One thing most people don't consider much when they buy their camera is how they are going to carry it around with them. Sure, when you're using it you can throw it around your neck and snap some pictures. But, if you're like me and many of your pictures require some work to get to, how do you get your camera there? That's where the Lowepro Fastpack series comes in.
The Fastpack (we used the mid-size Fastpack 200 for this review) comes across initially as a simple camera backpack. The bottom section houses the camera and accessories. The Fastpack has room for the camera (with lens attached), additional lenses, a flash, and several other small accessories. A second pouch helps hold memory cards, filters, or other small accessories. The upper portion of the bag is open so you can store your other necessities when you use the bag.
On paper, at least, the Fastpack seems like an ideal photo bag. How well it works in the field is what we're here to find out.
Design and Construction
The Fastpack series is well designed: Lowepro really did their homework with this bag. There is room for just about any SLR, including a pro-sized camera. As with all Lowepro bags, the interior can be rearranged, allowing for longer zoom lenses to be attached to the camera. I was able to fit all the gear I would want to carry on a trek, plus a little more, in this bag.
The materials used speak to the quality of Lowepro bags. The outer nylon shell is heavy and definitely feels like it will last.
The inside of the bag is lined with a softer material that makes me confident that my camera equipment is safe. The padding used in the camera compartment is very generous. At first I was worried about the camera being in the bottom of the bag, but after a bit of use, I am not even a little concerned due to the amount of padding.
I would have liked to see slightly heavier zippers on this bag. The zippers on the bag seem solid enough but they're certainly not "pro grade" heavy, and I would hate to see the bag ruined by one worn out zipper. Other than this one quibble, however, the bag has great quality. It's also worth noting that the back panel has a mesh top layer to help improve comfort and breathability.
Lowepro also designed the bag with side access to the camera. I found this to be incredibly useful. On many treks I used to go on my camera was incredibly difficult to get to, but with the side access you can get to the camera without taking the bag entirely off. This made it much easier and faster to get to my camera, both of which are important when using this kind of bag.
Cargo Space and Capacity
The Fastpack series comes in four different sizes. I found the intermediate 200 we looked to be a good size for this bag. Carrying more equipment in a larger bag would be convenient, but the increased weight would detract from the comfort of the bag. For most non-professional uses, the amount of equipment you can carry is more than enough.
For example, I can fit my DSLR with lens, three additional lenses, a flash, and some other items in the camera compartment of the bag. Although Lowepro specifies the bag can carry only one to two additional lenses and a flash, with a little rearranging, the combinations of things you can carry are pretty open. Unless you need to carry an entire studio with you, this bag can likely handle your needs.
While I am pleased with the camera compartment, I found the supplemental cargo space this bag offers to be a bit small. For a shorter trek you can carry a sufficient amount of extras, but for anything longer you may wish for more space.
I was presently surprised by this bag in two ways. First, the bag is far more comfortable than I anticipated. On a medium length hike I had no trouble carrying this bag fully loaded. The bag panel and shoulder straps are much nicer than I anticipated. In short, I think most people could carry this for a day with no complaints.
Second, by dropping the bag off one shoulder, the camera can be removed through the Fastpack's side access. This is an excellent feature because it makes the camera quicker and easier to get to. This allowed me to unload the camera and fire a shot in as little as 15 seconds while hiking – far faster than any other bag I have tried.
The Fastpack 200 proves to be a good balance. There is little more that I could ask from this bag. I would like a little more cargo capacity, but in the camera department, the Fastpack is the best I have used yet. It has more than enough room and allows for access to the camera without taking the bag all the way off.
With a range of four sizes, Lowepro has crafted this bag to fit everyone's needs. For walking around with your camera, it's hard to beat the comfort and convenience of the Fastpack.