The demands of photographers have changed over the years when it comes to transporting their gear. For those who demand a bag that gets the job done and looks great while doing it, there are some great options on the market these days. Today we'll look at one such option, the f-stop Dyota 20.
As an ambassador for f-stop, I have had early access to this bag in order to give my thoughts here on Fstoppers. All opinions here are my own, and f-stop has not asked for anything other than honesty in the review of this bag.
I have been using f-stop bags since 2012 when I first purchased their Satori EXP. I now use a mix of that bag, my Guru UL, and my Loka UL. While I have always sworn by their Mountain series packs, this is the first of their day packs I have tried. It carries over the attention to detail and high-quality construction of the larger adventure packs, but is designed to be comfortably used for both work and play in urban environments.
The Dyota pulls its heritage from the Dalston pack in f-stop's Urban series and takes every element of that pack to a new level of design and quality. New materials have been used, plastic clips have been replaced with metal, and almost every stitched seam on the bag is gone. Dyota comes in two sizes, the larger Dyota 20 and the smaller sling-type Dyota 11. I've been testing the 20-liter version, so that's the one we'll look at here.
For this new pair of bags, f-stop has pulled out all stops with new technologies to separate this from their other lines and further push the bar when it comes to quality construction. The bag is constructed from a 5-layer material beginning with a 780D strength layer (twice the strength of my Mountain series packs!) and coated for weather resistance and radio welding.
For me, radio welding is really the big step forward here. In short, radio welding is used to bind the different pieces of the bag together without the need for stitching. This means two things: no pesky seam lines for water to seep in through and no seams pulling apart over time (albeit, I haven’t had a single seam pull apart on any of my f-stop bags, but improving that durability can only be a good thing, right?).
The next interesting feature that has been added to all sections of this bag is magnetic connectors. Whereas most bags rely on hook-and-loop Velcro to close compartments and secure additional camera storage, with this bag, f-stop has included magnets in both the bag and the internal camera unit (ICU). At the bottom of the bag, you have magnets that hold the ICU in place and then at the end of the roll-top, there are also magnets to hold that closed. These are both welcome for the reduced noise and increased durability. I hope that we can see more bags in other styles making use of magnets in the future.
The Dyota 20 is compatible with f-stop's Gatekeeper straps (the bag comes with two included), which can be used to strap additional gear (such as a tripod or small lightstand) to the bottom of the bag. This is a great solution for keeping the bag looking clean and keeping the weight central (I've never been a fan of side-mounting tripods on bags, as it puts too much weight off to one side).
The removable ICU is the center of what makes this a camera bag and not just a day bag (although if you remove the unit, it’s easy to stuff the bag full of whatever you might need for a day trip unrelated to photography). Since the bag has zips on both sides, the ICU is designed to allow for gear to be packed on both sides and removed through the zips rather than the top of the bag. This is an interesting solution (seen on some other Urban series packs in the past) that has benefits and pitfalls.
Since the top of the bag can be packed with whatever else you may want to take with you on the day, side access to your gear means you don’t have to unpack the bag just to get to your camera or lenses. However, packing it on both sides means that you have to remember which side you put which piece of gear on. I constantly found myself playing the USB-port game and opening the wrong side first. Those with better short-term memory may not find this to be a problem!
The insert itself has space for a basic DSLR kit or a fairly sizable mirrorless kit. In testing, I was able to stuff almost every piece of my Fujifilm kit into the inserts. Two bodies, four primes, the 10-24mm f/4, and the 16-55mm f/2.8 fit comfortably in the insert. So, if you really need to pack some gear, there’s plenty of space. But, that’s not what this bag is really intended for. It got really heavy really quickly (since the shoulder straps are quite thin) with a large amount of gear plus everything else I needed for the day. It’s a lot easier to carry with a small kit consisting of one body, a couple of small lenses, and then other electronics and chargers you might need for a day out. It’s worth
considering how much gear you’d want to pack into this bag.
