The Lowepro Passport Sling is a camera bag that can securely carry small or medium-sized DSLR camera, lenses, accessories, and small personal items in a package that does not scream “tourist with a camera bag!”. Its form and function is both unique and versatile, in that, it is able to carry a good amount of essential photo gears and personal items when out exploring.
It is the perfect camera bag to bring when wanderlusting, especially in crowded areas. The Lowepro Passport Sling bag is unlike any other solutions that I have ever seen; and this Passport Sling Camera Bag review will explain why.
Although I already had a camera bag—the Kata DR-467i Rucksack, it didn’t fit my requirements for a dual purpose bag (i.e., it is bulky, it has no instant easy access to everything, and I don’t feel secure not being able to eyeball the zippers while out and about in the streets). Don’t get me wrong, I love my old Kata DR-467i. Like the Passport Sling Camera Bag, it looks nondescript and plain, but fully practical.
I wanted a dual purpose camera bag that:
– could allow me to carry my Micro Four Thirds gears
– could allow me quick and easy access to those gears and sightseeing essentials (like sunglasses, water bottle, tourist maps, guidebooks)
– is not bulky
– does not look like a fancy camera bag
The Lowepro Passport Sling meets all of my requirements. Not only does this bag able to conveniently and securely carry my Panasonic Lumix GH2 camera with the Lumix Vario 14-140mm lens, my Lumix GF1 with the Lumix 14mm F2.5, spare batteries, SDHC cards, the GorillaPod SLR flexible tripod, miscellaneous filters, but the side pouches (called the “slash pockets”) allows me quick and easy access to my sightseeing essentials while on the move.
Because the Passport Sling isn’t a rucksack (unlike the Kata DR-467), or a shoulder camera case like my Kata DC-437, it doesn’t look like a typical camera bag. But the thing is, it has almost the storage space of the former, and the ease of access and security aspect of the latter.
The secret lies in the padded camera box. It has an adjustable velcro divider that can be configured to fit, in the photo above as an example, a Nikon D40 DSLR camera with the Nikon 18-200mm zoom lens on one side and 2 prime lenses (Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and Sigma 30mm f1.4) stacked on top each other on the other side. It’s a little snug, but it accommodates them just fine. After all these, there’s still space left that can be used to store other small stuff like batteries and other small accessories (SD card case, intervalometer, remote triggers, etc.).
The flap of the divider folds over nicely to cover the lenses/accessories and provides a cushion to protect the lenses. The small pocket on the left side of the padded box is meant to hold a spare SDHC card or two. The padded box gives me security in the knowledge that my cameras and lenses are adequately protected against bumps.
In the secondary compartment, we find a couple of pouches with a velcro flap to keep a secure lid over whatever small items are placed inside it. I use them to store spare batteries for my Panasonic Lumix GH2 and GF1. That’s even where I put my Lumix 20mm f1.7. Even with all these, there is still room inside for other things.
If you have a tablet, the Passport Sling III Camera Bag comes with a padded compartment specifically for tablets. My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1″ fits in there just fine. All these space and it isn’t even expanded yet!
And here’s the thing, when you unzip the zipper on the outside, the Passport Sling Camera Bag expands to provide even more space—up to 30% or so. Annika uses this added extra space on her Passport Sling – Mica for her sarong or pullover. I use it for my Gorillapod SLR Zoom flexible tripod or the more diminutive Slik Mini-Pro III tabletop travel tripod, plus my other photography stuff.
Below is a before and after image comparison of the Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag: the unexpanded mode and the expanded mode. Notice how in the bottom picture, the bag covers the entire width of the bench it’s on:
Here’s where the versatility part comes into play. When you remove the padded camera box, it instantly turns into an ordinary bag, freeing up even more storage space. This is the very reason Annika has been using hers as an everyday carry bag in Finland to and from work. Here in the Philippines, we each bring our Passport Sling bags on holidays or when we go to Cebu City. The Passport Sling can function either as a foto bag or an ordinary bag with ease and zero fuss. Here’s a video of the transformation process in action:
You can wear the Passport Sling bag across the body or as a shoulder bag using its wide shoulder strap—which features a cam lock buckle that can be easily adjusted for an ideal fit. You adjust the height with the cam lock buckle—high or low, or close to your body (i.e., you want it in front of you when you’re in crowded places) or loose (i.e., hanging in the back when you’re out in the open field or riding a bike). It also comes with a removable sliding shoulder pad that offers cushioned comfort especially when you’re stuffing your bag heavy—because it can hold so much stuff, it’s so easy to get carried away like that.
