Bargain Of The Month

Bargain of the Month

At first I thought the $39 price tag was a mistake.

I’d been looking for a pack similar to an old sample I still have from the days when Minolta distributed a high-class line bags made in the USA by Sundog. That was more than 15 years ago, I guess. The Sundog bag in question is a simple top-loading rectangular affair—deep enough to fit a camera wearing a long tele zoom—and has shallow, flapped pouches on the front, a wide shoulder strap and nothing else.

The Lowepro bag I found for less than 40 bucks is all that plus it contains three padded, repositionable dividers and a concealable belt that converts the whole affair into a contour-fitting waist pack. The belt even has compression straps so you can snug-up the load for maximum comfort. And the belt can be fully hidden out of sight when not in use. Frosting on the cake is a pair of straps on the bottom that lash to a monopod or small tripod.

It’s called the Lowepro Photo Runner 100. The inside measures 10(W)x4.5(D)x7.7(H) inches. Outside specs at 12.6(W)x6.3(D)x8.8(H), so imagine a tall loaf of Wonder Bread and you’ll be in the right ballpark. Mine is black but it also comes is a neutral gray Lowepro calls “Mica.”

The tag says it will accommodate “(One) DSLR with attached standard zoom lens, plus one additional lens or flash—when loaded vertically; or DSLR with attached zoom lens (up to 80-200mm f/2.8)—when loaded horizontally; accessories and small personal items.” That’s conservative, especially if you are into small, lightweight SLRs like I am.

Mine holds a Nikon D5000 with Tamron 17-50mm f2.8 VC lens attached, Nikon 35mm f1.8 and Tamron 60mm f2 Macro, plus a few filters, microfiber cloth and my Blackberry. I have a Manfrotto 676B monopod strapped to the bottom. I could snap a Lowepro lens case on either end (it uses their Sliplock system) to hold even more lenses, and this summer I’m sure I’ll hang a water bottle holder.

It’s convenient to use as a shoulder bag, but past experience reminds me that when I spend more than a couple hours on my feet shooting an event I prefer to balance the load around my waist. That’s where the hidden belt comes into play. It takes just seconds to convert the shoulder bag into a waist pack. And best of all, the rig just fits between the front seat of my car and the sloping bottom of the firewall, so I can keep the whole kit right there in front of the gear shifter within easy access.

—Jon Sienkiewicz