Although this ICU system works well and makes the bag useful as a camera bag or day bag depending on what you’ll be doing, the main issue I had while using it was that it’s a little difficult to get to gear in the very bottom. Since the zips finish right at the bottom of the ICU, it’s tough to open that area of the bag wide enough to access tightly packed gear at the bottom. Not a deal-breaker, but an annoyance at times. I found myself lifting up the ICU many times to get access to those sections easily. Speaking of zips, f-stop have used KCC zips on both sides for extra durability, and these are radio-welded to the pack for extra weather resistance.
It’s important to consider what this bag is intended for before looking at how it is to use. From f-stop's own website: “the Dyota is comfortable in a board room, coffee shop, or out for a quick hike.” This is a bag that is intended for short trips, more often than not in urban environments. It’s definitely styled for the urban user and looks great in the city. I have the Battleship Grey version of the bag (it's also available in North Sea (blue) and Rooibos Tea (orange)), and it maintains its fashionable look in all environments if that’s important to you. Potentially the best thing about this look is that it doesn’t scream camera bag. It looks like any regular backpack, so if you’re walking through a city where theft is common, you may be less of a target. This is doubly true as just like with their other bags, f-stop hasn't printed their logo in a large and obnoxious fashion. You'll find it on the zips, handle, and in the black square on the front of the pack.
The EVA-molded back piece of the bag provides good breathing room and also a rigid surface for the laptop compartment at the back of the bag. This dedicated space also contains a few extra pockets for things like a passport or extra cash to be stored safely on a day out. This was great for my recent trip to the South Jeolla region of Korea, when I needed my ID, laptop, camera gear, and a few days worth of clothing in a small package.
One thing I did notice on this short trip was that I really had to pay attention to how much weight was on each side of the bag. If I didn't rearrange the gear after taking something out, I found that the bag would dig into one shoulder more than the other. Especially if you plan to put a lot of weight into this bag, it’s worth considering this as you pack each side.
The roll-top of the bag was one feature I particularly appreciated once I got this bag out into the field. Much like many suitcases that can be extended using a zip to give extra space when needed, the Dyota can be as small or as large as you need it to be by simply rolling or unrolling the top section. This was useful on the aforementioned trip, as when I arrived at the location, I unpacked all of my clothing and rolled the top of the bag down into a much more compact package for my day-to-day shooting.
One of the biggest concerns I had with such a stylish exterior was keeping it looking that way over time. Camera bags typically get taken through a gauntlet when used by working professionals and quickly get scuffed and covered in dirt. After a couple of weeks of traveling on buses and airplanes from location to location, setting the bag down on sand, rocks, and grass, it didn’t so much as show a scratch. Even sand didn’t really stick to the exterior, and any marks that did occur from dirt or grit along the way could be wiped off with a wet towel easily at the end of the day. Whatever treatment has been done to the materials, it works flawlessly.
Who Is It For?
The Dyota fills an interesting niche in the bag market. It is a stylishly designed bag that’s built to f-stop's high standards. For working photographers who need a small and sleek package for days out in town where they may have a client meeting or two and then a quick shoot, this could be the perfect bag. As a day bag for the casual photographer who spends time in the office and then heads out for photography after work, this could also be a great option. It would also make a great option for a small run-and-gun video kit. There’s plenty of room for a couple of lenses, bodies, batteries, and then a small light or gimbal on top.
What I Liked
- Sleek design
- Good for packing a small kit, but also filling with other essentials
- Fits a 15" laptop
- Plenty of pockets and compartments
- Doubles as a day bag
- Radio welding means excellent weather resistance
- Strong materials that are easy to keep clean
- Gatekeeper straps for tripods or lightstands
- Expandable roll-top
What I Felt Could Be Improved
- Balancing heavy gear can be tough
- Getting gear out from the bottom of the ICU isn't always easy
- Slightly more padding on straps would make it easier to carry heavier loads