Review of Lowepro Vertex 300AW

August 17, 2011  •  Leave a Comment

Long term test of Lowepro's Vertex 300 AW backpack


It's a huge beast of a bag and seems perfect for the working commercial and freelance photographer but it all that! Read the review...

The Review... Living with the beast

Inside the beast
Long term test of Lowepro's Vertex 300 AW backpack by
DOUG JACKSON PHOTOGRAPHY

The Vertex 300 AW is a backpack made by the well respected firm Lowepro. I have used many different Lowepro products over the years, both backpack and shoulder bags and have always found the quality of manufacture and materials to be great.

If you carry as much gear around as I do, there are not many options when it comes to choosing a new camera bag. Realistically when you're loaded down with two camera bodies, five lenses, three flashes, battery packs, light-stands, wireless flash triggers, an additional laptop and a tripod, you're looking at nearly 50kg worth of weight. This inevitably means using a backpack, as there's no other way to comfortably carry that sort of weight over any distance.

Features
The Lowepro Vertex 300 AW comprises of two main compartments and two small outer pockets. The first large compartment is for your camera equipment and is partitioned by adjustable soft dividers, meaning you can customise the space to fit whatever equipment you have. Crucially the depth of the main camera compartment accommodates large pro SLR cameras such as the Canon EOS 1D MK IV and all other SLR cameras with battery grips. The next smaller compartment is built inside the backpack's lid and is big enough to carry a large laptop along with other accessories such as cables and small diffusers. On the inside face of the lid there are various pockets including a large soft pocket in the centre. This was specifically designed in mind of multimedia devices although trying to close the lid with anything too thick in here is a bit of a squeeze. Mine has become a graveyard for spent AA rechargeable batteries.

The two outer pockets are big enough to store filters, memory cards and any number of trinkets, although it is worth bearing in mind that out of all the pockets these are the most vulnerable to prolonged rain. Speaking of which, if you were to be walking any distance in a heavy downpour, Lowepro have included their seam-sealed all-weather cover. This is conveniently stashed away in the bag's base, and I've used this a couple of times when photographing wet football matches or when working in dusty conditions. In addition to these features, the zips on the two main compartments are water resistant, which helps seal your gear in safely.

So in terms of capacity, the Lowepro Vertex 300 AW ticks the boxes but in addition to this, the backpack also features plenty of mounting points on the outside. Lowepro's adjustable Glide-Lock system is used on the back and sides of the backpack, meaning you could effectively carry three tripods! Being of sound mind however, I prefer to carry two small light stands which leaves the outer lid area free for a tripod.

Other features of note are a zip-on cover, also stored in the backpack's base, which covers all the harness area. If you were just using the backpack as a storage bag it stops the straps getting tangled up in everything. This certainly makes the bag easier to handle in airports and when travelling generally.

It's also worth noting that if you have to carry more gear with you and need some extra space (I think at this point I'd be looking for a bag on wheels!), Lowepro offers the usual pouches and accessories that can be strapped on to the shoulder straps, the waist strap or the backpack itself.

Handling
In my experience of camera bags, there is always a trade off between convenience and comfort. Carrying your gear in a backpack is undoubtedly comfy, but every time you need to get your camera out or change your gear around you have to put the bag down on the floor and open it. If you're on muddy ground it inevitably means that the harness, base and possibly the lid of the bag is going to get dirty. Another drawback when it's raining or you're in a public place, is that it's difficult to get any gear out of the backpack without fully opening it, potentially exposing your gear to rain and unwelcome attention. This backpack doesn't manage to escape any of these inherent problems. A shoulder bag is obviously more convenient and provides quicker access to gear, but would you want to walk any distance across the North Yorkshire Moors with 50KG hanging off one shoulder?

One of the problems with using the Lowepro Vertex 300AW is its sheer size and there has been a few occasions when on a press assignments I've just taken what I need and left the rest in the car. On the flip side if I was shooting a feature it's great to be able to take all your gear in one trip.

Performance
The Lowepro Vertex 300 AW certainly sits comfortably on the back with the harness offering plenty of adjustability for different sizes and shapes. It is adjustable in girth, shape and also has a chest strap which helps to minimise shoulder ache. Once you've adjusted the straps to suit your shape it feels very secure on your back and the mesh material breathes reasonably well. The padded waist belt with its large buckle means that there is no danger of the weight twisting on your back if you're bending down.

The Lowepro Vertex 300 AW certainly stands up to all weather conditions. Unless you go for an impromptu swim, you could keep your photography equipment dry and clean in the worst conditions. The padding around the camera gear is definitely enough to do the job in the event of a fall, and the structure of the backpack seems very strong. The handles and zip toggles are strong and chunky, and the internal zips inside the lid park in clever tabs when closed so they don't rub on your precious camera equipment.

When I first got the bag I found the water-resistant zips to be very stiff although these have freed up with use. Talking of zips, I have found that the zips for the laptop area and the main compartment often end up next to each other, which means I often open the wrong bit. Now that may be down to me not being the sharpest tool in the shed, but I'm sure it can't be a lot to ask that Lowepro fit different colour or shaped toggles to these adjacent areas. I often shoot in extremely low light and have wondered why camera companies haven't taken a leaf out of the tent manufacturers book and fitted fluorescent toggles.

Verdict and Ratings
I think it's fair to say that anyone who buys a camera bag of this size is wanting to carry a lot of photographic equipment. The Lowepro Vertex 300 AW certainly makes this very easy. The two exterior pockets mean that you can quickly access certain items quickly, such as CF cards and leads, but where it suffers, like all backpacks of this type, is the hassle of getting your gear out quickly and easily without laying the whole bag down and unzipping the whole lid.

It's interesting to see what Lowepro have done with their SlingShot range of bag that allows you to unhook one shoulder, swing the back round and open up a hatch on the side. It may be possible to redesign a bag of this size to incorporate a feature like that; it certainly would be handy.

So before you buy this bag, you should ask yourself if you're the kind of photographer who moves from location to location doing quick shoots. If so then I wouldn't recommend this backpack. You may want to consider a shoulder bag or one of Lowepro's smaller bags from their SlingShot range.

If you take all your gear to one place, get set up and then work, it's hard to beat for its capacity to hold so much within a robust shell and also for the option to attach stands and a tripod on the outside using the clever Glide-Lock system.

Overall I would say that Lowepro have produced another capable product and bearing in mind you could potentially fill it with over £10,000 worth of well protected equipment, it's pretty good value for money too.

Pros:
+ Good build quality
+ Storage for laptop plus loads of accessories
+ Weather proof
+ Light stand and tripod mounts on outside

Cons
- Heavy and large (it's nearly 4kg empty!)
- No quick access to camera gear

Ratings
Features 8/10
Handling 7/10
Performane 8/10
Value 9/10
Overall 8/10

Specifications:

Capacity: 1-2 Pro digital SLRs, large 35mm or medium format system, 6-8 lenses (up to a 400mm f/2.8), tripod or monopod, flash and digital accessories.

Size(Interior):
12.2W X 6.5D X 20.5H in./
31 X 16.5 X 52 cm

Size(Exterior):
13W X 10.2D X 21.7H in./
33 X 26 X 55 cm

Laptop Compartment Inner Dimensions:
11.8W X 2D X 19.7H in./
30 X 5 X 50 cm

Weight (empty):
8.16lbs/3.7kg

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