One of the problems of owning a long lens (besides paying for it...) is how to
carry it around. You can of course carry it in a large backpack, but I find that
I really don't want to haul more weight than I have to and some of the larger
backpacks can weight 8-12lbs. Several companies, for example Domke and Lightware
make a line of long lens bags, but you carry them using a shoulder strap. These
bags are fine for storing a lens, or carrying it a short distance, but after a
few miles hiking in the field with a 6-12lb lens in the bag hanging off one
shoulder, you'll soon see why you need a better way to carry the lens around.
So what's the alternative? Well, when I had a 600/4 and a Domke bag, I used an
alpine style backpack in which to carry the Domke bag! The system worked, but
carrying a bag in a bag is overkill, plus it wasn't easy to rapidly remove and
replace the lens from the inner bag. There is the Scopepack, originally designed
for birders to carry a large spotting scope and tripod in the field, but now
adapted for use as a lens bag. It's basically a long tube with a backpack harness
plus a couple of external pockets. You can find a discussion of this bag in the
Over the last few years a new scheme has emerged, first from Kinesis, and
later from Lowepro. This is a modular system. Their long lens bags are designed
to attach to both a shoulder harness and a waist belt. This gives you the best of
both worlds. A simple bag with shoulder strap when you aren't going far, a bag
with a good harness and belt when you're hiking in the field. In addition these
systems allow you to attach further bags to the belt and pockets to the long lens
The Kinesis L525
The Kinesis L525 is designed to hold a 400/2.8, 500/4.5 or 500/4 lens with a
body (and maybe even a TC) attached. It is unique in that the 1/2" thick
closed-cell foam liner of the bag can be removed and the bag folded flat to fit
in a suitcase for travel. These days, as airlines impose stricter and stricter
restrictions on what counts as "carry on" luggage, this can be an important
feature. Another good point about the L525 is that it is light, weighing only
1.25kg (2.75 lbs). Kinesis also make a non-collapsable bag for 500mm lens, the
L520, which weighs in at 4.5 lbs. Personally I'd prefer the lighter bag even if I
didn't need to fold it flat. I switched from a 600mm lens to a 500mm lens and
from an aluminum tripod to a carbon fiber tripod to lighten my load, so I'm not
inclined to add back weight in a camera bag unless I absolutely have to! The L525
is well padded and quite rigid when assembled. You wouldn't even know it was a
collapsable bag at first sight. The bag itself has a detachable shoulder strap
and a non-detachable carrying handle. The belt and shoulder harness are extras,
available in several sizes to ensure a good fit for any photographer. This isn't
a "one size fits all" system, which is good since those systems rarely, if ever,
fit anyone properly! The K250 harness and B108 belt which I used with the L525
are quite comfortable and well padded. The total weight of the L525, K250, B108
and A442 pouch (see below) is 1.73kg (3.8lbs).
Left to right: L525, Canon EF500/4.5L+2xTC+EOS-1n, A442,
Canon EF80-200/2.8L (click on photo for a larger version).
A Kinesis A442 padded pouch is supplied as a standard accessory with the bag.
Like the other parts of the system it can be attached to or detached from the
L525. It measures 9"h x 7.25"w x 3"d and has enough room to carry an SLR body
plus film, a TC and extension tube. The pouch is big enough to carry a Canon
EF80-200/2.8L lens + film, though you couldn't get a body in there with it. It
won't take a Canon EF300/4L though.
The L525 also has two unpadded drawstring pouches on the sides.
These are quite large and can hold a 80-200/2.8 or 300/4 lens, though since
they aren't padded you might want to put the lens in a padded bag before putting
it in the pouch. One minor design complaint here though. If you attach the waist
belt, the straps run across the bottom of the pouch, so you lose about 3" in
depth, dropping from 10" deep to 7" deep, which makes carrying the bigger lenses
difficult (see the photo to the right - click on it for a larger version).
The bag itself measures about 20" x 8" x 8" inside, so there's plenty of room
for any 400 or 500mm lens with a body attached (see first photo above). You can
even fit most 600/4 lenses in the bag, though the body may have to go in the
external padded pouch. There's actually a lot of room around a Canon
EF500/4.5L (the lens I carried in the L525). It would be nice if there were some
means of holding the lens in place so it didn't move around in the bag. Maybe in
the next version?
There are a few nice design touches which show that thought has gone into the
design of the bag. For example the lid fastens via a buckle, but there is also a
velcro strip so it can be sealed when traveling in dusty or sandy conditions. To
avoid wearing out the velcro when it's not needed, Kinesis supply a mating velcro
strip which covers one of the surfaces so that the lid opens and closes using
only the buckle. The lid can be completely removed when desired.
There's also a small zippered pocket in the lid which can be used to hold lens
tissues, notebooks, maps etc.
The L525 is a well designed, well constructed bag for long lens. The optional
harness and belt convert the bag into an excellent backpack for field use. Anyone
looking for a way to carry a long lens should certainly put this bag on their
list. You can find more information on the L525, belts, shoulder harnesses and
other products on the