In the “Why I love my…” articles we will be asking photographers to tell us about a specific piece of equipment that they have developed a strong bond with and whose presence has improved their photographic experiences.
It could be highly technical, or very basic. It might be a relatively new, current product, or an old, battered ever faithful bit of gear. It might be a near perfect combination of form and function that is to be put up on a pedestal and worshipped, or a flawed and challenging device that requires a fair bit of effort to wrangle the best out of, but whose companionship is essential.
Here, Ben Weeks tells us why he loves his Lowepro DryZone 100 backpack.
Why and when?
I have always been a fan of Lowepro; their original links with Lowe Alpine outdoor gear was part of the reason at the start, but since then I’ve had many Lowepro bags and come to respect them as well designed, well built, reliable bags. 7 years ago when I was looking for a camera backpack that I could carry on my motorbike, Lowepro was an obvious starting point. I’d looked at the usual backpacks with “All Weather” covers that protect the bag like a rain-coat, but wasn’t convinced that these covers would stay in place or offer enough protection when hurtling down a motorway at 70mph during a June downpour and ruled these out.
The DryZone range had just been launched and offered total, submersible waterproofing, so seemed ideal. At the time the range consisted of just 2 bags: the 100 and the 200 models, both available in yellow or black. I wanted an all-black version (it matched my bike and leathers) and originally tried the 200 on for size. It was far too big for me - I didn’t have enough gear to fill it and it felt too big and bulky to be worn on a bike. The 100 was a far more appropriate size for my collection of camera gear so that was the one I bought.
The DryZone 100 is a multi-layer backpack with camera and lenses housed in a padded, customisable interior with a zip closing. It’s easy to adjust the internal dividers to perfectly match my gear and the padding is reassuringly thick. This padded camera chamber is surrounded by the DryZone’s unique waterproof shell with its own TIZIP water-tight zip closure. The bag is supplied with a small tube of grease which helps keep the zip both lubricated and water-tight when sealed - over the 7 years I’ve had the DryZone I’ve only re-applied the grease a few times and there’s still loads left.
It’s not essential to have both the internal compartment and the waterproof shell zipped up at the same time, so although it’s best to keep the padded compartment closed, I tend to leave the waterproof layer undone in good weather making it easier to access my camera gear. The outer layer of the bag features multiple pockets which are stuffed full of pens and cleaning gear and provide an ideal home for my phone and other stuff when I’m out and about. There’s also a tripod carrier on the back of the bag, so carrying all my photo gear becomes totally hands free. In essence, then, The Lowepro DryZone 100 is my ideal mix of size, protection and convenience.
The water-tight zip can be incredibly stiff, even when fully lubed up, requiring forearms like Popeye if you need to open and close it frequently. Another zip related issue is that it doesn't reach all of the way down each side of the bag so that the “flap” doesn’t open completely. What this means in practice is that the lower part of the bag is rather difficult to access and getting larger items in and out of this section can be a struggle. As such, this end of the bag inevitably gets left empty or stores the less used accessories. Because of the bag's robust build, it’s not exactly lightweight. The waterproof shell is also quite rigid which makes the whole bag rather box-like, even when empty.
Back when I rode a motorcycle, I also discovered a problem with the tripod attachment. The tripod is mounted down the centre of the back of the rucksack and protrudes by about 20cm at the bottom of the bag. This made it impossible to sit up straight on the bike because the tripod feet would stick into the pillion seat. The bungee buckles that hold the tripod in place are also a pain in the derrière when no tripod is mounted. However I arrange and tighten them, I always end up with bungee cord flapping about everywhere. A final inconvenience is the lack of a laptop compartment. For many photographers a notebook is as much a part of their camera gear as a camera and although I don’t regularly take mine out with me, there are occasions when I want to and there’s nowhere in the DryZone for it to go.
So why do you love it?
It’s bulky, boxy, and probably the least attractive bag I’ve ever owned, plus it can be awkward, frustrating, and downright difficult at times. But it’s also virtually indestructible. It has held, nurtured and cared for my camera gear along rain-lashed roads, up mountains, through forests, on commuter trips into the city and in every kind of weather you can imagine. On each and every occasion it has done everything asked of it. All my camera gear has survived each journey completely unscathed, even when I came off my motorbike, or slipped down a wet hill-side, or was jammed in a tube carriage like a sardine in a can.
My DryZone 100 has been chucked in the back of my van, the corner of my wardrobe and the overhead locker of various kinds of public transport. It’s not been molly-coddled or given any special treatment – it’s been used and abused as any camera bag might and has taken far more punishment than most could tolerate. For me, one of greatest things a camera bag can do is not require me to think about it. My DryZone 100 does just that. I don’t need to worry about what it does or where it goes – I just do what I do, it comes along and does everything I need it to. Our relationship is about 7 years long, and doesn’t look like ending anytime soon.
Do you have a particular piece of kit that has become your trusted photographic friend? Is there a gadget in your bag that, despite being old and superseded, you keep going back to time and time again? Have you got a bit of equipment that has become your talisman for great photographs?
If so, we'd love you to write a Why I love my... article for the WEX Blog! Simply write to us telling us what the item is, why and when you originally bought it, its pros and cons, and why you’ve come to love it so, plus include any own photos of your gear in use.
We're hoping to publish one of these a month, so get thinking, shooting and writing and send your submissions to [email protected].