Gear Review: F-Stop Kenti

When F-stop approached me to photograph their new Kenti bag a few months ago, I quickly jumped on the opportunity as I had been considering it. Little did I know that my wife would be even keener to jump on it, so much so that I hardly got to touch it :) . So, while I could make a review myself, I figured I’d let Amanda provide us with her impressions as she spent more time with it than I ever did. Here it is.

Disclaimer: I am not a huge fan of backpacks — camera bags or otherwise. However, I fully recognize their practicality and comfort over shoulder bags, so when I recently had the opportunity to take F-Stop Gear’s Kenti bag on a 2-week trip involving urban, architecture and landscape photography, I jumped at the chance to use it extensively in the field. I had taken it for a spin a few times over the last couple of months, both around town and in Gatineau park, but nothing tests bags, footwear, relationships, etc. like travel ;)

Before we get into the review proper, full disclosure: while the hubs is sponsored by F-Stop, I personally am not affiliated with the company and I was not asked to write this review. All opinions are my own.

At 25L, the Kenti is F-Stop’s smallest pack in the Mountain Series. Unlike other bags in the line, it has two side-accessed compartments instead of back access and does not utilize the Internal Camera Unit (ICU) system. I’m not going to write down all the specs – you can check them out here – but suffice it to say that the bag has many of the awesome features and great design that one has come to expect from F-Stop.

Obviously this review is heavily coloured by how *I* shoot on a day to day basis. I rarely just transport my gear somewhere, set up and photograph. I like to take impromptu shots along the way and, as such, being able to access my gear fast and easily is very important to me. I also get cranky if I’m hauling around a too-heavy bag which in turn affects my quality of shooting (yeah, I’m a wimp), so comfort is a huge factor.

What I liked

  • The Kenti is extremely comfortable to wear all day. The proportions are great for smaller frames as well as taller peeps – I’m 5’4″ and it sits well on me.
  • The pack is light (1.5 kg)  and not at all bulky, yet well-padded enough for peace of mind.
  • Moreover, it does not scream “I’m a camera bag!”, which makes it a great fit for urban environment and travel.
  • The side access means you don’t have to fully take off the pack to get to your gear, making the process faster, cleaner and safer.
  • The Kenti holds a fair amount for its size. On the trip I carried my (non-pro-sized) D90 with up to 4 lenses of varying size, as well as a film camera.
  • The pack comes with lots of interior dividers that are all removable, allowing for customization within.
  • The jersey laminate back-panel eliminates the sweaty-back-syndrome that so many packs induce.
  • The front flap has a dozen little pockets for memory cards, spare batteries, chapstick (what?), camera remote,  etc. and what’s best is that they don’t. fall. out.
  • the roll-top is super handy and allows for adjustable volume. I like to use it for stowing away a jacket, snack or any extra gear  I might need.
  • A small-to-medium-sized tripod can be attached to the side of bag using the compression straps. According to the website, a larger tripod can be attached using F-Stop’s optional gatekeeper system.

What I liked not-so-much

  • When carrying a tripod on the side, it makes the side compartment not so easy to get out gear.
  • The Kenti has an internal laptop sleeve that fits up to a 13″ laptop, but it is kind of hard to access, especially if you have gear in the bag (which, duh) or are using the roll top compartment to stow stuff.
  • The zippers can be hard to find. This minor quibble is probably unique to the black pack, as they tend to get lost amongst all the buckles.
  • While you can get a pro body with lens into the side compartment  (I tried with a D700 + 70-200 f/2.8)  it is definitely a snug fit. For someone who is constantly taking their camera in and out of their bag, this could be irksome.

Conclusion

Like all F-Stop gear bags, the Kenti is as much a hiking pack as it is a camera bag, meaning that it is meant to be worn for extended periods of time and is durable enough to stand up to the worst elements. As the smallest bag in the line, it is not intended for jobs requiring tons of equipment, but is great for a hike or travelling with a limited kit.

Despite my bias against backpacks, the Kenti won me over. In short, it is a fantastic bag: good-looking, sturdy, practical, versatile. Even packed to the gills, I had no trouble carrying the Kenti around all day. Much attention has been paid to the ergonomics as well as the size and location of all the pockets and compartments, and the proof is in the pudding – I love using it.

I would recommend the Kenti to any photographer looking for a smaller backpack rugged enough for any outdoor activity yet sleek enough for city use.

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One Response to Gear Review: F-Stop Kenti

  1. lulu says:

    hi, you mentioned “A small-to-medium-sized tripod can be attached to the side of bag using the compression straps.” can you send me a pic of where it is at and how it will look like? i’m about to buy this bag.. but still have some reserves… :( your review really helped me.. but i’m just curious about the tripod side.