Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lowepro DSLR Video Fastpack 250 Review - The Best DSLR and Laptop Backpack Combo

Spoiler alert: I love the bag!

So, there you go. If you don't want to go through with my review, then you can just get your own bag here. :)


The Details...

A couple of weeks back, I got one of the most interesting emails. I was asked if I want to review the new Lowepro DSLR Video Fastpack 250. And my answer was of course a yes! Who would turn down such an opportunity? But, I deliberately stalled the review of the bag because I knew that I'd be travelling and I wanted to do a real-world use of the bag before I pass on my judgement.

Now, quite coincidentally, I'll be using a Fastpack again on a trip to the west coast. You see, when the wife and I went to Seattle, I brought along a Lowepro Fastpack 250 (my review of that bag can be found here), the original one. And this time, we went to San Francisco and I used a DSLR Video Fastpack. Hmmm... What's with the west coast and the Fastpack and myself?

Anyway, before I go to the real-world use, let's cover some of the basics...

As expected, the construction of the bag is top-notch. The material used is really good and, I tried this at home, the material the bag is made up of can repel light showers (yes, I sprinkled the bag with water and made a little mess on our kitchen floor). The zippers glide easily and I didn't have to struggle with it to get to my things.

There's this pocket in between the straps which can house your lens cap. I used my starbucks card for size reference.

The stowable belt loop.

I don't know if it's just me but I feel this FastPack version is lighter, if but by a smidge, compared to the original one. However, I feel that the paddings for this version is a little bit thicker so my perceived lightness maybe due to a different material Lowepro has used this time.

There is, as in the original, a laptop compartment. My aging 15-inch MacBook Pro fits snugly in. However, this time around, the laptop compartment is accessed from the top, compared to the side access from the previous version. I'm still debating with myself which access version I like more.

But of course, the star of the show is the camera compartment. I was able to fit a lot of things to it as you can see from the pictures. The padding of the camera compartment is thick and I wouldn't have second thoughts putting my gear there - I am that confident about the quality of the bag and the protection it provides.

The padding for this version of the Fastpack is thicker.

I was able to house the 5D Mark II with lens, a 7D, a 70-300 lens and two speedlites. A gripped body or bodies like the 1D series will also fit.

The top compartment is big enough to house a second complete body, though the protection it provides does not compare to the one in the dedicated camera compartment. Don't get me wrong, if you put your camera in the upper compartment it will be sheltered from the occasional showers but the padding there won't be as great.

If you then decide to go out in the rain, then, as not seen on the previous FastPack, there is an all-weather cover! Yes, it is now included, tucked at the bottom of the bag and is there in case you need it.

Another new thing for this version of the Fastpack? You can now attach a tripod on the side of the bag. That will come in handy if you ever plan to shoot landscapes, sunsets or silky water.

Lowepro also provided a pouch where you could organize your cables and smaller items. They intended this pouch for videographers (hence the "video" name) but, since I am not into videography yet, I used it to store my USB cables, battery chargers and extra batteries.

I had some shoulder problems in the past, which I discussed here, so I favor backpacks more than shoulder bags. (The wife told me to get a roller but I haven't considered that type of bag yet.) The problem with backpacks is that, most of the time, the ease of access to your camera gear is compromised. However, with the Fastpack, you can easily get your DSLR because of the way the bag is designed - the side access, easily opened and closed, is your gateway to your DSLR.

You don't need to worry about your gear spilling out though. The security belt clip in front will prevent that from happening.

So, how did the bag perform in the real world?

The wife and I spent a weekend in Berkeley/San Francisco, as I've already intimated, and I brought enough change of clothes for three days. I put my clothes in the upper compartment and a couple of magazines and a book, Scott Bourne's book Going Pro, in the laptop compartment (I decided I just needed my iPhone for such a short trip). For my camera gear, I brought a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105 f/4L  IS USM lens, a speedlite, a Canon 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS lens, 5D batteries, AA batteries and a lot of smaller stuff - the point is, I went to the west coast with only the one bag. I might not have brought a laptop but the things I had with me, things that are normally on a carry-on bag, were all inside the backpack.

With the non-shooting stuff back in the hotel, the bag was a breeze to use. Getting my camera when I needed to shoot something and putting it back after was really easy. Even getting my speedlite when necessary was a breeze.

Want me to show you how easy it is to get the bag? Well, I may have made a video about it...

Please note that this is the first time I've done a video demo. I owe the bag that much. :)

But the really surprising thing was when I lugged all of my stuff back into the bag and still be able to shoot a lot of shots. I even hung on the San Francisco cable car! Yes, with the bag on my back full of my 3-day stuff and my arm hanging for dear life on the cable car I was still able to get some shots off. The bag was that comfortable to use! It might have been different if I did have a laptop inside but the point is, the clothes, the book plus some magazines were still nothing to sneeze at: I love the bag and I believe it would be joining me in a lot of adventures still to come. It was a nice mid-70s day in San Francisco but walking around with a backpack can make you sweat but I am happy to report that even lugging around the bag, walking the Golden Gate, it didn't make my back a lot hotter than it should. 

I hope my favorite bag, the Lowepro Versapack 200AW won't get jealous...
Now, to the things I miss from the previous version of the Fastpack...

I miss the slip lock accessory loop where you can attach accessories, like the Lowepro DMC-Z (my review here). I also miss the front pocket under the flap where I used to store my passport and other important documents. It's a pocket that I sure would love to have back.

But all in all, the experience I got with using the bag was truly a very nice one. The thicker and wider straps, the sternum strap, the stowable belt loop and what I believe to be a lighter package make for a very great bag.

Highly Recommended!

Pics of the bag while I am using it...


I would like to thank Derrick Story, photo evangelist for Lowepro, for making the review of this bag possible.

I would also like to thank the wife for shooting and directing the first video I starred in and for making the shots with me in "action".

All shots made, including the video, with a Canon Powershot SX230 HS. My review of that camera can be found here.

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