Lowepro recently announced an update to their popular Flipside series of backpacks aimed at meeting the modern photographer and videographer's needs. Here I review the largest and most robust of the series, the Flipside 500 AW II.
If you’re anything like me, you have a stack of black camera bags piled on a shelf somewhere out of sight and out of mind. After all, how many bags and cases do you actually need? While I don’t have an answer to that specific question, and seem to be acquiring more and more of my own every year, I decided to take a look at an offering of the camouflage variety. The Flipside 500 AW II is being made in a tan digital-camo color that stood out to me when I initially eyeballed the press release.
Accommodates the Following:
- Pro DSLR camera with grip and up to 400mm f/2.8 mounted lens or 500mm detached lens
- 1–2 extra camera bodies
- 4–6 extra lenses
- 15-inch laptop
- 10-inch tablet
- Internal Dimensions: 11.81 x 7.48 x 18.90 inches (30 x 19 x 48 centimeters)
- External Dimensions: 12.60 x 12.80 x 21.65 inches (32 x 32.5 x 55 centimeters)
- Weight: 4.51 pounds (2.05 kilograms)
What’s Unique About the Flipside Series
If you’re not already familiar with this popular line of backpacks, as the name might suggest, these packs offer an increased level of security via the design’s body-side points of entry which allow full access to your gear without having to set the bag down. While I do have experience with a similar design, I hadn’t yet been able to use a Flipside, and while I can see how the design could be handy, I would still suggest setting a bag this size down to access your equipment if you’ve packed a heavy load. Read further for more on that.
Flipside Gets an Update
As the needs of photographers evolve, the bags they carry their gear in need to as well. For today’s photographers, packing drones, tablets, and laptops isn’t all that uncommon. Lowepro recognizes that their customers need a bag that can accommodate a variety of the latest gear, so their largest in the series, the 500 AW II, is now capable of accommodating all of the above and more.
The 500 AW II is a big backpack. Big enough in fact to have the capacity to accommodate up to a 10-inch tablet and 15-inch laptop, a professional DSLR with grip, and up to a 400mm mounted lens or 500mm detached lens (or a compact drone like the DJI Mavic Pro), tripod, and four to six additional lenses. You can see how weight of the contents could really start to add up.
What I Liked
Like I mentioned, I have enough black backpacks and cases. I should consider becoming a ninja-sherpa. Sometimes working in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, any color other than black is welcome. Additionally, wildlife photographers may also appreciate a more natural colored bag to help break up their silhouette when in search of the most elusive of creatures.
The backpack's build quality is what one has come to expect from Lowepro. On the outside, the fit and finish of the materials is spot on and clean looking.
The silent zipper pulls prevent any jingling that could spook wildlife, and open and close smoothly. There’s a loop for hanging the bag off of the ground in the event that you need to, and the handle is tough enough to support the heaviest of loads.
Inside, the company's trademark CradleFit compartments offer endless options for those who like to configure and reconfigure their gear based on their needs. There is also a removable, padded accessory pouch inside for additional storage of cords, chargers, and small items.
Upon initially shouldering the pack, I was pleased by padded waist belt and adjustable sternum strap which help distribute weight evenly. Fully loaded, the pack was comfortable on my shoulders without digging in, and there were no uncomfortable pressure points or movement while walking about.
The All Weather AW Cover will come in handy in the event that you're caught in less than perfect conditions.
What I Didn’t Like
The Flipside Function
I’m not a big fan of the bag's Flipside function, in which one rotates the bag 180 degrees so that it’s front facing and lowers it to access the interior compartments. Since there is no shoulder support during this process, the entire load is supported by the waist straps, and during testing I found that a heavy load is rather unstable. I’d prefer to take an extra minute to remove the bag to access my gear than watch a $2,000 lens take a spill.
Hidden Tripod Support
The hidden tripod support is a nice feature, only it’s located on the front of the bag, which is ultimately the bottom of the bag when opening it up. This means that if you’re opening your bag on the ground in the dirt, your tripod is going to be smashed into said dirt by its weight. It seems like the idea would have been more thoughtful had it been located on the side of the bag where the tripod can also be grabbed easily; Not so easy to reach around and remove a tripod securely fixed to your back, unless you’re a Ninja Turtle. I chose to simply fix my tripod to the side of the bag using one of the available straps. Since the hidden tripod support pops out of nowhere and literally takes up zero space, it can easily be forgotten.
Despite my dislikes, which were few, the Flipside 500 AW II is a very nice large camera backpack. If what you need is a bag with the capacity to accommodate nearly anything you may need to take with you, all-weather durability, and unique styling, the Flipside 500 AW II is now available and retails for $179.95. Check out the company's promotional video below highlighting the features of the Flipside II series of backpacks.