Lowepro SlingShot 300 AW
The Lowepro SlingShot 300 AW is described by Lowe thusly:
Perfect for photojournalists, the SlingShot 300 AW uses a unique sling design to go from “carry mode” to “ready mode” in just seconds. Carried comfortably on the back, it easily rotates to the front so you can get to your camera quickly. The SlingShot 300 AW holds an Pro SLR with zoom lens attached 5-6 extra lenses, cables and accessories and has a full access lid to make loading it a snap. This feature-rich bag also includes a built-in memory card pouch, micro fiber LCD cloth and two generous organizer pockets. It’s certain to surprise even the most demanding photojournalists.
On the face of it, this is an accurate summary of the qualities of this bag, but there is a bit more to it than that…
It’s obvious that the SlingShot 300 comes from a company that has years of experience in designing and making excellent camera bags.
There is more than enough room in the central section of the 300 to carry a Canon 30D with grip attached, fitted to a Canon 100-400mm IS and Kenko 1.4x TC.
I can also carry my spare 30D body, 50mm lens, Leica 8×32 bins, 2 batteries, loads of CF cards, Giotto Rocket blower, Photochute portable hard drive and lens cleaning cloths in the main section.
There’s an organiser pocket on the front of the bag which typically holds wallet and mp3 player with loads of room to spare.
At the top of the bag there is a further storage area which will hold a water bottle, energy bars, sunglasses, baseball cap and other odds and sods.
Pretty clear then, that it can carry a lot of gear – I haven’t yet filled it up in use.
The attention to detail is excellent. For example, when a camera is placed in the bag, a built-in microfibre cloth protects the LCD – a nice touch.
The big thing about the SlingShots though, is the way they are designed to allow for rapid access to the camera. The asymmetric strap goes over one shoulder only, and allows the bag to swing from back to front in a second. Cleverly, this changes the orientation of the bag so that the main compartment faces upwards allowing full access to the camera simply by opening the zip a few inches.
It all works perfectly, and is a very intelligent design.
The “AW” in the name indicates that there is an All Weather (ie waterproof) cover, and that does its job without fuss.
There is also a padded hip belt which does a very good job of spreading the load if you’re faced with a full bag and a long hike.
Build quality is faultless.
For me though, the best thing by far is that not having straps which go over each shoulder, I don’t have the problem of the straps digging in when I raise the camera to my eye.
I can’t imagine I’m alone here: good camera hand-holding technique demands that you tuck your elbows tight into your torso, and this causes the thick – and pretty solid – straps on other camera bags to dig into the armpits/chest.
This is uncomfortable (I’ve actually ended up with bruises after a long day) and – presumably by pressing hard on nerves – it causes a tremor in my arms, which is a bad thing for sharp shots.
The SlingShot eliminates the problem at a stroke, and to me this advantage is in itself enough to make the bag worth buying.
What about the downsides, then?
The not so good
Clearly, this is a cleverly designed, well made bag. But it is perhaps a victim of its own cleverness.
The SlingShot 300 was introduced purely because other bags in the series (the 100 and 200) were popular but too small for some folk. The 300 satisfies that design brief, but therein is the biggest problem.
A bigger bag means a heavier bag, and the weight of the entire bag and its load is placed on a single strap which crosses the front of the body from right shoulder to left waist. This can – and does – cause a noticeable restriction on breathing, which can be pretty unwelcome if you’ve some walking to do.
The cross-body strap also has the effect of trapping body heat in your clothing – it’s a bit like having a belt cinched up across the top of your jacket, making ventilation a problem.
The third issue – and again it relates to the strap arrangement – is that you really need to make sure you’re wearing clothing that the bag and strap can slide across easily: try to use a heavily loaded bag over say, a fleece, and you’ll be tied up in knots of your own clothing in no time as the fleece gets dragged around with the bag.
Even given these caveats I rather like this bag, but using it does warrant a bit of forethought if you want to get the best out of it and be comfortable while you’re using it.
I’ve found that the ideal thing to wear with the SlingShot 300 is a Buffalo pertex windshirt (or similar).
The pertex is very slippy, so there’s no “dragging” of your clothing, and the Buffalo’s full length “pit zips” ensure tons of ventilation so you won’t overheat.
This doesn’t help with the weight of a fully-laden bag of course, but the solution to that is pretty obvious really!
To be fair though, as long as you can keep comfortable and cool by wearing the right kind of clothing, the SlingShot does a pretty good job, all told.