At the beginning of this review, it’s important to note that I don’t use a camera backpack very often. I have owned several and, in almost every case, I inevitably go back to a roller bag as my daily camera bag.
That said, if you’re an adventure photographer, or have certain occasions where backpacks are required, the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II may very well be the right bag for you.
As Lowepro promises, this bag is a “high-performance modular photo backpack designed for portrait grip DSLR cameras.”
Let’s dive into the review to see how it holds up.
Table of Contents
Lowepro Protactic BP 450 AW II Specs
- Carries a lot of equipment
- Build quality, tactical, heavy-duty
- Uncomfortable (due to overall stiffness)
- Side access points unusable (in certain configurations)
- 4-point access
- Waist belt converts to a utility belt
- Lightweight FormShell construction
- SlipLock modular access
- ActiveZone comfort
- Weight: 284 kg / 6.26 lbs
- External Dimensions: 36 x 22 x 52 cm / 14.17 x 8.66 x 20.47 in
- Internal Dimension: 30 x 16 x 44 cm 11.81 x 6.30 x 17.32 in
- Laptop Compartment Dimensions: 29 x 2.2 x 37 cm (fits 15 in laptop)
- Total Volume 25 L
- Main Color: Black
Build & Appearance
The ProTactic 450 AW II looks and feels extremely durable. As the name would suggest, it is designed for heavy-duty, tactical, and all-weather use.
(If you want something lightweight, compact and great for hiking, look more to the PhotoSport AW III.)
It’s made with what looks like a thick, nylon material that’s structurally stiff and holds its shape, which makes the contents feel quite secure.
The zipper, buckles, and straps all feel well made. The all-weather cover—readily stored in the bag’s bottom compartment—is ready to go in even the worst of conditions.
I would have zero hesitation using this bag in any terrain or condition.
You’ll notice loops around the entire exterior of the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II. This is Lowepro’s “SlipLock” modular system, which gives you nearly endless ways to attach or arrange additional storage.
The bag came with a tripod cup support, bottle pouch, all-purpose utility punch, and quick-attach straps, each of which can be attached or removed as desired.
I also discovered that a few of my Thinktank pouches could be finagled and attached (though not altogether easily) for additional versatility.
Portions of the exterior have a hard “FormShell” construction. This is designed to provide even more impact protection in crucial areas.
The ProTactic BP 450 AW II includes a utility belt that can be used to hold it tight to your waist or that can be removed and used with Lowepro’s other 16 “SlipLock” compatible accessories.
As stated, the bottom of the bag stores an all-weather cover that can snugly hug over the entire bag for additional protection.
The bag features thick straps, with D-ring attachments, as well as fully adjustable chest and waist straps. This makes adjusting the bag to any body shape very easy.
It has four access points, which, depending on the interior layout would allow easy access while still holding the bag on a single shoulder.
For the layout that worked best for me, the top and back access points were the most practical.
The large back access point gave me easy access to the entire interior, while the upper access point allowed me to easily get a camera, with my favorite lens.
Again, this is all determined by how you layout the interior.
The interior of the ProTactic BP 450 AW II has velcro dividers, a feature we have all come to expect from camera bags. Although they’ve got few specialty dividers, I didn’t find that they were overly helpful.
I played around with several different configurations, but unfortunately, with a few of them (ironically, the ones that worked best for my needs), the Velcro dividers would dislodge when using the side access points.
An easy fix would be to extend the Velcro attachment points all the way to the front opening so that a portion of the dividers would remain attached even after the side access points are opened. I would recommend Lowepro extend the Velcro to the zipper point around the entire bag in future models.
The large back access point is lined with multiple semi-transparent packets for storing smaller items such as SD cards, keys, wallet, etc. I like being able to easily see what in these pockets. This is also the location where one can store a large 15″ laptop.
As a wedding and portrait photographer, to test the bag out, I wanted to see if I could use it as my only bag for weddings, including destination weddings.
In that context, one of the primary benefits of this bag is that it can carry a LOT of gear.
I’m a self-declared gear junky; I often carry more gear than I need, and this bag easily lets me do just that. It took me a bit of time to adjust, readjust, and readjust again the configuration of the bag, but once I got it how I like it, I was able to pack every single item that I would need for a wedding comfortably inside.
This means I could travel to a destination wedding with just this bag and would feel confident that all my equipment needs were accounted for, directly on my back.
With a little bit of finagling I was able to pack ALL the following:
- Sony a7R III (x2)
- Sony 16-35 GM
- Sony 24-70 GM
- Sony 70-20 GM
- Sony 90
- Flashpoint AD-200 (X2)
- Flashpoint V860II (x2)
- Flashpoint R2 triggers (x2)
- MagGrid (x4)
- MagGel (x2)
- MagGrip (x2)
- Pelican SD Case
- Rocket Blower
- PeakDesign Strap
- Manfrotto Mini Stands (x2)
- Batteries (x5)
- Chargers (x2)
- 15” Laptop
Sony hear.on Headphones (for travel)
- 32oz Water bottle
- Several other small, miscellaneous items
I know this may seem like a lot to carry, and it certainly is, but the Lowepro Protactic BP 450 AW II could do it. This is a HUGE PRO for me.
When traveling, carrying just one bag saves me money and ensures my gear is safe and attached to me.
Of course, even with the excellent shoulder straps and back padding offered by this bag, with this much gear inside, it’s not the most comfortable thing to carry around, but I don’t know of any bag that would be, considering the weight of all my photography gear.
Ease of Use/Comfort
Because the bag has so many access points and is so adjustable, once you get the layout determined it’s super easy to use.
In certain configurations, the side access point can easily be used, while still holding the bag on one shoulder.
If you choose to access the you equipment through the top, the bag stands on its own and feels stable will digging for your equipment.
For me, the rear access point made the most sense and the large zipper made opening the entire back super easy.
The only real downside of this bag, for me, is that it is uncomfortable to wear. Granted, we are all different shapes and sizes, and for some, this might be the most comfortable bag they’ve ever worn, but for my 5’8”, 155-lbs frame, this would not be my first choice for an all-day adventure, even with light gear.
The stiffness of the bag—while necessary for security—makes it unable to conform to and rest nicely against the back.
Although the bag boasts thick padding and an “active zone” along the back, I found these insufficient to make the bag truly comfortable, especially so when carrying a laptop.
Value for Money
On the Lowepro website, this bag is listed for $279.95 USD, although it can be found currently at B&H Photo here for $179.95 USD (I wonder if a version III is coming out soon?) Click here to see if Amazon is currently even cheaper.
I think at either price point, it positions itself in the mid to high-end range and I think it offers a lot of bang for the buck.
Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II Review | Conclusion
Overall I liked the Lowepro Protactic BP 450 AW II. If I was looking for a large backpack that would carry a ton of gear, and be great at even the most rugged locations, this would definitely be a great choice.
However, if I was looking for a bag that I wanted to carry around for days while I traveled and hiked, this bag would need to be packed lighter, or adjusted in a way that it fit better.