Build and Design
It seems clear that Lowepro designed the Versapack 200 AW for a new breed of photographer. This photographer works all digital - camera, film, processing and more. Photographers of any stripe have always carried around kits - back in the day, it was camera bodies, lenses, film, flash units and batteries.
Now, it’s camera bodies, lenses, memory cards, flash units, batteries, tripods - and usually a notebook or tablet to do post processing or even show off results to a client. That adds up, to say the least. The Versapack seems designed to handle all of that without suffocating the carrier under huge, bulky bags.
From the moment you pick up the Versapack 200 AW, it feels like a premium product . The material out of which the back is constructed is dense and tightly woven. Zippers are thick and high quality, and the zipper pulls themselves are large metal tabs with nylon pullstrings.
Every side of the bag is covered with pockets and compartments, meaning you’ll be able to quickly grab whatever it is you need - just pull a zipper and grab a lens. The bottom compartment is where you’ll keep the DSLR and lenses, or a flash. Like many modern case designs, the compartment is segmented with padded walls stuck to the sides by velcro. That way, if you need some extra room, you can yank out a divided and toss in the camera, or maybe that new Bigma.
I took the lens off of a Pentax K-7 and slotted that in next to 28-70mm f/2.8 Sigma zoom, a DA* 55mm Pentax lens as well as the Pentax kit zoom lens, with some room to spare. A flash probably would have fit, too, had there been one within reach. Inside of this section there are also two tight-fitting velcroed compartments intended to store memory cards - each one can hold one CF card comfortably, or 2-3 SD cards.
The great thing about the Versapack 200 AW, though, is the upper compartment. Despite the bag’s relative small stature (in comparison with traditional backpacks and messenger bags), the upper half can fit in just about everything else you might need. AC adapters, connector cords, flash brackets and more - even a netbook or small notebook. That makes the 200 AW a smart choice for a photographer on the move. Moreover, if you just need the room, you can pull out a divider and merge the two compartments together.
On the outside of the upper compartment is a flap that connects to the bottom half via a couple of pinch clips. They’re dense and sturdy, though it would be nice if the connectors were just a bit bigger, as bigger clips would be easier to open in a hurry. Lowepro also cleverly put the clips on the sides of the bag, connecting the zippered edges to the rear of the bag. Underneath this flap are a couple of velcro pockets for cell phone storage, as well as some pen/pencil loops.
Their purpose is not immediately obvious, but I suspect they’re designed to keep the bag shut in case a zipper manages to work its way open. Having been subject to that horrible feeling of the bag on your back opening up as you sprint through the airport to make a connection - let’s just say it’s an appreciated addition.
At the bottom of the bag are two more clipped straps that hold a collapsed tripod tightly to the kit. It’s a standard feature on most bags these days - the interesting bit is the hidden pocket just above the tripod storage area. Peel open some more velcro to reveal a collapsed hanging pocket that can be pulled out and left to dangle on the outside of the bag. Called the Hideaway Tripod Mount, it’s designed to stabilize a monopod or tripod as you move.
On the rear of the bag, the straps are padded and comfortable. Each has one of LowePro’s SlipLock loops, designed as attachment points for the company’s accessory expansion system. To keep things secure, the straps can be locked together across your chest. There’s also also a lot of slack in the bottoms; the bag should be a comfortable fit regardless of whether you’re tall or short, big or small.
I took the Versapack 200 AW with me on a trip around the city as we tested cell phones. The best thing about the 200 AW is how light it is - at only a couple of pounds, it’s barely noticeable. Regardless of whether you pack it full with your collection, that weight savings is appreciated.
The 200 AW is compatible with Lowepro’s All Weather AW Cover, designed to keep everything inside secure and dry. While that might be a worthwhile purchase if you expect to get caught out in bad weather, the Versapack does a pretty good job of resisting the elements all on its own. We hit a light drizzle while we were running around town, and the bag shrugged it off like a champ. Nature was against us that day, too, as a bird decided to express its displeasure at being photographed - right onto the bag. Fortunately, it wiped off without a trace.
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