If you're familiar with the Lowepro brand, you probably already know that that they make numerous bags for photogs of just about every inclination. They have small bags for the point and shoot crowd who just need a protective bag to help keep their minimal amounts of gear safe and easy to access as t all times, as well as large backpacks for the pro shooter with multiple camera bodies, and large lenses. The Toploader Zoom bags fall somewhere in the middle, offer features that will appeal to the pro, as well as the high end amateur looking for convenience.
I have been testing the Toploader Zoom 55AW, the largest of the Zoom series. This surprisingly roomy bag comes with a sturdy shoulder strap, as well as a belt loop for attaching it to your waist. While taking part in active pursuits, I much prefer to have it on belt, as it keeps the bag from jostling around too much, but while exploring an urban setting, it is very convenient to just throw it over the shoulder and heat out for the day. sets of loops on the top and bottom of both sides also make it easy to lash the bag to larger backpack as well.
The bag features an exterior pocket which comes in handy for keeping small items, such as spare batteries, lens covers, or filters close at hand. Inside, there is room for a DSLR body configured with a single lens of up to 80-400mm in length. An integrated memory card pocket, complete with zipper, can be found on the interior of the bag's lid, making it easy to access when needed as well. The main compartment even includes Lowepro's great adjustable velcro spacing system, allowing you to get the exact fit you need for the camera you're carrying. Despite specifications saying otherwise, if you're shooting with two small lenses, you'll have no problem carrying both if you'd like.
Durable and well built, the Toploader bags provide plenty of cushion to protect your valuable camera gear, but aren't overly bulky either. Being the largest of the series, the 55AW may not be quite as compact as some people would like. For those folks, Lowepro offers the Zoom 45AW, which is rated for a DSLR body with a 18-55 mm lens, or the 50AW, which can accommodate a DSLR camera with a 17-55 mm lens. While certainly more compact, I was personally more intrigued with the potential of the larger pack myself.
After years of designing great camera bags, Lowepro certainly knows what its customers need and want. As a result, there are some nice little details integrated into the design of the bag that help to make it a joy to use. For instance, a top handle on all models of the series make it easy to just grab and go, while durable fabrics and zippers help to keep the bag both attractive, and functional. The zippers for the top lid are designed to slide away from the body, making it easy to access the interior of the bag at any time. The 50AW and 55AW also have built in attachment loops that allow you to add Lowepro's "SlipLock" bags and cases, which can quickly and easily expand the capacity of these bags.
As if that wasn't enough, the Zoom series comes with a built-in weather fly as well. Located in a small pocket on the back, and bottom, of the bag, this cover can be pulled out, and wrapped around the pack in a matter of seconds, protecting the expensive gear inside from the elements in the process.
The Toploader Zoom 55AW carries a price tag of just $59.99, which seems like a bargain for everything it brings to the table for the active shooter. The smaller 45AW and 50AW cost $44.99 and $49.99 respectively. Both are excellent little bags as well, and will meet your needs if you just carry a small lens most of the time. But for just a few dollars more, the 55AW provides quite a bit more capacity.
As is typical with products from Lowepro, this bag is a great bargain, fun to use, and has lots of nice features incorporated into its relatively small size. What more could you ask for out of your camera bag?