LowePro S&F Modular Carrying System - quick review / by Neil Alexander

In the past I've generally used all sorts of different methods to schlep my gear around, but mainly assorted rucksacks (depending on the amount and type of gear required) and an old cotton Hasselblad photography vest (which I've dyed to make it look slightly less khaki). But I've never really hit upon a solution that meets all my travel photography needs.

Not just muddy puddles you have to look out for when swapping gear in and out of a rucksack - this cute little fella was intrigued....

I find a large rucksack is better for carrying more equipment unless I'm shooting in a hot humid environment or a busy market for example. In which case a large rucksack can be extremely inconvenient; it's case of trying to peel it off a rather unpleasantly sweaty back, find a clear spot on the ground (which is probably muddy and stinky) to swap lenses and then slide it back on again. In the process desperately avoiding whacking old grannies or small children around the head whilst I'm trying to squeeze past them or trying to throw the rucksack back over my shoulders again.

With small rucksacks the problem isn't getting in and out of it because I often realise at the first point I want a different lens that I actually left it behind because I couldn't fit it in, so there's no point trying to take it off anyway.

 

The Hassy vest, which is just a standard photography vest is good in that it is extremely lightweight and has more pockets than you can shake a stick at. The problem is that the majority if the pockets just aren't big enough - even an SB900 is a squeeze so a 70-200 F2.8 is out of the question. Lord only knows how you'd manage with a 40mm Distagon!

Neil Alexander in Laos sporting a fine line in Hasselblad photography vests...

So recently in my quest for a good filter holder pouch, I ended up buying the LowePro S&F Filter Pouch 100 which ticked all the boxes as far as a filter container is concerned and has the added advantage that it'll just slot into any of the external slots on my LowePro rucksacks which provides nice easy access for polarisers and grads etc as and when they're needed.

I was so impressed by this little pouch that I spent some time investigating the rest of the S&F range and after careful deliberation decided to take the plunge - I have a wardrobe full of camera bags so anymore unnecessary gear really wouldn't go down too well! Very hard to get hold of the entire range in the UK especially as I really wanted to get a little touchy feely with it before parting with my hard-earned cash. Fortunately Calumet in Manchester did have the vest and it was actually being able to see it in the mesh (see what I did there?) that swayed me. After a lot of shopping around, I ended up ordering from B&H in New York. It arrived within 3 or 4 days and worked out cheaper with shipping all the way over the pond than it would have done ordering it from a UK distributor without shipping even if they had had all the bits I wanted.

My trip to Malta 3 days after the gear had arrived was the perfect opportunity to give it a proper run out.

First impressions: While this gear is probably not what I'd tip up in to shoot a corporate headshot, for travel work, I have to say that it excelled itself. If I were nit-picking, then I'd have to admit I feel the vest itself is lacking in pockets I felt - would have liked to see more places to secrete things like memory cards, cable release, business cards, keys, phone etc, but like I say that's just me being pernickety.

My second even smaller gripe, is that what makes it so secure and snug once it's on makes it that bit fiddlier to put together. I was shooting in different environments all the time, therefore the requirements for the kit that I needed with me were regularly changing so a couple of times a day I was shuffling the units around on the belt, taking some off, put different ones on, sliding them around to make them more accessible, all of which is made the bit more awkward by the industrial strength velcro LowePro have used. Don't get me wrong this isn't really a criticism, more of an observation. To be honest it's quite reassuring knowing that I've got all this gear just hanging there waiting to be pinched, but any potential thief is probably going to ended up stuck fast to my waist before he actually manages to steal anything, and they most definitely aren't going to be able to remove anything whatsoever without me noticing, even in a crowded market place.

But where this gear really excels itself is ease of access and usability. Once I'm loaded up and I'm out shooting, if I want to swap a lens out, grab a flash, pop on a polariser, it's all just there. I can have glass swapped or a filter on in a fraction of the time it would have taken were I using a rucksack, and that for me is a real bonus - it means not missing a shot that I could otherwise have not been able to take.

In short: It's a comfortable, well-designed, robust, configurable all round piece of kit. I love all the little pockets withing all the pouches - these are really useful for strobe batteries, lens caps etc, and the advantage over an ordinary vest is that it's all secured away - I can throw myself on the ground, crawl around, run all safe in the knowledge that nothing's going to fall out.

All in all I feel it's money well spent and can certainly see this gear getting regular usage. Great work LowePro, again!