The Sling (as I’ll call it for brevity) is not a carry-all bag for all-day press or commercial use. It’s designed for those times when you know what you need with you and are willing to leave some bits at home - quite a few bits actually, but in my case I do edit out the extraneous kit whenever I can.
Thinking about it, I realise I’m a bit of a Lowepro fanboy. Apart from a very large and ancient Tamrac bag which I now only use to store kit at home, all my bags (a very old ProRoller 2, middle-aged Stealth Reporter and my beltpack) are Lowepro. Lowepro just seem to make bags which are practical and last a long time without having astronomic price tags.
The Sling is designed to take a DSLR body with one or two lenses and a flashgun, or alternatively a Compact System camera with a selection of lenses, and it's designed to carry a computer tablet in addition to these. Either option can quickly fill the bag, but should still leave enough space for lunch, a rain jacket and a few bits and bobs.
The Lowepro Transit Sling 250 AW is made of something called 600D nylon and is festooned with moveable inserts, a tripod harness, zips, straps and pockets and even a rain cover to keep you happy and organised for a day out taking pictures. The bag weighs just 800g and measures 225 x 160 x 430mm externally with 200 x 100 x 360mm internal dimensions. The colour is fine, but I think LowePro could have done something bolder.
I have a confession: I’m not very well coordinated; the first time I tried to put the bag on my shoulder I got tangled. I had a few goes and ended up with the bag upside down. I tried again, failed, and decided to step into the strap and pull the bag up my body and onto my shoulder that way, and all this while the bag was still empty. I was dreading doing the same with it fully laden. If I’d watched the Lowepro video first I might have saved myself some comedy moments, and I recommend you doing the same if you want to avoid giving yourself a mischief.
Taking a tour of the outside of the bag, the main compartment door is zipped around with twin catches which you can bring together anywhere along the zip that suits you. This panel also has a zipped, cutaway section towards the top left which gives access to a small pocket for personal effects. A red zip and lining material makes it less gloomy in the pocket and adds a small splash of colour.
At the base of the main access panel is an aperture into which the all-weather cover is stowed; open the hook-and-loop fastener to the compartment and out it pops. At the top of the cover is a Velcro strap and pad arrangement which you fasten around the sling strap, then pull the cover down and around the bag to enclose it. It's nice to find there's also a strap at the bottom that prevents the cover blowing away in a gale as you wrestle it onto the bag.
If you wonder if you’ll ever amble about in a downpour long enough to benefit from a rain cover, it’s worth noting they can also serve as small ground sheets for kneeling or sitting on. Other external features include the rather nifty tripod harness on the side with its adjustable buckle strap, as well as a tripod foot pocket which, when not in use, tucks up inside the bag out of the way.
Switching back to the top of the bag again is another zip, this one starting at the shoulder strap and running about halfway down the side of the bag, which gives access to the computer tablet compartment. If, like me, the only tablet you own is for headaches, this pocket might be useful for other slim items, such as notebooks and pens, model release forms, emergency sweets etc.
There is one more zippered panel on the side of the bag which allows quick access to a camera without opening the whole bag up, although I’m a little wary this might give easy access to unauthorised persons if you’re in a crowd.
The main shoulder strap is well padded and the length has plenty of adjustment (rather too much for me once it was adjusted for my skinny frame). The strap allows you to slide the bag from your back round to your front to use the access panel on the side, while a second harness strap can be clipped in for longer hikes, although you can’t bring the bag to your front while this is clipped in. When not in use, the harness strap can be tucked up inside the bag, which is useful as it would otherwise dangle about behind you.
Opening up the main access panel you’ll see a mesh pocket and a main compartment divided into two sections. Two different dividers - one solid and one with a lens cutout - sit across the middle and can be configured to either keep the two halves of the bag separate, make the whole bag one large compartment or to carry a camera and longer lens vertically. The lower half of the main compartment be arranged to make use of the side access option mentioned above or divvied up for lenses, flash etc.
There’s also a small zippered pocket inside the main flap which includes a key clip. This is where you might keep spare batteries and memory cards - the usual bits and pieces.
I confess I didn’t have a huge amount of time with this bag, but I did pack it and carry it up Cley Hill and used it for a corporate portrait assignment because I knew I needed just a couple of lenses and a camera, with peripheral items in my belt pack. I went to the task with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF 100 mm f/2.8 macro and EF 35mm f/1.4L lenses, as well as a Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flash and ST-E3 trigger all packed in, with another flash, power packs and cables in my beltpack and stands and brolleys in a stand bag.
The benefit I found of the Lowepro Sling 250 AW was that not all my camera gear, flashes, power packs and cables ended up in one heavy bag, as the weight was distributed by using it just to take the heavier kit. Had I not needed more than a single flash, it would have held everything I needed. Unfortunately for me, very little of my work relies purely on the level of kit that would fit into this bag alone (unlike the lucky guy in the Lowepro video).
In use I found the bag easy to carry; since it can’t carry much kit, it should never wear you out. Once I got used to the technique of putting the bag on and taking it off, the design made more sense to me, though I’d often find it catching my shirt collar and half turning it up as I took it off, leaving me looking a little disheveled.
With heavier cameras and lenses in the bag I can testify it gets harder to get the strap over your head without some straining. Also, I found the side access panel of limited use with my EOS 5D Mark II as removing or inserting the camera with a lens on was a bit like trying to maneuver a banana through a keyhole. I suspect it works better with more compact DSLR cameras or a Compact System Camera kit.
Finally, there's an awkward space left in the top half of the bag when you insert a camera and long lens vertically. You don’t really want much else in that area clattering against the camera body, but it’s a fair chunk of space that ends up as nothing more than strap space. The mesh pocket also becomes unusable as it sits directly under the camera.
In conclusion I’d say the Lowepro Transit Sling 250 AW is typical of this company’s design and quality ethos. It's full of clever ideas - even if I don’t agree with all of them - with materials that will last, zips that won’t burst and enough dividers and pockets to keep you organised. Although the bag can fit a large DSLR/lens combination, it's ideally designed for the Compact System Camera user, or hobbyist with a compact DSLR body and a couple of lenses. Someone wanting a bag to take one camera and lens with a day’s supplies for a city trip or a country walk, perhaps. If that’s your bag, this is the bag for you.
- Lightweight bag made of heavy duty materials
- Excellent construction
- Multiple inner configurations
- Comfortable sling strap with plenty of adjustment
- Comfortable to carry even when full
- Useful extra bag to spread the load when used with other bags
- Awkward to lift on and off with heavier kit
- Side access panel too small for larger DSLRs (even without a battery grip)
- Unusable space in top half when storing a camera/lens combo vertically
- A bit “Skoda” in design; indestructible but a little dull too
About the Author
Tim Gander is a Somerset-based commercial photographer. You can view more of Tim’s work on his website