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