GEAR REVIEW - LOWEPRO VERTEX 300AW
As you grow in photography, inevitably so does your camera gear. Conversely your bank balance usually shrinks but we'll just keep that fact from our significant others. I was in the market for a new bag to hold my camera, lenses and accessories. After much searching and deliberation, I finally opted for the Lowepro Vertex 300 AW.
It was certainly a step away from my previous bags (the Kata 123-GO-20 and 123-GO-30), in so much that it is not designed for quick access, like a sling or holster. Since I still have the aforementioned Kata bags and a Lowepro Toploader 75AW holster, I really didn't need another one. What I did need was a large capacity backpack that I could store all my gear in and transport it in comfort. I also wanted one that complied with airline carry-on restrictions.
What strikes you immediately about the Vertex 300AW, is the size. For a backpack it's on the large end of the scale, with external dimensions of 33 x 26 x 55cm (13" x 10" x 21.5"). Certainly not the biggest bag out there but pretty close and certainly enough to cater for 99% of photographers. It's about 10cm taller than the Kata 123-GO-30. While that doesn't sound that significant, trust me, it is. In that space I could fit a 70-200mm f/2.8, two camera bodies or a better yet, a few packets of chocolate hobnob biscuits.
The next thing that stands out on the Vertex is the build quality. I'd always been very happy with my other bags but, the Lowepro just feels like it's in a league of its own. Everything about it says this is a professional, premium quality bag, from the choice of materials, sumptuous padding, handles and water resistent zippers. The Vertex 300AW just ooze refinement.
The design and ergonomics of the bag are great too. The main storage area offers a highly customizable array of well padded pockets, which can be adapted to precisely fit your camera, lenses, flashes and sundry items. The default configuration centers the camera in the bag, which helps keep the weight evenly distributed across both straps. On the flap side are 4 zipped compartments to house filters, lens cloths and anything else you need to keep safe. There is also a large pocket in the middle which again is well padded so the contents remain well protected.
On the outside of the flap are another two zipped compartments that house memory cards, small accessories and batteries. Basically anything you might want to grab in a hurry. Between these compartments, is the central Glide-Lock strap. This allows you to carry a tripod when used in conjunction with the removable tripod mount that comes with the bag. There is also one of these Glide-Lock straps on each side of the bag, to give you a number of carrying options. You can also fit Lowepro lens cases to the outside of the bag, using the Slip-Lock system, so you can carry a thermos of tea to go along with those chocolate hobnobs!
Behind the zipped compartments is a laptop enclosure. This is roomy enough for devices with up to a 17" screen and is well padded to keep your computer safe whilst transporting. It also serves equally well as a storage space for a cagoule, anything you might want to keep flat like a map, documents or your passport.
Another nice feature of the Vertex is the strap cover. How often have you laid your bag on the ground to access equipment and got the underside covered in dirt or dust, which then gets transfered to your clothing? The problem can be eliminated by way of the protective zipped cover, which tucks neatly away in the base of the bag when not in use. In the same pocket is the rainproof cover. This pulls out and slips neatly over the entire bag, helping to keep it and the contents dry. The rainproof cover is elasticated and stays in place until you remove it.
The shoulder straps are the best I have seen on a bag (and I have owned 6 in the past 5 years). Being very thick, they remain comfortable even under the weight of a fully loaded bag. This is further aided by the addition of two, well-padded waist straps, which distributes some of the load to your hips. If you're walking a long distance with a heavy bag, this can prove invaluable and certainly make the journey less arduous. The shoulder straps can be fastened together by a clip, to ensure they stay in the most comfortable position.
The only negative I can potentially identify with the bag, is the weight of it for air travel. While the bag complies with most airline carry-on sizes (always check with your individual carrier before flying), all this lovely space and padding results in a bag that is a touch on the heavy side, at 3.7Kg/8lbs. With carry-on weight limits set at 10Kg, the remaining 6.3Kg means you have to be selective about what you put in the bag. A D800 with grip and a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II is 2.5Kg alone. I found myself having to pack some heavier lenses in my suitcase inside a Lowepro lens pouch, just to keep the Vertex below the maximum carry-on allowance.
The last thing you want is being asked to check your camera bag, especially if you were planning on it being carry-on luggage. With no means of securing the bag at the airport, theres's a strong possibility the contents will end up going missing, so always ensure you are below that weight limit. You will also be forced to pay extra baggage fees if asked to check your carry-on luggage. If you're not going to fly with this bag, disregard the above.
That's about it for the Vertex 300AW. It's a fantastically well made bag and offers ample room for transporting your equipment out in the field, to set up and then shoot. Like any bit of camera gear, I view a camera bag as tool and you pick the right one for the task at hand. If you want something lightweight and instantly accessible for shooting on the move, this isn't the bag for you. The Lowepro Slingshot, Toploader or Messenger bags will tick those boxes.