Thursday, 12 April 2012

Lowepro Photo Sport 200 Review

Camera bags are the source of constant debate and deliberation amongst photographers. The reason? Because there is no such thing as the perfect, one size fits all bag. So to add further conjecture to the search for a sack here's a review of my latest addition, the Lowepro Photo Sport 200.

Let's start with why i bought it. Most of my photography is out on the hill. Either walking and taking landscapes or more adventurous climbing or mountaineering. The key for me is always keeping the camera handy. This is no mean feat especially in climbing or mountaineering situations where you are carrying a lot of other critical gear and it is definitely not safe or convenient to have a camera swinging from your neck. Equally when the camera is in your rucksack you can guarantee it will never see the light of day apart from when you stop at a convenient, safe (undramatic) spot for lunch.

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So this is where i thought this bag would come in. Enough space to allow me to carry some day trip essentials whilst still providing easy and quick access to the camera. The side pouch allows you to swing the bag off one shoulder and access the camera from the side meaning you don't have to take the bag off or put  it down to take a photo.

So what do i squeeze in to the camera pouch? I usually carry my 5dmk2 plus a 70-300L. This is snug but fits well. If I am carrying any other lenses these go in a separate lens case in the main section of the bag. You do have to wriggle the camera a little to get it in and out but having it snug is probably no bad thing. It is also worth noting if the main section of the bag is tightly packed with jackets etc it does further compress the camera pouch.

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Out on the hill - I thought I would go on to review how the bag stands up in various scenarios rather than just say it is generally good or bad. This way you can hopefully judge whether it will work for you.

When out for a day in the hills you will almost certainly have some kit with you other than the camera gear. Most other camera rucksacks i have come across have been pretty dedicated to carrying camera gear without much thought for other items. This is the real strong point of this bag. It has enough space for all the daily essentials but still leaving enough room for the camera. That said it is not huge so don't expect to use it for a multi day hike!
The other plus point for outdoor activities is the bag is very comfortable to carry. It has a well padded back and wide well designed straps. In addition the waist belt helps to effectively distribute the load and also has a couple of handy pockets in it.
When it comes to taking a photo it is easy to swing the bag off one shoulder to access the camera from the side pouch. This saves having to take the bag off, put it in the mud etc.
For day walks this bag works perfectly.

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Typical kit for day on the hill

This is a tricky one. On a proper day out mountaineering the typical kit list would far exceed the capacity of this bag. In theory if it wasn't for the capacity issues it would work quite well as the camera is well out of the way when climbing but can be accessed relatively easily even in precarious positions. I'm yet to work out a system that works for easy access to the camera when mountaineering but still allows space for all the other gear and doesn't get in the way. For some excellent advice on mountaineering photography, check out Alexandre Buisse and his book Remote Exposure
For true mountaineering this bag is not the one.

You may have seen the advert for this bag with Cory Rich using it on a climbing photo shoot? Well it kind of works. For a day out climbing with your mates when you want your camera along this bag is great. You can just about squeeze the gear in if there is a walk in, though you might need to get someone else to carry the rope (another plus point!). When you are climbing it is compact and out of the way yet easy to get the camera when needed.
However, when i'm dangling from a rope specifically for photographing a climber i tend to use my shoulder bag as it allows me to dip in and out of it and do lens changes in the bag. A proper shoulder bag is also more secure than this one is when it is slug from one shoulder.
Out climbing for the day this works great, for a specific climbing shoot not so great.

I have probably use this bag now more than any other mainly because it makes a great travel bag. It works great as a hand luggage bag when flying as you can fit quite a bit of camera gear in plus your laptop (in my case a 15" MBP) as well as various other bits you want to have with you. If you are travelling with a lot of camera gear obviously you will not fit it all in but it is a very good compromise. On a recent trip to Nicaragua i did curse on arrival when the airline told me they had lost my hold luggage complete with telephoto lens that i had taken out of hand luggage to make space for a book! As I said you can't fit everything in but just decide carefully what is important not to lose!
The other great aspect of this bag for general travelling is it doesn't look like a camera bag. To the untrained eye this looks very much like any other small day sack. I always feel incredibly self conscious when wondering around with a big shoulder bag emblazoned with LOWEPRO. this bag certainly helps to alleviate that.
Great bag for travelling and good compromise on hand luggage.

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Travel - Hand Luggage

My skiing abilities are somewhat lacking so the last thing i want is to carry a huge weighty rucksack throwing me off balance at every opportunity. This bag was just right for carrying the daily essentials plus camera gear without being to cumbersome. It is compact enough to allow you to keep it on when on a chairlift, I don't tend to follow the advice to remove bags as I have seen many people drop them when doing this!
If you're skiing with friends rather than on a location shoot, you need to get the to the camera quickly. If you are always stopping to get setup, your friends will very quickly become annoyed and leave you behind. Pulling up mid piste you can swing the bag off and get some shots without needing to remove poles, take gloves off etc. The other secret to keeping your friends as loyal, posing models is getting some great shots of them and impressing everyone in the bar, posting on Facebook and generally massaging their egos. Once they've seen the results they are usually more accommodating!
For skiing this is a fantastic bag.

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A quick shot mid piste

The bad points..
The plastic buckles they use are shit. That's pretty much it. However this is disappointing as there are so many great features they have let it down by trying to be clever with the buckle design which doesn't work and broke on the second outing.

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In Summary
  • Great for days out in the hills
  • Enough space to carry daily essentials plus gear
  • Confortable even with a load
  • Pouch a bit snug for 5dmk2 (but still works fine)
  • Belt clips crap, i'm going on ebay later to try and find some 'normal' ones
  • Doesn't look like a camera bag, great for travelling

Hope you found this useful, interested to know your thoughts if you have one. Remember you can follow the blog by entering your email address on the side or check out my media pages at Facebook and twitter @f_stopimages. My main site is at



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