13 December 2009

Lowepro Toploader Pro AW series bag review

The new Toploader Pro AW series bags come in 3 sizes, the 65AW, 70AW and 75AW. I have all three bags, and this review will cover them all.

Although I have both a Shoulder bag (Lowepro Commercial AW) and a backpack (Lowepro Pro Trekker 600AW), there are times when you don't need or want to carry around a big bag. This is when the Toploader Pro AW series bags come into their own. If I am shooting in a crowded area, I will often just use one camera and lens and keep it in a Toploader Pro AW. If I need a second camera and lens, I can always use two of these and put them on a waist belt, or at times, I will have one and my assistant will have another one and I can switch as needed. I also use the Toploader bags if I am doing a short hike to a location and I know I will only need the one camera. It can also fit on the waist belt of my Pro Trekker 600AW, which is quite handy when I am hiking a long distance to a location, but also want to have easy access to a camera.

Overall, I have been quite impressed with both the build quality and design of the new Toploader Pro AW series bags from Lowepro. The top pocket will easily fit my phone and wallet and also has two dedicated sleeves for memory cards as well. The front pocket will hold my remote controls and a lens cloth and both the 70AW and the 75AW will fit my Nikon SB-600 speedlight in the front pocket. There is also an outside pocket that holds my car keys. Of course being a Lowepro bag, you can attach an additional lens case, or other accessory using the Sliplock system. All three bags also come with the all weather cover to keep it dry in the event of wet weather or more often in my case, keep the bag dust free when out in dusty field conditions.

The biggest issue for me is ensuring that any camera bag I buy can actually fit the gear I need to put in it. The Toploader Pro 65AW will fit my Nikon D700, with grip and my Nikon 105mm Macro lens. This bag will not fit with any of my other lenses as they are too long to fit in this bag. The Toploader Pro 70AW will fit my Nikon D700, with grip and any of the following lenses that I own: Nikon 105mm Macro, Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 lens, or my Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 lens. The Toploader Pro 75AW will fit any of the above plus it is just large enough to fit my Nikon D700 and my 70-200mm 2.8 lens. I say just large enough because it is quite a tight fit with this combination, but it does fit. My only concern is that if Nikon decides to make the upgrade for the D700 a bit fatter from front to back, then I won't be able to fit the 70-200mm 2.8 lens in the 75AW, as there is NO room for any more length, it really does JUST fit in. I have found that Lowepro often makes there bag dimensions tight, which is good for keeping your gear secure but at the same time, leaves you with no room for new camera bodies that may have bigger dimensions. New pro camera bodies are coming out about every 12-18 months, but Lowepro normally updates their bags in a particular series only every 4-6 years. I think they need to leave a little bit more room in their dimensions in the bags to compensate for this.

I am a bit of a bag hog, so I bought all three, but if you were on a budget, I would go with the 75AW as it will fit any lens up to the 70-200mm 2.8 and it comes with a divider. Having the divider in there means that you can adjust the height so that if you were using a smaller length lens it would still fit securely and not hang loose in the bag. You could even fit another smaller lens underneath the divider and carry 2 lenses with you if you wanted to.

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