So here goes, but if you want a summary, then head to the bottom of the post and I should be able to sum it up in a couple of paragraphs!
The most full I have had this bag was with the set-up that is pictured to the right.
(from top to bottom, left to right)
- D810 w/ 24-70mm F/2.8 attached
- Nikon 14-24mm F/2.8
- Tokina 11-16mm F/2.8
- Nikon 200-500mm F/5.6e
- Nikon D7100 w/ Sigma 150mm F/2.8 OS attached
- Nikon 70-200mm F/2.8
This was one of the first shoots that I did with the bag, and yes, I was slightly overloading in order to test how comfortable it is with this kind of a load.
The picture below the last (right) is what I would take on a normal day, although my Sigma 150mm is being serviced and so I replaced it with an old Sigma 100-300mm F/4, to prove that there is more than enough room for it.
I have my 200-500mm in its own compartment instead of attached to the camera because the only benefit to it being attached would be the ability to pull the camera out of the top compartment, however as the lens is much wider at the end it takes up too much room to be in the middle.
All of the other sections are interchangeable. By this I mean that if I wanted the camera on the left-side for quick access, then the sigma could move to the top or even stand vertically in one of the smaller compartments.
To summarise this section, it easily holds a lot of equipment with some sacrifices with respect to the ease of access pouches (which I will explain in the next section). I would say that the bag is best suited (and designed) for those photographers not using long telephoto lenses, but this doesn't mean its bad for those with telephotos. If you have a fair amount of equipment that includes a 500mm F/4 or larger, you will want a large backpack, such as a 600AW.
Pockets, Access Points and Handy Features
I've created a gallery of images showing the different compartments and small features that the bag possesses and makes life that little bit easier!
I'll start off by continuing with the camera section of the bag; the pockets on the back panel are just what you would expect from this range of bags. Like most Lowepro bags now, the pockets are made of strong material with sturdy (feeling) zips and a feel that they won't be breaking any time soon. I use one for cards, the other small one for a cleaning kit (brush and cloth) and the larger pocket for pens/notepad or any clean (small) clothes like t-shirts, socks, etc. The back panel also holds a laptop compartment, as you would expect. This has a good amount of padding and I'll have no problem trusting it with my laptop.
Next comes the part of this bag which for many will be the selling point and for some (including myself) has been made obsolete by owning a long lens, as well as making use of the optional add-ons (which I'll come to soon). The bag has two side openings and one top opening for quick access to a camera with a lens attached. After spending ages trying to configure the compartments for my own equipment and trying to make use of these 'extremely useful' side access points, I gave up and decided to put filters in that part. One of the side pockets has been rendered useless by adding the water bottle holder to the side of the bag. Once again, this is a great feature for those photographers that are using wide to medium length lenses (70-200mm at most - as you can see with Lowepros configuration images >> link here ). I do like the added feature of having a hard top, it isn't that necessary I don't think (as you don't often drop the bag on its head or have things falling on the head of the bag), but it does give you that little bit more faith in the bag. The top compartment has yet another pocket to store odds and ends in.
This brings me to the outside of the bag and probably the most interesting (unique) part of the bag as whole. This is something that I expect a lot of bags will pick up in the future simply because it makes so much sense. The 'SlipLock' technology is a series of straps surrounding the bag that allows you to move the accessories to wherever you want them to be. When you buy the bag you are supplied with three accessories; tripod holder, water bottle holder and a small bag, I found myself not using the small bag as there are enough pockets around the bag for me. The main reason that I wanted this was not for the purchasable accessories, but because I am going to Costa Rica for the summer and being able to attach para-chord, tarp, camo and more onto the outside of the bag (instead of taking up room inside) is going to be so useful!
Not a huge point but something that I thought I should mention, is that the bag has two small pockets on each side (I should say tiny, they just fit my phone in) and two small pockets on the waist belt too (only slightly more useful than the two side pockets).
Finally, comes the 'ActivZone system', which is not as cool as it sounds. You can see it in the final picture, it is the padding on the back panel. Basically, I have used bags with better cushioning and bags with better cushioning. It does a good job and overall the bag feel great, better than most I have used, but this is more because of the shoulder straps than the back panel cushioning.
The handling in harsh environments is the last point to mention. I have used it in torrential rain without the all weather cover for about 10 minutes to see if water got in the zips and through to the equipment. After 10 minutes the bag was perfectly fine, but with a lot of equipment on me I didn't want to push it any further and so I put on the all weather cover and obviously it worked perfectly. No problems here at all!
The only problems I have are the amount of padding on the back (there could be more, although its still very comfortable), that the access points aren't that usable with the equipment that I have and that there is no non-camera related, large pocket. The type of pocket that you can put a jumper or your lunch in. I guess that by including this you would lose the outside strap system, so I'm happy with that trade-off.
If you are a wildlife photographer with a lens larger than a 300mm F/2.8 I would say that this bag will not be the right fit for you, but if you are a photographer that uses a couple of bodies and a fair few lenses maxing out at 200mm then I'm sure this bag will be fantastic for you! You will be able to make use out of the access points, great customisable inside compartments and weird amount of small pockets throughout the bag.
So there you go! I hope you enjoyed the review and that it may help you make a decision if you had this bag in your basket and couldn't quite press purchase.
Thanks for reading!