Like many photographers I have probably gone through more camera bags in search of the ultimate bag than is healthy for either me or my bank balance. The time spent researching and trying out bags alone could be far, far better spent out actually taking photographs. Alas, the promise of finding the elusive bag, that will perfectly hold just the right amount of gear, without being too heavy, and ensuring it is always perfectly accessible as well as looking reasonably stylish continues to drive me to carrying on the search as if it was the holy grail itself being sought.
As I have written about previously I thought I had found the perfect bag in the shape of the Billingham Hadley Pro and, make no mistake, this is certainly a fantastic bag. The fact I have hung onto this it for over 10 years whilst many other bags have come and gone is testament to that. It easily takes most of my Olympus OM-D gear and is also incredibly tough (I’m pretty sure it will outlast me).
So what’s the problem then I hear you ask? Whilst the Hadley Pro adequately holds my camera gear it falls slightly short in its ability to hold a laptop. Although it supposedly does have room for a 13″ laptop it’s a very tight fit for my recent MacBook Pro acquisition, especially if I have a full complement of OM-D gear packed. For this reason I set off in search of, not a replacement for the Billingham, but something that would complement it for those times I wanted to travel with both some cameras as well as a laptop. After much research, again, I finally settled on the Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 purchased from the good folk at Cameraworld just of Oxford Street in London.
I’ve had the bag a few weeks now and used it several times as a joint day job/photography bag. It easily holds everything I need, Macbook Pro 13″, OM-D E-M1 with 2-3 lenses plus various chargers, connectors etc as well as a brolly and the ridiculously over priced but very nice Moleskine notebook.
So far so good, what are the pros and cons of this bag?
- Good size fits all the kit I need to carry.
- Lots of pockets and zips to carry all those extra bits.
- Includes a comfortable and non-slip, shoulder pad.
- Doesn’t particularly look like a camera bag and the Lowepro label is fairly discreet.
- Fully configurable insert which can also be completely removed if you want to use this as a normal messenger bag. The side divider is separate so you can still keep a laptop section.
- The bag itself weighs 1.2 Kg, a bit heavier than the Hadley Pro which is just over 1Kg. When carrying all day with a laptop every extra bit of weight matters.
- Accessibility is not great. There are two fold-over straps with press studs on the flap which connect at the bottom of the bag making it a bit fiddly to open when it’s over your shoulder. This being a messenger style bag there is of course a large flap which you need to get out of the way to remove you camera.
- The bag is shower not waterproof (and there is no rain cover like on some Lowepro bags).
- Very square, black and ‘boxy’ looking, not particularly stylish.
So overall certainly not a bad bag but not quite perfection. In some ways it’s probably a bit over-sized for what I really need. I would have got the Urban Reporter 150 but sadly that does not take a 13″ laptop. If like me you are the owner of micro four-thirds kit like Olympus make you cannot help but think the ideal bag for that system (including a 13″ laptop) does not yet exist.
The bag also slightly tips the scales on being comfortably carryable for a whole day. Even if worn across the body it still becomes quite shoulder aching after a few hours. I know this is where backpacks are better but they lose out on accessibility for me. That said the Manfrotto Advanced Backpack I looks like it could be a good contender. This seems about the right size and has the added benefits of a tripod holder (yes, I know, more weight) as well as a waterproof cover. Oh dear, another hit on my bank balance coming up I fear.