If you’re after a camera backpack that can be accessed from everywhere, hold almost anything and shrink down for easy travel, check out Lowepro’s ProTactic 350 AW II. A uniquely modular camera backpack that can hold multiple cameras and a 13-inch laptop, it’s a surprisingly streamlined camera backpack that’s ready for anything.
Here’s everything you need to know about it – and why we love it so much…
- Best camera backpack: protect your photography gear
Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW II Modular camera backpack review: Design and features
As it's simplest and most streamlined, the bag is a 16-litre compartment protected by a reasonably rugged outer ‘FormShell’ layer. On the top is a rigid lid that contains a soft pocket for sunglasses and SD cards, but it’s generally there to protect a small drone (such as a DJI Mavic 2 Pro or DJI Osmo+). Otherwise, the exterior of this bag looks at first glance to be all about simplicity. There are two tiny pockets on the sides for keys and lens cloths (and little else), and further D-shaped zips further down to extract a camera from the bag quickly whether you’re left or right-handed.
That’s about it, but appearances are deceptive. Look carefully and you'll see that the exterior holds row after row of flattened looped material. Each one can be used to hook and fasten a number of accessories, from water bottle holders and smartphone cases to utility bags and, of course, a tripod holder. More on that below.
Inside it’s more predictable. A series of Velcro-fastened dividers allow you to sculpt supports for whatever gear you have, while the lid – which sits close to the wearer’s back for extra security – contains a ‘CradleFit’ envelope for a 13-inch laptop (it measures 24x1.8x34.5 cm… the latest 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro 2020 fits fine). There are also a couple of transparent pockets in the lid for sundries.
Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW II Modular camera backpack review: Size
Measuring 30x18x47cm and weighing 2.12 kg when empty, the ProTactic 350 AW II Modular is ideally sized to be used as carry-on luggage. That’s ideal for photographers, none of whom would ever dream of checking in camera equipment, but the bag is also worth considering as a general carry-on backpack even when you're not intending to do any photography at all.
Lowepro says the ProTactic 350 AW II Modular can host up to two crop-sensor DSLR bodies, one wearing a 24-70mm lens. During our tests, we managed to squeeze in a full-frame DSLR holding a 200mm lens, and on another trip a DSLR with a 24-70mm lens and a large pair of 10x42 binoculars. There was even room to squeeze in a large travel tripod, too. Alternatively, there’s plenty of room for a crop sensor DSLR or mirrorless camera, a warm layer and a packed lunch.
Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW II Modular camera backpack review: Price
The ProTactic 350 AW II Modular sells for £224.95 / AU$349. That’s a lot to pay, but it can occasionally be found for a discount. Moreover, considering its versatility it’s reasonable value… though there’s a raft of tempting accessories for sale if you want to pimp it:
- ProTactic Bottle Pouch (opens in new tab)
- ProTactic Phone Pouch (opens in new tab)
- ProTactic Utility Bag 100 AW (opens in new tab)
- ProTactic Lens Exchange 100 AW (opens in new tab)
- ProTactic Quick Straps (opens in new tab)
A slightly larger ProTactic 450 AW II Modular is also available from Lowepro for a now discounted £199, and at leading Aussie retailers for around AU$399. It increases the capacity to 25 litres, weighs 2.84 kg, and is designed to hold a couple of full-frame DSLRs, one with 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached. It utilises the same accessories as the ProTactic 350 AW II Modular.
Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW II Modular camera backpack review: Performance
The ProTactic 350 AW II Modular is our dream bag, and despite its endless accessories, it’s not the customisation opportunities we like best, but its sheer comfort. We did everything from short-haul flights and urban shoots to long hiking trips with this bag and throughout our test it always remained comfortable to wear for long periods. The back of the backpack professes to have ‘ActivZone’ channelling to prevent a sweaty back. In practice, this doesn't really work, but since the shoulder straps, chest strap and removable hip-belt are so comfortable, we’ll forgive that.
One thing you have to do before you go out with the ProTactic 350 AW II Modular is prep it, which is unusual for a camera backpack. If you're not going to need the tripod attachment (which comes with the bag by default), you can literally rip it off and leave it at home. Ditto the water bottle holder, but we did find ourselves sometimes going out on long trips and wishing we had bought a specific accessory with us. It can also look a little untidy when all of the accessories are attached and hanging off the back and sides.
Lowepro ProTactic 350 AW II Modular camera backpack review: Verdict
The ProTactic 350 AW II Modular is one of the best all-around camera backpacks we've used so far. It's also the only modular example we've come across, something that definitely lends the ProTactic 350 AW II Modular a rare kind of versatility.
As suited to being fully loaded with gear as to being used as a bag for an overnight work trip, the ProTactic 350 AW II Modular is one of a kind. The only downside is that you will find yourself wanting to invest in most, if not all, of the accessories available for the ProTactic 350 AW II Modular, which could get expensive.