The LowePro PhotoSport series is one of the brand’s best selling bags, and the new, third incarnation of the backpack looks to build on the success of previous versions. Within the series, the bags themselves fit into quite distinct categories – from larger trekking and camping bags to smaller hiking models and daypacks. It is the smaller versions that we’ll be focusing on in this review, testing out the 24L version of the PhotoSport Outdoor Backpack. There is also a 15L version of the same bag for more casual wear.
Internal dimensions: 26x13x48cm
External dimensions: 27x22x50cm
Camera insert dimensions: 18x10x23cm
Laptop compartment dimensions: 13” device or 3L Hydration Pouch
Number of lenses that can be stored: 2
Compatibility: Standard zoom lens, mirrorless cameras, 1-2 extra lenses, accessories and personal items, plus mid-size tripod
While we rank this as one of the best camera backpacks overall, it’s worth remembering that buying one of these bags is quite a personal decision, as there’s a huge range of styles out there to suit different shapes, sizes, cameras and photography pursuits. We would recommend trying a few out in a store before making a purchase.
If you’re picking up a bag for astrophotography camping, this could be a good option because it’s fairly lightweight. That said, if you’re trying to take all of your best astrophotography lenses with you, then this might be frustratingly small, as it only has capacity for two units. As we mentioned above, think carefully about what you need from a camera bag before committing to a purchase.
- Rugged materials give a good impression of quality
- Zippers and cords operate smoothly and are well thought-out
- We liked the drawstring feature at the top of the bag
First impressions when it comes to the design of the PhotoSport 24L is that it’s quite a bit smaller than it looks in photos. Despite having 24L of useful carrying space, it actually feels fairly diminutive, and its empty weight is reassuringly small. As far as lightweight bags go, this feels impressive, and to its credit it also features 75% recycled materials.
It doesn’t feel, however, that LowePro have skimped on the quality of fabrics – they appear durable, tough and sturdy, with nice little features such as a softer lining on the top zipper pocket to keep phone screens scratch-free. There’s one side pocket (the other side provides access to the side compartment – more on that later), and a front pocket that’s also neatly detachable should you wish to put larger items in it. Two velcro loops at the front also provide the ability to secure accessories. A hidden velcro pouch on the front of the bag stores a protective rain cover, however in our tests we discovered that the bag was pleasingly weatherproof in its own right, which was unexpected but welcome. We felt that our best cameras, when stored in the bag, were definitely in safe hands.
There’s two styles – we prefer the rather more muted black and grey version – but there’s also a black and blue version that stands out a little more.
- Clever detachable camera insert adds versatility
- Laptop/tablet pouch to the rear can also host a water pouch for hiking
- With the camera insert removed, a Velcro flap opens up the entire bag for top-loading
When it comes to usability in the real world, the PhotoSport Outdoor Backpack begins to shine. The first aspect worth mentioning is the top flap, which has two clips that neatly secure it to the rest of the bag. There’s a drawstring here that compresses anything in it, so this is a great option for items such as sweaters or jackets that you need to stuff away. Inside the main compartment, there’s a zippered pouch and two mesh pockets that we found helpful for storing things like cables, memory cards and lens heaters. We especially liked the fact that the top flap connects to clips on the side of the bag, which really helps in keeping things compact and secure.
Moving down the bag, the bottom section of the bag, with its side access flap, is the bag’s main event, and the camera insert included here offers a good degree of versatility. Our only criticism is that the insert itself is perhaps a little small – it’s perfectly adequate for users of smaller setups or mirrorless bodies, but even then there’s perhaps only space for one or two smaller lenses. Full frame users may want to weigh up their options in this regard.
The camera insert at the bottom is removed by detaching it from its Velcro fasteners and attaching the included strap, which can be worn around the shoulder, neck or even put on to the camera itself. For smaller trips this is useful, however we found that the bag itself is so lightweight that we didn’t actually remove the insert that often. It’s great to have the option, though. With the insert removed, a bottom flap which acts as the base of the main compartment can open up to allow access to all 24L of storage space. We found that this made it a very usable bag for travelling and weekend trips away.
Another nice feature is the expandable front pocket, which can extend to fit larger items such as coats and jackets, keeping them away from the main compartment spaces.
- Comfortable to wear for long periods
- Good adjustability on all straps
- Waist pocket could do with being a bit bigger
In terms of performance, we found it easy to make full use of all the features of the bag and it served us well on the hikes and trips we took it on. Although the straps look at first glance like they should be a bit wider, we found them comfortable and both the waist and upper body securing straps can be adjusted to fit. We would have liked to have seen a slightly wider waist strap, in order to accommodate a larger pocket, but for the size of the bag it’s more than adequate.
The lack of weight in the bag is to its credit here – it’s very comfortable to wear when walking and after a while it’s easy to forget how much the bag itself is accommodating. When the rain comes, the waterproof cover is easy to get out and attach. With the camera insert out, we also liked the fact that this element can attach to the waist and shoulder straps, keeping it secured to the bag but sat so that gear is within easy reach. It’s worth pointing out however that we did find this element a little fiddly to get right.
When taking the bag for longer trips we liked the back laptop/tablet pouch, and found it didn’t affect the wearing of the bag too much. What we really liked however was that in-lieu of a laptop, this space also works as a 3L hydration pouch (not included) so you can keep regularly topped up with water on longer hikes.
Should you buy it?
We really enjoyed testing the PhotoSport backpack and think it’s a versatile and clever bag for many people. We do think, however, that it gravitates towards a lifestyle rucksack more than an out and out camera bag, and users of larger pro setups might want to look elsewhere. For most people who are casual or enthusiast photographers though, this really does fit the bill, and we’d certainly recommend it for weekend use or day hikes which is essentially what it’s designed for. With a slightly larger camera and lens compartment, the bag would be in contention for a five-star rating.
We liked the camera insert, its most beneficial feature is arguably the space it creates within the main body of the bag itself when removed. The fabrics feel good quality, and the fasteners and zips work well without any snagging, even when the bag is full.
One other slight downside is that it isn’t the cheapest bag on offer, at around the $200 mark, but if you’re interested in something that has versatility in spades and offers a comfortable wear when out and about, this comes highly recommended.
If this product isn’t for you
Pro users in need of more space might prefer something like the LowePro Pro Trekker BP 550. It’s pricier, but you can fit up to three cameras in the bag along with 4-6 lenses.
For anyone who needs something that’s better suited to urban photography, we’d recommend the Peak Design Everyday backpack. It’s a stylish model that wouldn’t look out of place on the commute and it’s regularly featured in round-ups of the best camera bags.
And if you’re working in tougher, dustier environments you might want to go for the hardy Vanguard Alta Sky 51D. Designed for heavy-duty wear, it has a structured interior that can take up to two DSLR cameras, 3-4 lenses and a handful of other accessories.