Domke vs. Tenba wraps - A quick summary
Domke vs. Tenba wraps - A quick summary
5 months ago
I recently was looking to buy some "wraps" of the sort the people use to protect lenses, cameras and flashes, mostly when they are used in a non-dedicated camera case. There are three leading manufacturers in this area: Op/Tech, Domke and Tenba.
I can't really say why, but I decided I wasn't interested in the Op/Tech wraps, which seem to be made (at least in part) out of Op/Tech's specialty: neoprene. I think I thought that neoprene tends to be bulky.
In any case, that left me with Domke and Tenba. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a good comparison of their wraps, so I bought samples of each. Here is a brief summary:
Thickness / cushioning: The Tenba wraps are thicker. They will protect your gear better, but that also makes them bulkier. Overall, I concluded that these wraps really only provide protection against scratches and light bumps. If you drop a lens, flash unit or camera wrapped in a single layer of one of these wraps onto a concrete floor, I think you will have a nicely wrapped package that will prevent the garbage collector from cutting himself on the various shards contained therein.
In other words, I wouldn't rely on these wraps to really protect your gear from a drop. Someone bumping against your soft canvas messenger bag? No problem. Setting your bag down quickly on a wooden table? No problem. Rattling around your bag with a bunch of hardcover books, pens and your keys? No problem. But anything more than that? No. You might get there by double-wrapping your gear in these wraps, but that would make it so bulky that you might as well get a dedicated camera gear bag in the first place. In light of this, I decided the Domke wraps provided the protection I needed, and the Tenba wraps didn't add meaningfully more protection, despite being thicker.
Stitching: The edges of the Tenba wraps seem to be stitched much more cleanly than the Domke wraps. I don't know what the technical name for the stitch around the Domke wraps is, but it is the same stitching you see on cheap T-shirts that quickly start to fray and unravel. That may be more a function of cheap T-shirts than anything inherent in the stitch itself, but I definitely found the Tenba stitching to look better and as though it would hold up to abuse better. On the other hand, many people report using Domke wraps for years, so I imagine it's not a problem.
Size: The medium size Tenba wraps are 16" square. The medium Domke wraps are 15" square. The small Tenba wraps are 10" square. The small Domke wraps are 11" square. The 15" Domke wraps are plenty big enough to wrap a Sunpak 433D flash unit, with the bulky diffuser adapter and a Sto-Fen Omnibounce attached. They would also be plenty big enought to wrap a professional DSLR. From that perspective, the extra inch on the Tenbra medium wraps doesn't add anything except extra bulk.
Velcro Tabs: The Tenba wraps have triangular "hook"-style tabs on the corners. The Domke wraps have a narrower, longer strip of a "hook" style tab on each corner. I expected to like the Tenba style better (it looks cleaner/more robust in pictures). But in practice, the Domke tabs are better. (1) They are easier to open/unwrap, because you can easily get a finger in the side to lift on, (2) More of the Velcro tab is running in the same direction as the force on the wrap, so it winds up creating a stronger/more secure hold, and (3) They seem to work better -- easier and faster to secure.
Outer material: On both wraps, the "fuzzy" side goes on the outside (it is what the Velcro tabs attach to, and the inside feels like nylon. The "fuzz" on the Domke wraps feels softer/finer. The Tenba wraps have fuzzier/looser fuzz that is a bit thicker/wilder. Not a big deal either way, but I prefer the Domke. More importantly, Tenba stitched its logo into the center of its wraps, whereas Domke has a discrete tab on the inside of its wraps. I don't care about product placement, but the problem with the Tenba logo is that it is located exactly in the spot where you are most likely to want to attach one or more of the Velcro corner tabs! Think about it: you put your object in the center of the nylon side of the wrap, then start folding up the wrap. More likely than not, one or more of the corners will wrap around to the back of the wrap and land on the center, but the stitched logo prevents the Velcro from adhering properly.
Summary: the Tenba wraps are bigger, cheaper (by $1-2), thicker, have better stitching, and more elegant-looking Velcro tabs. On paper, they should win handily. But in practice, the less-bulky, more secure and more convenient Domke wraps proved to be better.
Postscript: I probably shouldn't have written off the Op/Tech wraps. Having seen the Domke and Tenba wraps, the Op/Tech wraps probably aren't bulkier. And they are cheaper and include a small extra piece of material to provide extra padding where needed (e.g., a flash foot, a lens mount, etc.).