Loweprow Fastpack 350 review
Deciding which camera bag to buy can be a difficult task. There are many styleCredit: Amazon.coms all of which meet slightly different needs and camera types. In this article I hope to make the buying decision a little easier by providing a Lowepro Fastpack 350 review. This is based on my experience with the bag over the past 3 years which I think will provide some good insight into both the quality of the bag and its practicality. I have had plenty of time to test both. Although I only shoot recreationally, I have certainly put the bag through its paces. It has travelled around Australia and overseas to places such as New Zealand, China, Singapore, and the United States no less than 7 times. I have taken it on numerous day hikes in varying weather ranging from very hot and dry to snow, rain and hail.
Who is this bag for?
First of all it’s important to make sure this bag is appropriate for your needs. As I mentioned above there are many types and it’s a good idea to make sure you take a few things into consideration before buying:
- The size and quantity of equipment you will be carrying?
- I assume you will be taking a laptop if you are reading this review, how big is it?
- Where are you planning to take the bag (overseas trips, day walks, overnight hikes, etc)?
- What conditions will you be traveling in (very hot, snow, tropical, ect)?
- How much weight are you able to carry or willing to put up with?
So who would this bag suite?
In my opinion there are a few situations this bag is not ideal for. Its not the best for long hikes in the forest and although it certainly can be used for that purpose there may be more suitable bags too chose from. It is also not the best camera bag for a round the world backpacking adventure. Its also not great for exploring a city or town if all you have is one dslr with one lens. The reason I begin by saying this is varied but it boils down to the bag being heavy (you will see why later), large in size and somewhat bulky. These features make it feel like overkill when out on a simple day shoot with limited gear. In these instances I would recommend a sling style bag which is light and very easy to access when required. On long overnight hikes you are just not going to want the extra weight of this bag and the same applies to those lucky enough to be backpacking around the world.
The fastpack 350 is great if you have one or more camera bodies and 2 to 4 lenses but also want the convenience of being able to take a laptop with you. I find it useful for short camping trips, day trips with the family or when traveling overseas on business trips. In the case of the latter I use it as my work laptop carry bag with the additional convenience of being able to safely store my camera gear. There is a small compartment in the top of the bag which is useful for packing some food, chargers, small camera accessories and your wallet but not much else.
I have covered some of the cons of this bag in the previous section but let me elaborate below. Some of these are not cons as such but simply a aspects of the bag one needs to be aware of:
- The bag is heavy. This is not really a bad thing as it is a direct result of having so much firm padding to protect the gear. Really, this is what you want in a good camera bag but just remember that if you have less gear a smaller bag might be better (such as the fastpack 250).
- It is bulky for the same reason. I have had no problems getting the lowepro fastpack 350 onto domestic and international flights as hand luggage. Credit: Amazon.com
- The straps cannot be removed. I find this a little annoying. I rarely use the waist strap
and they spend most of their time dangling behind me or getting in the way on a cramped aircraft. I suppose I could cut them off but it seems such a shame to damage a nice bag!
- Not easy to attach a tripo. For me, this has been the biggest disadvantage and is the only thing that would make me think twice before buying the bag again. I take a lot of landscapes which require longish walks to find the perfect spot and a tripod holder would be very handy indeed. If you don’t use a tripod or don’t need to walk too far from your car then this won’t be much of an issue.
Where do I begin, this bag has proven itself over and over and I would not hesitate to buy another Lowepro bag in the future. In fact I will probably only consider a lowepro bag when I make my next purchase.
- This bag is tough. As I said, mine has been used extensively for over 3 years now, including many overseas and domestic trips. It’s been dragged through the dirt, rained on, sat in the snow, squeezed through thick scrub and still looks as good as the day I bought it. The thing that impresses me the most is how it has handled being overloaded with gear. I tend to be pretty harsh with my bags in this way and the fastpack is no exception. I often have over 10kg of gear in it and I mean well over, then carry it by one shoulder strap! Yet the shoulder straps show no sign of wear or damage. This amazes me as I often remind myself that I really shouldn’t be treating a bag that cost me over $150 (less today) like this. Sometimes I have to yank the zips very hard and squash the bag down (as much as is possible with a camera bag) to get them closed. The zips are very high quality and show no sign of wear or fraying at the stitches.
- I can fit all my gear in it. Sometimes I will carry two dSLR bodies (one with battery grip), one film slr body, 4 lenses including a 70-300 and a wide angle which is very bulky, a small HD video camera, giotto blower, lens cleaning gear, laptop, laptop and camera charges, as well as my wallet, phone and even an android tablet. You can see why I am amazed at the weight it can handle. The bag would comfortably support one dslr of any size and a few high quality, fast lenses. Credit: Amazon.com
- The laptop compartment will swallow a 15” device without any worry and I can squeeze in a few magazines or a short book for those long haul flights. It will also take my tablet alongside the laptop easily. Credit: Amazon.com
- SD card pockets, This is very handy as I always know where my spare SD cards are even when I’m not traveling.
- Side access. This is probably the most useful feature of the whole bag. If I need to access my camera gear in a hurry all I have to do is drop the bag off my right shoulder and it will swing around and give me access to my camera. Very cool.
- Extra pockets. There is an extra pocket on the front bottom of the bag which I use to hold my remote shutter release and a few other gadgets if required. There is another pocketCredit: Amazon.com on the top section of the bag which will hold all my filters and spare batteries. Also in the top compartment (see picture to the right) there are extra little pockets to hold items, such as small filters,pens, batteries, or a cleaning cloth. My bag also included a removable pouch which attaches inside the top compartment with velcro. This is handy for small items like loose change or AA/AAA batteries.
- Configurable dividers. The dividers are moveable, allowing you to change the size of various compartments. This is invaluable as it lets the photographer get a tight enough fit that things don't move around and allows them to adjust the size to fit longer lenses.
If you are after a versatile camera/laptop bag that will not only carry a lot of gear but really protect it then the Lowepro Fastpack 350 would be my top recommendation. If you only have a small camera or are thinking of walking across Tibet then it might not be the best choice. Otherwise I highly recommend you check it out, it will probably outlast your camera!