I recently purchased the Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW camera bag from Amazon for an upcoming trip to Sicily. But before taking it abroad, I wanted to run it through its paces in an easier environment. So, I packed it full of gear and took it with me on a business trip to Fredrick, Maryland. Here are the results of my assessment.
All in all, I am very happy with this bag. While there are a few minor things I wish were different about it, none of them are deal-breakers, and the bag functions quite well in its intended environment.
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What It Holds
Here is what I carried in the bag during my business trip to Maryland:
- Canon 5D Mark III DSLR Camera with Mounted Canon 24-105mm F/4L IS EF USM AF Lens
- EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
- Several Extra Compact Flash and SD Cards
- Seagate Backup Hard Drive and Compact Flash Card Reader + Associated Cables
- Canon Speedlight 270 EX II Flash
- Canon SX710 HS Point-and-Shoot (because it is great for quick videos)
- Spare Batteries for Cameras + Plug-In Battery Chargers
- Lens Cleaning Supplies
- Targus Telescoping Tripod
- HP Spectre 360 (14” Laptop)
- Nook Book Reader
- Cell Phone
- Airline Tickets
- A couple small bags of nuts to snack on
- NOTE: There was still some room left for some smallish items and my passport.
Note: To see what Lowepro designed this bag to carry, see the ‘Specifications’ section of this review below.
Traveling With It
I had no problem getting through security. I just removed the laptop from the camera bag (as per TSA requirements), latched the front flap with the affixed heavy-duty plastic clip, and sent it through the x-ray machine. I am always amazed when my camera bag, packed full of suspicious looking electronic gizmos, does not get manually searched by security personnel, but it rarely happens to me. The bag went through security with no problems.
My wife and I were flying to Maryland on Southwest Airlines, with their god-awful no-assigned-seating debacle-of-a-seating-scheme (worthy of its own review, I suppose). As luck would have it, we were the last people to board the plane, and nearly all of the overhead storage was packed. But the Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW squeezed easily into one of the few narrow crannies I was able to find between two larger bags.
You should have no trouble taking this bag along as a carry-on item. I plan on flying Meridiana to Sicily in a couple weeks, and they have notoriously restrictive carry-on rules; I have zero fear of this bag running afoul of any policies.
My wife, Linda, is always on the lookout for good travel/gear bags for me. She knows if they are not comfortable, I will find some excuse not to use them.
I found the Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW to be about as comfortable a bag as I can find for myself. Since I like to travel fairly light, large backpacks are non-starters for me; plus, even smaller backpacks make my back sweat. And many of them have outer pockets that are susceptible to pickpocketing.
A shoulder bag typically is less susceptible to pickpockets, as it hangs at your side, and one of your arms is usually resting against it. That said, shoulder bags have their own drawbacks. For example, all the weight of your gear tends to pull down on one shoulder, regardless of whether you wear the bag across your body or … well, more like a purse.
Since my camera gear is heavy, I like to change up which shoulder I sling the bag over to prevent overtaxing one side of my body. Some may find this a little inconvenience, but at least my back is not sweating, and a pickpocket would have to be eager for a fight to try and get into it.
Besides the items mentioned above, here are some of my favorite things about the Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW:
- It Provides excellent protection for my gear. I’m not filthy rich, but I am willing to pay good money for good gear. As such, I tend to handle my equipment pretty gently. So, it is important to me that a camera bag provide some significant physical protection. The Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW definitely does this. It has a cushioned interior with customizable panels that interlock with heavy-duty Velcro, allowing you to secure your camera gear snugly.
- As shoulder bags go, it is a well thought out bag. It is big enough to be useful, but not so big that it is unwieldy in crowds of people or in overhead storage bins.
- It is solidly made. I can see this bag lasting years, even if I were prone to treat my gear more harshly than I do.
- The linkage for this bag is largely metallic. The plastic clip that secures the bag’s front flap is large and heavy-duty. The zippers also are solid. The bag also has a hardened upper panel that adds a layer of protection to your camera and lenses.
- This bag has some very useful storage accommodations, including a roomy, customizable interior; small elastic slots to hold your memory cards; a special slot for your laptop, and another one for your tablet or book reader; a multi-compartment front area for papers, your wallet, airline tickets and passports; a key leash; and a large accessory bag that has a neat double-Velcro attachment configuration that allows it to mount to the main bag in a nearly fail-proof way.
- The Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW also comes with a couple utility straps that can be innovatively positioned nearly anywhere on the bag. These straps latch onto loops that are sewn onto the front and sides of the bag. The straps can be used to hold a tripod, mount the camera bag to the extended handle of your rolling luggage, or used in any number of creative ways.
