Monday, 3 February 2014

REVIEW: Amazon 'Basics' backpack for SLR cameras

I've always had a hankering for one of these backpack-style camera bags, but have been put off by the outrageous price of those on offer by the 'big name' accessory manufacturers.

This problem has disappeared recently, since Amazon released a selection of gear bags under their generic “Basics” label. This one is the medium-sized version retailing at STG £21.49 incl VAT and free delivery which - in this case – was ordered on Thursday evening and arrived first thing Monday morning.

Predictably enough, the bag is made of ballistic nylon and polyester in an unrelieved black both inside and out, apart from some snazzy zip-pulls with Amazon logos in orange. This anonymity is one of the product's big (but unadvertised) selling points: The conspicuous branding of bags by the likes of Canon, Nikon, Lowepro or Hama is the equivalent of attaching a sign that says “Please steal this bag, it has lots of expensive stuff in it.”

There is no indication as to country of manufacture. (That'll be China, then.) The stitching and other assembly is of good quality, though not outstanding, and the weight (empty) is commendably light at just a tad over 800g.

Inside is a single main compartment measuring 360 x 300 x 135 mm. This is enough space for two SLR camera bodies and a selection of lenses. The central portion will carry a camera with 300mm lens in situ – something my present everyday carry bag won't accommodate. Velcro dividers enable the layout to be tailored as you need it – in my arrangement, I was able to fit my 20x60 spotting scope in there as well. The interior is lined but the zips have no protection, so this backpack would be showerproof but probably not fully waterproof without a rain cover.

Inside the lid are two zipped pockets, also lined, with - joy of joys - transparent facings so that small items can be easily located within them. Lowepro take note. Exterior to the lid are two more divisions: the inner one is not quite deep enough for a laptop but an iPad or similar-sized tablet would certainly fit, perhaps with a bit of extra foam padding for peace of mind. There are two side pockets (with flaps) for odds and ends, and straps on one side that might secure a tripod - if it was a small and light one.

The rigging is good: ventilated mesh at back and padded shoulder straps. A narrow strap with Fastex clip is attached to these but its purpose is not entirely clear: it is too short to be used as a chest strap unless your chest is a lot smaller than mine. 

Further down, I was pleased to find hip pads and a nice broad waist strap – useful for belt-carrying of binoculars, GPS pouch or other accessories which would then stay with the bag when taken off.

All in all, the “Amazon Basics backpack for SLR Cameras” does (almost) everything that its pricier competitors will do – and for far less cash up front. Good value, but not for heavy use in the Amazon. (Or any other rainforest.)