There is definitely a true adage in photography that you get what you pay for. That’s why I was a little reluctant when I ordered this camera bag back in September of 2010… and even back then the price has not really changed. You can pick one up today from Amazon with free Prime shipping for about $20.00.
So what’s this bag all about? Well for $20 you’re not really expecting the greatest but in fact I’ve used it on over 30 weddings in 2011 and countless engagement sessions in between and I can honestly say that even after a crazy busy wedding season last year it still looks brand almost new to this day. LowePro definitely has a quality product for the unbelievable price of $20.00. Yes, I still can’t believe how sturdy the materials are and how well the fabric has held up. Ok, so those are the pro’s, now on to the inevitable cons.
You’ll see that familiar grey bag strap on me at EVERY wedding!
The only real con to this bag is the fact that their is absolutely NO padding on it. Which is sort of a Pro because the bag itself probably weighs 1 pound? It’s very light and doesn’t contribute to the weight which is whatever you put inside of it. The minimalist design is sort of scary but on a normal wedding day I’ve got 3-4 Canon L lenses inside bag and I swing it around everywhere as I’m running around during the ceremony or dancing along with the guests at the reception. I am sometimes terrified that I’ll bash the bag against something, but these are tough lenses like the 70-200 f/2.8 or the 85mm f/1.2… you’re buying Canon L glass for a reason and one of them is durability. That’s not to say I’m not lusting after the Think Tank ~ Retrospective 30, Pinestone (sorry LowePro but it looks really nice!) or even LowePro’s new Lowepro Pro Messenger 200 AW Digital SLR Photo/Video Camera Bag/Case (Slate Grey). Both of them are a little more discreet for street walking and traveling, like I said I worry sometimes for my lenses’ safety in the Exchange Messenger. The other big deal to me is the shoulder strap and it’s non-existant padding.
Even though I bear it weekend after weekend, that strap is just horrible! Again, $20… can’t beat it. But yeah if you carry heavy lenses and really load down the bag it takes it’s toll on you. For example if I take off the 70-200 f/2.8 and throw it in the bag for the entire wedding, it will kill me the next day. Usually I’m working with 2 primes and maybe a 16-35 (with the 70-200 on and off the camera) so it’s not too big of a deal. I guess you could say I’ve grown accustomed to it more than anything, it used to bother me a lot more at the beginning when I first got this bag.
Yes, even Betty has her own. At $20 a piece we got a second because the Exchange Messenger does have it’s Pro’s. The bag is just the right size to work out of as a lens bag, but I wouldn’t throw my camera body in there for the no padding reason and it takes up too much space. You can fit a gripped 5D Mark II sideways and have room for 1 more item in a divider whether that’s a second lens or a 580 EX II, but nothing else. Not an ideal street or tourist bag where you may not want to have your camera out in the open at all times. As a lens bag it works fine, you just need to know it’s limitations and use. On the front of the bag are two open pockets and one zippered section. Again great to work out of, I’ll throw a set of extra Eneloop batteries in one section for emergencies and the other section keeps a pack of gum and business cards. In the zippered section I’ll have my spare Compact Flash cards because I want that extra security to know it’s zippered shut.
On a scale of 1 to 10 this bag earns a solid 7 from me. I don’t love it and am anxiously awaiting an upgrade to either the ThinkTank Retrospective 30 or the LowePro Pro Messenger 200 for the 2012 wedding season (and once Betty approves the purchase with our lineup of other items to buy such as softboxes and hard drives). I keep putting off the upgrade because other items are more business pressing needs and well, the Exchange Messenger just does it’s job well for what it is, a great lens bag and working event bag. I always recommend this bag to others and for $20 I think you will be impressed with it’s functionality as long as you’re working say a wedding or event situation.