There is no doubt about it; you have to carefully choose the equipment that best suits your needs and demands as a photographer. I do remember though, when I used to buy bits of kit purely because I thought they were the bees knees; an old-style khaki Billingham camera bag comes to mind, I had it for years! But now I like to think I am more discerning about what I buy and why.
Generally speaking though, I have tended to scale things down a bit, not wanting to carry around everything but the kitchen sink anymore; two or three camera bodies, four or five lenses, filter holders, filters, flash, exposure meters and the rest. Now I really strip things down as much as possible, which reflects my change in working practice and equipment needed for the job in hand. Therefore I am able to pack most of what I need in a relatively small camera bag.
When I was sent the Lowepro 220 AW Classified Sling bag to review I’d forgotten just how cavernous some camera bags are or need to be. Also, like most modern camera bag systems, this bag is thoroughly well-endowed with pockets for stowing away all your essential bits and bobs. The 220 AW, as with all Lowepro bags, has an excellent, heavy-duty build quality. You feel you could throw pretty much anything at this bag, within reason, and your kit would be OK inside it. The main fabric for the construction of this bag is ‘ballistic’ nylon, which I always think sounds pretty threatening in itself, but basically means it’s as tough as old boots.
Capacity-wise, the Lowepro 220 AW will hold most of what a travelling photographer will need these days. Inside its cosy, padded confines you will be able to store a couple of Digital SLR bodies with 70-200mm f2.8 lenses attached, other smaller lenses, 1-2 flashes, general accessories, and there is space for a mobile phone and the now all-important laptop - up to a 15.4 inch screen - for post-production work. There is also the ability to carry a reasonably sized tripod strapped to the exterior.
The Lowepro Classified Sling 220 AW is described as "airline compatible" and of a "slim profile". The former is definitely true, but I’m not too sure about the latter; slim-line is pushing it a bit too far. It is quite bulky, but it does fit in the overhead lockers in aircraft. I think the slim line description comes from the fact that the Lowepro 220 benefits from not having excess exterior straps and add-ons, it is all kept to a minimum, need-only basis.
The Lowepro 220 AW is a sling bag and as such is designed to be quickly accessible by rotating the bag from your back to a front position at speed and with the minimum of fuss. This is certainly the case and it works well. I myself prefer what I feel is a more secure ‘strap-on’ that I get with a back-pack type of camera bag, such as the Lowepro Primus AW, but that’s only personal preference and the 220 AW sling will suit and be preferred by some more than others.
The Lowepro 220’s quick accessibility is complimented by the side-entry main compartment which allows you to grab a shot fairly quickly if you have your camera loaded away, rather than slung around your neck or over your shoulder. Inside the bag you are able to fully customise the interior to your own personal needs; the padded sections are adjustable and the detailing shouts of Lowepro’s quality; suede-like tabs sit atop the dividers and there are high optic orange ‘pulls’ to access the individual compartments. The top zipper pocket allows quick access to smaller items and there are handy individual little pockets for storing memory cards, although I still prefer to carry these in a fully waterproof individual case.
The Lowepro Classified Sling 220 AW includes an All Weather hideaway cover, should you find yourself in a downpour. The all-weather cover can also offer added protection against dusty conditions. There is a tuck-away waist belt that helps to stabilise everything and give a more secure feel to the bag when carrying it. There is also a little design feature in the mesh backpad, a large directional ‘arrow’, stitched into this, to ensure that the sling bag is worn correctly over and across your back!
There is no doubt that the Lowepro 220 AW sling bag is a quality product, but for my own personal preference I’d go for a backpack. These I find a better support on my back and actually more comfortable. The 220 AW is not the most ergonomic bag I’ve shouldered in my photographic life, but it does exactly what is asked of it; carry, protect, bring order to your kit and generally meet the demands of today’s photographers. So, it will be more than suitable for most of you out there, and you will always have the reassurance of that underlying quality associated with all Lowepro kit.
Value for Money 9/10