LowePro ProTactic 450 AW Review

February 10, 2018

Like most people, I’ve spent a larger amount of money than I dare to admit on bags. There’s just no bag that works for all situations. A couple of years ago I needed to bring with me not a large amount of gear, but a considerable amount, for a trip. This included; My Canon 5D (with grip), my Sony A7 (with grip), Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 and a couple of other lenses. I needed to fit everything in one bag, and that bag would have to be used during the trip as well, i.e. I would have to be able to carry all of the gear and work out of the bag.

Lowepro protactic 450AW bag in snowy forest

After some looking around I decided to go for the LowePro ProTactic 450AW – the largest of the ProTactic series.

The biggest problem with most larger camera bags is that they either go full camera, in other words, it’s only made for camera gear. Or then the camera part is an after-thought, only having space for basically one camera with one lens. The ProTactic is basically camera only, but with the PALS webbing, your able to augment the bag to whatever you need.

The PALS webbing does work well, but it’s not the standard webbing, but instead a weird mixture between PALS and LowePro’s own SlipLock – which is honestly just a really bad version of PALS. But you are able to weave in MOLLE attachments, albeit not perfectly.

The ProTactic 450’s PALS/SlipLock webbing.

Something that I kind of like with the bag is that it’s structurally very stiff, it holds its form very well. Though I’ve noticed that this is also a pretty big con with the bag. When loaded heavy the backside of the bag can not follow the contour of the wearer’s back, which makes it very uncomfortable, like wearing a sheet of very heavy plywood on your back. This gets even worse if you have a laptop in the bag.

The bag also comes with a waist belt that should help out with heavy loads, but it’s just too thin to actually take any of the weight.

There’s a single laptop sleeve inside of the bag, which fits just perfectly a 15″ Macbook Pro. I honestly think they’ve designed it for it – it fits like a glove. The main issues that I’ve encountered is the aforementioned problem with stiffness, but also that the canvas from the sleeve usually gets in the way of the main compartment’s zippers. I’ve actually derailed one of the zippers exactly because of this problem.

I’ve modded my bag by spray-painting my last name on the top cover.

The size of the bag is perfect as a carry-on, even if you’ve got a couple of smaller MOLLE pouches weaved to it. I’ve so far flown with it on ATR-72‘s and on Boeing 737‘s, and I’ve had no problem with storing the bag underneath the seat in front of me, or in the overhead luggage compartments – though it was a tight squeeze in the ATR-72.

All in all, I think the bag is quite good for what it is, a camera bag. It features three quick access ports for fetching a camera either from both of the sides, or from the top (the top being my absolute favorite). It’s also possible to lay down the bag on the floor, and zip up the back panel for complete access to anything in the bag. My main gripes with the bag is that it’s kind of uncomfortable, it’s not very good at storing non-photography items, and the it is way over-priced.

Lowepro protactic 450AW bag in passenger seat of car

After owning the bag for roughly two years, would I buy it again if my current broke?

Probably not. But I have been, if not happy, pleased with the bag, it works well as long as you don’t overpack it (weight-wise). The top access is probably the best part of the bag. It gives you very easy access to the camera when the bag is not on your back.