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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online

Lowepro Stealth Reporter 
600AW & 650AW

by Vivid Light Staff

Depending on how you shoot and how much you want to carry, these bags are either a Godsend or just the wrong solution. Among the staff here people either loved or hated this design. Read on and see on which side of the fence you’ll fall.

Most metropolitan newspapers and many magazines have embraced digital cameras to the point where it is all their photographers now shoot. And take a look courtside at an NBA game. During lulls in the action you’ll see the face of every photographer illuminated by the glow of the LCD on the back of their camera as they scroll through images to check the quality of their shots. It’s not unusual for today’s professional photographer to walk outside of an event. Pop open their laptop, connect their digital camera and cell phone, and transmit images directly back to their editors at the office. 

The problem is that most camera bags are designed to accommodate camera equipment and do a lousy job of holding computer equipment. Carrying a separate laptop case is a hassle for photographers who are on the run and already weighed down by too much gear. 

The flip side of this coin is the professional who totes their laptop everywhere when they travel. Whether by train or by air, these folks are trying to minimize how much they have to carry. After all, laptops have enough cables and accessories (not to mention your files and paperwork) that need to be carried. When walking around strange cities it would be great to have a camera along but adding a separate camera bag, even a small one, is a major inconvenience – not to mention that it will stand out like a sore thumb when you walk into a meeting. 

The Stealth Reporter series is Lowepro’s answer for both the harried reporter and the traveling executive who wants to be able to carry both a camera and a laptop. 

The first thing you notice when you pick up one of these bags is the weight. At around four and a half pounds the 600 is no lightweight and the 650 is a pound heavier yet. Remember this is before you add anything into the bag. This makes the Stealth Reporters much heavier than the typical laptop bag. 

Much of that weight comes from the removable padded liner. That liner may be heavy but it does good job of protecting your equipment from external bumps and bruises. It also protects your laptop from heavyweight pro camera gear it may be sharing space with. Lowepro says that either of these bags will accommodate large pro camera bodies (such as a D1) but we found the extra girth of the 650 did a better job of handling tall pro bodies. The 600 will do it - but smaller bodies such as a Canon D60 are a better fit. Your laptop slides down into its own padded slot in the back of the bag. A separate padded cap folds over and a hook and loop strip secures it in place. Pick a pocket and drop in your power cord, external drive, and mouse and you’re ready to start adding camera gear. 

These bags are deep. At seven, and eight and a half inches deep respectively they’ll easily swallow a pro body with an 80-200mm lens attached or even a 300mm f2.8 with the hood reversed. Deep pockets feature padded dividers that can be easily repositioned to accommodate almost any combination of lenses and accessories. Unlike competing bag designs, the front of the Stealth Reporters are bristling with additional pockets that will swallow anything from filters to memory cards and the space between the liner and the bag’s exterior makes a great place for file folders and additional accessories. 

But all those deep pockets (some zippered, some open) can be a blessing and a curse. Since the Stealth Reporter wasn’t my main bag, I was constantly transferring gear into and out of the bag. When doing so I always felt like I had missed something at the bottom of all of those little pockets (and often had). 

The other feature that is both a blessing and a curse is the sheer size of these bags. They’ll hold a TON of stuff. The downside is that when your bag will hold a ton of stuff you tend to fill it to capacity. Most photographers are pack rats. So if you have a little extra room you’ll pack along that left handed widget “just in case”. Like most Lowepro bags the shoulder straps on these bags are excellent. But even that thick padding will be overwhelmed if you fill the 650 with a laptop and all the camera gear it’s capable of holding. For this reason the Stealth Reporters will accommodate the wide, padded, Street and Field waist belt. This transfers some of the weight to your hips. But fully loaded and hanging off one hip the 650 or even the 600 may leave you feeling unbalanced and awkward. The real trick is to show some restraint in what you’re packing into all that room. If you really need to over pack, take a backpack instead, as it will balance the load better.  

