The Manfrotto VELOCE V DSLR Backpack is compact while still offering excellent storage space.
When you get involved in photography, it typically doesn't take long until you become hooked into buying more gear and accessories. While this is typically a good thing, it also can cause hassles as trekking all this gear from one place to another can become a serious pain. A large market for consumer and professional-level camera bags has emerged which are designed specifically for carrying photography gear.
In this article, we will be reviewing the Manfrotto MB SB390-5BB VELOCE V DSLR Backpack. At a retail of around $100, this bag falls within the medium to large size category. We picked up our demo unit last week since our bag of choice (ACPRO2000) was too large to fit within the carry-on restrictions (the depth was too large) for our Delta flight to Las Vegas for the International CES 2014. This Manfrotto model did pass the size requirements so it was the perfect opportunity to put it to the test in a real-world situation especially since as traveling with camera gear is always an interesting experience.
It is important to note, this review is based solely on my hands on use with the Manfrotto MB SB390-5BB VELOCE V DSLR Backpack and no outside opinions had any effect on the outcome of this review. I hope it helps you make more educated purchase decision when considering this product as well as its competitors.
Featuring a standard two strap design, the Veloce V resembles a traditional backpack although it does have some distinguishing features that set it apart. For example, the most noticeable trait is the zipper to access the main compartment. Unlike a traditional backpack, the zipper is actually found on the inside of the bag (aka the part that rests on your back when worn). There are several reasons why it was designed this way which I'll get into in the next section, but it is a unique concept that takes some getting used to.
Unlike large and more expensive models such as the ACPRO2000, the Veloce V harnesses a single large comparment which is broken down into a different pockets and subsections. On the sides of the exterior there are small side pockets which are capable of holding miscellaneous small accessories such as memory cards, batteries, chargers, etc. The Veloce V is noticeably compact and lightweight given its storage capabilities which is desirable as many photographers do not want to be bogged down by a bulky or heavy bag while on the road.
The main selling point in the design for me was that the bag was small enough to be a carry-on for our Delta flight as the ACPRO2000 did not meet the requirements (although it did pass Southwest Airline's size restrictions). While it passed the requirements in our case, I cannot guarantee it will work for your future flights since size restrictions vary by airline and are subject to change. I'd recommend checking in with your airline before traveling to ensure this bag is still falls under the given restrictions.
The build material of the Veloce V is exceptional with a high-quality, water-resistant fabric that is durable and built to last. If you plan to shoot in different climates or weather conditions then this bag is built to weather the elements and protect any valauble contents. Each of the straps and the interior of the bag are padded nicely to ensure a comfortable wear even after extended periods of time.
The Manfrotto Veloce V has a great deal of photo-specific features integrated into the design. The single large compartment is made up of padded dividers which prevents your camera bodies, lenses, and accessories from bumping against one another and becoming damaged. Several of these dividers are attached via velcro thus offering the ability to rearrange the layout to match your specific needs.
There is a pocket that is meant to hold a laptop (up to 15.4″) or a large tablet so you can bring along an external device on a long-trips or a remote shoot. Additionally, you'll find dedicated pockets for a smartphone, charging cables, and small pockets for 3 pens or pencils (I found them perfect for LensPens).
If you're wearing the bag and want to get access to its contents without taking the bag all the way off and opening the large compartment, there is a small entry point at the top corner of the bag. This is held down by a zipper as well as a metal clip to keep your gear safe and contained yet easy enough to reach when desired.
On the Veloce V's feature list, you'll see it boasts both an internal and external tripod compartment and the ability to “allow you to conveniently transport more than 1 tripod”. Unfortunately, this was clearly written by a rather biased Manfrotto employee and both the internal and external spaces will not hold most standard-sized consumer tripods. The internal tripod area is far too small and the exterior loops only give you the option to adjust the bottom strap which is rather annoying as no standard tripods fit through the top strap (see photo below).
