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Keep your camera close at hand
A protective, easy-access mode of transport for your SLR camera can be hard to come by if you’d like to carry it with a laptop and other common digital photo gear. As with traditional camera shoulder bags, a photography-specific messenger pack can be bulky and heavy enough that you end up with an aching back. Luckily, we found Lowepro’s new Fastpack series of camera bags, which combine the right amount of storage with an easy-to-carry design.
The Fastpacks are compact backpacks, but with a significant feature differentiating them from most: You don’t have to take off the bag to dig out your camera. Slide off one shoulder strap, and the camera is accessible through a zippered side compartment. The feature is reminiscent of Lowepro’s SlingShot series, very popular with photojournalists.
Plenty of room for your SLR and your MacBook Pro—for editing on the run.
We tested the Fastpack 250, the second largest of the four available Fastpacks, and the smallest one that will also hold a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Quickly accessing the camera takes a bit of practice—mainly just getting used to which strap to slide off. While not quite as intuitive as the SlingShot’s design, it’s definitely faster than retrieving your camera out of the lower compartment of a traditional camera daypack. And the backpack design, with contoured shoulder straps and separate laptop pocket against the back, is nicely balanced—causing no back strain whatsoever.
The side-access lower compartment contains padded, adjustable dividers for holding an SLR with attached lens, two or three additional lenses or a flash, external hard drive, or other fragile accessories. As long as you don’t completely unzip the pocket while the bag is over one shoulder, you can easily grab the camera without the other gear tumbling out. A security flap clips over this compartment, making it difficult for someone to pilfer gear while the bag is on your back.
The pack’s roomy upper compartment is outfitted with pockets of various sizes and spots for shades, keys, pens, and other odds and ends. Zippered pockets on the outside provide quick access to tickets or small notebooks, a mesh side pocket holds a water bottle, and a small harness pocket on the front of the left strap is made for a mobile phone or iPod.Its overall design is more functional than hip, but the Fastpack 250 is sturdily constructed and holds up well for travel or daily use.