Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Vanguard Up-Rise 15Z vs Lowepro TopLoader 55AW

Best Value For Money
This is a follow up post to my original Lowepro TopLoader 45AW & 55AW Review, this is an alternative camera bag to the TopLoader 55AW, albeit with slightly different characteristics, hit the jump to learn more.
Both bags feature rain protection covers
WARNING: Long story ahead, if you want the conclusion, jump to the pictures immediately.
If you've been following the blog for some time, you should know by now that I am a one body, one lens kind of shooter, so I like to leave home with just one lens, however when I need to carry more gear, I could take my Lowepro Runner 200AW backpack (currently used as my storage box in the wardrobe, probably haven't seen daylight except for a couple of times), but that is not a practical solution when all I needed was to carry one more lens or a speedlite.
And that's why the 55AW served me well, it could easily carry my old 60D with the 15-85 lens, and take one more lens beneath, under the velcro separator (check the review if you don't get what I'm talking about), it can even carry a large 580EX speedlite in the front pocket, so that's one camera, two lenses and one flash. And even if I needed to carry an extra lens, I could attach one or two Lowepro lens cases to the sides. That's a great package in such a small size.
So why did I buy the Up-Rise 15Z then? Since I changed to the 5D Mark II, everything got slightly bigger, the camera body got larger, the 24-105 is larger than any of my old lenses, and both the 100 Macro L and 200 L are significantly tall, so I couldn't fit any lenses beneath the separator anymore, and even adding a speedlite to the outer pocket became a very tight fit since the camera body inside became larger and pushed against the outer pocket. So I only used the 55AW to carry the camera and one large lens (I only use the 45AW to carry the camera and the 50 1.4).
The Lowepro 55AW was reduced to just carrying the camera and one large lens, but it was taller than I needed, and then I saw the Vanguard Up-Rise 15Z, it looked slightly better to my eye, well padded, slightly shorter, and had a great, padded shoulder strap. So I bought one and gave the 55AW to my brother who has just got a 60D and the budget holy trinity (18-55, 55-250 and 50 1.8).
No slip lock on the Vanguard, it has much better build quality however
See that zipper in the middle, the Vanguard can be extended vertically by about 2 cm to house longer lenses, I never needed to extend it, it can easily hold my 5D Mark III + Canon 200 f/2.8 L + reversed lens hood.
Close up of the expansion zipper, have a look at the tough strap connection
Compare that to the Lowepro 55AW, lower build quality here
You have to unlock this before expanding the bag
Compare the shoulder straps, the Lowepro usually hurt my shoulder, but if you like this bag, you can buy an aftermarket strap
As you've seen above, there's obvious differences in build and material quality between the two, but not much difference in the price. That difference continues to the insides as well, the padding is much thicker as well.
Memory card pockets, the Lowepro had a much larger inside pocket
That holder helps carry the camera if the lens doesn't reach the bottom, useless with lens hoods
The outer pocket here is much smaller, the net separator is useful
As you've seen above, there's no inside separator, but that's not why I got this bag, that hole thingy is a great idea for people not using lens hoods, but I removed it (it uses velcro from one side) and happily use my lens hoods reversed. The outer and inner pockets are smaller, but they are ok for holding memory cards and small items (wallet, keys, mobile phone, etc...) easily. All in all, it is a more rugged choice to protect your gear.
If you are using small DSLRs and need to carry a few lenses/speedlite/table top tripod, go ahead and get the Lowepro TopLoader 55AW, it is an excellent value for money, and hosts lots of gear in a small package. It features a rain cover, a belt loop, and can make use of Lowepro's Slip Lock accessories.
On the other hand, if you need to carry one DSLR and one long lens, and want the bag to be strong, well padded and more comfortable to use, then get the Vanguard Up-Rise 15Z. It also has a rain cover and a belt loop.
You can't go wrong with either bags, both are excellent value for money.
Review: Lowepro TopLoader 45AW & 55AW
Review: Lowepro Runner 200AW
Review: Lowepro SlingShot 302AW



  1. One thing on the Lowepro Toploader zoom 55 AW is that you can get a chest harness as an accessory and secure it to your body if you happen to be backpacking and also wearing a backpack. It has 4 connector rings to connect the harness, does the Vangard - up - rise 15z have four d ring connectors to add a chest harness.

    Here is the harness at B & H:

    Here is the blog where I found out about it:

    1. I never knew about that harness before, thanks for sharing.

      Regarding the Vanguard, it's not close to me now, so I will check back when I get home, but if you look above you'll find one picture with 2 rings on one side, however they are not spaced at the top and the bottom of the bag like the Lowepro. Not sure about the other side.

      I'd say the Lowepro 55 can carry much more than the Vanguard, but it is not as well built, nor as comfortable to wear (using the strap that ships with it) like the Vanguard. You can't go wrong with both.

  2. Very good review, thanks! It has helped me a lot.

    Do you think a 5D mark II + EF 70-200mm f2.8 (non IS) will fit?
    They do the 16Z but I want to keep it small if possible :)

    Thank you

    1. I am not sure it will fit, I am certain the 5D + 70-200 f/4 IS fits, but I haven't seen the f2.8 in person, and don't know how much larger it is (both height & girth).

  3. Thanks for the review!

    I'm looking for a camera bag for my 5D + 24-105 PLUS attached battery grip

    Does the battery grip fit as well?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. I have never tried it myself (never bought a grip), but I am quite sure it won't fit, the camera fit snugly inside the bag face-down with a lens attached, and from the pictures I see, I doubt it would fit. Maybe someone who tried it could help.

  4. Very helpful review as I'm currently looking for a case for my Canon 6D.

    It seems the only real advantage of the Lowepro is the additional storage space, but if you just want to carry just the camera + lens, and you want something that is a little smaller/easier to carry, the Vanguard is the better choice.

    But to take it one step further, did you consider the Thinktank Digital Holster 20 V2.0? It appears to be even smaller/sleeker than the Vanguard Up-Rise 15Z and supposedly also has excellent build quality.

    1. Hi Anthony, I didn't research bags when I bought the Vanguard. I was at a camera shop and found the bag in front of me. I bought it immediately.

      It is much better built and more comfortable to carry than the Lowepro.

  5. For the toploader are you able to fit two lenses in. I have a d7000 with a 35mm 1.8 and a 70-300 vr. THanks!

    1. The toploader can take the D7000 with the 70-300 mounted, and the 35 would fit below the separator inside, or even in the external pocket.

    2. Many thanks for your reply. I have ordered so will see how I get on :)

    3. You're welcome, please share with us how it worked out.

    4. Got my bag today. Fits everything in and works really well. Very happy. The 70-300vr and 35mm don't fit inside the large compartment stacked on top of eachother but do next to eachother so I turned the divider vertically and it is perfect. The strap pretty poor and no padding but luckily I have other lowepro bags with better straps I can use. Not tried out and about but looks ideal.

      On a slightly side note I ordered a black rapid rs7 along with it. That is well worth a look if you want an upgraded strap. Tried a few in the past but this one is brilliant. Expensive but worth it!


    5. I'm very happy you like it, I warned in my post about the strap though, it was my only gripe with the bag, so I'm happy you have other straps.

      I already have the Blackrapid RS-5 strap, and it is great, I have posted about it here.

      Thank you for the feedback, happy shooting.


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