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.
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
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
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.
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
Street Price $28 to $40
(pouches sold separately
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
Photography by email
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