Recent releases from Vanguard have seen the company push a new ethos, style and design. The old style camera bags have made way for some great looking kit, but it’s the Select range that really stands out.
The Select 49 is a stylish backpack that couldn’t be further from the traditional camera backpack if it tried.
High-quality materials are used for the outer ensuring that the contents within stay protected. The slim profile also makes it an excellent travel solution enabling it to slot quickly into overhead storage.
Inside the bag offers a surprising amount of room, with space for a 15-inch laptop, a CSC with telephoto, three lenses and a flash. Additional space is available for everyday items through the top zipped section.
In use, the side flap enables quick access to your kit, although the two carry handles that cover the top part of the opening are annoying.
Fully laden and the shoulder straps are a little lightweight for a day trek, and the waist belt is a strap rather than anything more robust to offer genuine support.
The Select 49 looks great and for use around town or urban trips between point A to B and it is an ideal solution. Just be careful of catching your camera on those handles when using the side access.
Camera Backpack / Vanguardworld.co.uk / £149 / $189 at time of review
The quest for the perfect camera bag is ongoing, but when it comes to style and size, the Vanguard Select 49 is near perfect.
Available in two colours; either black or green, the backpack is instantly striking for being different. It manages to have the same slim profile as those vintage style satchel backpacks without the retro design.
Stylewise the mix of materials looks excellent and the slim profile makes it an ideal choice for use around town, enabling you to stand on a crowded underground carriage without whacking those around you with a large and unwieldy backpack.
It looks more like a commuter bag than a camera bag, and there’s plenty of grab handles to make it easy to slot into overhead storage, under seats or wherever you need it to go.
There’s also a large slot inside for a 15-inch laptop so an ideal solution if you need to get on with some work on the train.
The Select 49 is versatile, but the design is very focused for a specific type of urban user, and for my London trips it was perfectly matched, but how will it fare beyond the City?
When first checking out the Select 49, it’s hard to believe that the slim profile has enough space in for a full camera kit, let along a laptop and a few more essentials.
Featuring a large central section accessible through the back, or partially through side access, there’s room enough for a CSC with telephoto, three small to medium lenses and a flash.
Then you can slot in a 15-inch laptop, MacBook Pro, into the back flap and there’s a further large cavity at the top of the bag.
On the front, there’s a small zipped pocket which is ideal for a passport or tickets, and then a more substantial dual access zipped flat pocket for paperwork, newspaper or smaller 13-inch laptop or tablet.
On the sides, you have an expandable pocket for a water bottle or tripod and on the other is that side access with two carry handles. The side access flap also features another zipped pocket for memory cards or other small items.
The external dimensions are 34 x 20.5 x 50.5cm so ideal as a carry on bag and internal dimensions of 29 x 12.5 x 49cm. The bag weighs in at 1.65kg and is available in green and black.
I’m looking at the Select 49, but there’s also the 41, 45M.
Build and Handling
The Select 49 is far from conventional, firstly as I’ve mentioned, it doesn’t look like a camera bag, and even when you realise it is, it looks far too slim.
In reality, there’s plenty of room with enough padding to make you feel like your kit is being adequately protected.
Opening the bag up and as with almost all rear access backpacks, the two shoulder straps need to be wrapped under the bag to enable the flap to be opened without obstruction.
Inside the main section of the bag is well laid out, plenty of room for kit and the side opening is positioned well so the camera can be withdrawn easily by the grip.
The other sections offer plenty enough room, and I stuffed a Canon EOS R with EF 24-70mm and R 24-105mm, a couple of drop-in filters and a Lee Filters kit for good measure. This left one small section spare for something else.
On the side, I slipped in the new Veo 2 Go and into the top a rain jacket despite the sun being out, and a dog bowl.
Everything fit in very neatly, and the strength and structure of the bag helped to keep the shape. It also felt more than sturdy enough to hold everything that was placed inside.
Zipping the bag back up and with a decent weight inside the strap and seams, all looked good and ready for action.
I started with a short walk from Old Sarum along the river to Salisbury city centre, about a half hour walk if you go at a pace or a couple of hours if you’re taking pictures and letting the dog swim along the way.
Before leaving and weighing the bag down with kit, I’d tested the shoulder straps and adjusted accordingly. It was apparent at this stage that the straps were relatively lightweight in the padding and the waist strap is just a strap with no padding whatsoever.
Putting the pack on, now weighed down, and the shoulder straps felt OK, you could feel the pull of weight, but there was enough padding to make it feel comfortable enough, add a 15-inch laptop and that weight may well become too much.
Once the hike had started those shoulder pads did their job, supplying the comfort required for a couple of hours walk. By the time I reached the City, I did feel I could have continued with the bag for a good few hours more if needed, but two hours was just about right.
Two features that highlighted here were the easy access tripod slot on the side of the bag and the side access for the camera.
The expandable side pocket, in combination with the VEO 2 Go, was an ideal combination. The small tripod balanced well on the bag and was easy and quick to access when needed. It also didn’t get in the way when I needed to access the bag in any way.
The second feature was the side camera access. The zipper flap was easy enough to handle with the bag swung around for access. However, the two grab handles covered the top section of the flap.
If you’re grabbing your camera out of the side access, it’s usually at speed to capture something interesting, a water vole, in this case, and the last thing you want is your camera catching on the straps.
This does one of two things; makes you swear loudly, which in turn sends the water vole diving for the water.
After a short time, you get to know the bag and these straps, and they’re easily avoided, but I think the best thing for them would be to cut them off neatly.
Another item that may as well be cut off is the waist strap; it’s too thin to be of any real use.
Arriving into the City and a quick coffee and cake and then on to take a few pictures around the Cathedral.
In the City the Select 49 comes into its own
I had to collect my MacBook Pro and take it to Stormfront for yet another fix, I’m now £150 worse off and the proud owner of a Mac Wireless keyboard and a MacBook Pro 2018 with sticking Keys. I’m not sure how that happened, but then that’s the Apple way.
The bag, however, took the MacBook Pro 15-inch without issue along with the rest of the kit. I spent another couple of hours in and around Salisbury and stopped to start this review, check email, fix the site and buy more coffee before heading off to the Old Mill and onwards home.
During the day’s test, I came to like Select 49; it has a real place as a serious camera bag with a particular use. The use is urban.
Since my trip to Salisbury I’ve been to London and Bristol and in each case left behind my usual bags and opted for the Select 49. Its size is ideal; it fits my kit and MacBook Pro with ease.
It’s comfortable enough for the length of time I’m carrying my bag, and it fits a small tripod to the exterior easily.
Getting to my kit when I need it is easy, and it provides plenty of external storage when I need it. Not only does it supply room, but it in itself is easy to store.
The slim design means that it easily slots into the luggage rack above my head on the train, or it can slip under my legs in a taxi. On the tube, it’s not too intrusive, and I’m not the one with the sizeable annoying rucksack whacking everyone.
Even the grab handles are useful, although I’d still have to cut the ones covering the side access as they make you swear loudly in crowds.
The Vanguard Select 49 is an exceptional bag that thrives in the urban environment. It’s the commuters photography bag with a wealth of features that make it slot into city life as well as a suit and tie.
The slimline design, stylish looks and high-quality materials all add up to one fantastic camera bag. It does have a couple of issues, and those are the pointless waist strap, either give me a waist strap that does something or don’t, and then there are the two grab handles that are useful but get in the way.
Both of these are mild issues, and if they do bug you, then the waist strap can be tucked away, and the handles quickly cut off.
Either way, they don’t detract from what is otherwise an excellent camera bag and an ideal option for urban photographers.