Kata Sensitivity V Photo Backpack Review

Last updated on March 23, 2009.

The eternal quest for the perfect camera bag may have come to an end for me.

Having carried a Domke bag for many years on assignments, I gave up the traditional camera bag years ago. They were too hard on my back.

Most of my gear needs were modest, even when I was shooting with Leica M’s. Once I started with digital capture my carry needs were still modest. First it was an Olympus E-1 with a 14-54, then a Pentax K10D with a 21 and 40mm lens. A small fanny pack was often all that was needed. With the Pentax gear I also toyed with a Maxpedition Versipack. It’s a nice bag that is constructed really well but it was too small for my Canon 5D kit, my current DSLR system. On long days I wasn’t happy with the weight distribution to one side with the Versipack.

Here’s the scenario: A trip where both the cameras and computer comes with you. Currently that is the Canon 5D, 50/1.4, 35/2 and the 24-105. A Panasonic LX3 is the latest addition for video and snapshots. Depending on the trip and length, I may add a wireless router, hard drives for backing up images and a spare laptop battery when flights are involved. Than add in all the cables and charges to power everything. That means a bag to get all this from point “A” to point “B.”

Once I arrive at a destination I need a bag for the day — mainly cameras, lenses, iPod, possibly the GPS, wallet, snacks and phone. I tried a LowePro SlingShot 100 AW but came up with the same problem as the Maxpedition — the weight distribution. There was too much weight on just the right shoulder to be comfortable for long days.

Enter the Kata Sensitivity V. It may be the perfect bag for my needs. I am about to take it on a trip to put it to the test.

Below is a video I shot showing the bag and what you can cram into it. After filming the video I realized I forget to mention the water bottle holder on one side of the bag and the two little pockets, one each on the straps. They are suppose to told your cell phone and iPod. They are too small for that and too hard to get things into and out of those pockets.

Field Update

Wrapping up a trip to Rome, where my Kata got its first trial run, and overall I am very happy with this pack. Before we left on the trip I also purchased a Kata Format Q Waist Pack, which is made from the same material as the Sensitivity V. These two bags make a nice travel combo. There are times I only want or need a waist pack.

One day I loaded up the backpack with my Canon 5D, 35/2, 24-105 and and 50/1.4.

On item I want to mention is the detachable bag that is secured via Velcro to the top inside of the bag’s top storage area. This little bag is brilliant. Inside of it went tons of little knick-knacks, like extra batteries, earphones, a film canister with change, hand sanitizer, cash, etc. When everything is being moved from location “A” to “B” this little pouch holds an amazing cache of items that otherwise would be free-floating inside your pack.

Back to my original thought, the day trip with my full load. I walked a little more than eleven miles that day. Most times I had the 5D out with a lens, but at times when it rained everything was inside. There is no way I would have been as comfortable carrying this amount of gear that long and that far with a traditional should bag. It’s a very comfortable backpack to carry.

The temperatures where in the mid-50’s Fahrenheit, but the bag did get my back warm a few times when I was exerting myself. When the rain got strong I could take off my shell jacket, put the pack over top my fleece jacket, and put the shell on over top the pack. This works because the pack is slim in terms of depth.

Zipper Slider Failure

One of the zippers on the bottom compartment did fail at some point on our way to Rome. I was able to work around this and still use the pack. I’ll have to contact Kata to have this fixed. We’ll see if Kata lives up to their reputation, but I have high hopes they will come through. Below are a few images of the zipper failure:

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It’s been more than two weeks since I first contacted Kata and still no word from them. I also opened a help desk ticket on February 17th, a week after my first message to them. It has not received a response either, as of February 27th. I sent them another plea for help for their contact form on the 23rd of February.

This is pathetic customer service, especially considering there is no way to contact them other than through forms on their site.

Service Update

The “site map” page on the Kata site links to a “where to buy” page. Under the United States that links to Bogen Imaging, who apparently is the distributor in the U.S.

I don’t know if it’s them who are responsible for answering queries from the Kata site, but somebody is dropping the ball big time. I called Bogen and they told me to send the bag to them for repair.

Sorry for going off on this, but bad customer service really gets under my skin. I’ll send the bag off and see what happens. I’ll update this post when I have more to share. This is a pity since I do really like the bag.

Resolution

Finally I was contacted by someone at Kata. I get the sense they are a very small company. There is only one person who answers feedback. They explained they were having serious IT problems with their help desk software over the last few months. My earlier queries were nowhere to be found.

The woman at Kata arranged for a replacement bag, along with a small gift (a small Kata belt pouch). Nice touch.

What I thought was bad customer service was really a failure of software. You think technology is your friend, and it’s not. Once Kata DID get my information they bent over backwards to make it right. Kudos. Now I need more excuses to use this pack! But just in case I have another problem in the future, I now have a contact name, phone and email.

Fitting a MacBook Pro 15″ (Unibody) in the Kata

I can’t see how this is going to happen without a lot of struggling. My 13″ White MacBook fit perfectly. I was able to jam an older version of the pre-Unibody 15″ MPB into the pack. But I just upgraded to the new MBP and it’s simply too big to fit. At least too big for me wanting to risk damage to the bag or laptop. Just FYI, YMMV….

More Kata Sensitivity V videos and links

I originally read about this bag at TWIPPHOTO where Ron Brinkmann did a video review of his Kata bag.

See more Kata bags in action at the Flickr Kata pool photos page.

Here’s another video from CodePoet showing what his Kata backpack holds for a trip to Africa:

5 thoughts on “Kata Sensitivity V Photo Backpack Review

  1. Jim, thanks so much for posting this! I’ve been using a LowePro SlingShot 200 AW and it’s murder on the right shoulder. For super quick jaunts with a small lens I’ve been taking the Acme Made Bowler Bag out, but it’s not practical for most trips, especially those with a laptop. Can’t wait to hear the verdict after a month or two!

  2. After watching the video and consulting you if the 2008 pre-unibody 15″ MacBook Pro would fit, I bought the case.

    It is amazing. The best case I’ve ever had.

    Following some weeks of use, the computer part enlarged a bit and there is less stress on the zipper, which you warned about a possible source of problems.

    Thank you again for the advice.

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