Lowepro S&F: Modular Carrying System

posted in Product Review

Lowepro S&F: Modular Carrying System

If you haven’t noticed by now I’ll fill you in, I’m a bit of a fan of Lowepro products.  I have always been impressed with the quality of the products and how well thought out the designs are.  This post will go over the S&F (street & field) modular carry system.  The system is designed around fast access that is easily customizable.  Essentially what it comes down to is you pick out a style of belt you like (there are currently two options) and then you get modular pouches and bags to attach to the belt to satisfy your needs. With all that in mind I’ll now go through the different S&F items I have and how I use them.

S&F Lens Exchange 200 AW

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 This is the bag that initially drew me into the S&F system.  The bag looks like any other bag/pouch or similar at least for holding telephoto lenses.  What makes this bag special is that the zipper goes all the way down the side.  When fully open the bag expands so it has not one compartment but two that can accommodate and support holding two lenses at once while open. The way this works is that you remove the lens that is on your camera and place it in the spare compartment of the bag then pick up the replacement lens which is in the other compartment and mount it on your camera.  That’s it, you’re done changing lenses.  For those of you who have changed lenses before you know that typically you need a place to put the lens you took off before you can put on the new lens.  Until I got this bag I resorted to holding the removed lens either under my arm, between my legs, on the ground or some other surface I could find.  All of those are scary places when you think about how much money some of the lenses cost.  With this simple bag all those worries are gone; I just simply unzip the bag, swap lenses and I’m done. The S&F Lens Exchange 200 AW is designed to accommodate lens in size up to the Canon 70-200 f/2.8. As with most of the S&F bags this one has an all weather cover that can be deployed to protect the bag from the elements.  When not in use it is stored in a flap on the lower back side. Lowepro’s product page Amazon

S&F Quick Flex Pouch 75 AW

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A flash is one of those things that you don’t need that often but risk of being caught without one when needed is so not worth the risk of not carrying it.  If you boil photography down to the absolute most basic ingredient that ingredient is light.  If you don’t have light you don’t have photography.  In some situations there either isn’t enough light or it’s of such a poor quality that you need to supply your own which is where a flash comes in.  I’d rather lug around a flash to a hundred different shoots and never use it then to get in a situation where I wasn’t able to get a little pop of a flash could make all the difference in the world between making the shot and not because I didn’t bring it. Hence that explains why I have the S&F Quick Flex Pouch 75 AW in my kit.  Lowepro actually offers two sizes of the Quick Flex, the 55 and 75.  The 55 is made for the medium size flashes like the Canon 430 II EX while the 75 is made to accommodate the big boy flash, the Canon 600 EX-RT (I’d have a half dozen of these if they weren’t so expensive, the radio control feature is amazing for off camera). The Quick Flex Pouch 75 AW is like the rest of the S&F line, it comes with a shoulder strap and built in all weather cover that came be deployed to protect your gear if the weather turns sour.  The bag also has a spot to keep a spare set of four AA batteries and has a spring action top to keep the pouch closed if you forget to zip up the sides. Sometime if I want to keep my pack light I’ll just bring my camera with the one lens attached and the flash in the pouch over my shoulder with the strap.  That way I keep my pack light but I still have a flash if I need it. Lowepro’s product page Amazon

 S&F Deluxe Technical Belt

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 The S&F Deluxe Technical Belt is one of two belt options available, both of which are the foundation for the S&F system.  The S&F system is built around the securing process call the SlipLock attachment system.  The belt has loops that the different pouches and bags attach to.  The Deluxe Technical Belt can accommodate eleven such attachments and is padded to be comfortable while the other belt, the Light Utility Belt, is a thinner profile and can accommodate 10 such attachments. Lowepro also sells both a harness and a vest that can be attached to the belts to allow additional attachments and to distribute the load from the hips to the shoulder.  At this time I don’t have either harness or vest but I’ve considered getting one if I end up adding more weight to my belt (i.e. more attachments). Depending on the size of your waist there are two size models available; S/M fits waist sizes 32”-53” and L/XL for waist sizes 44”-56”. Lowepro’s product page Amazon (S/M size) Amazon (L/XL size)

 S&F Lens Exchange 100 AW

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Announced and released last fall this is the most recent addition to my kit.  As soon as I heard about the new “little” lens exchange I knew it would be perfect for me.   The 100 exchange is essentially exactly the same as the original 200 Exchange with the exception of being designed for smaller lenses so the height of the bag is less (just under 3″ difference).  When opened up there are two compartments to temporary hold two lenses while you swap them out when then collapse to hold one lens when closed.  Also there is a removable all weather cover that is built in and stored on the bottom backside to protect your gear from the elements as needed.

I was fortunate enough to get one around Christmas time last year and I have used it extensively since then.  Like all the other S&F items the 100 Exchange comes with a shoulder strap so you can carry it around without using the belt.  This is perfect for me.  Most of the time when I go out with the family I don’t want to bring any of my camera bags because I don’t want to be encumbered, plus its harder to chase down a two year old with a backpack on your back.  The 100 Exchange is a perfect fit for me.  I typically put a wide angle lens in the bag to compliment the normal prime on my camera, sling it over my shoulder and forget about it until I want to change lenses.  It doesn’t get in the way and is right there when I need it to swap out lenses. Lowepro’s product page Amazon

 All Comes Together

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Now that I’ve gone over the components of my system piecemeal it’s time to bring them all together.  When I’m working an event like the Tallahassee Women Lawyer’s Mentor/Mentee Mixer I recently covered the S&F system is perfect.  I started the evening out with a general purpose zoom lens on my camera.  In the 200 Exchange I had a telephoto lens, a normal prime in the 100 Exchange and a flash in the Quick Flex 75. As the event went along I was able to swap out lenses without needing to find a place to set one lens down while I put on the other because of the exchange bags.  When I needed a little bit of fill flash I was able to quickly mount the flash on the camera (I don’t like to leave the flash on the camera at these kinds of events unless I need it because it just draws more attention which isn’t good for candid). This system is great for me.  The way I have it configured allows me to comfortable carry three lenses (including the one on the camera) and a flash along with spare batteries and memory cards in the side pockets; all I need for most any situation. The great thing about it is that the whole setup is modular so if my needs change I can always adjust, rearrange or get new items to carry my stuff; it couldn’t be any simpler. In regards to the quality of the products, I’ve been using the S&F system for over a year now with out any issues.  I’ve done everything from weddings, events, portrait sessions, family vacations, and more and I haven’t had so much as a zip getting caught.  The bags are of the highest quality and can stand up to heavy use and abuse.

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