By Curtis Joe Walker
Roller bags are all about maximum capacity, since there’s no concern about breaking the user’s back. The primary design challenge is making the bag small enough to use as a carry-on, yet large enough to hold everything while maintaining enough padding to keep things secure while traveling. The Lowepro Pro Roller x200 manages to meet every requirment. The new Pro Roller x-Series features x100, x200 and x300 sizes, with the x100 and x200 being small enough to meet carry-on restrictions.
This bag sports a number of innovative features, but the most interesting is the ability to zip out the entire camera organization compartment for use as a backpack. The Reserve Pack is convenient not only for lugging gear on location, but also for making the outer case available to use as a normal piece of luggage. Of course, the backpack is only a backpack in the barest sense of the word. Ergonomics are limited, and the straps are quite thin. It’s not meant to replace a dedicated backpack, but to add some functionality in a pinch or for hiking to a location where a roller bag would be inconvenient or impossible to use. It also allows for a second suitcase to magically appear should souvenirs unexpectedly overwhelm the rest of your luggage.
A TSA-approved Lock & Go System combination cable lock ensures that the contents of the bag won’t be swiped by a quick-fingered zipper maestro, but doesn’t have enough slack to chain the bag to a luggage cart or other suitcase.
On the extending handle grip, there’s a set of hidden threads for the impromptu tripod mount to attach to. Using the handle as a tripod isn’t ideal, but it’s a nice touch that might save the day. It also has potential for use as a light stand.
On the back of the bag is a kickstand so the contents can be accessed in a semi vertical position. This saves space and eliminates a tripping hazard in poorly lit areas.
The bag has two ways to attach a tripod to it. The first, and most secure, is by using the SlipLock tie downs on the side of the bag. Alternately, you can attach it to the front of the bag using the hideaway tripod attachment point (below the external pocket) and the attachment loop inside the roller handle compartment. The attachment lanyard is just long enough to wrap around the neck of a medium sized tripod, but doesn’t hold it as securely as possible. By attaching it to the side, this problem is eliminated. Small tripods and extra large ones probably won’t work at all.
Empty, the bag weighs in at 12.8 lbs. This grew to 50lbs by the time it was fully loaded with 2 bodies, a host of lenses, tripod, 15-inch laptop and accessories. Pushing or exceeding the limits for checking, but possible to sneak by as a carry-on in my experience. The bag is deep enough to accommodate pro DSLRs and medium-format bodies. Stacking three small 5-section light stands like the Bogen Nanos was possible too, at the cost of lens storage space. The interior is infinitely configurable with the plentiful Velcro dividers. Overall build quality is quite good, and the bag is built to survive the rigors of travel. Its wheels are replaceable, the handles are well padded with neoprene, the zippers are robust, and the roller handle is appropriately sturdy.
Another nice feature of the bag is that it doesn’t scream “steal me.” Yes, it has a Lowepro logo on it, but other than that, it’s a fairly nondescript black wheelie bag. Unless there’s a tripod mounted on it, it’s virtually identical to the myriad other bags rolling around the airport.
The bag does have some downsides though. For instance, the laptop compartment is only lightly padded, and the interior nylon may be abrasive to the finish of some notebooks. It’s also a bit tight to get the computer in and out of the pocket and might slow things down at the security checkpoint, depending on which notebook you have. Another point to consider is that when the bag is in backpack mode, the built-in security lock system stays with the roller portion.
Test load included:
Mamiya RB67 w/120back and 3 lenses
Sekonic L558 light meter
Nikon D80 w/4 lenses and three flashes
16 AA batteries
15-inch Laptop w/charger
5 rolls of 120 film with room for more
Manfrotto 190xprob tripod w/head
Accessories (flash cards, spare batteries, filters, etc.)