Monday, June 27, 2011

On The Cheap: Bower Pro SLR Backpack Review

I've been kicking around the idea of writing equipment reviews for a long time now. However, I didn't want to be the millionth person to write a review for things like my T2i, especially since their are plenty of people who get those items before they are public. So, if big-ticket items are out, what's left? In all honesty... cheap, scary stuff. That's right, I'm talking 'you-get-what-you-pay-for' territory here. The reason I finally decided to write a review is simply because I was so frustrated trying to find one somewhere else and coming up empty. I just hope that these will help someone either save some money, or know when to turn and run. So... Here we go.                           

This first review is of an item I have had for a while now, but had to road test before I could write about it. Sorry, I'm not one of those 12-year-old kids on YouTube that buy one and post a video about how great it is fresh out of the wrapper. Anyway, when I was shopping around and looking at prices, I found that all the bags or brands of bags that were being suggested to me fell, at best, around double my price range ($25) or were slings for one body and one lens. That's when I just sorted by price and worked my way up from the bottom, and that's how I came across the Bower Pro Backpack.

It's a full size backpack, so it has plenty of room (for an amateur photog) for a body, lenses, and a bunch of accessories. I currently have mine loaded up with a body, three lenses, all my cables, 3 batteries, battery charger, a cleaning kit, manual, and few other small things. The best part, I still have two open slots in the bag and could consolidate things down to make more room if needed. So it is definitely not a sling bag or half-pack as I like to call them. The straps and back padding make it very comfortable to wear and the seams all appear to be strong and have held up nicely to some of the abuse I have put it through.

Speaking of abuse, I said I had to road test this one before I could review it, but I'm afraid I lied about that. I didn't road test this backpack... I off road tested it. I haven't just lugged this bag around and tossed it in the back seat of a car. I've taken it while walking wilderness trails and set it down in dust and gravel, I've worn it while mountain biking and hit it on a tree while riding, and I'm pretty sure my daughter used it as a step to climb over the back of the couch once or twice. All with no damage or dust collecting on my equipment. It's far more rugged than I expected it to be for the price and has definitely stood up to what I can throw at it. However, one situation I have not run into yet is how well it keeps moisture out. Hopefully I never get to find out. 

So, you're probably thinking to yourself, "Sounds great, what's the bad news?" Well, I can't lie, it's not perfect, but for less than $30 no one should expect it to be. I have two complaints about this backpack. One is very minor, the other a bit more serous. First, my minor gripe is that the tripod holder on the side consists of a strap at the top and an elastic pocket on bottom. The trouble is that I have to fight and stretch the pocket to the limit just to get a cheap Walmart tripod in it (which is what it's designed for). What I would rather see is a cinch-up string and a pocket that has about an inch wider opening. Secondly, and most importantly, I have an issue with the dividing walls inside the bag. The material is soft, non-abrasive, and doesn't seem to be fuzzing off on the equipment but only the two vertical dividers have any rigidity to them. When the bag isn't crammed full of stuff this allows the heavier camera body and lens to settle wherever gravity takes it. I'm sure the designers thought that having two good columns would offset the flexibility of the horizontal ones. Unfortunately, that makes about as much sense as framing a house with the strongest lumber available then making everything else out of cardboard. Luckily the padding keeps things from rubbing on each other, but it's still not comforting to know that things are shifting inside the bag. Also, very slim things like lens caps and battery covers tend to float around inside, but I can't really count off for that since there are pouches they could be put in instead.

Despite the flimsy dividing walls, the Bower Pro SLR Backpack has undoubtedly been a happy purchase. Considering that the next price range of "low-end" backpacks starts around $55, it makes me that much more happy to know that I got an acceptable product in my price range. A pro wouldn't and shouldn't think twice about this bag. It's not gonna hold everything a pro needs and it's not terribly quick-access friendly. However, amateurs and entry level photogs looking to pinch a few pennies should love it.

Final Verdict: Buy!

For those with a little more than $28 to spend (What? You think you're better than me?) the next step up is the AmazonBasics SLR Backpack. It has a few more bells and whistles for $37+SH, including extra pockets and pouches, improved dividers, and horizontal waist and chest straps for extra security.


1 comment:

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