Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW camera backpack review

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review

Lowepro is well known for their high end photo gear. They have a wide variety of bag and backpacks to suit every photographers style and preference. Most of the Lowepro bag have a distinct photobag-look, you won’t fool anyone in thinking their bags being just a bag or backpack. That can’t be said for the Photo Hatchback series. The backpack looks like a high end hikers backpack, with a sleek and modern look. Lets find out if Lowepro has managed to combine the stealthy look with all the stuff a photographer needs in an all round camera backpack.

In a way this backpack looks is a little like a mash-up between the Tenba Shootout 24L and the F-Stop Tijuana I’ve reviewed earlier. It has got a smaller camera compartment combined with an extra compartment for personal affects like the F-Stop Tijuana. But it is also built with smart details like you’d find on a hikers backpack just like Tenba has done with their Shootout series. Mix those two backpacks, shrink the result a little, paint it blue and what your left with is the Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review
Light and small enough for a day-trip by bicycle

The Photo Hatchback 16L AW

Like I said the Photo Hachback doesn’t look like the typical camera backpack. It’s got fancy lines on the front that make the bag look smaller than it really is. Lowepro has used several different materials on the bag to accent the lines and make it look more modern. On the central section of the front of the bag they have used a shiny material that feels a bit like the stuff high end kites are made of. They have added a cool looking Lowepro logo across the main section. The logo looks like it has been printed on years ago and has started wearing off a bit. I really like the look of that. My Photo Hatchback is blue, but there also is a bright red version and a more stealthy black one.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review

The bag is very light when empty. It’s built with materials that don’t weigh much, but do feel sturdy and durable. Only using a bag for a long time can tell you if it is a durable as it feels, but my experience with other Lowepro bags give me the feeling this bag will do fine for years and years of active use.

At the top of the bag you’ll find a zipper that gives you access to a roomy front pocket with a padded divider. The front pocket is big enough to safely store a tablet. It fits my rather large Microsoft Surface 2, so it will surely fit a iPad or Android tablet. All the zippers Lowepro has used on the bag are high end YKK zippers with grey pull tabs.

Above the zipper for the tablet compartment you’ll find the main zipper for the large top compartment. This is designed to store your personal affects. In the top compartment you’ll find a few handy extra’s. It’s those little smart details that show you are dealing with a high end bag. For instance, at the front of the main compartment there are two flexible mesh nets that you can use to store smaller stuff you don’t want flying around in the big compartment.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review
Extra pockets in the top compartment

At the back of the main compartment there is a zippered compartment with enough room for a smartphone or wallet. In the compartment you’ll also find a clip to attach you keys, so you can’t lose them.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review
Extra pockets in the top compartment

The main compartment is big enough for some personal stuff for a day in the city or perhaps in nature. It certainly isn’t big enough as an overnight bag (unless you plan to travel with only a change of underwear and you toothbrush).

On both sides of the backpack you’ll find a stretchy mesh pocket. The pockets are big enough for a 0.5L water bottle or sunscreen bottle. You can also easily fit a small tripod like a gorilla pod in it. Because the stretchy material is strong enough to safely hold your tripod.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review
With my Gorilla Pod in the side pocket

On the back you’ll find the thick padded shoulder straps and the smart designed padding. The shoulder straps are lined with a mesh material to keep you cool and Lowepro has used the same material to pad the back. Because they have split the padding in three parts cool air can flow between the bag and your back. The mesh material is a little fragile in contrast to the rest of the bag, I accidentally scraped it with a Velcro tab of my coat causing it to damage a little. Luckily it is only optical damage, it doesn’t rip. You just have to keep it clear of rough materials. The straps themselves also have some smart details. There are two horizontal bands that you can use to attach small optional accessories like a pouch for a compact camera. On the shoulder straps there is a stabilizer with clips you can use to keep the shoulder straps from sliding from your shoulders. The stabilizer is attached to two sliders that can be used to adjust the stabilizer and make sure it fits every body size. This means the bag is very comfortable to wear.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review
Comfortable straps

On the bottom you’ll find the weather cover that gives the Lowepro Photo hatchback 16L its AW badge (All Weather), it’s stuffed in a compartment that is closed with Velcro tabs. The bag itself is made of water resistant materials, but for the really wet days the weather cover makes sure your gear will stay dry.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review
With the all weather cover, even protects my Gorilla Pod in the side pocket

The camera compartment

On the back you’ll find the zipper to access the camera compartment. I like the fact that the camera compartment is located on the back. This means people can’t get in the bag without you knowing it when you are wearing it. It also means the back doesn’t get dirty when you have to put it  down to take your gear out.

The main compartment on the 16L version isn’t very big, if you have a large DSLR or need to take more than two lenses (one on the camera and one extra), you should check out the 22L version of the bag. My A7 with kit lens fits, but with the hood attached it fills the whole compartment left to right. I still have room for a rather large extra lens (will fit my manual Minolta 135mm f2.8 or my Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 with the hood reversed). There is a small pouch to store a memory card on the inside of the hatch.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review

Lowepro supplies the bag with three dividers in different sizes. The only downside is that the sides of the compartment are made of a sleek synthetic material that can’t be used to attach the Velcro of the dividers. There are several strips of Velcro in the compartment, but you can’t adjust the placement of the dividers without limits like you can in some bags. That means it takes some extra time and thinking to get the dividers in the right place to store your gear. Unfortunately there is no side-hatch on the to grab your camera without zipping open the back of the bag, like you find on the Tenba Shootout.

The camera compartment is attached to the bag with Velcro. This means you can take it out of the bag in a matter of seconds. That leaves you with a roomy daypack. The really smart detail about the camera compartment is that it has got a flap with a pull rope you can use to close it up. So the compartment can be used to store your camera safely when it is out of the bag. It even has some handles to carry it around.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review
The camera compartment out of the bag

Conclusion

The Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L is a very comfortable backpack, all day comfort. It’s got enough room for personal affects and your camera with an extra lens. If you have a large mirrorless or DSLR camera like my Sony A7 the bigger 22L version might be a better fit. It works for my Sony A7, but it doesn’t have a lot of room to spare. If you have a smaller mirrorless camera like the Sony A6000 or similar the 16L will fit perfectly.

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 16L AW review

Pro’s

  • Nice design, looks like a hikers backpack instead of a camera bag
  • Built with durable materials
  • Compartment for personal affects, making it an ideal daytrip bag
  • Camera compartment opens from the back, for security and keeping the back clean
  • Very comfortable and can be worn all day without ruining your back
  • High quality bag for reasonable price (€129)

Con’s

  • Camera compartment is a little small (get the 22L version of you have a bigger camera)
  • Camera compartment isn’t as flexible as some other bags
  • No side hatch to quickly grab your camera

I’d like to thank Degreef & Partner for supplying me with the bag for this review.  Degreef & Partner is the Dutch importer of Lowepro and other high end photo brands like Joby and B+W. If you want to know more about Degreef & Partner, please check out their website at http://www.degreef-partner.nl/. For more information about the Lowepro photo gear use this (Dutch) link: http://www.degreef-partner.nl/lowepro-cameratassen.html.

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