On a few retailer's descriptions they do mention these tripods areas were designed to fit a Manfrotto Pocket Series tripod which of course is not included. Many competing bags in this price range (such as the ACPRO1800) contain ways to attach a full-size tripod so this is a disappointing downfall.
By combining the rear zipper design and the mild branding elements, Manfrotto had your gear's best interest in mind. With the lack of overly obvious branding, it helps keep thieves away from your expensive camera gear and hides the fact that you may be carrying several thousands of dollars on your back while in a public setting.
The rear zipper has a dual purpose and is clever design element. Your gear will stay contained in the bag when necessary as there is no chance of the zipper getting caught on something and no way for it to become accidentally unzipped. If the zipper mechanism were to fail (it can happen) the contents of your bag won't go spilling onto the ground as your back will support it. This design can also help keep pickpockets or thieves from reaching into your bag while your distracted and taking off with a camera body or lens.
Just over a week ago, I took the Manfrotto Veloce V with me on a trip from NYC to Las Vegas to attend this year's International Consumer Electronics Show. Traveling with the bag was a pleasant experience and though I dreaded bringing all my expensive camera gear through security and packing it in the overhead bins, it was a breeze.
While walking through the airport and to the hotel, the bag was comfortable on my shoulders even with the 30+ lbs of gear I had packed within it. Each of the straps are padded nicely and are highly adjustable to fit bodies of all sizes. I didn't experience any issues with the straps coming undone (which I've experienced on competing bags and it's a nightmare) and I always felt as though it was secure to my body.
The exterior tripod loops are very disappointing as Manfrotto could have easily duplicated the bottom loop's adjustable design with the top loop thus avoiding any issues. However, it clearly made too much sense and I was unable to get any of the three tripods to attach properly as they were all too large in diameter to fit within the top tripod loop.
While the unique zipper design does take some getting used it (I found myself searching for a zipper in the wrong spot numerous times), it works well to keep your gear secure and avoid any headaches with lost or stolen items. The adjustable compartments within the large pocket are convenient as you can cater the layout to your specific needs.
As for how much you can fit in this bag, it truly depends on the gear you're looking to carry and the way you have the compartments set up.
I was able to fit all the following within the Veloce V during my trip with some room to spare for other small accessories:
- (1) Canon 5D Mark III with Zeikos ZE-CGB5DIII (no lens attached)
- (1) Canon T3i with Zeikos ZE-CBGT2 (no lens attached)
- (1) Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS USM Lens
- (1) Canon 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens
- (1) Canon 50mm f/1.8 II Lens
- (1) Neewer TT680 Flash Speedlite
- (1) Neewer TT560 Flash Speedlite
- (1) 15″ Retina Macbook Pro
- (2) Spare battery grip trays
- (4) Microfiber cloths
- (3) Canon battery chargers
- (1) Bag of 12 AA disposable batteries
- (1) Kanex DualRole
- (1) LensPen DSLR Pro Kit
- (1) Giottos AA 1900 Rocket Air Blaster (Large)
While this is nowhere near what my Ape Case ACPRO2000 can hold, it is still rather impressive for a bag of this size and it will likely be my “go-to” bag for bringing my gear as an airline carry-on for the extended future.
In the end, I found the Manfrotto MB SB390-5BB VELOCE V DSLR Backpack to be a solid buy for most consumers who are looking for a solid bag to protect their expensive gear during transport or travel (especially on an airline). It does have a few flaws like poorly designed tripod mounts and a lack of rubber feet to help it stand upright, but for the most part it is comfortable, high quality camera bag. The $99 price tag is slightly expensive although it is currently discounted $30 (at the time of this review was written) at retailers such as Amazon & Best Buy so you may be lucky enough to catch it while it is selling for a more reasonable price. I would recommend this bag to any prospective buyers although I'd also suggest taking a serious look at the Ape Case ACPRO1800 (similar size) and ACPRO2000 (larger size) models as they are excellent alternatives whom offer more value on the dollar.