tom the bombwrote a review of DAKINE Mission Photo Backpack - 1500cu in on May 28, 2010
Like "khu3107035" I'm also a professional photographer, and not in the habit of writing reviews; but since he/she took the leap to run "P.R." for Dakine, I thought I'd do my part to provide some balance here (from my perspective, at least).
Despite the low price I had high hopes for this pack based on all the glowing reviews I read. It seemed to have the bases covered and sounded like a quality product, and when it arrived this appeared at first to be the case. The bag is quite comfortable, isn't ugly, and has some great features you would expect in a photo backpack (e.g. raincover, tripod carry) and a couple you wouldn't (e.g. the totally genius fold-out bottle pouch, board carry straps). The "camera block" is also an interesting idea, although I now suspect it's probably a solution that Dakine arrived at for the wrong reasons (keep reading). And the pack seems reasonably (but not extraordinarily) well-made, offering decent protection for your kit. So far, so good, right? Well, yeah... right up to the point where I loaded my gear into it and it all started to go south.
The problem can be boiled down to this: whoever designed this had all the right general ideas but lost the plot in the details. It appears that Dakine took one of their existing packs (the Mission) and modified it for photo use (guessing this is the origin of the camera block solution). Ok, fine. The elements of the bag that are not specific to photography are well designed. But I think they must have lacked quality input from actual working photographers because it's set up very poorly for photo use. The first and biggest problem is inside the camera block itself. While it has dividers that can, in theory, be rearranged in a variety of ways, in practice they really cannot. It's obviously set up to hold one SLR body w/ a very long lens attached and four extra lenses (flash units would also fit well in the lens compartments) and there's really no way to reconfigure it in any meaningful way. You can't change the position of your camera inside the block. It has to go vertical w/ the body at the top of the pack and the extra compartments down either side. If you have a compact lens on your camera, all the free space below it will probably be wasted as no extra divider is provided to partition this space off from the camera. The two side compartments each have one - and only one!! - divider that can also be moved around a bit; but it's not much help and including a few extra dividers would have made things a lot better (in fact can i even BUY more?? I haven't seen them...). This may not present a problem for you if you are packing the block the one way the designers apparently envisioned but if you're like most photographers and carry a lot of extra crap around you will find yourself using the 'lens' areas of the block to hold all your accessories such as batteries, chargers, cables, light meters, tripod quick releases etc. because they don't fit properly anywhere else! This is especially bad because there's no way to secure anything inside the block and since it wasn't really designed to hold all those bits and pieces they just kind of slosh around in there; so while the bag seems to offer a lot of protection from external threats, it makes me very nervous about the safety of my gear nonetheless. And it gets worse. The inside of the block and the dividers are covered in nylon and have velcro all over them to provide attachment points. That means that your gear is rubbing up against velcro. Granted, it's the soft(er) side of the velcro, but do you really want your camera's LCD screen rubbing on that all day while you're humping around? Not me, no way. There's no excuse for this design when other packs at the same price are employing much better ones.
The rest of the organization is equally disastrous. I have a little Crumpler shoulder bag that holds my camera w/ big lens attached plus my light meter, cable release, batteries, charger, USB cable, CF cards, manuals, gels, gaffers tape, QP cards, quick release and a bunch of other little junk all very neatly and easily. But with this bag? Forget it. Aside from the main compartment that's filled w/ the camera block, there's just one big front pouch with very little organization. Yeah, there's a place to hold four pens and a nice padded iPhone pouch that my iPhone won't fit in because it's in a (slim) case. And there's one zippered compartment that must be good for something. Other than that, your just chucking stuff in there and playing grab trying to get it out again later. Very inefficient. Very sloppy. Very frustrating. (In fairness there are also two very small side pouches that I can't really see myself using).
'khu3107035' says they even put their 17" laptop in this pack. I don't know what laptop they have, but my 17" MacBook Pro most definitely will NOT fit in this bag in any way, shape or form, even with nothing else in the bag at all. If there's a smaller 17" laptop I'd really like someone to tell me what that is. "P.R.", indeed.
And more design flaws: the waist belt is not removable; the tripod carry works OK but could be more secure; the rain cover is good, but can't be used with the tripod carry-- it's one or the other. If it rains, I guess you'll be carrying that tripod in hand. Also, no attaching a tripod and board at the same time.
The last thing I want to mention will no doubt strike a lot of peeps as weird, but for me it's a real issue: this pack is NOISY! Most photographers I know go out of their way to try to be unobtrusive when shooting on location, and part of that involves turning off all the things that make noise. Well when you arrive wearing this pack people are going to think Santa's freakin' sleigh just pulled up, the way the zippers jingle and jangle. Crazy.
I've said a lot of negative things about this backpack and I stand by them; but it's not a terrible pack, especially being at the low-end of the price range of photo backpacks. I really *want* to like this pack because it has so much potential. Dakine could turn it into a great pack if they were sufficiently motivated, and I would certainly pay more for a better version. I even considered keeping mine and modifying it myself; but that's probably a daft plan as I would have to spend more money to do it, not to mention time and effort, and am better off just returning this and applying that extra dosh to a better pack that already has what I need. So mine's going back, sorry Dakine. This is no pack for a pro shooter; certainly not off the mountain. Sorry to all for the insanely long review; guess I'm hoping someone at Dakine will see this and take it in consideration. I just want to help, after all ;)