Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I've outgrown my modest bag and now I'm going on vacation, I need a new one. I need a backpack which can double as a cabin luggage (will need to hold laptop, D90, lenses, strobes, and some other gadgets), carrying the camera plus some food and clothing on short hikes, and camera storage at home. Kata has some great offers, like the Owl 272 pl or the Bumblebee 220 pl, but all the models I liked cost 180 to 280 Euro, which is the price of a decent prime lens. Other producers offer models in similar sizes at half or two thirds Kata's prices, the Lowepro Vertex 100 AW makes a good impression.

I haven't seen any of the bags with my eyes and will order over the Internet. I have the right to send it back if I don't like it, but as they are not always in stock, buying a second model if the first disappoints me could take too long, in the worst case it won't arrive before I fly.

So if you have had any hands-on experience with Kata bags (in general, not only the models I linked): do they have any tangible benefits over comparable models from other manufacturers, or is the higher price just a premium paid for owning a famous brand? Or do you know of any reliable test reports (not Amazon reviews, but tests made by reliable pro magazines) which confirm or disprove the higher Kata quality?

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"Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it." - Publius Syrius –  John Cavan Apr 16 '11 at 17:19
    
Indeed! I guess the better question is: should you pay the asking price for item in question? Personally, I usually set my desired price first and then only buy around or below it (deal!). –  Itai Apr 16 '11 at 18:52
    
If the product which costs more also offers more features, it is really subjective. But sometimes there are products which cost more than the competition without having anything better than a logo and a pricetag (do you believe that Manolo Blahnik shoes are better quality than 150 Euro shoes?) –  rumtscho Apr 16 '11 at 19:33
    
It matters very little what I believe when it comes to price. If there is a volume of people willing to pay the price and that volume meets the level desired by the business, then they have priced where they should. This is true for Kata as much as it is for Manolo Blahnik, irrespective of any opinion I may hold on their worth. Now, in the case of Kata, I don't have any direct experience to say anyways, but I thought it worth pointing out that a question of "worth the price" is irrelevant. You save your question with other information. –  John Cavan Apr 17 '11 at 3:21

3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

In my opinion, yes they are. But "worth the price" is something that is highly subjective.

The sad fact is that specialty bags carry a higher price, just because.

You have to ask yourself, how often do you plan on making use of it?

Kata bags are more comfortable, and are more rigid than Lowepro. My first camera backpack was a lowepro and I didn't like it. The inserts felt cheap, and while there was room for my gear at the time, the bag was bulky and didn't do a good job of distributing the weight.

I also found that Kata had a much nicer construction quality compared to lowepro.

I travel a lot with my gear, so for me, buying a nicer bag was important. I moved to the Crumpler line, because I found their quality to be top notch (even if it's a higher price).

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Voted up for saying is subjective. I happen to have the exact opposite opinions about the bags though. The Katas are too rigid for me (which is annoying against my body) and feel the Lowepro are much higher quality. I own 6 Lowepro bags now and 0 Kata but, since people send me gear in bags often, I get to try Kata bags regularly (2 in the last two weeks). –  Itai Apr 16 '11 at 18:44
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How rigid is rigid? If I buy a 23 cm deep bag and don't fill it too much, will I be able to squeeze it into a 20 cm compartment? (§$%@$ Lufthansa!) –  rumtscho Apr 16 '11 at 19:16
    
20cm compartment??? Is it the gloves compartment in your Lufthansa branded BMW? –  ysap Apr 16 '11 at 19:55
    
@ysap I flew on a Tupolev 134 last year. Since then I see the regulation 20 cm as a luxury. –  rumtscho Apr 16 '11 at 20:45
    
LOL! A few years ago we flew flew to Bangkok with Uzbekistan Airlines via Tashkent. It appears that (at least back then) UA had a western fleet serving the western routs and an old, Soviet/Russian fleet serving the former Soviet republics and eastern states. Incidentally, our connection plane (Airbus) was grounded for maintenance, so we found ourselves in an 8 hrs flight in an aging Il or Tu (can't remember)... [cont...] –  ysap Apr 16 '11 at 21:46

I bought the Kata Bug-203 PL and I think it is great. It is a quality product, created with love to every detail. Very customizable and adjustable, comes with lots of addons like lens pouches with a velcro side (can be secured to the inside, so when the bag is opened while held vertically, the lenses don't fall out), a camera strap which can be hooked securely to the backpack straps, and so on.

It is also very comfortable. I went with it on daylong hiking trips twice. Because it has so much space and one doesn't need strobes or many lenses on such trips, a compartment can be used for storing a day's worth of calorie dense food, and there is an outside pocket for a small water bottle. It is very comfortable to wear on the back, as opposed to a general luggage shape with straps added as an afterthought.

The only problem with the bag is that it is indeed shaped like a bug carapace. So it can't stay on its bottom, but falls forward like a bug on its back. This is inconvenient when there is nothing to lean it at.

I definitely recommend this bag to anyone who plans to actually carry the camera on his back for longer stretches. It is also good for use as a general camera bag, because it is well made, sturdy, and comfortable for use. It looks that other Kata models, while not as hike-friendly as this one, offer the same level of user friendliness. So after I've used the bag for four months, I can say that it was definitely worth it.

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I own the KATA 3N1-33 bag, which I bought mainly for travel. Last year, it cost me about $140, and it seems like you can have it for $115 in the US now. The main advantage I see for this model over the other two KATA bags you mentioned is the top compartment that lets me carry some non-photo stuff that may be needed as a carry-on (you know, underwear/toothbrush for 1-2 days, until lost baggage is found). It fits conveniently in the top compartment above the airplane seat, and holds a nice amount of gear (can get heavy when fully loaded, especially with a big laptop). Its ability to open on the side to get your camera out w/o opening the main flap is great, and I use it a lot. It also doubles as a sling bag configuration, but I never use it in this configuration.

Its build quality is great and it keeps its form and shape after a long time of use.

On the bad side - the lack of chest strap is annoying, especially when it is fully loaded. However, you can use it in the 'X' configuration to overcome this. The access to the top items in the main compartment is a little hard b/c the main flap opens from bottom up. This also made me drop two lenses when forgetting to close the zipper (...)

The Owl looks like a smaller version of the 3N1, and seems like your space for non-photo stuff is more limited. I must admit that I can't see why this bag is significantly costlier than the 3N1.

For comparison, I also own the Norazza Ape Case 2000 PRO bag. I used it for a very short time and then got the KATA. The main reason is it being so-big. Although when measured it is not much bigger, but it is certainly much deeper. This made it inconvenient for me. As for build quality, the Ape looks sturdy, but it can't compete with the looks and feel of the KATA. The KATA is much more elegant. I guess this is why KATA's cost more.

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