I have been using Lowepro Flipside 400 AW DSLR Backpack for almost a year now, and I have fallen in love with the sheer versatility, ease of use and quality of this camera bag. Hence I felt time was ripe to finally post a review of Flipside 400AW.
With the ever increasing addition of camera gear and the battery grip being permanently attached to my Canon EOS 1000D, Tamrac Expedition 3 started feeling quite cramped and I felt the need to upgrade my camera bag with something which could not only accommodate my existing gear with ease, but also more lenses and a second body over time.
As a travel photographer, I also needed a camera bag which wasn’t too flashy and could also accommodate my netbook, tripod and a water bottle. At the same time, while out shooting on the street, especially during festivals, I had felt the need for more security for the primary gear compartment. Since many a times I had found myself shooting with a large crowd leaning against my back, pushing and shoving to get a better view of the performance taking place. And at times like these, there is always a fear in the back of the mind that someone might just open the main compartment and steal my gear (I guess I am a little paranoid about my camera gear).
I also didn’t want to spend more than Rs. 6000-7000 (US$ 120-140) on a camera bag, because lets face it, needs and preferences change over time, as we as photographers continue to evolve and polish our style and skills.
With all this in mind, I started scouring through online stores, photography forums, blogs and what not and eventually managed to narrow my search down to Lowepro Flipside 400 AW and Lowepro Vertex 100 AW.
While I was quite tempted to buy the Vertex 100 AW due to the amount of gear it could hold and the fact that it was a rugged backpack, made for adventure and sports photographers; its price and weight held me back and I eventually decided to go with the Flipside 400 AW, due to its innovative yet thought-out design and features.
Raison d’etre for Flipside backpacks is that the primary compartment is only accessible from the back of the backpack (the part which rests against your back) i.e. it is impossible for someone in the crowd to access the main compartment. Additionally, they can be slinged over to the front, in order to take out the camera gear, without putting the camera bag down, as demonstrated in the video below.
Initially I wasn’t sure whether or not this feature world work, but it does and it helped me quickly change lenses while shooting in a busy and dusty event like Pushkar Camel Fair, an exercise which used to require help from friends.
Add to this, quality of the bag is superb and the shoulder and waist straps are comfortable, even when worn for extended period of time with a fully loaded bag. And while Flipside does not have a dedicated compartment for laptops, its outer compartment easily accommodates my netbook or Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, along with a little bit of other stuff.
While there is a dedicated strap in the middle of the bag to mount small tripods and monopods, I found that it is easier and sturdier to mount it in one of the side pockets, while the other one can be used to carry water bottle (essential for anyone shooting outdoor).
400 AW also has an all-weather cover (AW) which covers the front of the bag in a jiffy and helps protect the bag in case of rain. Although it wouldn’t be possible to put it on, if you have your tripod and water bottle mounted on the backpack.
The only thing I don’t like about Flipside 400 AW is the fact that the shoulder straps do not have any sort of ventilation like in the case of Lowepro Flipside Sports series, and hence during the harsh summers of Delhi, it gets a bit too sweaty (though it is the same with majority of other backpacks).
Here is my Lowepro Flipside 400 AW with Canon EOS 1000D with grip attached + Tamron 17-50 f2.8, Canon 18-55IS, 55-250IS, 50 1.8 and 430EX-II Speedlight and various filters, accessories, spare batteries and cleaning kit.
Overall, Lowepro 400 AW is a fantastic bag for the price (I paid a little less than Rs. 6000 for it) and can accommodate a lot of gear and is at the same time secure and easy to use for a travel photographers. And while I am quite sure that eventually I will buy enough gear to outgrow the Flipside 400, at least for now, my gear seems miniscule in comparison to the space available :D.
Lowepro 400 AW Specifications
Internal Dimensions: 27 x 15 x 42.5 cm (10.63 x 5.91 x 16.73 in)
External Dimensions: 30.3 x 25.3 x 46 cm (11.93 x 9.96 x 18.11 in)
Weight: 1.6 kg (3.52 lbs)
Pro DSLR with lens attached (up to 300mm f/2.8)
Extra camera body
4-6 extra lenses
Accessories and small personal items