Sunday, July 24, 2011

2x Lowepro Review: Toploader Zoom 45 AW & 55 AW + Unraveling The SlipLock™ Mystery

Left: Lowepro Toploader Zoom 55AW, Right: 45AW, Middle: Canon 60D + 15-85

Welcome to a new rare photography accessory review as I'd like to call them. There are just these photography accessories that you don't find enough reviews for, take today's subject for example, check this link and this one for a couple of google searches about these bags, can you see any reviews about them?

That's why I will be reviewing these bags in this post, along with Lowepro's SlipLock system which was a complete mystery for me until I bought the bags and finally understood how it worked. Hit the break for the full treatment.

P.S. This will be a user review (as usual on this blog) rather than a purely technical/features review, if you didn't notice, this is a thing that we are proud of over here.

UPDATE: I have replced my Lowepro 55AW with the Vanguard Up-Rise 15Z, you can find the review here.


Before I delve into the review; I would like to talk a little about my requirements in a bag, since not all people will necessarily have the same requirements as I do. I bought my first bag with my first DSLR (the 550D), I wanted something safe and strong to carry the 550D with the kit lens plus the 55-250 lens, I ended up with a boxy camcorder bag, this bag was neither practical nor small enough to carry around, but it fit the purpose as a storage for my camera and lens.

As I acquired more lenses I wanted somewhere (i.e. a bag) to store my camera and lenses and another bag to take with me when I am going out shooting, I wanted a bag with the following features:
  • Can easily access the camera quickly.
  • Not expensive.
  • Large enough to carry my camera and an extra lens or two, yet not huge.
  • Can be worn as a sling across my chest.
  • Looks professional.
I found all of these features in the Lowepro Toploader Zoom 55 AW, being a toploader it meant that the camera can be easily accessed by opening the top zipper directly, an added bonus was the all-weather-protection in the form of a built-in weatherproof cover that covers the whole bag except for the rear part touching your body, I used it in rain and it protected my equipment 100%.

After a while I upgraded most of my lens collection, acquired some more and I needed a larger bag, so I started looking for something able to carry almost all of my equipment, and I chose the Lowepro Pro Runner 200 AW which I reviewed here.

This is my lens collection so you could get an idea about the relative size of the different lenses, from left to right: 55-250mm, 85mm f/1.8, 60mm f/2.8 Macro, 35mm f/2 and the fat 15-85 mounted to the 60D

They always say that the best camera is the one that you always have with you, so I wanted to buy a bag small enough for my camera plus one lens only, this way I could carry it always with me, I ended up getting the smaller sister of my Toploader 55 AW, the Toploader 45 AW.

From left to right: Pro Runner 200 AW, Toploader Zoom 55 AW, Toploader Zoom 45 AW


I usually carry minimal equipment when I'm out shooting and I hate carrying a large bulk with me. I never used the camera strap that ships with it, I hate it because it is not practical and I feel like a mobile advertising agency, I use a nice hand strap instead, but if I need the camera ready all the time I use my brilliant BlackRapid RS-5 strap which I will review later. There are three scenarios for the camera/lens combinations I use:
  • All of my equipment: this happens only 5% of the time, that's when I go all out and carry almost all of my lenses, several speedlights, tripod, lightstands, light modifiers, etc... In this situation I use my Pro Runner 200 AW to carry the camera + lenses + one or two speedlites.
Pro Runner 200 AW carrying my 60D and all of my lenses, sometimes I remove one or two lenses and would be able to fit an extra speedlite
  • Camera + one lens only: this happens 60% of the time, I pick only one lens (usually a prime unless I know I will need the flexibility of a zoom) and spend a marvelous time only worrying about shooting, it is a refreshment to force yourself to use just one focal length and adapt your shooting style to it. In this situation the Toploader 45 AW is very good, it is small enough yet can carry my 60D with any of my lenses up to the fat 15-85, only the 55-250 does not fit because of it's length. It has an internal pocket for carrying small items like memory cards, and an external pocket that can carry a spare battery, your keys and extra small stuff.

