Ultra-compact cameras might be small and convenient to carry, but an entry-level DSLR offers speed and exceptional image quality for around $650 or less. There's only one problem: How do you make a bulky camera and lenses easy to carry? Lowepro comes to the rescue with the new Photo Runner 100 beltpack. This simple yet versatile bag slips around your waist and holds enough camera gear to keep a shutterbug happy in the field. Keep reading to see if this $50 bag deserves a place on your hip.
Lowepro Photo Runner 100 Specifications:
Build and Design
The Lowepro Photo Runner 100 features a slim-profile design that makes it wider than other traditional beltpacks from side to side while remaining thinner from front to back. This design gives the photographer a greater range of movement without bumping his or her arms into a bulky hip bag. Like most beltpacks, the Photo Runner 100 is clearly designed for a photo enthusiast rather than a typical traveler or a professional photographer. The Photo Runner 100 offers enough room for an entry-level DSLR and two lenses along with accessories. This makes it great for a weekend trip or a small photo assignment, but it means this beltpack doesn't offer enough room for a full camera kit used by most working photographers.
The Photo Runner 100 features a fast-access, side-opening lid that is held in place by two durable zippers with nylon pull strings. The main compartment offers excellent padding with adjustable protective dividers that offer multiple ways to position your camera gear inside the bag. The interior of the main compartment lid also includes two memory card pockets in case you want to bring some extra memory cards for your camera.
Since the Photo Runner 100 is meant to be compact there aren't many additional storage areas in this bag. There are two front pockets that are large enough for spare batteries, a mobile phone, MP3 player, or pens and filters, but don't expect to squeeze a lot into these two pockets. One of the two front pockets includes a "quiet cord" closure... a nice little feature for grabbing frequently used items without making noise.
As previously mentioned, the Photo Runner 100 is designed to be worn as a beltpack and gives you a nice solution for maneuvering in between a crowd without bumping into people with your bulky camera bag. Compression straps on the waistbelt help distribute the weight of your camera gear across your hips and reduce excess movement.
If you prefer to use the Photo Runner 100 as a shoulder bag you can convert the beltpack into a shoulder bag by tucking the belt back and attaching the included shoulder strap to the two plastic D-rings on the back of the bag. However, in this reviewer's opinion the Photo Runner 100 is MUCH more comfortable and convenient when used as a beltpack.
A few things became very obvious after spending a few weeks using the LoweproPhoto Runner 100 as my daily shooting bag. First, I was forced to reconsider how much gear I "need" to bring with me when shooting. The Photo Runner 100 isn't a very big camera bag, so you can't bring all your lenses and accessories with you. The Photo Runner 100 is intended for "utilitarian" photographers ... shooters who are comfortable with a small kit and know how to get the most with just a few tools. Second, the Photo Runner 100 proved to be the most compact beltpack I've ever used despite the fact that it's twice as wide as my other beltpack. Since the Photo Runner 100 is extremely thin from front to back it doesn't stick out as far from your body as other beltpacks or shoulder bags. I was able to "bob and weave" in between people in crowded shopping malls and conference centers without clipping people with my camera gear.
There were only two issues that stood out to me as potential negatives. I liked the "quiet cord" closure so much that I wanted both of the front pockets to have them. One pocket still uses Velcro tabs for closure and I'd much rather have two matching quiet cords in the front. The other issue is the lack of pockets on the sides of the bag. The sides are essentially empty space where the compression straps are sewn into the bag. If Lowepro added one pocket on each side of the bag then you would have that much more space for accessories.
Overall, the Lowepro Photo Runner 100 is a durable, convenient beltpack that works well in the field. If you don't need to carry a ton of camera gear and just want something that holds the bare essentials, then the Photo Runner 100 is the perfect solution.
The only people who shouldn't buy this bag are photographers who need to haul a lot of gear or shutterbugs who hate beltpacks. Although the Photo Runner 100 can be converted into a small shoulder bag it was clearly designed to be a beltpack and works best in that configuration.