It seems that I’ve had the Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW for the most part of this year so a review seems in order at this point.
I already have the much larger Lowepro CompuTrekker AW and I’ve had it for several years, but it always came close to breaking my back when fully loaded. Actually I am lying. I used to be more fit and could carry it without problems but it would still get tiring by the end of the day. I still am fairly fit and can still carry it for a whole day but I’ve developed this resistance to bullshit over time. What this means is that I am less willing to compromise as time goes by. I’m simply trying to make my life easier in everything I do. I evidently don’t need to carry all my photo equipment with me ALL the time so the obvious solution was to get another bag. A smaller, more specialized bag.
I was initially set on the Lowepro Stealth Reporter bag but apart from the usual top-notch quality I’ve come to expect from Lowepro, this shoulder bag had nothing else to offer. Besides, Iâ€™m not very delighted with this type of bag. Luckily I spotted the Lowepro SlingShot series and came to realize the advantages it offers.
I perceive the SlingShot as a hybrid backpack/shoulder bag. That is because you wear it like a backpack but when you want to access what’s inside, you sling it under your arm, bringing it forward where it hangs from your neck just like a shoulder bag. This is made possible by a fairly ingenious – but also simple – system. Instead of having the usual two straps that a backpack has, the Lowepro SlingShot has just one strap. Now just to make things clear from the start, you can’t normally access EVERYTHING that’s in the bag when you sling it like that. You can only get to the main compartment when you open the special zipper-secured flap. But more on that later.
The SlingShot bag itself looks a lot smaller than the hulking CompuTrekker but looks are deceiving. It can actually hold a hell of a lot of equipment. In fact, weight-wise, you can load it with almost as much stuff as the bigger bag. I guess part of the reason is due to the lower quality of the materials used. Compared to the CompuTrekker, the SlingShot seems to be made out of a thinner and slightly flimsier material. Even the interior padding seems a bit thinner but I’m sure that isn’t so. If I were to rate the CompuTrekker for the quality of its materials, I would probably give it a 9.5/10. However, I would be hard pressed to rate the SlingShot more than about 8-8.5/10. It still remains a great bag, don’t get me wrong, but it does suffer from a couple of flaws and I will talk about these later in the review.
To make a long story short (-ish), I decided on the Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW model. There are 3 models in the SlingShot range. The 100 AW, 200 AW and 300 AW. I’m really glad I decided on the middle model because the 100 AW would have been too small for my needs, while the 300 AW is too large and would have brought me almost full-circle to the CompuTrekker. I won’t bother listing sizes and dimensions for the SlingShot 200 AW because you can easily look those up on Lowepro’s website but I will show you later on what kind of equipment this baby can handle when stuffed to the gills.
Here’s the Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW from the front and back. On the front there are 2 thick rubberized loops that can be used for attaching extra Lowepro gear, such as lens pouches or a water bottle.
The right side of the bag is where the action is. You can see the handy lid here. It is fastened by twin zippers that meet in the middle when closed.
Like all Lowepro AW (All-Weather) models, the SlingShot has the trademark rain cover. When not in use, it is stored in the lower back section of the bag, under a velcro-ed horizontal slit. I haven’t had the chance or need to use the AW cover yet but it seems to be crafted from the same material as the one in the Lowepro CompuTrekker AW so I assume it’s as good as that one.
The SlingShot has a second – hidden – strap, which is actually a stability strap. It has a special slot where it can be inserted when not in use. Using this strap increases the stability of the bag on your back, especially when performing motions such as bending over or sideways. This is always good to have even though I’ve never used it. On the downside, it needs to be disconnected when slinging the bag forward. Also, there are no waist/chest straps included.
Moving on to the “wonder-lid”, the whole thing spans from the side of the bag all the way to the front, i.e. it’s zippered all the way round. When slinging it forward, you only need to open the side section, while the rest (front section) remains secure by means of these stop-buckles. There’s one of these on each side of the lid. Whenever laying the whole bag on the ground to fiddle with the rest of the photo equipment, you typically open these two buckles.
Here’s how the main compartment looks like with just the lid open. This is the view that you get looking down inside the bag. I have my Canon 30D with the BG-E2 grip attached. Notice that I normally keep it inversed. That’s the most comfortable position I found for it, both for extraction and insertion.
This is what I typically carry around with me. This is what the inside of the main compartment looks like. You can use the padded dividers to divide this compartment however you please since they are all velcro-ed. My setup for this shot includes the Canon 30D with the BG-E2 grip attached, with the Canon 24-70 L f/2.8 lens mounted, including the lens hood. Then I have the Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro, the Canon EF-S 10-22mm, some Cokin ND filters along with their holder and adapter rings and finally a bunch of spare batteries. Now I don’t normally carry the 100mm Macro with me but I wanted to illustrate how the bag can handle this lens size in one of the sectioned compartments.