    Here's the 45 AW beside the 60D and the 15-85

    60D + 15-85 inside the 45 AW, you can see the belt loop at the back, you can hang this bag to your belt, but I believe you have to be quite large to get away with this

    Same as above but a different view, you can see the quick release plate attached to my camera

    60D + 35mm f/2, one of my favorite combos, as you can see the bag quite large for this combo

    Here's the small memory card pocket I told you about

    • Camera + one/two lenses and a flash: this happens 35% of the time, I use the Toploader 55 AW usually when I need a speedlite with me, this bag is very versatile, it can carry my 60D plus two lenses, one mounted to the camera and another below the divider inside the main compartment (will show you in the pictures below) and my 580EX II in the outer pocket. Another combo is to use the camera with one lens and fit the 430EX speedlite below the camera in the main compartment, then I fit my Slik table tripod in the outer pocket. If I need more lenses with me I will use the external lens cases and attach them to the outside of the bag, I will show you how this works by the end of this post. You can also carry your camera with a large zoom like the 70-200 f/2.8 in this bag.

      There's a movable separator which can go up or down to accommodate taller/shorter lenses

      Here's the 55-250 lens in the lower part, when I do that I move the separator up so that when I put the camera it's weight is on the divider and not the lens below it

      Here's the 60D + 15-85 and the 55-250 at the bottom

      580EX II in the outer pocket, which can also fit my not-so-small tabletop tripod

      Like the 45 AW you can attach this bag to your belt

      Unlike the 45 AW this bag supports Lowepro's SlipLock accessories

    SlipLock™ System

    This is the system Lowepro advertises for attaching extra accessories to their bags, these accessories vary between lens cases and various pouches with different purposes. I have four of these accessories, three lens cases and a sturdy memory card/small battery pouch. My Pro Runner 200 AW backpack and the Toploader Zoom 55 AW supports two SlipLock accessories on each bag. I will let the pictures show you how it works.

    Lowepro Toploader Zoom 55 AW, two lens cases and a memory card pouch

    Here's the memory card pouch from inside

    And this is where it fits to the bag

    Here's how it looks attached to the bag
    Empty lens case, I believe this was the Lowepro 1S lens case

    60mm f/2.8 Macro inside

    Lens case backside

    This lens case has a double velcro system for more security since this will be carrying a lens

    And here's the lens case attached to the bag, you can attach another one to the other side


    I currently have four camera bags, you saw three in this post and read about my first one (the boxy camcorder bag), I use my first bag to carry my speedlites, wireless triggers, spare batteries, rocket blower etc...

    Do I need more bags? I was always tempted by slingshots, and an opportunity arose before me to buy this Delsey Rondo 72, the bag was extremely roomy and carried everything I had with space to spare, but I was not fond of it's large-ish footprint, besides it was the most uncomfortable bag I ever wore, so I returned it and I am very happy with my current bag collection.

    This post has taken a long time to write because I got interrupted several times during the process, so I hope it helps you decide on your next camera bag, if you have any comments please don't hesitate to let me know about them.

    All of the photos in this article were taken with a Nikon D3100 and the 18-55 kit lens, lighting was a 580EX in a reflective umbrella to camera left and another 580EX bounced to the ceiling for fill light, flashes were triggered using the eBay wireless trigger. On a separate note, I was really impressed with the noise performance @ ISO 3200 of this little camera, maybe I will review it in a later time.


    Camera Bag Review: Lowepro Pro Runner 200 AW


      1. Thank you for the review! Actually you're right, there are few or no reviews about these bags.

        In fact, I already own the 45 and I'm planning about buying the 55 also. I loved seeing that the front pocket can carry a flash.

        I have a question about the separator. I'd like to put it at the bottom for an extra padding. Can it be attached so low in the bag, or it's intented to be attached only around the middle?

        Thank you very much, and keep the good work with your blog! I'm also planning to move from my 550d to the 60d after your experience :)

      2. Hi, really sorry for the delayed reply, I have problems with internet on my computer and I am only accessing the web every now and then through my phone.