- There is a lengthwise zipper that runs along the top panel of the bag, allowing you to access your DSLR without actually opening the top panel. Not only is this handy, but if you travel in places where exposing the innards of your gizmo bag could make you a target, this is a great feature.
- There is a built in protective cover that is accessed at the bottom/back of the bag. By opening a zipper, you can extract the cover and draw it over the top of your bag to protect it from rain and blowing dust/sand. And I plan on spending some time on the beach in Sicily, so if the sand blows …
While this bag has no faults that are deal-killers for me, there are a few items I wish it did have. That said, I can flat-out guarantee you that I will be enjoying this bag thoroughly in my travels. But, in the spirit of being thorough:
- In addition to a removable shoulder-strap, this bag comes with a grab handle. The handle works fine, except for one thing: it cannot be removed. While I think making it removable would be a nice feature, my bigger issue is that it is mounted to the same D-Ring that the shoulder strap connects to. This causes the D-Ring to be a little crowded, and usage of the shoulder strap and grab handle end up being a tad clunky.
- Related to the above item, the zipper that secures the top panel to the body ends up having to travel past the D-Ring that mounts the grab handle and shoulder strap to the body of the bag. I end up having to finagle the zipper handle past the D-ring to either open or close the top panel of the bag. It is just a little inefficient. But, hey, I am taking the bag to Sicily where the pace of life is slower anyway. So, who cares about efficiency.
- While this is indeed a well thought out and roomy bag, it just is not quite big enough to carry my gear PLUS my various power cables, USB cables, and overseas power adapters along with my aforementioned load. While I like keeping all my electronics in one bag for convenience, I am not opposed to stowing my power cords in my checked baggage, since I usually travel with a small suitcase anyway. But I just worry about the day I arrive in Iceland to learn my cords are with my checked baggage in Peru. That should be fun to sort out.
- Remember the cool accessory straps I mentioned in the ‘Pros’ section of this review? Well, there are only two of them, and Lowepro’s website doesn’t seem to allow you to buy them Ala Carte. I think I could make good use of at least two more straps. I will call Lowepro when I get a chance and see if they will let me purchase a couple more. I will update this article when I find out.
- While I consider most of the above ‘Cons’ to be a bit subjective and somewhat irrelevant, this particular item is definitely important to me: The bottom of the Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW is made of the same heavy nylon material as the sides. I really think it should be made of a hard plastic and be waterproof. While in Maryland, I had to ride a water taxi across the harbor in Baltimore, and both the seats and floors of the boat were wet. I would hate to end up with wet gear, but the more likely scenario would be mold growing in the bag because it retained moisture.
- One final issue that may not be relevant to many of my readers, but that is very relevant to me, is that the front flap of the bag, and the zipper that closes the side-mounted accessory bag, are somewhat easy targets for pickpockets. I know I keep mentioning pickpockets, and you must be wondering if I am paranoid. But I have had to fend off a few pickpocket attempts in Rome, and I came very close to losing my camera, money and passport. So, yes, I am paranoid. In the end, there are ways to mitigate the chances of this bag getting pickpocketed. For example, I intend to wear the bag so that the main flap is against my body, and so that the accessory pouch is on the end of the bag that I can see as it hangs from my shoulder.
The following specifications are copied directly from the Lowepro website.
- Pro DSLR with lens attached (such as Canon 5D Mark III with 70-200mm f/2.8)
- 2-3 extra lenses/speedlights
- Up to a 13″ laptop and a tablet (such as iPad Air®)
- Spare memory, plus small accessories and personal items
- Internal Dimensions: 36 x 13.5 x 27 cm (14.17 x 5.31 x 10.63 in)
- External Dimensions: 37.8 x 20 x 31 cm (14.88 x 7.87 x 12.20 in)
- Weight: 1.7 kg (3.74 lbs)
I really do like this bag – a lot – and I think it was worth every penny I paid for it. Sure, there are some things that I wish were different, but I have looked at many camera bags, and every bag has something to be desired.
But the Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW is a solidly built, professional grade, highly functional bag that I am proud wear and use. The price of the bag is very reasonable ($169.95 on Lowepro’s website, and slightly less via some other online retailers). Now that it has been put through its paces during my business trip to Maryland, I have no doubt it will hold up well and keep my gear safe during my international travel.
If you found this review helpful and would like to purchase the Lowepro ProTactic SH 200 AW, we would appreciate you purchasing it through the advertisement below, as it earns me a small commission that I use to support this blog.
Have you tried this camera bag? What do you think of it? Or, do you have a favorite camera bag that you can share with our readers? I’d love to hear your comments below.