Peak Design is probably the most well-known camera bag brand to leverage Kickstarter to launch their products, going way back as early as 2014 with their camera straps. And since then, there have been many camera bags brands who have tried to follow their footsteps — some successfully, and some not.
So when Xennec approached me to review their new range of camera bags, I was slightly apprehensive when I learned that it was to be launched via Kickstarter. There were just too many “all-talk and no go” products and vaporware around (Yashica Y35 anyone?), and I didn’t want to be associated with such campaigns.
To their credit, Xennec stepped up to address the concerns, providing background information on the project and team which included a prominent retailer in Singapore and a product designer with a track record in designing camera bags. They also provided for review a pre-production model of their bag, which is very close to production quality.
So today, we’re looking at the Xennec CityScape BackPack 15 in black trim. The bag is also available in Charcoal trim, which looks pretty sharp and dapper. Right off the bat, the backpack is a winner design wise, delivering a camera bag that is versatile enough to be used for both outdoor shoots and corporate shoots.
Measuring 18 x 17.3 x 5.5 inches (44 x 30 x 14 cm), the backpack fits within most cabin carry-on size restrictions, making it ideal for air travel. It weighs in at just 3.32 lbs (1.51kg) and swallows up to 20 liters of camera gear.
The Xennec CityScape BackPack 15 features a sturdy framework all around, holding its form even when fully loaded. The high-density foam padding cushions the contents from impact from all sides without adding unnecessary bulk or weight. A well-padded handle for the top integrates neatly into the backpack, making it easy to pick up and go.
At the front sits two zippered compartments, of which you can organize your batteries and memory cards in the smaller one at the bottom in its sewn internal pockets. The larger front compartment fits my 9.7” iPad easily, and the specs indicate that it’ll take up to a 12” tablet.
There is also another compartment in the front flap which you can fit a 15” notebook or documents, in which my 15” MacBook Pro slipped in easily. The zippers are high in quality and offer smooth operation, and they are lined with rubberized flaps to keep water out.
Flipping the Xennec CityScape BackPack 15 around, the generously padded shoulder straps with ergonomically designed curve makes it easy and comfortable to carry the backpack around. Even when fully loaded, the backpack is comfortable to carry and conforms to my back easily. I brought it out for a short hike and the shoulder straps did a phenomenal job of distributing the weight of the bag without any discomfort.
I like that the sternum strap is fastened magnetic latches that are secure and fast to use, as opposed to the traditional clips which can be finicky to operate with gloves. The strap also incorporates a slight elastic action which makes it really comfortable yet secure. There is also a removable waist belt which I didn’t try out.
The back of the backpack is padded with breathable fabric, so sweat and moisture get wicked away and evaporates quickly. The backpack features a loop for luggage handle pass-through, making it more convenient to move around with your luggage at the airport for example.
At the sides are magnetic pockets, one for carrying a tripod/monopod, and the other to fit your water bottle. The pockets are nicely designed with the proper size and depth, making it easy to secure and remove the tripod or water bottle. They snap back snugly with their magnetic buttons – a far more elegant solution than webbed pockets which tend to loosen after a while.
The bottom of the backpack is coated with what Xennec calls “carbonate-coated fabric” for water resistance.
The access to the main compartment of the backpack is via the back, so it will be difficult for any potential thieves to help themselves to your gear while you’re carrying the Xennec CityScape backpack. Of notable mention is the twist lock zipper tabs Xennec calls Twiz-Lock, which requires you to twist the tabs in opposite angles to lock or unlock the tabs. This feature makes it more difficult for someone to access your gear quickly and adding to the security of the bag.
The cover unzips on 3 sides and opens completely, and the shoulder straps fold back completely to stay out of the way for easy access. The quality construction continues inside with high-density foam forming the inside dividers to provide rigid and lightweight protection for your gear. There are sufficient dividers to create multiple configurations for almost any arrangement you need.
I managed to fit an impressive amount of my Canon EOS gear inside the backpack, which fits over my LowePro roller case containing my Profoto lighting equipment, making it easy to transport all my gear for commercial assignments.
The Xennec CityScape 15 is great for DSLR, medium format gear or full frame mirrorless systems. If you’re shooting with Micro Four Thirds or a rangefinder with smaller lenses, the dividers can be too large to fit smaller items snugly. The rain cover sits in a blue poach ready for deployment when required (provided you remember to pack it in), and there are two zippered pockets on the inside with see-through fabric for your important documents such as passports and travel documents.
All in all, the Xennec CityScape 15 is a surprisingly capable backpack for any photographers wishing to carry a load of gear for urban or light rural location shooting. The backpack’s svelte appearance belies its carrying capacity of 20 liters, and it feels very well-built and comfortable even when fully loaded. I’d certainly recommend that you check out the CityScape 15 and the other two Xennec camera bags at their Kickstarter campaign page (check out the campaign for the pricing).
Full disclosure: A pre-production backpack was provided by Xennec for the purpose of this review.