Photography has become a "booming business", a simple fact known all over the world. The number of amateur photographers who want to invest properly in super telephoto lenses (such as 400mm F / 2.8 - 500mm F / 4 - 600mm F / 4 lenses) increases every year. Next to professional photographers, more and more amateur photographers are using a super telephoto lens in our own country, but also on safari tours in African countries.
These expensive lenses are bought in a bag in the shape of a massive box. The box is perfectly tailored, but will not permit you to add a camera body; neither will you be able to mount the sun hood(s). Really pick up the combination and be ready to shoot (the so-called: preparing the combination in "shooting position") cannot be done from this box.
For the owners of the largest super telephoto lenses (600mm lenses), a bag of minimum 630mm high is absolutely necessary. The search for such a bag seemed to be more difficult than initially thought. For many years, there was only one possibility in the Benelux: the Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 AW II, but to be honest, it was just 20 mm too small.
Some time ago, Kata launched their "PL-TLB-800". This bag is actually designed for 800mm lenses, but can be perfectly used by owners of a 600mm lens, if they want to have a bag for their lens & camera in “shooting position”.
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 AW II is a huge backpack in the shape of a tube and quite impressive, but the delivery of the Kata exceeded all expectations. The bag looks at first sight as wide and deep, but in reality it is even a lot taller. The figures prove that is in fact 215mm taller!
The exact figures are:
External dimensions: 300x330x870mm
Internal dimensions: 220x220x630mm
Weight: 2.25 kg - 3.50 kg
For the 600mm lens, a height of 630mm is needed (the Lowepro bag was just 20mm to small) and the Kata bag provides just enough height. The Kata bag has 630mm inside. Do you want to use the second sun hood of your 600mm as well? Sorry, but then this bag will be too small ...
If you take a closer look at the weight, please note that according the manufacturer, an empty weight (without subdivisions or straps) of 2.24 kg is to foresee up to 3.50 kg using all accessories. With my setup, the bag weighs just under 3kg.
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
Like all other manufacturers, Kata puts no time or money in a "fancy" packaging. Everything is however nicely packed in a plastic bag and then into a cardboard box.
The bag itself is entirely black at the outside and made of a sturdy and durable fabric, which is light-water repellent. You will notice that some small details are finished with a red color. Inside, the main color is yellow. This makes it very easy to see if dust or sand has come into your bag, but unfortunately this color might eventually frighten animals in the wild during a safari tour.
At the front, there is a big box, which enables you to put some small photo accessories or food. On both sides, there is room available for a small bottle.
Once the harness has been adjusted to your height, you’ll notice that it’s made out of a very high quality. The harness fits nicely around your back and hips. Even a loaded bag doesn’t feel heavy and permits you to make a good daytrip on foot. Too bad that the adjustment of the harness requires some knowledge which cannot be found on the information card nor on the website.
Without going too deep into all features of all pouches and belts, I would like to briefly quote that the rain cover, which is black on one and gray on the other side, is designed to protect your equipment from the rain on the black side and the gray side provides protection from heating your material in the burning sun.
As mentioned earlier, finding a suitable bag for a 600mm lens and body was harder than expected. Besides the Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 AW II - 20mm too small – there are no reasonable alternatives. In America customized bags are made, but you cannot judge the quality in advance and the prices are equally high.
Kata found, with the PL-TLB-800, a solution for this niche in the photography market. Unfortunately, the bag is the largest of its kind and is still 90mm too small to mount the second sun hood on a 600mm lens or to mount the sun hood on your 800mm lens. If Kata could make such a bag, it would be the best bag ever made.
The Kata PL-TLB 800 was, at the time of writing this review (February 2012), only for sales in the Benelux with the dealer Hotz for 684 Euro (incl. VAT). This amount is perhaps a small cost compared to the purchase of the lens, but this remains an astronomical price for a bag. Lowepro version costs not even one quarter, but you should realize that for this price you get a rock-solid bag with a sturdy protection for your super telephoto lens and your other accessories.
Kata launched their "long lens bag" - the PL-TLB-800 to give a solution for the super-telephoto lens owners who wanted a bag for their equipment in complete shooting position. The bag itself is almost near to perfection with an extra plume for the harness, but it is regrettable that this largest version is still too small for a 600mm lens, camera and both sun hoods. If you own a 600mm lens and only use the first sun hood, this bag is however a great solution, but a large investment.
Finally, I would like to thank manufacturer Kata for providing this bag in order to write this review.