I was in need of a nice roomy travel camera bag. I was looking for something that I could pack full of my favorite gear for trips in the car or for trips in a plane and anything in between. After looking at a ton of different styles of cases I decided I really wanted something that was large enough to hold a bunch of my gear, but something that was still small enough so I could take it on an airplane as “carry on” luggage. I don’t know about you but I just cringe at the thought of putting my precious camera equipment on a plane as “checked” luggage.
After doing a bit of research, I narrowed my choices down to two bags. It was either going to be the Kata FlyBy 76, or the Lowepro Roller x200. Both are similar in size and are about as big as you can get and still be safe using them as a carry on. I am a pretty big fan of Lowepro and already own two Lowepro bags. So, It was going to take a lot of convincing to get me to try some brand that was totally unknown for me. My first instinct was to check the reviews. Google is always my friend with stuff like this but other than a few reviews at B&H photo, I really didn’t find enough information on the Kata bag to feel comfortable. My history with Lowepro had been a pretty long and very reliable one and I was really leaning pretty heavily toward the Lowepro bag.
But, a few things about the Kata bag kept me coming back. both bags are nearly the same exterior size. The Lowepro Roller x200 has exterior dimensions of (inches) 15.7W x 11.2D x 24.2H. The Kata FlyBy 76 measures in at (inches) 14.6 W x 10D x 22H. The Kata was just a hair smaller which could make a difference when trying to squeeze your bag in the overhead compartment.
Although the Kata bag was just a bit smaller in exterior dimensions, it was quite a bit larger in interior dimensions. Interior dimensions of the Kata Flyby 76 were listed as (inches) 13W x 8.7D x 20.5H. The Lowepro Roller x200 measured (inches) 12.2W x 6.6D x 19.8H. At first this didn’t seem to make sense to me. How was the Kata bag smaller outside but larger inside? Well it dawned on me that the design of the Lowepro bag incorporates an exterior rolling carrier and a removable backpack combined into one rolling case. It is possible to remove the case from it’s carrier and use it as a backpack. I guess that takes up a bit of room and accounts for the mystery of the interior dimensions. Although you can not use the Kata case as a backpack, it does come with a shoulder strap so you can use it as a shoulder bag. Either way, I’m not going to use the case as a backpack or shoulder bag. I was looking for a rolling case and they both fit this bill. You can decide if the backpack feature or the shoulder bag feature is important to you. For me? Well, not an issue.
So the Kata Bag had a bit more room inside but was smaller outside, that was a big plus for me. The Kata bag weighs in at 5.2 pounds totally empty with the trolly (included with the bag) removed. With the trolley and all accessories, the Kata bag weighs in at 10.5 pounds. The Lowepro Roller x200 only lists one weight so I’m going to assume it’s the max weight with all accessories. This is listed as 13.2 pounds. The Kata bag is about 3 pounds lighter, again another plus.
Both bags are listed as rolling bags. The Lowepro Roller x200 has built in wheels and a telescoping handle. One cool feature of the Lowepro system is that the handle has a threaded insert that can double as a tripod mount for a light or a camera. The Kata Flyby 76 has a removable trolley. This is called an “Insertrolley” which is held in place with velcro straps built into the bag. The trolley provides a platform for the bag to rest on. It features a telescoping handle that is very comfortable to use when extended and it collapses out of sight when lowered. A cool feature of this system is that there are 4 wheels on the trolley. The axle is expandable to give a more stable experience when rolling the bag. It’s pretty cool but it could also be a problem. I really don’t know how durable the trolley will be with the wheels extended and it appears that they could be easily caught on something. I guess time will tell on this one.
Both bags will hold your laptop computer in a zippered compartment in the lid of the bag. The Lowepro Roller x200 advertises that it will hold laptops up to 15 inches. The Kata FlyBy 76 will hold a laptop up to 17 inches. Once again, a plus for the Kata.
Pricing was nearly identical as well. The Lowepro bag retails for about $300 USD and the Kata at about $285. With everything being nearly the same, I liked the idea of the lighter roomier Kata bag. I also liked that the trolley was removable so it could be used by some other bags. Kata has a few other bags that will fit on the Insertrolley.
So, here I was, a die hard Lowepro guy and I decided to give this Kata FlyBy 76, a bag from a company I never heard of, a try. So, click open browser, navigate to B&H photo, add to cart, click, buy, done.
I am very fortunate that I live about 90 miles from B&H photo. I am so close that it seems that whenever I order anything from B&H photo, I have it the next day. It’s like getting next day shipping for free. Pretty cool stuff. So, I waited my one whole day and the case arrived. After unpacking the bag I gave it a thorough look over and I have to say that I’m very impressed with the build quality of this bag. It is just what you’d expect from a bag of this price range. The exterior of the case it covered with ripstop nylon mesh. There are two heavy duty zippers that hold on the front lid of the case. There is a carrying handle on the top as well as the side of the case. There are two “D” ring connectors which allow you to install a shoulder strap which is included in the kit. The shoulder strap has a pretty wide shoulder pad to make shoulder carrying a bit more comfortable. The entire bag is black with orange trim and it just looks pretty darned cool.
