Camera bags come in all shapes and sizes. Some, like the bags we’ve reviewed to date, are large with the intent to carry most – if not all – of your gear. A studio on the go, if you will. But of course, that isn’t ideal for everyone. We’re constantly talking about carrying your camera always, for example. So a large bag might work well for a weekend trip, but for daily use it’s not ideal. For that reason, we wanted to find a bag that was a bit smaller, and a bit more appropriate for daily use. To that end, we discovered the LowePro Passport Sling. The Passport Sling is a simple shoulder bag that carries a small SLR camera, an extra lens and a few accessories. In addition, the expandable bag has some room for some extras.
The bag consists of two main parts: The bag and the padded camera insert. The camera insert is essentially a padded box with a removable internal divider, resulting in two compartments. The top of the divider folds to contour your camera’s grip. The camera box is designed to house and protect a small to medium sized SLR camera. The camera insert is held in place with Velcro and is situated near the back of the bag (I consider the shorter portion of the bag as the “back”). It takes up about half the bag. With my 18-185mm zoom attached, my camera fits comfortably into one of the compartments, lens down. The other compartment was home to my 50mm prime lens, though the compartment was a little large for such a small lens. I always carry my 50mm in its own bag, so this was less of a concern for me. The the divider between the compartments doesn’t move very far (only about an inch). Even so, the side dimension cannot change. So if you have a smaller lens, you would need to pad it somehow. At the front of the insert is a small media pocket. It’s only large enough to hold one or two extra media cards, but for a day pack, that should be enough. The insert is of course completely removal if you don’t need your camera for a day. Or, if you’re traveling, the insert can folded flat for easy packing. But the versatility is a welcome feature for those looking for a daily-use bag.
With the insert in place, the remainder of the bag can be used for any number of relatively small items. I carried my filter wallet in that compartment with a small notebook and my eyeglasses most of the time, and there was plenty of room to spare. The front of the bag has a zipper that can be unzipped to expand the bag. The space isn’t large enough to fit a full sized notebook. But I can attest that a typical bottle of wine will fit. Please don’t try that with a full bottle – we certainly wouldn’t want you to harm your equipment with a broken bottle of wine. Just inside the zipper at the front of the bag are two small pockets (again, I consider the front the taller portion of the bag). I kept my shutter release cord and my various wires in these pockets – tucked out of the way, and easy to access. They’re stitched into the lining, so they don’t flop around or get in the way of your access to the main compartment. Finally, around the outside of the bag are three additional pockets. The ones on the side could be used to carry a small snack, train schedule or other relatively flat items. The pockets don’t fasten closed in any way, so I didn’t use these much – at least not for anything of substance. The pocket at the back of the bag is large enough to carry a bottle of water – a feature rarely seen on a bag this size. And again, when thinking about daily versatility, this is a great feature to have.
The shoulder strap is impressive. It features one of the simplest yet best designed adjustment systems I’ve seen. The buckle is a pressure buckle that is actually fastened to the back of the bag. The strap, which is also stitched into the bag (the buckle isn’t all that’s holding the strap in place), slides through the buckle when you need to adjust. The excess loop of strap can simply be folded through a loop below the buckle and stowed in the pocket at the back of the bag. I like this system because there are absolutely no loose straps and no buckles against your body. The shoulder strap also has an adjustable shoulder pad with a stay-put patch on it. The strap was comfortable, and easily adjustable. This isn’t one of those bags that you will always keep at the same adjustments. Walking out and about, I tend to adjust so that the bag is high and and close to the body. If I’m just going about my daily routine (going to work), I would keep it low for comfort. There are times where you may not wish to wear it cross-chest, and you can easily adjust for that. And I imagine those on bikes might want it draped across their backs and fairly tight, and you can easily adjust for that. Depending on the circumstance, there are any number of ways you’d want to wear the bag, so it’s great that the adjustment system works so well.
Lowepro is known for it’s durable products – so I was not surprised at the apparent durability of this bag. The entire outer shell of the bag is made of a high grade polymesh. All of the seams are double-stitched and extra layers of polymesh cover the stress points. The top closure of the bag – the portion that covers the camera – also contains extra padding to protect your camera. But I will admit that I was a little disappointed about the protection for the bottom of the back – or lack thereof. I would expect to see some sort of rubberized layer, or at least some feet to protect the bottom. But the bottom isn’t protect in any way. I also don’t know that I would trust the bag in the rain. The zipper does not have any sort of protective flap, and I’m not sure the bag itself is water resistant.
What Fits In the Bag?
The Passport Sling was able to transport just about everything I would need on a daily basis. For context, take a look at the photo of the bag with all of the gear I carried in it. Throughout my use of the bag, I carried the following:
- Nikon D80 camera body
- Nikon Nikkor 50mm prime lens (attached to the camera)
- Nikon Nikkor 18-135mm zoom lens (I was also able to store the camera with this lens attached as well)
- Filter wallet (containing 4 filters)
- Moleskine pocket notebook with pen
- Eyeglasses in their case
- Camera-to-video connection cables
- Remote Trigger
- Nikon SB-600 flash (not shown)
Though this may not look like much, there was still plenty of room left available in the bag. With this gear stowed away, I would have been able to fit a thin windbreaker or even a small bag of snacks or lunch.
It’s time for a confession – based on the literature available online, I was not expecting to be impressed by this bag. Despite a few minor concerns, the Passport Sling is great as a daily-use bag, especially for hobbyists. But what about from the perspective of a semi-professional? This serves well as a compliment to your larger bag. The Passport Sling doesn’t carry too much of your equipment, but that’s the point. You’re not on assignment, you wont’ need every filter, every lens – just the bare essentials to get you by during the day. A day, I might add, you may not be planning to shoot at all. It comes down to opportunity – during the week, I don’t want to carry my large carry-everything bag. I’m less likely to pick it up to take with me to my primary job. With the Passport Sling, however, it’s so small that I don’t hesitate to bring it along.
As of this writing, the Passport Sling is an a very affordable option at about $55 (at B&H or Amazon.com). You would be hard pressed to find a bag that offers the same level of quality and features at this price point.
Things We Liked:
- Perfect size for daily use.
- Strap adjustment system.
- Large pocket for drink bottle or can.
- Removable camera box insert.
Thinks We Didn’t Like:
- No way to fasten outside pockets closed.
- The bag doesn’t seem to be well protected from the elements – especially the bottom of the bag.