I thought I would write a little bit about my experience with the Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW camera bag. I’ve been using this bag for about two years now. During that time it has gone just about everywhere that I have gone and spent a considerable amount of time under the seats of different airplanes. About a week ago the zipper on my Slingshot finally gave up the ghost, making the bag pretty much useless. I still remember the day that I bought this curious bag and thinking (or predicting) exactly where it would fail. To me the zippers seem like the weakest link (or tooth) on just about any camera bag and I wondered how many trips around the corner of the opening of this bag the zipper would make before it would stop working. The answer turned out to be about two years worth of constant everyday use, far exceeding what most people would subject a camera bag to under normal use. In spite of everything I put it through the Lowepro Slingshot 200 exceeded all my expectations.
About a week ago I went to my local camera shop looking for a replacement. I took my much abused loved Slingshot 200 AW with me to compare with some new bags. The salesman started chatting me up and reminded me that Lowepro has a lifetime warranty on their bags, a nice selling point to reassure skittish customers contemplating spending large sums of money on fancy camera gear. So I showed him my scuffed Slingshot and he gave it a skeptical look. It was missing a few zipper pulls, the zipper on the main compartment was dead and the interior dividers looked like victims of a monster truck rally gone wrong. The velcro inside the bag no longer had any actual hooks or loops to speak of and the exterior fabric was frayed like a pair of vintage blue jeans. The padding on the shoulder strap was finished too. The salesman filled out a form and gave me a copy. He didn’t seem too encouraging. After all everything wears out over time. Meanwhile, another customer was looking at the Slingshot 300 AW at the other end of the counter as a second salesman cheerfully explained that Lowepro bags have a lifetime warranty…
So I was thinking about camera bags for about a week when the phone rang yesterday afternoon and Jeff from the camera store said, “Your new Lowepro bag is here.” I was a little dumbstruck at first, because the camera store manager told me I probably wouldn’t hear anything for at least a month and I was expecting that maybe they would just throw some industrial strength stitches on my old bag and call it a day. Lowepro basically credited me for a new bag and that is pretty cool. They really do stand behind their products and that is one of the many reasons I will always be a dedicated fan of theirs. The newest updated version of this bag is called the Slingshot 202 AW. It’s basically the same bag with several added features like a hideaway tripod (or monopod) holder, extra storage pockets and an updated divider system in the main compartment. My replacement 200 model also seems to have the updated divider system.
The first time I saw a Slingshot camera bag I was pretty skeptical. The smaller Slingshot 100 AW seemed a bit cramped for my Nikon D300 and the larger 300AW seemed like it would encourage me to pack way too much gear than I wanted to carry around all day. The Slingshot 200 AW seemed just right. One of the best things about this style bag is that you don’t have to take it off or set it down in order to get to your camera and lenses. If you work a lot in wet or dusty environments this is a very important feature. It also makes the slingshot bags superior as travel bags. If you are in a crowd or on a subway you can swing the bag around in front of you where you can keep an eye on it or just sit it in your lap until your next stop. The grab loop on top is handy for the times when you do want to set it down between your feet. The all-weather (AW) rain cover comes in handy for downpours and I have used it at times to cover the zippers and outside pockets for extra security in a tight crowd.
You can stuff a lot of gear into the Slingshot 200 AW or the new 202 AW. In fact, you might stuff too much in and that can make it get heavy pretty quickly. I’ve been trying to pair down the kit that I normally carry in mine. Currently it holds a Nikon D300 with battery grip (a snug fit) and a Nikon 24-70 2.8 zoom lens (heavy) mounted on the camera. Right now I am carrying the Nikon SB900 flash in the top compartment. The flash needs to have the head tilted forward but then it is ready to use right away to mount on the camera. I have also started carrying an iTTL cord for the times when I want to use the flash off-camera very quickly without setting up the Nikon CLS system or pulling out my remote flash radio triggers. Right now there is a Tokina 12-24 wide angle zoom in the main compartment with the lens hood reversed. There is plenty of room for a third or even fourth lens like a 35, 5o or 85mm. I usually put the battery charger and all the cords in the back outside pocket if I am going on a trip but then take them out when I arrive at the hotel. I often put a 120 film camera in the top compartment instead of the flash if I know that flash is not going to be needed.
I had been accessing my additional lenses through the side opening of the bag by pulling up the velcro flap of the interior dividers on the left and right of where the camera sits. This tended to wear out the velcro after about a year and half of constant use so I may be rethinking that plan and opening the zippered main compartment all the way to access the interior. You need to be careful that you don’t dump the contents of the bag when it is all the way open and it is probably a good idea to set it down when you do open it up that way. Of course in practice I am always in a hurry and don’t have time to set the bag down carefully.
I talked to a lot of people last week about what camera bags they like and what bags they actually own. I found out that most serious photographers own several different bags because their needs and camera gear are constantly changing and that makes perfect sense. You should always buy a camera bag for the gear you plan to use and not try to stuff more equipment in a bag than it was designed to carry. In my case I need a camera bag that I can store the camera and lens so that it is ready to shoot with as soon as I take it out the bag. I have now moved most of my off-camera flash gear over to my Pelican 1510 rolling carry-on case, which can also fit the camera with zoom lens inside when I go canoeing or traveling out of town.
The Lowepro Slingshot AW continues to be my favorite camera bag for all day sightseeing and spur of the moment travel. Think about what gear you need for the day and resist the temptation to take more gear than you will use even if you can fit it all in. Your neck and back will thank you and you can spend more time taking photographs. I’m enthusiastic about anything that can help me get out and create photographs and about companies like Lowepro, who stand behind their products and constantly keep improving them.
For more information and technical specifications visit: http://www.lowepro.com/