Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II review

Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW review
Review

The LowePro ProTactic 450 AW II is the largest bag in the ProTactic range and it can fit a whole heap of gear. Lowepro says it can store up to two professional DSLR bodies, one with a 70-200mm lens attached.

It can also house up to eight additional lenses, flashguns, up to a 15-inch laptop and a wide range of accessories.

And what you can’t fit inside the ProTactic 450 AW II you can probably mount on the outside thanks to its webbed exterior that can hold cables, cards and other various items. More on that later.

The ProTactic 450 AW II is aimed at professional photographers, or seriously dedicated enthusiasts. The takeaway here is that the Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II is designed for those shoots and excursions where you want to take all of your gear. And we mean ALL of it.

At £259 / £270 RRP, it’s probably the most expensive camera backpack you’ve ever considered buying, but how many bags are built like Fort Knox and can store a complete kit? You can buy the ProTactic 450 AW II at Adorama and B&H Photo Video in the US, or Wex Photo Video and Park Cameras in the UK.

Let’s dive more into the features…

Features

I already mentioned above that the ProTactic 450 AW can hold two professional bodies (one with a telephoto lens attached), up to eight more lenses and your Mac, plus sundry accessories.

You’ll also find tripod clips, a bottle pouch, cinch straps, waterproof rain cover and a customisable interior.

There are four access points on the ProTactic 450 AW: the top, panels on both sides and via the back.

One of the Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW’s signature features is its SlipLock strap system which crosses the exterior of the bag in parallel horizontal rows. These flexible straps can expand to hold cables, memory cards and other small accessories flush to the outside of your bag where you can grab them quickly.

Internally, the ProTactic 450 AW measures 31.8 x 19.8 x 44cm, and its external dimensions are 34.8 x 27 x 48.8cm. The bag itself weighs 2.6kg.

Another nice benefit of investing in the ProTactic bags (whether it’s the 450 or one of the smaller bags in the range) is there is a range of modular ProTactic accessories you can buy separately for your bag.

The bag itself also include a utility pouch, rain cover and water bottle holder.

 

Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW review: build quality

Build Quality

One thing I look for in a camera bag for myself is one that holds its shape. I like rigidity in a camera bag. There’s something really reassuring about it, and the ProTactic 450 AW is like an Egyptian pyramid.

The walls and side panels of the ProTactic 450 AW are solid. They aren’t bending under the weight of your D5 and 70-200mm. You could stand a good pace away and give the bag a solid kick, and I believe all your lenses and sensors inside would be just fine. Not that I’ve tried, nor am I suggesting. But that’s just my impression!

Even the dividers are robust and take two hands for me to bend. The zippers and pulls are equally firm and reassuring. In the month or so I’ve lived with this bag I feel confident saying it’s one of the most exquisitely built backpacks I’ve used.

The shoulder straps may look thin, but they are thick and sturdy, as is the waist belt.

The material, which looks modern and luxurious, repels everything. Water beads up and rolls off. Even mud spray wiped straight off with the brush of a hand.

I think what I appreciate most about the ProTactic 450 AW’s build is not just the robustness but the creative use of space. You can fit so much into this bag that you’d think it is a giant Everest explorer-size rucksack, but it’s really not. It’s bigger than your average camera backpack, but not overly so.

I haven’t flown with the ProTactic 450 AW, but you can carry it on an airplane, and I am confident you could stow it safely under the seat in front of you. It’s a large bag in a medium-size body.

 

Performance

There’s a lot to like about the ProTactic 450 AW, which is testament to its staying power. This bag has sat in Lowepro’s line-up for a good number of years now, with fairly regular refinements.

The first major selling point is its space. This is a bag that can hold a complete kit for whatever job is at hand, whether it’s a wedding or a trek into the wilderness. I packed the ProTactic with a Nikon Z6 and a Panasonic GH5, plus lenses and other sundry items and never once felt like I didn’t have enough space. The opposite, in fact.

The dividers are sturdy and customisable, meaning I could tailor pockets to fit around odd-shaped items such as the Vuze XR 360 camera.

The shoulder straps are nice and comfortable, easily adjustable, and stay secure on your shoulders when you walk. The chest clip and waist strap also really help relieve some of the weight of carrying such a large kit on your back. I never once felt like a pack horse.

As well as comfort, the ProTactic makes it easy to access your gear. It sounds a minor thing, but the pulls on the zippers are large and easy to blindly hook a finger into when reaching around behind you.

I reshaped the interior so that I could keep my Nikon Z6 with 24-70mm mounted at the top of the bag for quick access. The GH5 sat at the bottom of the bag, which I use mainly for video.

My Nikkor Z 35mm f/1.8 sat in reach of one side access pocket, and in the other was a 360 camera.

While the ProTactic 450 AW is impeccably designed, one thing that does baffle me is that it doesn’t appear to stand up on its own. The bottom of the bag is curved slightly, which causes it to roll forward. I tried re-positioning my gear in different formations to no avail.

It’s not a huge deal. There is always a tree or a wall or something else to rest it against. But for such a solid bag with robust walls, I thought surely this would be that rare bag that reliably sits upright on its own.

Despite this, the ProTactic 450 AW has been a great host to my camera kit. I’ve re-shaped it for many different kits and groups of accessories, and it’s been wonderful. I must say, though, I didn’t use the outer elastic straps all that often. They have enough give and enough space to hold a surprising number of extra accessories, but I found I could always get everything I needed inside the bag.

Sure, I could put extra memory cards, a battery or a 360 camera on the exterior, but with the weather so unpredictable this time of year (at the time of writing it has rained non-stop for about two weeks here in south-west England) I would worry about them.

Verdict

The Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW really is a luxury bag that feels – and probably is – indestructible. It’s comfortable, robust and, most importantly, it can carry a HUGE amount of gear.

When Lowepro next updates the range it would be nice to see a flatter, sturdier bottom to help the bag stand better upright. But this is a minor niggle.

If you are a wedding photographer, in particular, or a jobbing photographer of any kind who needs to carry several bodies, lights and a range of lenses, the ProTactic 450 AW should be on your shortlist. It’s price tag may make some do a double-take, but rest assured it’s a worthy investment.

Summary
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Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW
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