Lowepro Toploader Pro 65 AW

A product review by Bobulous

About the Lowepro Toploader Pro 65 AW

photo: The Toploader Pro 65 AW stood up with its lid opened.
The Lowepro Toploader Pro 65 AW.

The Toploader Pro 65 AW is a camera bag made by Lowepro, designed to hold a DSLR camera with "attached wide angle or standard fixed lens". The camera is placed into the bag with the lens pointing down, making it easy to grab the camera out of the bag and start shooting. This type of bag is sometimes known as a "holster style" camera bag.

Lowepro also offer the Toploader Pro 70 AW and Toploader Pro 75 AW, each progressively larger, for use with longer lenses.

Using the Lowepro Toploader Pro 65 AW

photo: The Toploader Pro 65 AW lying on its back with its lid open.
The main compartment into which you place the DSLR, lens first.

The Toploader Pro 65 AW opens from the top (hence the name) by means of two zips and a plastic clip. This works very well, as you leave the top zipped up when you're in transit, and then leave it unzipped when you're on location, relying on the plastic clip to keep the top down. It's very quick to snap open the clip and pull the camera out of the bag, so you're much more likely to reach for your camera when a fleeting scene is unfolding before your eyes. Also, the top opens from right to left (rather than front to back), so there's nothing obstructing either it or your fingers as you throw it open. It feels like your DSLR is always by your side, only a few seconds away from being ready for action.

photo: The Toploader Pro 65 AW with a Canon EOS 50D in its main compartment.
With a Canon EOS 50D in the main compartment, it's clear that there's room for a battery grip.

Though Lowepro's own material says that the Toploader Pro 65 AW is sized to hold an SLR with a short fixed lens, I use it to carry a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM zoom lens mounted on a Canon EOS 50D camera body, and it fits with no problems. If I feel around at the bottom of the bag, it feels like there's another centimetre of room below the end of the lens, so I'm guessing that you could even get away with slightly longer lenses. The only thing that concerns me is that the fit is so snug that my 17-85mm zoom lens is forcibly extended a little when pulling the whole thing out of the bag. However, the internal dimensions for the larger Toploader Pro 75 AW specify the same widths (only the length changes) so I don't think this is a sign that the bag is too small for this lens.

The Toploader Pro 65 AW comes with a shoulder strap and a waist strap. Though you can get away with just using the shoulder strap while in transit, you will need to use the waist strap once you want to get your camera out of the bag or put it back, otherwise the bag tips and swings. The waist strap holds the bag tightly in place by your side, so it's worth using even though it may leave you feeling trussed up. Lowepro also sell a chest harness which spreads weight around your waist and over both shoulders. However, unlike the old Toploader series, the Toploader Pro series does not come with this additional harness so I've not tried it.

Even though the shoulder strap hangs from one shoulder (and it seemingly has to be your right shoulder, otherwise the waist strap won't fit satisfactorily), the strap has a padded section that slides into place to spread weight across the shoulder. I've worn the Toploader Pro 65 AW with my Canon setup for several hours continuously, and didn't develop any aches. If you were to attach a SlipLock pouch carrying an additional lens, or use one of the larger Toploader Pro bags to carry a bigger lens, then possibly the shoulder strap setup would get wearisome more quickly with the additional weight.

While the main compartment of the bag holds your camera and lens, the Toploader Pro 65 AW also offers additional storage:

The Toploader Pro 65 AW also has an All Weather Cover sewn into a pouch on the left side (below the SlipLock loop). However, my Canon EOS 50D is not weatherproof, and if there's any sign of rain I wait for another day. So I've not yet been forced to work out exactly how to wrap the rain cover around the bag. Lowepro's site shows the All Weather Cover in use, promising that you can still access the main compartment with it on, and it looks handy for those who do venture out on grey days. If I have cause to field test it, I'll update this page.

Evaluating the Lowepro Toploader Pro 65 AW

Frustratingly, Lowepro don't yet offer a lens compatibility chart, making it difficult to know which camera plus lens combinations fit well into each size of their Toploader Pro range. If you do confirm that your favourite lens is a sure fit, then the Lowepro Toploader Pro 65 AW is an excellent camera bag for those who want their SLR comfortably and securely by their side.