Tenba produces a wide range of backpacks and camera shoulder bags that range in size and cost. At one end of the spectrum, you have capacious backpacks such as the Tenba Axis V2 which provides 20L of storage space for your DSLR and accessories. Larger backpacks like the Tenba Axis V2 tend to be quite heavy when fully packed so you need the extra support of shoulder, sternum, and hip straps.
At the other end of the spectrum, you have the Messenger range of shoulder bags that includes the DNA 13 DSLR Messenger. This cheaper bag is smaller than a backpack and therefore lighter to carry but still capacious enough for you to transport a DSLR or mirrorless camera and 3 lenses.
Read More: Looking for a new bag for your gear? Whatever you have to carry you can find the perfect bag for your needs in our guide to the best camera bags and cases.
A backpack takes a while to unstrap, remove and open. As the DNA 13 DSLR Messenger is a shoulder bag it’s quicker and easier to deploy it to access your kit and start shooting, especially as it’s deep enough to carry a 70-200mm lens attached to a camera body. It’s also cheaper than the Tenba Axis V2 which should make it a more attractive purchase in the current financial climate.
Weight: 2.6lb / 1.18kg
Outside Dimensions (in): 14W x 11H x 6.5D in.
Inside Dimensions (in): 13W x 10.5H x 5D in.
Laptop Compartment Dimensions (in): 13W x 9H x 1D in
Capacity: Mirrorless or DSLR camera with 3-5 lenses (up to 70-200mm f/2.8).
Laptop/Tablet: Fits a laptop up to 14 inches (35 cm).
As well as having space to store a DSLR or mirrorless camera, 3 lenses, a flash and general accessories the DNA 13 Messenger can also carry a 13-inch laptop and a tablet such as the iPad 11 Pro in dedicated compartments. You can unclip the main flap and pull apart the Velcro (hook and loop) seal to reveal the bag’s contents or for faster access (so you don’t miss a photo opportunity) you can access its contents by opening the zip on the top.
Normally hook and loop (Velcro) seals make a loud ripping sound when you pull them apart. This noise could distract your potential subject (especially if you’re shooting wildlife or taking editorial street photographs) so we were impressed with the ‘whisper hook’ closure system that’s exclusive to the Tenba range. By pulling the flap downwards and then outwards you can access your gear without making the tearing sound produced by other ‘hook and loop’ seals - check out our supporting video in the Performance section to see this system in action.
Build & Handling
As with other bags and backpacks in the Tenba range, the DNA 13 Messenger features padded compartments that can be re-positioned (via Velcro style 'hook and loop' attachments) to change the layout of the bag’s interior. This enables you to configure the bag to better fit your kit.
Indeed you can completely remove the main padded camera insert to convert the bag for non-photographic purposes. The front flap is secured by two clips that have the same unusual design that you’ll find on other Tenbas (such as the Tenba DNA 16 DSLR Backpack. Rather than pinching the clips to separate them you need to slide them to the left. This isn’t an intuitive maneuver so one of the clips has an arrow diagram and a helpful ‘slide to open’ label. I still found myself struggling to adapt to this novel way of unclipping the flap but I imagine that I’d get used to it over time.
To test out the Tenba 13 Messenger I loaded it up with a Canon DSLR, a couple of lenses, and other accessories such as mini-tripods. I also used the zipped front compartment to store a couple of iPhones and wireless microphones (which I used to record my supporting video review of the Tenba on location).
Thanks to the silicon memory foam pad on the shoulder strap the bag was very comfortable to carry. I was reassured by the knowledge that I could pop the bag on the soggy ground and my camera kit would be protected by the seam-sealed and completely waterproof base. The weather alternated between rain and sun so I was glad to have access to the supplied Tenba Weatherwrap which covers and waterproofs the whole bag during a downpour.
I was hoping to capture shots of deer in the woods so was glad that the 'whisper hook' seal on the bag’s flap would let me access my camera quietly and quickly but sadly I didn’t spot the herd that frequents my test location on that particular day. And although I didn’t test the bag at night it’s good to know that parts of its black casing are reflective so passing traffic will be alerted to your presence. This subtle nod to safety is a nice touch.
Backpacks are great for carrying large amounts of kit on long journeys or trips abroad, but they can be heavy and cumbersome. As it’s a lighter and smaller shoulder bag the Tenba 13 Messenger provides a convenient way to comfortably carry a standard DSLR/mirrorless kit around town (or in the countryside). The 13 Messenger’s top zip also makes it quicker and easier to access (or stow) your kit when on the move so you can work more quickly. Highly recommended as a photographer’s day-to-day kit bag.
Read More: Whatever you have to carry you can find the perfect bag for your needs in our guide to the best camera bags and cases, or you can narrow your search with the best camera backpacks and best messenger bags.