On the exterior, there are two zippers on the front/top flap. One zipper opens a compartment in the front that is divided into two sections. One is deep and could be used for holding paperwork or files or some 8×10 sized prints. The second section is a bit shallower and would be used to hold your memory card wallet or some smaller accessories.
There is a second zipper on the front flap that runs vertical in the center of the top. This zipper has no purpose other than to close a compartment that houses a stainless steel spine guard that helps with the rigidity of the front flap.
also on the front of the case are loops used to mount your tripod to the front of the case. The tripod straps needed to mount a tripod are included in the kit.
Looking at the back of the exterior reveals how the trolley system is secured to the bag. There is a sewn in flap that secures with velcro. The trolley is very easy to insert and remove as needed. If you need a bit extra room in that overhead bin you can remove the trolley and store it under the seat. I like that. The trolley extends in three sections and collapses small enough to be totally hidden by the case. The trolley sports two wheels on each side. The outer wheel is on an extendable axle system. You just pull the wheels out and they click in place giving you a wider and more stable platform while rolling your bag around.
Ok, enough about the exterior. I’m not gonna store my stuff on the exterior so lets get to the meat of this bag, the interior. When I first opened this bag up my first impression was this thing is huge and yellow. Yep, yellow. I like the yellow interior because it makes small things easy to find. The interior size really is a bit deceptive. From the outside, this looks like a nice sized bag, but when you open it up, you’ll think you can put your car in there. Ok… yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it really is roomy. And quite a bit roomier than I was expecting. I was able to fit my Sigma 300mm f2.8 lens and my Sigma 50-500mm Bigma lens inside this thing and still have room for two camera bodies (Pentax K-7 and K-5, one with a battery grip and 16-50mm f2.8 lens attached), Two Pentax AF 540 speedlights, a Sigma 105mm f2.8 Macro, a Pentax DA* 50-135mm f2.8, a Pentax DA* 200mm f2.8 Prime, a Pentax 77mm f 1.8 Limited prime, a Pentax DA 35mm 2.8 macro, and a Pentax DA 10-17 fisheye lens. Even with all this gear, there is still room enough left over for spare batteries, a charger, some AA batteries in a ziplock bag, A Stofen Omni Bounce and a Rocketblower And yes, If I wanted to I could even fit a few more this in there. I just dont see any reason to. Can you??? The interior compartments are all user adjustable by using various sized velcro dividers. I could set this bag up in so many different ways. I could also pack up a pretty good kit and have room left over for a change of clothes. The possibilities here are only limited to your imagination. Overall, I was fairly impressed with the storage capabilities of this bag.
Laptop storage in this case is located in the lid of the case and is accessed from the interior. The laptop storage area features a zipper closure and is padded. There are no interior pockets in the laptop storage area for any computer accessories like your power supply. You’ll have to find room for that in the main compartment but I really don’t think you’ll have any trouble finding room.
So whats the bottom line? The materials are about the same as any other camera bag I had before. Very tough durable nylon fabric covers the entire case. The zippers are large and very heavy duty but only time will be able to tell on just how durable they are. The loops on the front for the included tripod mounting straps are a great feature. I really like the removable trolley system. If it wears out or gets damaged I can just replace it with out having to replace the entire bag. I can also use this trolley to carry other bags. Having two handles on the case, one on the top and one on the side, along with the included shoulder strap are all nice touches but a bit of overkill actually since I bought this for a rolling bag. I really don’t see me carrying this thing at all, even more so when it’s packed full of heavy camera gear.
The biggest plus for this bag is the roominess of the interior. I really crammed alot of kit into this bag and it still could have taken a bit more. I still cant get over how much stuff I was able to cram into this case comfortably. And I still had some room to spare. If you need more room than this bag can provide you’ll need something a bit larger than what would be considered “carry on” size. Not only can I use this bag as a carry on camera bag, but its roomy enough inside to store a smaller kit and a set of Alien Bees monoblock lights, or a few days worth of clothes or whatever else you can think of. But the bag does have a few short comings.
First, although I find the removable trolley a plus, some might find it a shortcoming. I have to admit that even though I like the system, I wish it was a bit more secure when mounted. When you pick up the bag from the top handle the trolley slips down slightly and hangs a bit below the case. Probably not a big deal but it is annoying. The only other negative I can say about this case is the total lack of small pockets/compartments for small items. Perhaps I am spoiled by my other Lowepro bags which have an abundance of small pockets to secure small gear. This bag has none of them. The smallest compartment on this bag is the smaller pocket in the front zippered compartment. This pocket is still a bit too big for storing small items, and this compartment does not secure seperately from the other larger pocket in the same area. So stuff could slide out of the smaller compartment when traveling and find its way in to the larger one. It seems to me that finding a small item in that larger compartment would just be a pain.
To deal with the lack of smaller compartments I’ll be using some heavy duty zip lock bags stored in the main compartment. Not an elegant solution but a practical one.
For me, the abundant positive aspects of the Kata FlyBy 76 far outweigh the minor negative ones. So over all I am very happy with this bag. This thing is so tough I can even use it as a make shift stool. I’m 6-2 and weigh 230 pounds and I can sit on it while its standing upright and I wont crush the bag. I’m very confident that my precious camera gear is protected. Kata also makes a smaller version of this bag called the Kata Flyby 74 if you want or need something a bit smaller.