Fstoppers Reviews the Manfrotto Chicago Urban Camera Backpack

Fstoppers Reviews the Manfrotto Chicago Urban Camera Backpack

Urban-centric designed backpacks have been emerging quite a lot in the past couple of years and while this is not Manfrotto’s first take on it, these may very well be their most stylish ones.

It is without a doubt that camera bags don't directly improve the quality of the photographer's creative output but the boost in confidence given by the style that their bag offers just might help. The Manfrotto Chicago backpack is the brand’s take on the minimalist designed camera bag trend that appeals to many photographers, specifically those who live, work, or shoot within the confines of a city. These bags blend well with the architecture that you can find in the streets, but they are also made to cater to photographers who walk around the city to shoot, and make their gear accessible to them easily.


The Manfrotto Chicago backpack comes in 2 sizes. The small variant in the form of the Manfrotto Chicago 30 backpack has a capacity for a camera body, 1 standard telephoto lens, and 2 additional medium sized lenses. The top compartment offers additional non-padded space for accessories, clothes, and other personal items that a photographer may need on a day out shooting within the city.

The bigger variant called the Manfrotto Chicago 50 backpack can hold a camera body with an attached telephoto plus up to 4 medium sized lenses depending on arrangement. It also offers more space on the top compartment.

Both bags have a rear, laptop compartment that can carry a 13-inch and a 15-inch laptop respectively while keeping it suspended from the bottom to protect from possible impact in case of unexpected drops.

Both variants also have stretchable side pockets for additional accessories that the photographer would want accessible on the fly.


The bag’s exterior is designed to be simple and minimalist with just enough color accents to make it stand out. The main fabric used on the skin of the bag is a dark, faded matte gray textured fabric made up of lightweight, moisture and heat resistant fibers for additional protection. Lighter matte gray material is also used on the edges of the top and side flaps to give contrast to the design. Additional accents are made by chrome buckles and zipper tags along with the all-metal Manfrotto logo on the top flap cover.


The entire camera compartment is a removable camera box that can be zipped up and used as a separate shoulder bag. This can come in handy in situations when unexpected additional load needs to be carried inside the bag’s main compartment. Once the camera box is removed, the main compartment can give way for additional items that don’t require padded protection such as clothes, books, and other relatively larger items.

The straps located on the front of the backpack are designed to hold tripods and additional accessories which can be held in different ways depending on the user’s liking.


The Manfrotto Chicago backpack has a zippered door to the camera compartment on both sides of the bag. This allows the photographer to easily remove the strap on one side and swivel the bag towards the other side for easy access to their gear. The vertically oriented slots for lenses (when the bag is positioned horizontally for access) can also act similar to a lens changer. By using one hand to support the side of the bag and the other hand to change lenses, his allows for the possibility of reaching in and changing lenses without entirely putting the bag down on the ground and even allows the photographer to do so while walking.

The rear of the bag also has a chest strap to give a better snug fit onto the body of the person wearing it. This lessens movement of the bag while walking and allows for better weight distribution to lessen the possibility of muscle strain. The back padding is also significantly thick to protect both the gear inside and the back of the person wearing it.

Gear Protection

The internal architecture of the Manfrotto Chicago backpacks are made with thick formed material that maintain the shape of the bag. In combination to the internal padding, this gives a snug fit to the photographer’s gear to better protect from unwanted impact between the items inside. This however might prevent the photographer from squeezing in additional gear if in case they need to bring more equipment. The padded dividers are also modifiable in position to better arrange cameras and lenses into a protected and space-efficient arrangement.

The external material is made of moisture resistant and heat resistant fabric that should protect the photographer’s valuable gear from light to moderate rain and intense daylight heat. For heavier and wetter situations, the included rain cover gives additional protection by encapsulating virtually all sides of the bag, except for the area covered by the photographer’s back. While it is moisture repellant, it is not entirely safe from being submerged unlike other bags that were made for rugged outdoor adventures. This one was designed for environmental conditions that are typically found within the urban setting. 

The removable camera case that serves as the internal compartment also serves as an additional layer of padding and protection for the gear inside. The additional half inch of padding not only makes it harder for water to get into the inner lining, but also absorbs and diffuses impact from sudden bumps and drops. There’s also an additional space below the edge of the laptop compartment to prevent the laptop from taking direct impact from a sudden drop.

The Manfrotto Chicago Backpack resembles the modern-day digital creative with a low-key minimalist but stylish design and a protective, customizable, and modular architecture. The price point of $145 to $149 respectively is not a bad deal either, especially considering other urban themed backpacks in the market.

What I Liked:

  • Stylish minimalist design
  • Modular interior
  • Good gear protection with thick padding
  • Fairly Priced

What I Didn’t Like:

  • Padding thickness takes more space

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