For months, I’ve searched for a hybrid backpack to fulfill my needs as a casual photographer. I was sick of switching back and forth between two bags—one for my day-to-day items (laptop, notebook, gym clothes), and one for my photo gear. However, every solution I tried failed. Camera bags could hold my laptop, but I found myself stuffing my gym clothes into camera inserts, not to mention that they’re typically very dorky and conspicuous. Streetwear backpacks, on the other hand, look great, but I was forced to leave my camera loose at the bottom of the bag, a huge problem for those of us who aren’t gentle with our gear. And messenger bags, admittedly, just aren’t my thing. But all of this changed when I got my hands on Lowepro’s new Streetline BP 250 backpack.
Released earlier this week, the BP 250 is designed for the stylish commuter and traveler. It looks similar to your common streetwear bag, such as those made by Herschel or Incase, but what sets it apart is its removable “Flexpocket” insert, which can hold a camera, lens, and similarly sized items. In addition, there’s a laptop and notebook sleeve (it’s designed for a 13-inch laptop, but I stretched mine to fit my 15-inch no problem), and its vertical organization provides space for my precious gym clothes to sit snugly beneath the inserts. And the best part? It looks damn good, and is arguably more unique than the typical subway-platform-accessories that cling to the shoulders of the urban workforce. There is also very little indication that photo gear may be stored inside of it, which is important for people like me who often walk home through relatively sketchy neighborhoods on the late night.
However, though it’s by far the best hybrid photo bag I’ve encountered, I do have some criticisms. First off, I find the smaller pockets to be just that: small and very, very thin. There is little room to fit anything other than pens, wallets, business cards, memory cards, etc. Secondly, the side “umbrella pocket” is frustrating. On standard photo bags, that space is generally used to carry a tripod. But on the BP 250, although you could easily store a small tripod in place of an umbrella, the sleeve only runs about four inches up the side of the bag. From there, you’re left with two straps to hold your tripod in place, leaving the bulk of it exposed. This diminishes the concept of disguising a camera bag as a backpack, despite ample room for a longer, more concealing tripod sleeve.
Nonetheless, if you can get past these nit-picky grievances, I promise you won’t be disappointed. These criticisms are nothing compared to what I could say about most—if not all—of the other options out there.
Other features include a charcoal gray weather-resistant exterior, leather handles, and my personal favorite: an easy-access side zipper, which lets you quickly grab the items stored beneath the inserts. The shoulder straps are also super comfortable and feel very natural. So many backpacks these days are equipped with short and wide shoulder straps—if you’re at least 6 feet tall you know exactly what I mean. The bottom of the straps end up falling just over your trapeziuses, which causes them to slide down your shoulders with every step you take. But with the BP 250, the straps curl right under your chest, holding the bag firmly in place. It’s incredibly comfortable.
And yet, given that I’ve only had the bag for about a week, I can’t speak on its durability. As far as I can tell, though, it feels pretty sturdy—there is a thick rubber outer lining on the bottom, and the zippers and buckles seem to be made with the quality we’ve come to expect from Lowepro products. The price point is reasonable, too: $199.95, falling right between the cost of a well-built traditional backpack and a reliable camera bag.
All in all, I would call the BP 250 the best in its category. It’s one of those simple products that fill a simple need that has been simply neglected. But will it stand the test of time? We’ll just have to wait and see. Like I said, I’m far from gentle with my gear.
The biggest selling point of this bag is who it’s intended for: the casual urban shooter who likely works a day job and enjoys taking pictures on the go. Pro photographers would presumably choose a devoted camera bag over this hybrid model, as they tend to carry larger gear and much more of it. However, the Streetline BP 250 is super stylish and stands out among other streetwear bags for commuters. It’s also very comfortable and one of the first of its kind, while its only drawback is tripod and accessory storage. But hey, these are arguably very minor things to sacrifice for looking fresh as hell on the subway platform.