Opening the lid completely reveals the main enclosure holding the camera with a lens attached. I set up the dividers such that one of them covers and protects the lens.
A couple of nice touches in the main compartment are the accessory pocket where you can store extra flash cards (but nothing too thick) and the microfiber soft cloth that you can use to clean the LCD screen or the lens. This cloth is sewn to the bag so it cannot be removed, but can be stored inside the small mesh pocket provided for this purpose.
The top compartment is secured by a single zipper and has a trapezoidal shape. I use it to carry different accessories (usually my Canon 10-22mm lens hood) but, if needed, another smaller camera fits well inside.
Finally, the Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW also has a front zippered pocket that you can use for smaller accessories or a notebook or such.
Having almost reached the end of this review, I must also mention my two main peeves with this bag. The first thing that bugs me is the way the main zipper closes when the bag is hanging from my neck. I guess they didnâ€™t think it through when they designed this, or maybe itâ€™s due to the poorer quality of the materials but the problem is this: because of the weight of the bag (when loaded, of course), the main opening gets distorted and the two sides arenâ€™t lined up properly when closing the zipper. For that reason, if youâ€™re in a hurry, youâ€™ll find out that often enough you wonâ€™t be able to close the bag until you manage to align the two sides. Hereâ€™s the problem illustrated.
Iâ€™ve learned to get over this by supporting the weight of the bag with my other hand, from underneath, when closing the zipper. This normalizes the tensions on the two sides of the opening and makes them parallel to each other, allowing the zipper to be closed smoothly. Luckily, the zipper only snags when closing it, never when opening. This makes the problem slightly less significant because most often you are in a hurry to pull the camera out, not put it back in.
The other problem with the SlingShot, which I havenâ€™t illustrated, is that when fully loaded, especially when you have a camera and lens in the main compartment, the weight of the whole thing isnâ€™t uniformly distributed. For that reason, whenever you set the bag down, it always tips over – unless youâ€™re lucky. And thereâ€™s nothing much that can be done. I realize that this problem is harder to correct due to the inherent nature of the bag. The interior compartments are not symmetrical and thus the weight of the stuff that you put inside it will never be distributed evenly.
In action, the SlingShot really does what it advertises. The main strap can be adjusted to be tighter or looser, depending on your preferences and I normally keep it tight when carrying it on my shoulders but loosen it up when I slide the bag forward. Pulling the camera out of the main compartment is quick and painless. I really prefer it to a shoulder bag, which although might be slightly faster, is a lot more uncomfortable to carry around all day.
How comfortable is the bag in daily use? Iâ€™ve had the opportunity of carrying it around on my back for the whole day on several occasions. I have to say itâ€™s not as comfortable as I was hoping when I bought it but it isnâ€™t less comfortable than any other backpack either. The main sling strap is wide and well padded, making it easy on the shoulders. The only discomfort that will make itself felt towards the end of the day, once again, is due to the nature of the bag. Although Lowepro have done a great job with balancing the loaded bag on your back, every personâ€™s photographic setup varies and not everyone will feel fresh after carrying it around for several hours.
As a premiere for this review, I am using my new grading system. The LowePro SlingShot 200 AW camera bag scores a respectable 7.7/10 (Great).
Iâ€™ve subtracted 0.8 points for the quality of the materials which although very good, arenâ€™t exactly to the highest standards when compared with similar models or brands
1 point was subtracted for the zipper closing issue. Barring this issue, this bag would be well nigh awesome.
0.3 points were subtracted for the tipping-over issue. I donâ€™t know what the challenges in designing a stable bag would be but nonetheless this issue is present and you always need to make sure the bag doesnâ€™t fall over when setting it on the ground.
0.2 points were subtracted for the lack of any means for attaching a tripod. I realize this might be a bigger issue with some folks but personally I can live with it.
The Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW camera bag is a hybrid backpack-shoulder bag that is very versatile, fairly comfortable and serves its role very well. It combines the ease and comfort of a backpack with the accessibility of a shoulder bag. As an added bonus, it can carry a lot more than it seems capable of at first sight. I would recommend the Lowepro SlingShot 200 AW to anyone who needs a convenient and affordable bag but who doesnâ€™t like putting down a backpack to access their camera or hates the weight and balance of a shoulder bag hanging from their neck.