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|| News Item: Posted 2000-10-31

Lightware Digital Backpack
The Solution for the Travelling Digital Sports Shooter

By Vincent Laforet, New York Times

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The Lightware Digital Backpack is the perfect solution for digital photojournalists who need to carry on all of their essential photographic and computer gear onto an airplane in one bag. What distinguishes this backpack from the competition, is it's ability to contain a complete photographic set, a computer kit AND a 300mm 2.8 ot 200mm 1.8 (without lens hoods) - and to do so comfortably.

Previous models, such as LowePro's Stealth backpack didn't impress me - I found that you could not really put everything that I needed in the bag and that there wasn't enough room for a 70~200 mm in particular, not to mention a lack of padding. The Lightware backpack improved on the design by splitting the bag into two halves - the front half for camera gear, and the back half for the computer kit.

In the front half there is ample room for: 2 digital Canon Bodies, 6 digital batteries, 8 AA batteries, a 14mm 2.8, a 17~35mm 2.8, a 70~200mm 2.8, and either a 300mm 2.8 or 200mm 1.8. (There is room for a second strobe if you want to put it in the soft case so that it doesn't rub against the lenses in the base of the bag.)

In the back half you can fit a PowerBook with an additional battery, an additional expansion drive such as a DVD-Drive or expansion internal hard drive, the rather big digital battery charger set from Kodak, the PowerBook AC Adapter, a modem card or two, and phone lines and additional gadgets that fit in the PowerBook pouch zippered section, which is included with the backpack.

At the base of the front camera section there is a foam "box" that not only provides excellent "crush or banging" protection for the lenses but also allows the bag to stand up on its own. It is very easy to quickly remove the PowerBook from the bag while it is still standing - simply unzip the rear zipper and pull out the laptop, you can leave the bag with flap open as is, no need to lay it down.

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Lightware has also ensured that the backpack is comfortable and very durable with additional padding and a great rubber handle. Also included is a front zipper flap in which you can put a few pens, plane tickets, film bags, security cords, an AC extension cord, a cell phone cigar charger etc. There is also a red elastic cord in the front for last minute inclusions, straps on the side for a monopod, and an included name tag which fits in a slit sown on the bag.

With all of this, the bag weighs in at close to 38 pounds fully loaded - and it is as comfortable as 38 pounds will ever be on your back. The bag is remarkably well balanced and it forces your back to stay straight with nothing poking into it or causing any discomfort. However, unless you are travelling on a championship series you will rarely need to carry all of this equipment at once. But if you need to, especially if you can and must only bring one bag onto a plane - this bag is the solution. The bag easily fits in all overhead spaces, even M-80 or small overhead spaces. It does protrude from the space under the seat in front of you, but it will fit in between your legs in a moment of desperation.

This is by far the best bag I have ever owned. Less than two days after receiving it, I wrote a congratulatory e-mail to Lightware - something I have never done before for any product. It is also the perfect solution for a digital shooter. I used to carry all of my camera gear in a Tamrac rolling case and my computer kit in a backpack. I would then carry long lenses in Lightware cases. Therefore after a football game I would look like a walking Christmas tree, barely able to fit in through doors...I also shoot both sports and news assignments - the rolling case did not lend itself well to moving around easily in New York streets or crowds.

Now I have all of my essential gear INCLUDING computer gear in the Lightware backpack, I have put a 400mm and either a 200mm 1.8 or 300mm 2.8 in the old Tamrac rolling case and still have room for magic arms, a 28~70 and rain covers for the lenses. Therefore I can quickly run off to a breaking news situation with just the Lightware backpack.

If I need to shoot a sports assignment I can then either take a long lens on my shoulder, or roll out the Tamrac case with the backpack sitting atop of it. With the rolling case and the Lightware backpack, or just two bags, I have everything I need for almost any sports assignment.

This bag is so versatile that you can chose to put additional lenses and bodies in the computer half instead of the Kodak digital battery charger and PowerBook battery etc.

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Take the computer out altogether and I can see you fitting two magic arms and remote sets and cords for example (given that these aren't flat it probably won't be as comfortable on your lower back). What is amazing is how comfortable the bag is fully or partially loaded. And it really isn't that big. It's roughly the length of a 400mm 2.8 mounted on a body, and almost a deep as the Tamrac rolling case (it fits in the airline template fully loaded.)

I also own a LowePro Trekker AW backpack (the really big one) and it is much bulkier and less comfortable (I always felt like I was going to tip over at any moment when wearing that bag. This design of the Lightware backpack spreads out the weight, with the majority of it at the base of the bag.)

I plan on taking this bag on vacation with me over the next few weeks, with the PowerBook and one digital body, a Leica, three lenses and a strobe. The bag will be light enough to carry around and will allow me a lot of space for books, CDs, a CD player and a shirt or folded windbreaker. This versatility, along with the adequate padding, durable materials, excellent balance contribute to what may be the best bag yet.

(Vincent Laforet is a staff photographer with the New York Times. He formerly worked for Allsport in Southern California.)

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