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Tenba Axis V2 16L Review

Sep 14, 2023Sep 14, 2023

Designing a camera bag is a balancing act between durable fabric and a lightweight bag, between comfort and fast access, between portability and the ability to fit in lots of gear. The Tenba Axis V2 16L largely achieves that balance. It's a narrower, more compact bag, yet can still fit one to two camera bodies with up to six lenses, a tripod, and an 11-inch tablet. The series is also the first to hide a discrete pocket for Bluetooth trackers like Tile and AirTag.

While the 16L bag isn't made for giant 400mm lenses, the compact bag will still accommodate a 70-200mm f2.8 attached. With the ability to swap lenses without crouching down and placing the bag in the dirt, it's an ideal choice for photographers who favor prime lenses and compact zooms.

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The Tenba Axis V2 16L is an ideal size for travel. It's compact yet can fit up to six lenses. That along with the durable fabric, comfortable straps, and quick access to gear, make the backpack a well-rounded option for many photographers. The ability to swing the bag around, access all the lenses, and swing the bag back without stooping to swap lenses from the ground shouldn't be understated.

While it's a good bag, a few minor details keep it from being perfect. It lacks an SD card pocket. The mesh also feels a bit abrasive, so this bag isn't as comfortable while wearing a tank top. Strapping on a tripod isn't as quick as it could be. Those are, however, minor enough that many photographers will still like this bag.

I’m giving the Tenba Axis V2 16L four out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.

I filled the Tenba Axis V2 16L with the:

The review sample was given to me by Tenba.

As the V2 suggests, the Tenba Axis V2 16L is a second-generation bag. While several features like the rear access and waist belt are fairly common, this bag has an unusual dual chest strap design. A hidden AirTag and Tile compatible tracker pocket is also a new feature.

The Tenba Axis V2 is slimmer than most packs, measuring only about ten inches wide. This fit situates itself easily on my back without overhang, even when adding a tripod to the side pocket. But, the big idea here is fitting this bag underneath the seat in front of you when flying. It will fit under narrower seats. However, the taller 18.5-inch height may be an issue for some airlines, while the smallest seats may not have enough clearance for the nine-inch depth of the bag. While compact, the bag has room to hold up to six lenses with one to two mirrorless or DSLR bodies.

Access to the main compartment sits against the back. The pockets are simple here: there's the large main gear compartment and two mid-sized zipper compartments inside the back panel. The adjustable dividers are arranged to place one body with an attached lens at the top, with the lens pointing down.

This also allows the camera to be accessed from a zipper at the top of the bag. That's unusual secondary access, as many backpacks would instead put the opening in the side and called it a quick access door. (The larger versions of this same pack have both side and top access.) While I can't reach it without taking the bag off, I can pull the camera out without placing the face of the bag in the dirt. It's also faster to open this top zipper if I don't need a lens. However, some photographers look for back-access bags to prevent pickpockets, and the top opening negates that advantage. Keeping the zippers in the center against your back make it difficult for someone to quickly snatch something out.

At the front of the pack is a large accessory pocket. It can fit up to an 11-inch tablet in the sleeve. Plus, here, the bag also has dedicated spots for a business card or ID, as well as two smaller open pockets and one zippered pocket. Inside the zippered pocket, a neoprene sleeve is designed to tuck away a Bluetooth tracker in a not-so-obvious space.

The backpack has two side pockets: one mesh for water bottles, the other an expanding one to accommodate a monopod, gimbal, or some of the smaller travel tripods.

The front of the bag has six stripes that double as MOLLE attachment points for the two included latch straps. Here, you can strap on a full-size tripod or use the attachment points to add other Tenba or MOLLE-compatible accessories. There's no pocket to keep the tripod from sliding out the bottom. But, after I pulled the straps tight, I couldn't shake the tripod out of the bag when I tried.

For a more compact backpack, the Axis 16L fits in quite a bit of gear. The only thing I really missed was a built-in SD card pocket. You can add a MOLLE card wallet, but I don't like leaving the most important part of a shoot (the images) hanging on the outside.

The straps are well padded and reasonably comfortable. They hug my shoulders pretty well without leaving a gap. The mesh feels a bit abrasive; I wouldn't wear it with a tank top. However, I haven't really met a comfortable camera backpack in a tank top, so it's hard to hold that against this bag. The back has three padded areas with mesh and a luggage pass through.

What's a bit out of the ordinary here is that this bag uses two chest straps. Both of them can be height adjusted to a pretty reasonable range. Tenba says that the dual straps better distribute the weight, but I think they help by keeping the shoulder straps hugging the right places. I was able to get the chest straps to fit comfortably. However, I think putting one strap above the bust and one below is a bit like drawing a target that says look here! The three straps seem to emphasize the bust and the gut. I felt a little self-conscious. If you don't like having two straps, it is possible to remove one.

With a waist belt, the bag distributes weight well. The belt is simple nylon webbing — it's not padded. I think the waist belt is okay for a bag this size, but if I were going to carry more weight, I would prefer a padded strap. The waist belt can also be removed.

The black version of this bag uses all-weather nylon designed to resist moisture and abrasions. This is a thick material that feels like it will hold up well. In fact, it feels a bit like the material some bags use on their bottom to protect from dirt and moisture, only this is across the entire exterior. The material doesn't feel like it will easily snag and is also painless to wipe down to clean. Note that the camo version is made with a different fabric and I can't speak to the durability of that variation.

The zippers are not waterproof, so Tenba includes a rain fly. I think the bag will protect gear if you happen to spill a drink, while photographers will want the rain fly to wear the bag in the rain.

Rear-access backpacks with waist belts are my favorite because they are easy to swap lenses. With the waist belt secured, I can remove the chest and shoulder straps, swing the bag around, unzip, and access the full main compartment. I love being able to swap lenses without fully taking the bag off. The bag also acts as a little table while swapping out lenses. Used this way, the bag feels nice and secure. Some bags feel like they could dump their contents this way, but that's not the case here.

While lens swaps are easy and quick, strapping on a tripod took a bit more time. The MOLLE attachment straps squeeze to release. This style takes a bit of getting used to and is time-consuming. I can't do it one-handed, and I found it faster to just loosen the strap.

The Tenba Axis V2 16L is an ideal bag for the traveling mirrorless photographer with up to six lenses. The bag still fits quite a bit of gear, but the narrower profile makes it easier to stash it on a plane or bus. Durable fabrics, comfortable straps, and a fast access rear opening round out the reasons to consider this bag.

The need to buy a separate SD card wallet may dissuade shoppers. And if you like to shoot wearing tank tops, the scratchy mesh on the straps may also be a deal-breaker. There are bags that require less time to attach and remove a tripod. The 16L isn't made for lenses larger than an 70-200mm f2.8.

Tenba lists the following tech specs:

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four out of five stars.