Verdict: 5 stars ★★★★★
Don’t get me wrong. This bag won’t suit backpackers, travel photographers or sports fans. But if you’re a commuting photographer/journalist, like me, it’s perfect, and I’ve got five reasons why…
1: It’s supremely versatile
My laptop goes in a separate padded pocket in the back, so I can get it out to work on the train without exposing/disturbing my camera gear. It has an expanding zip-up pocket in the front for stationery, notebooks, cables and things I haven’t even thought of yet – plus two more expanding pockets in front of the that which stay open all the time but are covered by the bag’s flip-over cover. Which also has a pocket in it.
2: It holds lots of camera gear
The bag’s main compartment has its own zipper, so you can keep your camera gear covered and secured even when you’re using the bag for other stuff. Inside is a padded camera insert divided into three vertical sections, each with three adjustable dividers. You can easily cram in a couple of mirrorless bodies and a selection of lenses. The insert is a bit slim for the tall body of an enthusiast DSLR, but this is the Cooper 15 ‘Slim’ after all. There is a regular version. This whole insert lifts out for those times when you just want to carry around a lot of non-photographic gear.
3: It stays slim
I’ve used lots of bags that start out slim until you put something in them, when they immediately assume the shape of a half-filled sack of potatoes. That’s no good when you’re trying to manoeuvre down the aisle of a busy train, slide your bag under the seat on a plane or place it between your feet at a conference table. The Tenba has a solid, rectangular construction and the camera insert is a semi-rigid rectangle too, so this bag holds its slimline rectangular shape all the time. Which is just brilliant.
4: It stands upright
This is another major bonus in a shoulder bag. Too many have an displaced centre of gravity when they’re packed or a base that loses its flatness and starts to bulge, so when you put them down they just tip over. The Cooper 15 Slim does not. It stays slim (yeah, we covered that) and it stays upright… provided, that is, you remember one simple trick. When you put it down, hold it by the shoulder strap not the hand strap. If you don’t hold the shoulder strap it drops down underneath the bag so that it doesn’t stand up after all and everything I’ve just said is wrong.
5: It has a ‘quiet’ velcro lid
The lid fastens shut with a couple of velcro flaps which make the usual velcro ripping sounds when you pull the lid open. That’s fine in a city street, not so good in a conference or a theatre performance. But apparently the velcro pads have special directional hoops (or something of that sort) so that if you drag downwards slightly as you pull the lid open, the ripping noise is all but gone. It works, and it’s rather clever.
So I will concede the Tenba Cooper 15 Slim is quite expensive, but then a lot of the good stuff out there is unfortunately quite expensive. It’s also quite a specialised kind of bag that meets a certain specific set of needs very well, but it’s suitable for everyone. But then that’s the thing with bags, and it’s why there are so many different types on the market.
For my needs, though – commuting, photography, journalism and office work – it’s terrific, and out of all the shoulder/messenger/laptop camera bags I’ve tried so far, this is the one that’s impressed me the most, and not just because of its capacity but because of its neat and practical everyday touches.
Verdict: 5 stars ★★★★★
More information: Tenba website
Guide price: £215/$280