Kata DR-467 vs. LowePro Fastpack 250

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.

Size Compared
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

Side View

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.

Laptop Compartment
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

Camera Compartment
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

Top Compartment
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.



Other Thoughts
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.

Did you find this useful? Support the site by purchasing on Amazon.com:
Kata DR-467
Lowepro Fastpack 250

Review: Opteka Lens Hood for the Canon EF-S 17-85mm

Too bad non-L lens don’t come with a lens hood… you really do need one most of the time. I looked at the Canon EW73B, but being somewhat of a cheapskate, I couldn’t justify spending $30 on a 5 cent piece of plastic.

I found a third party replacement on eBay, and decided to give it a try. Summary: It works great!

The packaging is simple. Plain, white box with plastic bag holding the plastic hood. The quality is pretty good. If too much pressure is applied, it will pop off without breaking.

opteka ew-73b

There are two “entry” points on the lens… you insert and rotate 45 degrees. The words are only on one side, so they can be on the top or bottom of the lens.

opteka ew-73b front angle

opteka ew-73b overhead

And, yes, the hood can be installed backwards for transport.

Canon 40D Review

Canon 40D

I recently “upgraded” my full frame Kodak Pro SLR/n to the Canon 40D. Before that, I had the Canon D60. After using it for a couple of weeks, here are a few thoughts.

Even though I downgraded to a smaller chip and lower resolution (14MP vs. 10MP on the 40D), I still like the 40D better. Among the most useful new features are the good FPS performance (I’ve taken advantage of it several times when trying to photograph fast moving things… like birds flying overhead), improved high ISO and the much larger LCD screen. As pointed out elsewhere, the resolution on the LCD screen is considerable less than Nikon’s, but it’s good enough for me. Perhaps if were using the Nikon and switched, I’d have a different opinion.

Another excellent feature is automatic dust removal. My Kodak had a horrible dust problem… I spent a lot of time trying to keep it clean.

I got the “better” wide kit lens… the 17-85mm IS USM. The other contender was the 28-135mm IS USM which I owned with the D60. With the 1.6 factor, I think that lens is really too long for a “walkabout” lens. The glass quality is ok; nothing to write home about. But the coverage is what I consider ideal (at least for the money).

There are several full reviews around the web. Here is one from The Digital Picture and another from < a href="http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canoneos40d/">dpreview.com.

Stay tuned for additional thoughts…

p.s. Flamers, start your engines… I actually liked the Nikon D300 better, but it was out of my price range. I had a pretty tight budget. Maybe after using the Canon a while, I can pick up a used D300 off eBay.