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Kinesis 520/500 vs LowePro S&F 600 AW

Bob Atkins , Jan 01, 2000; 07:46 p.m.

Has anyone had the chance to compare the LowePro F&S Lens Trekker 600 AW against the Kinesis 520 or 500 long lens bag?

The F&S has an adjustable lens stabilizer inside to stop the lens from "flopping around" (a problem I had with the Domke bag when I had one), plus it has an AW (all weather) cover and it costs about $100 less than the Kinesis. The harness/belt is also cheaper from LowePro, but it's had to tell much about quality and fit from catalogs. The Kinesis gear seems very well built, but then so does my LowePro Trekker! Both bags are about the same size.

Unfortunately I don't know of ANY store that has both systems in stock to try (which is something I'd always recommend others to do with any backpack). I'm about 6ft and I'm looking to carry a Canon 500/4.5L (maybe a 500/4L one of these days...!). Though the lens fits in the LowePro Trekker just fine, it won't fit with the camera attached, which is a bit of a pain at times, so I'm considering a bag like the ones discussed above. I'm not looking to hike long distances with the lens, just maybe carry it a mile or two from the car at times. Most of the time the bag will be used to store the lens or transport it via air or car.


Tom Hill , Jan 01, 2000; 09:31 p.m.


I just went through evaluating the same thing for my F5 and 500 AFS. It all started with a good article in Photo Life on the S&F system. Everything was very favorable about the system except for a comment on taking the system apart."The attachment system works so well that it was next to impossible to get the waisbelt out." That definately gave me a lot of concern about this system. I knew I was going to change mine around a lot and didn't want to be inconvienced. The largest LowePro bag I have is a Mini-Trekker so I knew what I was buying wasn't going to duplicate a capability I already had. So, my reasoning may not apply to you.

I'm 5'10" and when my bag is setup as a backpack it isn't the most comfortable thing. I don't have the Kinesis pack-frame. But, it easily will cover a couple of miles without too much trouble.

The Kinesis system uses a hook and loop system that's very simple to install and take apart. In a matter of minutes, I can change my system from a belt/harness substitute for a photo vest to a backpack carrying the 500 AFS. It's very flexible and I'm happy with it. Everything is well made. I've got a couple of suggestions on the multi-lens pouch but they'd be minor improvements. Overall, I'm very happy.

I bought the L525 because I wanted something I could pack down instead of the thicker padding L520. No, the L525 doesn't have an internal strap down system to prevent the lens from "flopping" around. However, there's about a 1/2 inch play with an F5 attached. If I want more stability, I can stuff something in there.

Hope this helps and good luck with your decision.

Tom Hill

Michael Mutmansky , Jan 02, 2000; 11:31 a.m.


I think you may want to check out Allen's Camera North of Philadelphia. (You do live in New Jersey, right?) They stock the entire line of Kinesis, and Le Camera in New Jersey has the LowePro system. They are about 30 minutes apart.

For the money, I feel the Kinesis system is better. Better support, better build quality. Like the previous poster, the Kinesis system seemed to be more easily adapted to my needs. One recommendation that I would make, think about getting the better backpack adaptor. I think that will make the system much more comfortable hiking, with all your geat strapped to it, including a heavy tripod (don't forget to make sure you have a good method to strap on of those on!).

When I get the funds together, I'll be buying a Kinesis system for myself.


Kim Biledgaard , Jan 02, 2000; 02:02 p.m.

"The attachment system works so well that it was next to impossible to get the waisbelt out." That's because there is a velcro-strip on the waistbelt that prevents the belt from slipping. First time I tried to get the belt out I used a lot of muscle with no result. Then I found out that I had to loosen the velcroband first - and voila - no problem getting the waistbelt and the backpack separated!

Richard Stum / Kinesis , Jan 04, 2000; 11:19 a.m.

The L525 is about the same weight and offers similar protection as the Lowepro case. One big difference is that the Kinesis L525 case folds flat so that if you have to check your lens as luggage, place the lens in a hard-side shipping case (i.e. Pelican, Halbiburton, Versaflex etc.), then place the collasped case in with your other checked luggage. Upon arrival, ressemble the L525 for daily use, leaving the (empty) bulky hard-side case in your hotel. The L520 case is in a league of its own. It is heavier than the L525 (4.5 lbs vs. 2.75 lbs.), but offers protection unmatched by any other shoulder bag on the market because of the PolyCore liner. Other comparisions between us and Lowepro (and other brands too) can be found on the Comparative Analysis of Our Competitors section of the Kinesis Web site.

John Merriman , Jan 09, 2000; 03:57 p.m.

I recently purchased the Lowepro S&F Lens Trekker 600AW, waist belt and shoulder harness to haul my 600mm lens around. The S&F 600 alone works well as protective lens bag and for carrying short distances. It is well padded and the combined zippered top and front panel goes half way down the front of the bag for easy access. The padded collar is easy to adjust around the small end of the lens to prevent the lens from shifting around in the case. It comes with a short handle and a separate padded removable longer shoulder strap that I can also use to carry the lens by itself. A tripod can be attached to the side of the bag as can any of the S&F lens cases, pouches and accessories. When you attach the waist belt and shoulder harness to the S&F 600 it becomes more like a backpack for carrying the 600 lens longer distances or to haul other lenses, gear, clothing, etc. And when you attach lens cases, various bags, pouches, etc. to the harness and waist belt it is like a combined backpack and vest. I like this combo better than my regular photo backpack because I can carry a camera, smaller lenses, filters, film, etc. up front and protected yet readily available without having to remove the backpack every time. I haven't hiked several miles with it yet, but loaded up for short walks it is comfortable. Just used alone as a case to protect and transport a big lens the S&F Lens Trekker 600AW seems very adequate. I definitely prefer it to the older Domke case I have been using.

I was concerned with the S&F 600 AW meeting the more stringent carry-on size restrictions plus I wanted to pack more than just the 600 lens as one of my carry-on allotments. So on a recent plane trip I put my 600f/4 in an inexpensive carry-on roller case (fortified with some ensolite padding) along with a camera, another lens and film. This also provides the benefit of not having to carry the big lens all over the airport - rolling is much easier. I also had a small carry-on backpack. I packed the S&F 600 AW Trekker in a checked suitcase stuffed with my tripod, clothes and other photo equipment. Everything worked well, I even got my suitcase delivered to my house after it "missed" the plane ride home.

I like the versatility of the S&F system. I also use the waist belt alone, or with the shoulder harness, and various S&F components as an alternative for a vest. I haven't used or been able to examine the Kenesis products so I can't provide any comparisons. I have heard they are well made products. The S&F pieces seem to be well made also and I was able to get several of the items at great prices which convinced me to try it. So far I am pleased.

John Merriman

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