We Review the Manfrotto Pro Light Frontloader and Backloader Camera Backpacks

These new camera backpacks from Manfrotto offer more than just a minimalist design.

In the latter part of 2021, Manfrotto did a massive refresh of their camera bag collection. In recent years, the brand has been producing camera-carrying solutions that offer more subtle designs and modular options that are compatible with a wide range of applications. Among the renewed camera bag collections are the Manfrotto Street bags that include a backpack, a tote bag, a tech organizer, and a crossbody pouch, the Manfrotto Advanced bags that include backpacks, shoulder, and messenger bags, the Pro Light collection that consists of five different backpacks, and the Pro Light Tough hard case that we reviewed a month ago along with a larger, luggage-sized case.

The Pro Light backpacks include the Pro Light Multiloader, Flexloader, Frontloader, and two sizes of the Backloader. In this review, we take a look at and compare the Pro Light Frontloader M and Backloader M variants.

External Design and Material

The Manfrotto Pro Light backpacks all share major external features. The external fabric is a dark gray, matte, textured surface made up of ripstop and nylon that provides a balance of lightweight material, moisture resistance, and resistance to tears and abrasion. The structure of the backpacks is reinforced with viscoelastic memory foam that contributes to both impact protection and carrying comfort.

The rear panels are lined with breathable memory foam topped off by a mesh fabric that provides cushioning and airflow when carrying the backpacks. The shoulder straps are thick and padded with no height adjustment straps. All backpacks include an adjustable chest strap for better weight distribution and comfort, as well as a side handle/strap that also serves as a luggage handle fastener.

Another common feature among all five Pro Light backpacks is the included TSA-approved 3-digit code padlocks fastened to the side with dedicated pockets. These steel wire padlocks easily fit through the loops on the ends of the zipper pullers and allow for all major compartments and accessory pockets to be secured, making the backpacks protective for both physical and security threats.

The Pro Light Backloader, as the name implies, has a rear-access camera compartment. Its most identifying feature is the presence of rubber protectors on the front surface to serve as contact points when you lay the backpack on the ground to open the compartment. The rear flap that opens to reveal the compartment also has additional mesh pockets as well as a padded 15-inch laptop compartment. The Backloading has a pair of tripod attachment straps and flexible pockets on both sides for carrying travel-sized tripods, water bottles, and other long accessories.

The Pro Light Frontloader makes use of a full front panel flap that opens the main camera compartment. The external side of the flap includes a front pocket for smaller accessories as well.

Secondary side access is also an option to access the lower third of the camera compartment for the most used pieces of gear. While one side is occupied by the side access door, the other side has a tripod attachment strap and flex pocket. The top of the rear panel is opened by zippers to reveal a padded 15-inch laptop compartment while the interior of the front flap only has mesh pockets for small accessories. With the new Pro Light backpacks, Manfrotto also introduced a new internal divider system called the M-Guard padding. These new dividers feature a more versatile folding pattern that resembles the letter M. With the ability to fold the dividers, the user can make the compartments thinner or have the dividers have a slight bulge. This new form adds more options in fitting the gear inside the bag and reducing the extra space to prevent the contents from bumping into each other in transit. The entirely removable internal padding can of course adapt to bigger contents which are also great for dividing the compartment for non-photography gear items in case the space needed for gear is minimal.

Capacity

Both Pro Light backpack variants have roughly the same capacity. The main camera compartment can hold one or two full frame DSLR or mirrorless camera bodies with four to six standard-sized lenses. The long axis of the bag can hold a full-frame body with an attached 70-200mm telephoto lens. Alternatively, a foldable camera drone can take the place of two or three lenses inside the compartment.

The mesh pockets on the flaps can hold memory cards, batteries, keys, and other small items. The front panel can hold a standard tablet and also has smaller mesh pockets for extra accessories. The laptop compartments can hold 15-inch laptops; However, the rear pocket on the Pro Light Frontloader has a bit more room for thicker laptops.

Accessories

Both bags include the mentioned TSA-approved padlocks that secure all major camera compartments and accessory pockets. This is a thoughtful feature, especially for the Pro Light Frontloader, in which the exposed front camera compartment access can be a cause for concern. Being able to lock the bag through the padlock eliminates that risk, and the fact that the padlock is fastened to the bag lowers the risk of misplacing the lock which is a familiar experience for many travelers.

Both bags also include duo-faced all-weather covers. This uniquely designed rain cover doubles as a heat reflector. The black surface protects from moisture and dust as any rain cover would, while the reflective side is best used to repel heat and reduce the entry of heat into the bag itself.

Conclusion

Looking at the collection in general, the Pro Light collection offers options for photographers and filmmakers with almost any compartment access point and extra features they might want. The Pro Light Frontloader and Backloader backpacks are pretty much the staples in camera backpack styles with added features for security, gear fitting, and comfort. The Multiloader which offers front, side, and top access is a versatile option, and the Flexloader has a collapsible secondary compartment that can fit large accessories like a gimbal stabilizer offers an adaptive carrying solution. With the abundance of options, these camera bags can be a long-term companion for any professional or hobbyist.

What I Liked:

  • Minimalist aesthetic
  • Multiple options in access points
  • Able to lock the entire bag with the included padlock
  • Versatile padding and dividers

What Can Be Improved:

  • No modular accessories
  • Limited pouch/hook attachment point options

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