As you may recall, I recently posted a brief review of the Tamrac Velocity 7x. The Velocity is comfy, but too small for anything larger than a Rebel-size camera. Plus, I wanted to carry my MacBook Pro and camera gear all in the same bag.
So, I narrowed my list down to two bags:
The Lowepro Fastpack 250 or the Kata DR-467
The FastPack is bulkier and holds more photo gear. If you’re looking for a camera bag that just happens to hold a laptop, I’d go with the LowePro. The Kata is smaller, more comfortable and a laptop/general use bag. It holds a smaller amount of photo gear and is ideal for commuters and everyday use.
My Daily Gear
15″ MacBook Pro, Canon 40D, 17-85mm EFS, 50mm EF, (see sidebar for camera gear) and misc. gadgets like WD portable HD, eTrex GPS. And usually, a lunch bag.
The Fastpack 250 is much bulkier. If you just look at the numbers, they aren’t significantly different. However, the exterior walls of the Kata 467 are less rigid, so they tend to collapse down if empty (that’s a good thing). The Kata has compression straps to help reduce it’s overall size.
Kata DR-467 vs. LowePro Fastpack 250
Again, the numbers are pretty close. But the Kata feels lighter. It’s mainly due to the overall bulkiness factor of the Fastpack.
Ok, I realize this is subjective, but after wearing both for a couple of weeks, the Kata 467 just feels better. Both have well padded straps and backing. Both have a top carrying handle, but the Kata strap has more padding.
The 15″ MBP kinda gets swallowed by the LowePro. It can easily handle a larger machine. Also, on the LowePro, both zippered sides touch the laptop when inserting or removing. I don’t see any scratches yet, but I wonder if they may appear over time. I’d rather nothing touched the machine. The Kata is much better… the compartment is smaller (still plenty of room for 15″ MBP) and the zippers don’t touch. An added benefit; the straps connect to the main bag, NOT the laptop compartment. So you can lift the bag with the laptop zippers open without the whole bag tipping forward.
15″ Macbook Pro easily fits in the LowePro Fastpack 250
LowePro Zippers Touch Laptop
15″ Macbook Pro in Kata DR-467
Zippers don’t touch on the Kata
Notice where the back straps are attached
The Kata is slightly harder to open than I expected. You need to unzip it each way, almost all the way, otherwise it doesn’t cantilever out. Once unzipped, you need to pull to get the compartment to open up wide enough to insert or remove the camera. In the field, smaller items in the front two side pockets are fairly easy to access. Items in the back row are fairly difficult. Sitting at a desk, it’s much easier. The size/stickiness of the items also plays a role (e.g. lenses with (rubber) hoods are more stubborn). The bright yellow interior really does make it easier to find things in lower light situations. The LowePro is MUCH BETTER for quick access to your camera and mounted lens. However, access to other lens required unbuckling the security flap and more unzipping. It is probably a tad slower than the Kata in that area.
To open the Kata, you need to (almost) completely unzip it.
Canon 40D with 17-85mm Lens
Nikon D300 with Grip and 18-200mm Lens
One reason I wanted an “all-in-one” bag is so I can just throw everything into one place, sling it over my shoulder and go. For me, that often includes a soft-side lunch bag. As you can see from the photos, both bags can handle a standard size bag just fine.
Kata and normal soft-side lunch bag.
Lunch bag inside Kata.
Lunch bag inside LowePro
Extra Kata Features
The Kata has a really cool feature if you travel. The back has an elastic strap that holds your backpack snug on any standard luggage. I used it this week on a trip to Chicago and it worked great!
Kata bag has excellent strap for luggage handle.
Also, it has a hidden pouch for a water bottle or monopod.
Neither have a place for misc paperwork… except in the laptop slot. With the Kata, you can make a “U” longways and it will fit in the top compartment. But most paper remembers the “U” shape after removed.
Top compartment view of Kata DR-467
Top compartment view of LowePro Fastpack 250
There is one thing that really bugs me about the LowePro; the waist support belt. I suppose if you are hiking, it is awesome, but for short walks or train/car use, it just gets in the way. The much smaller belt on the Kata is perfect for me. You can zip it tight so it doesn’t get in the way and you don’t even notice it.