adjustment points. Being fairly thin and slightly-built, I have to keep all the adjustments at maximum tightness and I find myself a bit caught up in the excess lengths of strap. I’ll probably have them shortened. The maximum load (12kg) is comfortable without being quite as good as that of a hiking rucksack with a padded stomach strap. Avoid this maximum load for long distance walking. By tightening the shoulder straps, it sits snugly during rapid movement, and its relatively compact size is a precious advantage in narrow spaces.
The bag is equipped with the following accessories: reversible waterproof cover (black for the rain and silver for the sun), a tripod holder that you secure to the bottom of the bag (easy to attach, a little more difficult to remove) and a trolley handle insert at the back, so you can attach it to your suitcase.
This bag is truly versatile; I use it as an everyday bag with a few items (computer, documents, one camera and 2 lenses + accessories, such as headphones).
Used this way, it is very light and doesn’t get in the way even sitting in a restaurant… I have quick access to my computer, and charger in the top compartment, and the equipment is well-protected. If I open the zip to widen the document compartment, it becomes enormous. Take care not to overload this space, as it makes it less comfortable to carry with the weight of the bag concentrated at the back. I sometimes use the tripod holder to leave my hands free, though I usually carry it in my hand or under the camera. If I don’t need it, I pack it in the top compartment. The side opening gives me quick access to my lenses packed at the back. Keeping one shoulder strap on, you can shift the bag to the front by passing it under your arm. The advantage is not having to put it on the ground, which is very useful in woodland areas or by the sea.
In conclusion, I find that this bag can easily go from light, everyday use to heavier loads when the need arises, both for day-long reportage photography and a professional work trip lasting several days. I would only be tempted to get a larger bag for very long hiking trips. Its versatility makes it my choice for everyday use.