Lowepro introduced their new line of backpacks geared toward the DSLR Video shooter in the form of the DSLR video fastpack 150 AW, 250 AW, and 350 AW. Now, still photographers, don’t let the first sentence deter you. There’s only probably one major difference that I can see why this is a “video-centric” bag vs a traditional photography bag. I shoot some video with my Canon 5D Mark II, but also wanted to try this for my still photography equipment so when they asked me to review a 350 AW, I jumped at the opportunity.
- Inner dimensions – Camera compartment: 10.2″ Wide x 6.7″ Deep x 9.6″ Tall.
- Inner dimensions – Laptop compartment: 12″ Wide x 1.4″ Deep x 16.1″ Tall.
- DSLR video rig or tripod holder.
- Camera compartment can fit a pro DSLR with attached lens (up to 70-200mm f/2.8), 2-3 additional lenses, and one flash or LED video light.
- Laptop compartment can take up to a 17″ computer.
- All weather rain cover to protect from the elements.
- Side access to camera and lenses with safety buckle so you don’t unzip the pouch too far, causing your equipment to fall out, when slung over your shoulder.
- What they call an “Audio Compartment”. More on that in a bit.
- Traditional backpack straps with chest level horizontal clips and waist level horizontal clips.
- Mesh backing on the bag and the straps make it very comfortable to wear.
- There’s also a “hidden ID pocket” that your back covers while wearing. I found this to be a perfect place to shove a stack of business cards.
Here you can see the bag packed with:
- Canon 5D Mark II Camera
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Lens
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens
- Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash
- And beneath the 580EX II is a Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash
Let’s talk about size first: I currently own an Expedition series bag from Tamrac as well as an older Slingbag from Lowepro. The Fastpack 350 AW completes my Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale of camera bags. The Tamrac is enormous. I can fit almost every piece of equipment I own in there. I’ve also weighed it before when it was loaded and we were tipping the scales at 25 pounds, yikes. The Slingbag is nice, but just is a tad too small for the typical amount of gear I want to carry around. Enter the Lowepro 350 AW which has taken the “what bag to pack” variable out of the equation this past week of shooting.
Next let’s discuss the compartments. You’ve got your standard side/top loading camera dept. with padding all the way around. You can change all the dividers around how you choose, and there’s a spot to hold two memory cards. Nothing too unique here. There’s also the laptop compartment that rests against your back when wearing the bag. Again, nothing too major here. Although, as said earlier, it can take up to a 17″ screen laptop for those out there that bought the big boys.
Now comes the interesting section, the top part of the bag which Lowepro has named the Audio Compartment. Many new videographers forget that a big part of creating great videos is capturing great audio. Let’s be honest, our DSLR’s don’t cut it in this department (yet). To do this, you need additional audio capture equipment; mics, mixers, headphones, transmitters, receivers, and cables galore. As this is a bag designed with video in mind, they gave you this audio compartment to hold of that stuff. They even give you a separate pouch (see below) for holding your receiver/transmitters as well as a nifty cable management section.
Now for you still shooters out there, this compartment is still very useful. The first day I received the bag, there was a fantastic sunset a-brewin’ and I quickly packed my landscape kit. Other than the camera and wide-angle lens, this consisted of a Manfrotto tripod and ball head which I strapped to the designated side of the bag, cable release, filter holder, and filters. The Audio Compartment was perfect to hold the accessories I needed. In fact, the bottom of the compartment has a stretchable strap to secure things from moving and the filters (in their protective pouches fit nice and snuggly there). There’s also a bunch of little pockets and zippered compartments in there to store other smaller things.
And just the other day when I had a portrait session, I took out the landscape stuff, shoved my camera with 70-200mm f/2.8 IS in, added the 50mm f/1.2, 24-70mm f/2.8, and a 580EXII Speedlite into the lower section. Then put some Pocket Wizards, cables and an extra flash in the top section. How easy is that?
Although I haven’t taken this through a monsoon, or crawled into a volcano with it yet, it seems like it would hold nicely (okay maybe not in the volcano scenario). The outer material feels lightweight yet quite strong. The camera and computer section feel like you could run over them with car due to the extra padding (note: sense the tone of that sentence and please don’t try that for real).
Think of your backpack you had when going to school (and if you didn’t use one in your day, think of your children’s). That is about the same size as this bag. Based on my type of photography, this is the perfect size. People will be no more frustrated with you wearing this in a crowd than they would a teenager just getting out of class.
I like to bring probably more gear than I’ll need for a particular shoot which I can’t do with the smaller Slingbags. People like sling bags because it allows really quick access to your gear. If you shoot portraits or landscapes, you generally don’t care about being that quick so I don’t mind this being a backpack style bag (even though you can still take off one strap and sling it over to access the side compartment).
The one type of photography that I wouldn’t recommend this bag for would be street shooting. Being a backpack, you might not have the speed you can get from sling bag. This recommendation could maybe spread to sports or wedding photography, however I personally would still use it for those genres. The top compartment can hold a whole bunch of stuff but keep in mind, it was designed for video products so other than the stretchy strap at the bottom, you’re items not in the smaller compartments or zippers will be bouncing around in there. Other than that, with the size being, in my mind, perfect, as well as being able to hold enough gear I would take to any particular shoot, I have to give this bag a big thumbs up for all photographers, and not just videographers.
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