Discreet is the name of the game with camera bags these days. Not long ago, photo bags were all about bright colors, noisy Velcro straps and sling-style builds that swung around in front of you like a one-armed BabyBjörn so you could quickly get to your gear.
That’s not to say those conspicuously photo-centric camera bags don’t exist anymore. But urban photographers have discovered that you don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself when you’re schlepping your pricey gear across crowded sidewalks or onto packed subways. For these types of photographers, there is the very discreet Lowepro Urban Reporter.
A messenger-style shoulder bag with a soft but structured build, the Urban Reporter doesn’t look much different from the black satchels you see city commuters carrying every day on public transit. And that’s the point.
I like this bag. I really do. But it’s boring-looking. (Maybe that’s why I like it?) I don’t mean it’s not stylish. It is very chic in a discreetly tasteful, urban kind of a way.
The Urban Reporter comes in basic black and three sizes: the 150, 250 and 350 models. I tried out the 250 because it seemed to suit this bag’s Goldilocks style: not too big, not too small. In other words, it was juuust right.
The bag is made from soft, brushed, canvas-like nylon that looks classy and feels luxurious to the touch. There are also accents of leather here and there, including on the snap closures on the cover flap, and on the grab handle. The snap closures, while good for security purposes, took some getting used to. When you’re in a hurry, the one or two seconds spent unsnapping them so you can get to your gear can feel like a lot. They’re preferable to the attention-drawing sound of ripping Velcro but I would have preferred a quicker option.
When slung over your shoulder, the Urban Reporter has very nice, anti-slip padding on the strap so the bag stays in place as you plow through the teeming masses on the way to your assignment.
In the Urban Reporter 250, I could fit a pro digital SLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached and a bunch of other essential photo gear including extra lenses (even a 70-200mm f/2.8), batteries, portable hard drives, flashes and lens cloths. Meanwhile, there’s a separate padded slot where you can slide in up to a 13-inch laptop. There’s also a sleeve on the back you can use for flat storage, or unzip at the bottom to slide the bag over the handles of a rolling luggage bag at the airport. One gripe: The Urban Reporter 250 doesn’t have any dedicated slots for memory cards, so be careful with those.
Along with being a handy photo bag, the Urban Reporter converts to a regular day bag via a neat trick: the fully padded and adjustable camera insert is completely removable. So if you want to take a day off from being a photographer (and who doesn’t sometimes?), just yank the gray insert out, put in a couple of beach towels and a novel, and head to the shore.
The Bottom Line
Attention urban photographers: Lowepro has a discreet new messenger-style camera bag that will help you haul your gear to your next assignment without drawing too much attention to yourself (or to your pricey gear). Called the Urban Reporter, this handy, small-job photo bag quickly converts to a regular shoulder carrier when you want to take the day off and hit the beach.
Pros: A comfortable, handy messenger-style photo bag that won’t draw attention to your gear
Cons: Kind of boring-looking
Price: $139; www.lowepro.com