Lowepro – SlingShot 200 AW: http://www.lowepro.com/Products/Sling_Bags/All_Weather_Cover/SlingShot_200_AW.aspx
Update 05feb07: I’ve just replaced my 200AW with the Tamrac Adventure 9, and have a review of that bag as a comparison to this bag
I wanted two things above all others for my replacement camera bag:
- to look anonymous
- to be quick to access
The anonymity is purely because I don’t want to advertise how attractive the contents of the bag are to a casual snatcher, but the quick access is because I want to take the camera out with me and the kids, and I want to be able to leave it in the bag until it’s appropriate: anyone who’s tried to help a toddler climb a slide whilst having an SLR swinging around their neck will know what I’m on about, and it’s not simply a case of choosing between trying to grab the camera or child should they fall (that’s an easy choice) but more about not striking the child around the side of the head with the camera whilst bending over them.
The main advantage of the Lowepro is that it’s a normal rucksack/backpack for the most part, except that there is only a single main strap which passes diagonally from left to right across the chest. To access the camera, simply pull on the bottom right of the strap and lift your left arm and the whole bag slides around and down in front, exposing the otherwise odd looking side panel zip. Your SLR (with telephoto attached) can then be pulled out and you can start shooting. The bag doesn’t need to be moved back (unless you want to), and it’s perfectly possible to kneel in this position with the bag in front and shoot naturally. Why ? This is usually where I end up when trying to take pictures of the kids playing. There are also a couple of clips to prevent the whole 180 degree opening pocket from becoming unzipped in this position, which is great for peace of mind.
Other features which truly show that the bag was designed by a digital camera user are the digital card pocket, which is in the roof of the flap which opens to access the camera and is velcro sealed and contains little pockets that take memory card plastic cases perfectly. The soft cloth tucked into the back of the main opening unfolds to lay across the LCD on the back of the camera to help protect it from zip damage, and which is also soft enough to givethe screen a quick wipe. The All Weather covering (which gives the bag the AW suffix) was pretty hard for me to find at first and I thought it hadn’t been included in the shipping bag, but at the bottom rear of the bag there is a very innocuous velcro seal, which opens up into a small pocket that the cover lives in. The cover itself unfurls like a Pak-a-mac to cover the entire bag (and all zips) from direct contact with the elements, and is stitched in at the base so there’s no chance of forgetting it when it’s most needed.
The top of the bag as a triangular pocket with its own zip and this looks to be the ideal size for a small first aid kit, a couple of small bags of crisps, a chewy bar or two and a small bottle of water. Essential supplies when out with young
accidents children, although I might cut down on the food and add in some baby wipes instead. For ‘grown-up’ shooting (especially on early mornings), it’d be possible to get a survival bag in there to make lying down on wet ground no problem at all.
There are also Sliplock mouting points in three places, but as I’ve not had those before I can’t comment on their placement. An extra stability strap is also present which ought to keep the pack in place even when scrambling up a rocky outcrop, and a front pocket which I must admit to having no immediate plans for. All of the internal dividers are attached by velcro and can be shuffled around to suit the load: by default the bag comes configured for an SLR with standard lens, space for one more lens below that, and two lenses on each size. This would be for average size 50mm lenses with average diameter filters (52/58mm) – if you have telephoto lenses or very wide filters then it would be best to check things out in advance (I can measure the pockets on each side without the dividers in place if required).
I bought mine from The Digital Camera Company which had the best UK price and managed to get it to me the very next day, even on the cheapest delivery option.