Published on June 28th, 2013 | by Louis0
Lowepro Photosport 30L: Not Too Big, Not Too Small
The Lowepro Photosport 30Lis the latest addition to Lowepro’s rather extensive and versatile range of photographer bags, and expands upon the Photosport series, which previously came in 10 liter and 20 liter sizes. We loved the ultra-compact yet SLR-functional features of the 10 liter version and its 20 liter bigger brother was our default daypack for photographers.
The main design feature of the Photosport series is the side-access camera compartment – swing your right arm off and rotate the bag 90 degrees and you have immediate access to your camera without having to take the bag completely off your shoulders. Couple this with good ergonomics that are generally comfortable and practical (with one notable exception, to be covered shortly), as well as a swish of pockets and expandable options, and you have a really great bag. This was done to great effect in the 10 and 20 liter predecessors, and the 30L is almost the same. We’ve seen other Lowepro bags before, and always appreciated their durability and value.
Features and performance are almost as good as they were before, except for one major omission: whereas the 10 and 20 liter bags were small enough to be casual daysacks, the 30L is serious enough to be a proper hiking backpack. But despite this, the waist-strap and, more importantly, the waist/lumbar support padding, is noticeably missing. This results in the frame of the bag digging into your hips, instead of being supported by them, as you walk. If the bag is light, you won’t notice it. But throw in many pounds of camera and hiking/outdoor equipment, and it will start to hurt. I got around it by wedging some padding into the appropriate places, but this should have been thought of long ago.
The other obvious thing that sets the 30L apart from its little siblings is size. It is noticeably larger and that extra 10 liters packs a punch. Three times the size of the 10. 50% larger than the 20 – the thing is, that new 10 liters is all open space. That is to say, you could probably fit everything you need into 20 liters (10 is a bit tight) and the extra is just bonus; you’ll really need to bring a bigger camera (think full frame), more lenses, a range of accessories and a whole load of hiking, trekking or outdoor kit before the 30L starts to wheeze. In testing, we fit two compact SLR bodies (Sony A65 and A100) with mounted lenses (18-250mm and 100mm prime) into the camera compartment and still had room to spare. We threw in two extra lenses and a pack of filters and still found space. With careful rearrangement, three compact bodies with lenses could fit – and that is just the dedicated camera side-compartment. As we mentioned, if you’re travelling with a full-frame camera or like to use vertical grips, you’ll love the space here.
Moving upwards, the rest of the bag is for all the other paraphernalia that an outdoor photographer might want; strobes, laptop, tablet, extra clothing, food, outdoor gear (it gobbled up a climbing harness, rock shoes, chalk bag, belay jacket and small climbing rack without hesitation). The message is: this bag fits it all. And if it won’t fit inside, you can fit it outside – a variety of straps and pockets lets you attach tripods, bulkier gear (climbing ropes, walking poles, folding chair, etc) and the like. A separate pocket allows for a 2-liter water bag and a small top pocket rounds it off for personal items.
So on paper, apart from the hip/waist support, this bag is great. But in practice, we couldn’t help wondering – who would need it? It’s too big for a casual daypack and too small for a primary rucksack. If you have a lot of outdoor gear, you’d probably have a separate bag for that. This isn’t a bag you want to be carrying all day if you can help it – unless you’re taking serious photographic equipment out on a multi-day hike or want to have all your gear packed into one bag, you’re probably better off with the 20 liter version.
This is also a packed market segment and there are more and more adventure photographer bags out there – many at cheaper price points than Lowepro’s $200 RRP for the 30L. However, few of these match the 30L for build quality, features, and most of all – intuitive space usage and access. The side-access compartment and compressible top-loading chamber with pockets exactly where you need them come together to form a uniquely appealing pack that is otherwise a joy to use in real life.
The bottom line: excellent quality throughout and if you have need for the space you’d be hard pressed to find a better option – but test it out under weight to see if the lack of support is a problem, and maybe try out its smaller siblings first and make sure the 30L is right for you. Available now, online and in stores, for around $200.