Gear Review: Lowepro S&F Series

Since 1998 Lowepro has had a belt-and-vest modular carrying system for photojournalists and event photographers who needed hands-free and minimalist access to their gear in dynamic environments. With your lenses and everything strapped to you instead of in a shoulder bag, you can actually carry more stuff for longer periods of time because the weight is distributed around your shoulders and waist rather than just one shoulder, and its much more accessible than a backpack. It’s kind of the ideal way to carry gear, but most people don’t do it because it’s either too intimidating or they don’t want to look like, well, an event photographer.

Like a bawse. And that’s me, on the left, with the camera. Shooting Red Bull’s King of the Rock in Atlanta. Photo by Gareth Nichols

I’ve always liked the look personally. Ever since I saw a shirtless Christian Pondella strap an old S&F Light Utility Belt and jump off a cliff at Red Bull Flugtag, I’ve been rocking the S&F. And anyway, these days shooting with a goofed-out birds nest DSLR video rig disqualifies you from worrying about how you look so I don’t want to hear any shit from you multimedia shooters.

I digress. The new Lowepro S&F Series is out this year. A lot of refinements from an already venerable system. The vest (I use the Tech Vest) fits better and is more adjustable. Either belt works well but I use the Deluxe Technical Belt. The variety of pouches and gadget bags fit pretty much anything you will need to carry: lenses, camera body, audio gear, water bottle, iPhone. The Lens Exchange Case is particularly well designed for quick but safe access to lenses. There is also a backpack that neatly stores the whole kit.

The Audio Utility Bag is a really cool new product that deserves a complete review of its own – check the website, there is plenty of video on it.

If the constellation of accessories is overwhelming, they have three different “kits” that you can buy: Sports Photographer, Event Photographer, and Multimedia Photographer. That is a good way to start, then add more later.

Though I am not an event photographer per se, I do shoot a lot of Red Bull assignments which take me to exotic locations like Nashville and Tampa. It’s nice to not have to yo-yo a shoulder bag all day, and you can focus on shooting. The way the new vest fits, it’s also great for climbing photography, minus the waist belt. Not because you need instant access all the time but because you simply cannot hang a bag off your shoulder and you end up rope-hauling bags and hanging them near or under you which slows things down. It would be awesome to see a S&F belt that doubles as a climbing harness but that customer base is pretty small.

A note about this system: don’t try to carry too much. The whole point is to go minimal. It’s not a portable studio, and there is no pouch for a laptop or an assistant leash. This is for the lone wolf on ninja missions. It’s what Capa should have worn for his Cordoba junket rather than lugging around that Mexican Suitcase. It’s also great for weddings since it only comes in black and hey you’ll be shooting with that video DSLR anyway.

If you are in the Atlanta area you can try on and buy the entire S&F Series at Showcase Camera.

Here are some images from that Red Bull King of the Rock one-on-one basketball tournament. All images (c) Andrew Kornylak / Red Bull Media House. Please don’t download them from here. If you would like to use these or other shots from the event, they are freely available to the media for editorial use at


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