Pfft. I'm a professional. I don't spend my time sipping lattes in Chelsea. A well-appointed satchel, yes, but I needed a hardcore bag to schlep a bunch of camera crap around miles of mean streets,
full of crazy characters and people constantly trying take my money. That's
right, I was headed to Disney World.
iBlivious. You would be miffed too, if you knew how much this character lunch cost.
The Classified is sort of like
a Magnum AW (my other favorite camera bag) sewn onto a laptop bag, with
a top zipper for camera access and a giant flap that conceals a bunch
of other pockets. The styling is sleek and understated. I opted for the largest size Classified (250), big enough for a pro DSLR and a gang of lenses,
or a medium format rig. It also fits a 15" Macbook Pro, and the odd
hidden beer, not that I would have brought either of those things into
This bag looks dynamite. Discreet and stylish. IMO the best looking bag to come out of Lowepro. Enough said about that. Let's talk performance.
A few things I liked right off the bat. The bag is very well-balanced and contours well on your body, but the inner sanctum is still well-padded for camera gear and keeps its shape. It's deeper than the average camera bag, which is nice when you need to stack lenses (I always do anyway) or through your saddled-up DSLR back in the bag real quick with the lens hood still attached. The main zipper, with big, stiff pull-tabs on either end, is smooth and easy to use one-handed. Since the zipper is on the flap rather than under it, you aren't in danger of the whole thing turning over or falling open if you pick it up by the carrying handles with the zipper open.
My 15" MBP fits perfectly in the inner sleeve, and those concealed pockets I mentioned are well-designed. A key ring and plenty of velcro and overlap keeps necessary valuables save and hidden, but still easily accessible. The 250 in particular, even full of camera gear, is cavernous enough to stuff a jacket, a change of clothes, or say, another camera inside.
They nailed some details on this one, like built-in lens cloths on the dividers, and a great ID sleeve which will fit oversized cards takes the place of the standard annoying slipknotted hangtag. One side panel is soft and fuzzy inside for an iPhone or Blackberry. Then of course there is the ubiquitous waterproof condom hidden inside the back to cover your bag when you just had to bring it on the water ride.
I usually cut off or immediately throw away anything non-essential from my bags. The Classified suffered only two casualties. The included CF card pouch is a nice touch, but those hard cases Lowepro makes are so much better as to render this meaningless. The 3-point stabilizing strap hanging off the shoulder strap is useful of maybe you are running or biking with the bag, but other than that it just gets in the way. I think I lost it already. The shoulder strap has a small flap that is supposed to help keep your camera's strap in place. It doesn't work, even if my strap were thin enough for it. I didn't cut it off though, since it looks nice.
I'm a little mystified by the lack of end pockets. With the bag over one shoulder, that's the quickest place to store essential gear, spare change, or especially a water bottle, which I don't like throwing inside with the cameras. I think the shoulder strap, though comfortable, could be improved. I am a fan of shoulder strap pads that "float" along the length of the strap. That keeps the bag stuck to your shoulder even when you are swinging it around your body. The zipper pull-tabs can interfere with the shoulder strap when you pick it up, causing it to tilt slightly. It's never caused a real problem, but it bugs me.
Overall the Classified lives up to its billing as a "hardworking bag specifically designed for the hardworking photojournalist." It's a nearly perfect bag, and right now it's what I keep my working gear in the majority of the time, for both assignments and casual shooting. I might even get another smaller one for that next trip to Disney.