Manfrotto Street Backpack Review

Obligatory disclaimer: I bought this backpack myself. I am not getting paid in any way. I am writing this review because when buying the backpack I found only a few reviews online.

Design and Use

After buying the Fujifilm XT3 and a few vintage lenses I needed a proper backpack. My little shoulder bag was simply too small. I wanted a backpack with two compartments and side pockets for bottles. I would use it for day trips or extended photo walks through the city. It should be rather light and slim so I can easily carry it around town and on public transport. Due to some kind of virus, looking at physical bags was kinda out of the question so I researched online. After a few days of comparing dozens of backpacks I saw the Manfrotto Street Backpack on sale for 45€ (it retails for about 100€) and bought it on a whim.

The backpack is rather light with about 1kg and it is also slim. It’s dimension are 46cm in height, 28cm in width and just 15cm in depth. It looks a bit angular and bulky but it is really not a big backpack. I am 178cm with a slim build and for me it feels like a medium sized backpack. It is the perfect size for what I need. I like the slim profile especially for wearing it on buses and trains. It has a lower compartment for camera gear and an upper one for various other items. Both have separate zippers. There is an extra slot for a 15 inch laptop, two zipped side pockets and two additional zipped pockets on the front

I like the design quite a lot. It does not scream “camera bag”. The olive green, grey denim and the two orange zips look neat. It is neither flashy nor business boring. Of course the big “Manfrotto” logo gives it’s purpose away but it is black and hard to read. I do not like huge brand names on my stuff. I am not a walking advertisement platform. Sure design is very subjective but this backpack looks cool. I like it.

Outside Features

The Manfrotto Street Backpack has four outside pockets. Two on the sides and two on the front flaps. The upper one is pretty large and ideal for some paper, a notebook or other flat items. It will drag the front flap down a bit so I would not use it for let’s say a large and heavy powerbank. The lower front pocket is smaller and ideal for short cables, a charger, a battery or a case with memory cards.

The side pockets are flawed, there is no way around it. They are not elastic in any way and everything that sticks out at the top (like essentially all bottles, umbrellas or mini tripods) needs to be fastened with the zips. These tend to get loose with movement. Why Manfrotto did not put some elastic mesh on the sides like so many other manufacturers is beyond me. It is possible to fiddle one zip tab trough the other for added strength but this is not a good solution either especially not for quickly accessing a water bottle.

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The zip tabs for the main compartments can be pulled through each other for some theft deterrence. It won’t help against someone using a knife but the option is there. That being said the camera compartment is easily accessible from the outside. Good for photo walks and easy access but not so much for traveling and securing the gear. But then I did not buy this backpack for travel. There is a loop at one side for a cable lock or for securing a tripod. There are no straps at the bottom for larger tripods but it makes the backpack stand upright very well. I like this as I never use a tripod anyway.

There is a non-removable sternum strap for those who want to feel like having an imminent heart attack and two metal rings on the well padded straps. God knows what those rings are for. The length adjusters have small teeth to keep the straps tight although I worry that this solution might damage the straps in the long run. The adjusters are made from metal which is nice. There is also a luggage pass-through but the strap is small and the backpack is a bit long so it might not fit too well depending on your suitcase.

Lower Compartment

The camera compartment sits on the thickly padded bottom. It comes with two large and three small dividers that are easy to adjust. I can fit in my Fuji XT3 with a lens and five additional small to medium sized lenses. Taking out one small divider and I can fit my large Albinar 85-205mm lens (about 18cm long) on one side. Using the extra grip on my camera will be a tighter fit but should not be a problem.

I am currently using the compartment with my camera up top riding on the padded dividers. I put my lenses on the opposite side from where my water bottle later goes. I don’t much care about the cameo look and would have preferred a brighter color to improve visibility. I also wish that Manfrotto would have added some small zipped pouches on the inside of the flap instead of one larger pocket outside. Those would have been ideal for memory cards or batteries. The compartment itself is well padded from all sides.

Upper Compartment

The upper compartment is slightly larger. There is enough space for lunch boxes, a set of underwear, a light jacket or sweater, accessories, a book or other items. It is not a travel backpack but I can fit a lunchbox, a sweater and a paperback book in there. The inside is again in dark cameo which is impractical when fishing for smaller things. The flap has non-elastic pockets on the inside which are almost useless. One looks like a pocket for a 2000s brick style cell phone, three(!) are for pens and one for a larger item. They are secured by a Velcro strap that really does not keep things secure. Whatever I put in there ends up in the compartment. Why Manfrotto did not use zipped or at least elastic pouches is again beyond me. There is a pocket in the back that it also not secured. But you can actually remove all dividers to convert the camera backpack into a regular one. The padding dividing the compartments is secured with zips. That’s nice.

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Ease of use and comfort

The backpack is very comfortable to wear. The straps are thick and the padding on the back is great. There is some ventilation but the backpack tends to be a bit sweaty. Maybe not something for long hikes but totally fine for photo walks in the city. I mean it is called the “Street Backpack”. The camera compartment is easy to organize but it can’t be accessed on the go without risking something to fall out. You have to take the backpack off to access your gear. The top compartment and side pockets are easy to reach by swinging the backpack around. All in all it is not ideal for changing gear on the go but put on a bench or the ground it allows for a very easy overview of all the lenses. Again though the slim size makes it very comfortable and easy to move around the city, through stores or on public transport. Carrying a laptop makes everything a little tighter. Some lenses might not fit sticking out of the compartment and need to be arranged differently.

Conclusion

Would I buy the Manfrotto Street Backpack again? I am not sure. For the full asking prize certainly not. The non-elastic side pockets, the lack of small and secure pouches inside and the not so easy access of the camera compartment while wearing the backpack are maybe too many flaws. I love the design, I love the slim build and the organization options but I think there are better backpacks out there. That being said I paid 40€ and I was sick of looking at backpack reviews without touching one in a store. Compared to what you can get for this amount of money it is a decent and stylish backpack. I don’t regret the money spent. I often like Peak Design’s stuff quite a lot but their comparable backpack comes in at about 240€.

Looking at backpacks with easier access on the go they all tend to be bulkier and less flexible in how you organize the space for different setups. As I like to shoot with very different vintage lenses the ease with which I can rearrange the dividers makes up for the fact that I have to take the whole backpack off to get at everything. When I am at my actual location I tend to put lenses into the side pockets for easy lens changes. I can live with that workaround.

Pros:
– light and slim, ideal for public transport
– stylish, does not scream “camera bag”
– versatile camera compartment with good padding
– comfortable straps and padding in the back
– stands upright
– lots of space for its size
– laptop pouch with decent size
– holds shape very well

Cons:
– non-elastic side pockets
– non-removable sternum strap, just dangles uselessly around
– inside pouches are of little use for small items, lack of secure inside pouches
– unable to safely access the camera compartment without taking off the backpack
– little theft protection

Verdict:
A stylish and slim backpack for day trips or photo walks with some flaws. If you can work around them it is a decent but not ideal backpack. Probably not worth more than 100€ though.

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