        It's always heart warming when I know I helped someone's decision. To answer your question, the separator only has velcro in the middle of the bag, if you want to put the separator at the bottom it will not stick to anything, but it will work.

      3. Thanks for writing this, I've been looking for something like this for so long !!!

      4. You're welcome, that's why I wrote this.

      5. Thanks, that was very useful!
        I need a bag for my 550D with the kit lens and 55-250mm. I think I'll go for the Toploader Zoom 55 AW. Unless it's bigger than what I need? Is it? It won't fit as snuggly as the 60D, will it?

      6. A 550D + 55-250 won't fit in the Zoom 45AW because of the length of the 55-250, but with the Zoom 55AW, it will comfortably take the 55-250 mounted to your 550D, and the 18-55 safely stored below the divider inside the bag.

        That way you will also have the outer pocket completely free.

      7. Thanks, that's all I needed to know.
        Also, this blog is great! Very informative. Keep up the good work. :)

      8. I also found this review useful, even though I have a 17-55, which is around the same length as the 55-250. Thanks!

      9. Hello! Really useful review, I am looking to buy the 55AW but I wonder how it fits a 60D with battery grip on it? Is it too tight and hard to extract the camera or is it quite acceptable?

        Thanks in advance!

      10. Sorry for the late reply, I don't have the battery grip, but I am almost certain it won't fit.

      11. Excellent review.. i have a 60D + 18-55 kit lens and a Zoom 70 - 300 MM + hope that fits in the top-loader 55 aw.. (even if i get additional lens it will slip in the Slip locks.. Thanks buddy

        1. It will fit your 60D + 70-300 very well, but I'm not sure you'll be able to put the 18-55 beneath, so you might need an external case for it.

      12. Yeap, awesome review. thanks. helped me make my decision

      13. Thanks, I gave my 55AW to my brother, and a bought a very similar one, but a little better, will post a review soon.

      14. Very interesting review with a lot of useful (and nice) photos.
        Just bought a 55aw and a lens case today after this reading.
        Thanks a lot for this work.

        1. That's nice to know, I'm currently shopping for another 55AW for one my friends.
          Despite replacing mine with the Vanguard Up-Rise 15Z, I miss the flexibility of the 55AW, it can't carry any extra lens, nor the outer pocket is large enough to hold a flash.

          But that's why I replaced it in the first place, to get a smaller package that would just carry my camera and one long lens attached.

      15. Actually you can put the 55-250 horizontally across the bottom of the bag( a bit of a squeeze but secure) and the camera with 18-55 or similar on top by placing the camera across the bag with the lens facing left to right or vice- versa.

      16. Great Review! I just wanted to know if I can fit my Rebel T4i w 18-135mm lens in the 45AW. I dont mind if its fitting tight, as long as it closes.


        1. I doubt it will fit, the 18-135 is a pretty large lens.

      17. great review! like you, i was wondering why there was a lack of reviews on these. i did a review on the toploader pro 75

      18. saw your vanguard review (and the comments about the flash not fitting when 5DII + lens)
        i was interested in this model but i need it to fit a 5DIII + lens + speedlite, can you comment some more on why the speedlite won't fit anymore?

        1. Because the outer pocket on the Vanguard is much shorter in length compared to the Lowepro, take a look at the side-by-side pictures and you will see how small it is.

        2. can you fit your 5DII with lens and a speedlight in the toploader zoom 55?

        3. Yes you can, I used my 5D3 + 24-105 (or 200 2.8) inside the bag, and was able to fit a 600EX-RT in the outer pocket without the flash cover. By the way, it seems you did a good review on the

        4. thanks for sharing! super helpful! i've got a ton of bags, and i still keep looking :)

      19. Thanks for the great review--your reviews fill an important niche in photo equipment. Hope you keep it up. Will get the 55AW based on the review and pictures. Again thanks.


      Thanks for your comment. It will be published as soon as we get a chance to review it, sorry for that, but we get lots of spam with malicious links.