Lowepro’s website lists the Classified Sling 220 AW’s capacity as 1-2 pro DSLR cameras with a 70-200mm zoom attached, 1-2 flashes, personal gear, accessories, and a laptop. Employing military packing strategies one could fit much more than this but you will find that you quickly reach a point of diminishing returns. This bag is not designed for heavy loads and trying to carry an overstuffed Classified Sling is not recommended. I personally would not want to carry more than one camera body if I plan to pack a few lenses and a speedlight. For street photography you could carry one DSLR, a mid-sized zoom, your favorite wide-angle lens and a 70-200mm. For events you still have plenty of room for your favorite portrait lens (mine is my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4) and a flash diffuser. Under this latter configuration you have just about reached the carry limit of this bag. Any more weight and the sling system starts to show its limitations.
OUT IN THE FIELD
I had a chance to take out the Classified Sling 220 AW recently on a flight to Houston, Texas and then on to the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station to shoot some stills and video footage for a promotional video project. This was the perfect opportunity to do some real world testing under the stress and pressure of a corporate shoot and air travel. I was stoked. On this trip I brought along a Nikon D7000 with an 18-105mm zoom, a 10-24mm zoom, a filter pouch containing a few ND Grad filters, a polarizer, and a step up ring. I was also bringing a carbon fiber tripod but I decided to pack that in my luggage and not carry it on the plane with me, so the tripod mount on the bag was not tested on this trip. It was also not necessary to bring along a laptop on this trip so the laptop pocket was not used.
I’ve traveled many air miles across America and overseas with many photopacks and to be frank it is never a pleasant experience. Aside from the issues of getting through flight security it is always difficult to get a photo backpack through the tight aisles of today’s airliners and then getting the bag up into the overhead compartment with all those dangling shoulder harnesses and straps. You also have to contend with the crowds at the terminal and trying to juggle your camera gear and your baggage. Can you tell I hate to fly? Fortunately, traveling with the Classified is a breeze. If you keep things sensible and not overstuff this bag getting through the crowded gates and down the plane aisle to your seat is relatively easy and you should have no problem stowing the bag in the overhead compartment.
Out on the campus of the university the Classified Sling design made it easy for me to set up to shoot some video B-roll footage with minimal effort. I never had to set the bag down as the main compartment was easily accessed and served as a convenient wind bracing station to mount the lens to the camera and get the lens caps off and stored in a secure place. When shooting all I had to do was zip up the closure and swing the bag back and away. The sling system works well as long as you remain upright or are on the move. If you need to bend over, say to set a tripod low to the ground for instance, the bag has a tendency to shift and slide forward. This will definitely be the case if the bag is loaded close to capacity. In this situation I recommend that you use the waist belt/stabilizing strap to keep the bag in place.
Testing this bag initially at home by filling it with different camera kits for a variety of hypothetical shooting situations I was pleased with the overall design of the Classified Sling 220 AW. In each of these exercises (street photography, events, photojournalism, discreet shooting, and as a day pack for short hikes in the field) I found that the bag can be a joy to use. The one thing that I do recommend is to avoid overloading it if you intend to lug it around for any length of time. Excessive weight is the enemy of this bag as it is obviously not designed like a heavy duty pack. Carrying a light to mid-weight kit is where this bag excels. I really like the fast action of the sling design and the easy access of the well thought out compartments. Inside the Lowepro adjustable padded dividers with their multilevel compartments really make this bag versatile. If you are the type of photographer who has the discipline to bring only the gear you need and can leave some of your equipment behind without breaking into a cold sweat then this bag is a great addition to your collection. It may not make you a better photographer but you will be moving smooth through the crowds and looking darn good while doing it. Highly recommended with the understanding of the weight limitations of this bag.
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