How many of you have moved to a smaller Mirrorless or Micro 4/3 camera system? Now, how many of you are still lugging around the oversized camera bag you used with your DSLR system? I was too. Then I ran into the Lowepro ProTactic BP 250 AW. (That’s a mouthful) My only previous experience with the ProTactic line was trying the larger 450 model at Samy’s Camera. Initial thought? Huge. But, I thought the design was sharp, liked that it was covered in MOLLE and was comfortable on my back. At the time the 250 did not exist, so my search continued.
A few months later, I learned the ProTactic line had a new little brother. The 250 model is designed for smaller Mirrorless systems like Fujifilm’s X-Series, Olympus OM-D, Sony Alpha, Leica T, you get where I’m going. I’ve been using this bag for 2 months now on the road. It’s been with me on several trips around California, Arizona and Nevada. After a few thousand miles, countless coffee shops and a dozen hotel check-ins, I can assure you it would be a great addition to your bag arsenal.
The size and shape of this bag are what first captured my attention. Today, it is still what keeps me reaching for it most often when loading up gear. With the Joby GorrilaPod Focus attached to the side, you can see how slim it is. The overall dimensions of the bag are 17T x 11W x 6D. It’s smaller than any other camera bag I own and I love that. It holds just the right amount of gear and nothing more. It’s been ideal for street photography, day trips around a city, or anytime I don’t want my bag getting noticed or in the way (which is almost always). Without the Joby attached, a thief would be hard pressed to recognize it as a camera bag. It doesn’t grab eyes.
At only 6-inches deep, it wears comfortably thin across my back. I can slip in and out of elevators without knocking my bag into people. Loaded, the bag is light enough that I never feel the straps need additional padding. This is also the first bag I’ve found myself using the top grab handle often. Not sure if that’s because it’s a nice large handle or?
I just realized many of you may not know what MOLLE is (google link). Lowepro calls it their SlipLock Compatible Strap System. This is the second feature that initially grabbed me and continues to. Either using the included straps or my own carabiner clips, I can attach just about anything I want to this bag. Jackets, water bottles, hats, lens pouches. Many of my other bags have straps here and there but if the bag materials aren’t strong enough to support the weight (abuse) you give it, they will fail. The ProTactic bags are covered in 900D Ballistic 1680 Polyester. Tough enough.
Two SlipLock straps are included with the bag. They work well and lock in place using the slider just behind the clip body on the left. Attaching them to the bag loops is easy and I’ve had no issues with them coming undone while on the go. I wouldn’t go tossing your bag face down on the ground though, you could break one. Then again if you’re tossing a camera bag, shame on you. The cord keepers on each strap are a nice touch so you don’t have danglers. Nobody likes a dangler.
The entire ProTactic line comes with accessories like the pouch above and the tripod cup holding the Joby. To be honest, I don’t use this pouch often. Almost never. When I do, it usually holds a Clif Bar and some business cards. Easy access items I don’t want to open the main compartment to get at. Having it attached defeats the minimalist size and shape I love so much about the core bag. I’m happy this is optional and didn’t come sewn into the front of the bag. If I’m going to attach a pouch to the front of any bag, it will be a Triple Aught Design OP1 Pouch.
Once again, I don’t know why I find myself carrying this bag around by the handle so often. Maybe I like that it’s not the normal nylon handle on most bags. I kinda want to add this grab handle to all my bags.
You see these little finger grabs attached to the YKK zippers? If Lowepro wants to send me 100 of these I won’t complain. They make finding and using the zippers quicker and easier. Tip: If you only want to use your zippers one direction, remove the finger grab from one side.
I feel that the front pocket on the 250 is going to be a love/hate relationship for some people. The larger 350 and 450 models don’t have this pocket, instead they have room for additional side pockets. As much as I want to dislike how thin and tight this pocket is, I still find myself using it all the time. I can stuff my keys, iPhone, wallet and notepad in there even though I can’t get my hand inside. Keep in mind if you run a tripod as I do, the strap will block access to this pocket. I do that on purpose so nobody can get to the zipper when I’m walking around town.
Lowepro did a good job using velcro attachments on both the top and bottom of the attachment tongues. Many don’t. These are nice and secure.
The ActivZone System does a good job adding lumbar support to my upper and lower back. It is also designed to help distribute heat away from your body. I’ve spent a good 3-4 hours walking around Las Vegas wearing this bag with no sweat lines to be found on my shirt after (to be fair it is winter right now). So, I guess I can report that it’s successfully doing it’s job. Additional attachment loops and D-rings on the shoulder straps make it easy to add a phone pouch, GPS or maybe a Peak Design Capture Clip. I tend to use the lowermost horizontal loop to hold a small clip flashlight.
Let’s talk a little bit about how you get to the camera. There are four entry points surrounding the bag. Top, right side, left side and main back compartment. The molded, turret-loading top has a hard plastic liner inside that keeps the camera body safe from hits. My first thought was cool, but why? Then I flew to Nevada and realized how much abuse the top of the bag takes in the overhead compartment or feet kicking under the seat. My Fujifilm X-T1 is just the right size to grab-n-go from the top. Unfortunately, it’s too big to easily remove from the sides. Doesn’t meant it’s not possible, it’s just a really tight fit. Something like the Leica T or Fujifilm X-E2 would be better suited.
With that being said, I may only access my camera from two of the four entry points but I do use the quick-grab sides for other items I may want to get at fast. Lenses, cap, blower, lens cloth, strap.
Lowepro’s MaxFit padded divider system is really easy to work with and allows for the maximum amount of room even in a smaller bag. The thin compartment dividers fold completely flat on to themselves making them easy to maneuver. There is plenty of room for 4-5 lenses, flash, charger and more. Larger lenses like the Fujifilm 16-55mm f/2.8 fit where the Lowepro black pouch sits above. Tall lenses need to pack on their side.
Last summer I started hitting the road without my laptop. I have a good system of iPad and iPhone apps that allow me to do just about any post processing I need on the road. The 250 carries my iPad and Apple Keyboard perfectly. The CradleFit pocket will also hold an 11-inch laptop while suspending your devices from the ground. The two slip pockets are great for small items, though I wish they had more stretch to them. Stacking an iPhone + wallet on top of one another is pushing it.
Tucked into the bottom is an All-Weather AW cover that comes attached to the bag. Fits snug around the bag and stores in it’s own pocket so you never lose or leave it at home. I wish all backpacks came with AW covers. ALL.
If you want to get rambunctious, there’s a sternum strap and waist belt to keep things in place. The sternum strap is removable and the waist belt packs inside the lower back of the bag. I rarely find myself using either. I enjoy this bag as minimal as possible.
Do I recommend the Lowepro ProTactic BP 250 AW?
Over the past two months this bag has grown on me. So much so that I use it more than my others. Its discreet, unassuming, lightweight, versatile and makes me think about what I need and don’t need on that day. If you need a kitchen sink bag, look elsewhere. This bag is more for the shooter that plans out their day ahead of time knowing exactly what to expect. Take a sharpie to the Lowepro logo and you’ve got a completely concealed, all-black bag great for staying hidden at night. If only Joby would make an all-black pod.
Keep in mind if you need a little more room, this bag is also available in 350 and 450 models. The 450 is large enough for a full 2-body DSLR system with a 15-inch laptop. You can learn more about the entire ProTactic line on Lowepro’s website by clicking here. If you’re considering purchasing it, we’d love it if you did so using this Amazon link here. Cheers!