The sliding pad also provides an important function. It facilitates the switching of the camera bag from the front to the back, or from the back to the front, or from the side to the front, and vice versa—all with relative ease and less friction. Meaning, it keeps the wide shoulder strap from tugging at your clothes in the general direction of wherever you switch the bag to —you have to hold it with one hand, of course, to keep it in position when doing the switch. The sliding pad also anchors the bag’s center of gravity as it shifts naturally from side to side. This results in having both hands free at all times so you’re able to do the fun tasks of taking photos.
The Passport Sling Camera Bag features two slash pockets and a water bottle pocket on its exterior. You’ll find the slash pockets very handy at the airport. The reason is because it allows you to quickly stuff, for example, your passport document and tickets for easy access when queuing at the check-in counter. The same goes at the security check. You just stuff your passport document, boarding pass, wallet, coins, mobile phone temporarily into the slash and water bottle pockets as it rides atop the conveyor belt through the X-ray machine and then collect all of them in one place at the other end. But a word of warning: the slash pockets are literally open and cannot securely hold items, so please exercise due caution. It can be easy for items to fall out or get picked without your knowledge. So if it is a very important item, put them back in its secure place, not only right after clearing security check, but every.single.time.
This bears repeating, because this is very important. If you’re temporarily stuffing your passport document inside the slash pockets or water bottle pocket (because, say, they require identity checks before you board the plane), as soon as you can, separate your passport document from your boarding card and place your passport document inside the bag. I wish Lowepro could have put a zipper or a velcro strip in one of the slash pockets (preferably the side towards the body). Why not both slash pockets? Because having an open slash pocket and (open) water bottle pocket is very handy and works very well, especially during wintertime.
The Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag is one beast of a bag. By beast, I mean in its ability to carry tons of stuff. But just because you could, doesn’t mean you should; even though this bag can probably take it like a champ.
By beast, I also mean aesthetic-wise. This bag looks plain; even a little off; like a kettle—the kind of look that does not win beauty contests. But boy does it wipe other camera bags on the floor with its utility.
Design-wise, I think they took to heart Antoine de Saint Exupery’s “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”, resulting in this design perfection.
However, having said that—and at the expense of contradicting my statement—it would be really nice to have an extra pocket on the padded camera box. One that is as wide as the padded box itself. Because this would be useful, for example, to secure the passport document when at the airport or in the streets at the local destinations. Below is my Photoshopped rendition of the concept:
I wouldn’t trust placing my passport document in the secondary compartment where my Gorillapod or my Manfrotto 494RC2 ball head with quick release could lay on top of and crumple or fold it to semi-destruction. And if I should decide to leave my passport document at the hotel, this extra pocket could serve as container for my ND filters, GND filters—anything that I do not want moshing together with the rest of the bulkier stuff that might break or scratch them.
It is almost exactly for this reason that a zipper or a velcro strip on a slash pocket (the one facing the body) would be really nice. It is because it can be a secure place to store the passport document while at the airport; or a place to store the smartphone when out sightseeing. You’ll be secure in the knowledge that the items inside won’t fall out if the camera bag is momentarily upside down (watch this video of what I’m talking about). Also, by being close to the body, there is a degree of security even if you decide to sling the bag to your back (out of sight). In the case of your smartphone (in vibration mode), you will be able to feel it vibrate when someone calls.
In my experience, the padded camera box not being able to be fully flattened is only a minor matter. I didn’t come across any reason why I needed to remove it, much less flattening it to put inside my luggage when traveling. But if this is really an important requirement, Lowepro has got you covered in the form of the Passport Sling II Camera Bag. UPDATE: The Lowepro Passport Sling III renders this moot as it has all these features.
I set out to find the perfect travel camera bag that could also serve double purpose. I had special requirements in mind in that I want some of my Micro Four Thirds camera and gears to be with me all the time, even inside the plane; something that could do double duty (i.e., camera equipments and personal items); and something that does not make me attractive to potential troubles.
I found it in the Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag. Not only did it meet my expectations –it thoroughly exceeded it. Our Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bags has seen wanderlusting action with us on trips to: Norway, Estonia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and here in the Philippines. It was the cumulative experience from these trips that I used to guide my assessment and review of this mighty fine all-around camera bag.