Now assuming you’ve got the bag loaded the way you want - how is it to shoot from? The answer is pretty darned good. Two snap locks secure the top flap, but unless you need something from one of those front pockets it’s actually easier to grab your camera using the central zipper that bisects the flap. This gets you into the bag with a minimum of fuss and we often found ourselves leaving the flap unzipped while working for quicker access. The flap has a unique waterproof storm flap built it. The cover is stored away under a zipper at the back of the flap. Pull it out and attach it to the front and sides of the flap using hook and loop fasteners for a waterproof cover.  This ingenious design ensures the storm flap and the top flap move together rather than getting in the way. However, while we’re talking about the flap, we did notice a problem with its design. Throw the bag in the trunk of the car and you may find something rolling around on the floor when you get to where you’re going. The corners of the flap don’t extend as far down the side of the bag as they should. It means you don’t have to open the bag to reach into the main compartment – but it also means things can find their way out of the bag if you’re not careful. Thankfully, only a few rolls of film escaped while we were using it. We learned to wedge something against the bag to keep it from falling over on its side where a lens might escape.

The bag also comes with an all weather cover (the AW in it’s name) that covers the complete bag in the event you’re caught in a real downpour. This cover is hidden away in the bottom of the bag and accessed through a slot secured with a hook and loop strip. To install the cover remove the shoulder strap, secure the cover with a slip tie, and insert the ends of the shoulder strap through slits in the cover. While this cover is a nice feature for serious rain, it’s been our experience that the water resistant fabric Lowepro uses in its bags will stand up to just about anything short of a monsoon. So we doubt you’ll get much use out of the cover. 

Tripod straps are included on the bottoms of both bags for carrying a small lightweight tripod. Straps on the sides of the bag accommodate Lowepro’s sliplock and Street and Field accessories (as well as add-ons from competitors lines – just don’t tell Lowepro we told you). Assuming you’ve managed to overload the bag, these add-ons will allow you add everything from a cell phone pouch to a case for your 800mm lens. 

Here’s the part where we’re supposed to pronounce a consensus on how wonderful or dreadful the bag is. The problem is we don’t have a consensus. Staffers fell out as follows:

It’s Wonderful. The solution we’ve been looking for. It’s not a bag I want to walk 12 miles with but it’s the perfect bag for going from the car or train some reasonable distance to where I want to shoot and maybe snapping some shots along the way. I can work out of it quickly and when I fill my memory card I can whip out the laptop, dump the images, and keep going. 

It’s uncomfortable and awkward to shoot from. This came from staffers who’d worn the bag on all-day shoots that involved a lot of walking, or they were constantly moving stuff into and out of the bag. That’s when all those deep pockets became a liability rather than a blessing. This group tended to prefer backpacks because they’re easier on the back and shoulders when doing a lot of walking. 

One final observation. The frequent flyers among us noted that no other laptop case offers this much protection and few have this much room. Few other bags will protect your equipment as well when someone shoves their overstuffed carry-on into the overhead bin. 

One theorized that this might be the ideal bag for daytrips into New York by train or those awful flights where you fly out in the morning and back in the evening. You can carry your laptop, a lightweight SLR with a zoom, a fresh shirt and some deodorant so you can hit your meeting, snap a few pictures afterwards, and have a fresh shirt to change into so you can feel human on the flight home. 

In the end these are extremely well made bags that fill a very specific niche. They aren’t right for everyone. Only you can tell if they’re right for you.


Stealth Reporter 600AW and 650AW Specs
Exterior Dimensions: 16.5 x 8.5 x 13.5"
Interior Dimensions: 13.5 x 7 x 10.75
Weight: 4.6 lbs
Street Price $125 to $135

Exterior Dimensions: 17 x 10.5 x 12.5"
Interior Dimensions: 14.5 x 8.5 x 11"
Weight: 5.5 lbs
Street Price $135 to $145

Street & Field Waist Belt
Street Price $28 to $40 
(pouches sold separately

Both bags are made from a combination of water resistant ripstop & ballistic nylon and feature a removable inner padding, all weather covers (2 each), tripod straps (under bag), Street & Field™ compatibility, padded shoulder strap, optional waist belt available. These bags are available in any color you want - as long as you want black.

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