I'll admit it, I didn't quite "get" the whole buzz about the Lowepro Slingshot line. And considering that until recently, most of the bags were on the smaller side, I was OK with that, since I'm the sort of photographer who lugs a ton of gear along with me.
But then Lowepro released the Slingshot 300 AW (street $99.00), a bag big enough for a DSLR (or two) and a handful of lenses. Being in the market for a new bag as I am, I was excited to see whether this new concept in gear-toting really lived up to the hype.
The Slingshot series, if you're not familiar, fall somewhere between a backpack and a photojournalist bag. They have one wide shoulder strap and a waist belt for stability while walking long distances. The safety clips over the main compartment zipper can be pulled to move the bag swiftly from your back to your front. From here, the zippered main compartment is easily accessible for pulling out a camera or switching a lens.
Before loading up the bag for a recent trip to the Bahamas, I took the Slingshot home on the train one night loaded with some cameras to test. At first I wasn't impressed. My initial reaction was that this bag might be good for long-haul hiking, but for quick and easy on and off the shoulder, as is necessary in mass transit in rush hour, it wasn't cutting it. The bag hung sideways in a clumsy manner, and was not really comfortable.
As it turns out, I still didn't quite "get" how this whole bag works. For carrying on one shoulder for a short while, such as in check-in line, you've got to feel like you're putting the bag on your right shoulder backwards. Then it sits comfortable. Do it "forwards" and it sits clumsily. Lesson learned. I was finally beginning to get it.
For longer periods of time, it's a bit strange at first to wrap this bag around you. You have to thrust your left arm skyward and sort of wiggle into it. Once it's comfortable, attach the waist belts to balance the load and you're good to go. After about ten times, it feels perfectly natural.
As for getting the bag off, that's easy. Just hold the shoulder strap firmly and unclip it, and the bag is free; you don't have to do the reverse wriggling routine.
The next thing I learned was how to pull it around to the front for easy gear access. Grab that zipper-top strap with your right hand, around your left side, and give a gentle pull. The bag then easily slides around. Don't try pulling the shoulder strap with your left hand and sliding the bag over your right shoulder, as I did several unfruitful times.
Once I got the feel for how to use the bag properly, I still had concerns over the size and layout. It's got a deep rectangular main compartment, and a semi-circular wedge compartment atop that. Interior dimension are listed as 11.8" x 6.5" x 11.8". Would this really be big enough to carry all my gear to the Bahamas, and most importantly, would it fit in the miniscule overhead compartment on a small puddle jumper?
The answer to the second question is, thankfully, yes. It just squeezed into the tiny overhead space on the 25-seat plane. If you've ever taken a prop-liner puddle jumper from one island to another, you'll really appreciate this.
Did it fit my gear? Yes, and then some. By my standards, I was traveling light.