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Review: Tenba Small Photo/Laptop Roadie

By Betsy Finn, CPP

I recently had the opportunity to try out Tenba’s Small Photo/Laptop Roadie. In addition to cramming it chock-full of equipment, I was curious to see if it would really fit under the seat on an airplane.

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©Betsy Finn

The Small Roadie has a lot of features and enough compartments to satisfy most pocket fanatics. According to Tenba, the Small Roadie holds 1 or 2 SLRs with 5 to 6 lenses (up to 300mm 2.8). Your mileage may vary, but here’s a list of the equipment I was able to cram (in an organized manner) into this functional studio on wheels (see photo below).

• 15-inch widescreen laptop, power cord, and travel surge protector
• Nikon D3 body with 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens
• Nikon D200 body
• Nikon 55mm f2.8 micro lens
• Nikon 50mm f1.4 lens
• Nikon 28-70mm f2.8 lens
• Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 lens
• Two Nikon SB-800 Speedlights
• Light meter
• Battery + CF card cases

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©Betsy Finn

The main compartment of the bag contains a padded equipment organization system that can be removed completely from the main compartment. You’ll appreciate this feature if you want to convert the Small Roadie into a standard travel/overnight luggage case, or if airport security wants to do a thorough inspection.

The two front sections include the laptop pocket and a smaller compartment with mesh pockets, a key fob clip, pen slots, a business card slot, and even places to hold memory cards. I found these sections easy to access while the bag was stowed as a carry-on.

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©Betsy Finn

Another feature worth mentioning is the secondary hand grip on the bottom of the case. I didn’t even notice this feature until I was lifting the bag by the main handle and trying to find a second handhold to support my gear. The guys at Tenba thought of everything!

The Small Roadie comes with a removable strap (in case you can’t roll it somewhere), but I’d definitely recommend rolling it around when possible. The collapsible handle, when extended fully, can be locked at two different lengths. I was glad to see this design feature, as both tall and short photographers can “roll” comfortably.

On a recent flight, I tested the Small Roadie’s ability to stow under a window seat, since Tenba states it “fits under most full-size airline seats.” As you can tell from the picture below, it did fit on its side. On my return flight, I found it easier to just put the Small Roadie in the overhead compartment, as the aisle seat’s space wasn’t much bigger. I can see it being easier to stow it under the seat if you had a middle seat, or business and first class seats.

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©Betsy Finn

One final finishing touch that will help set your carry-on apart from the rest is your own customized nameplate. You can get your nameplate personalized with your name, studio number, or even a logo. Several color choices are available.

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©Betsy Finn

Overall, I enjoyed traveling with the Small Roadie. I’ve always been a fan of traveling light, and the Small Roadie allowed me to combine my camera bag and computer case into a single piece of luggage. When fully loaded, the Small Roadie is a bit heavy to carry around comfortably; but then again, that’s why it was made with wheels.

The Small Photo/Laptop Small Roadie retails for $274.94 and can be ordered from the Tenba website.

Betsy Finn, CPP, is a photographic artist and a PPA Councilor (’09-’12). Her educational website for photographers is learnwithbetsy.com.