Like many photographers and outdoors enthusiasts I’m always on the lookout for the holy grail of camera bags. To me, the bag that I choose enables my style of photography, and is therefore almost as important as the camera itself. Some of the attributes which I evaluate closely include:
- Quick access: This is very important to me. There is no way I want to have to take off my pack and dig around for the camera when I see a shot while out bushwalking.
- Comfort: Equally important is the level of comfort. If I’m walking all day I want the camera to be comfortable enough that I’m not tempted to put it away out of reach.
- Closure system
- Level of protection: The bag has to do its job at protecting the gear inside while in objectionable conditions.
- Robustness and weatherproofing: The bag has to hold up to some abuse and ideally have some level of weatherproofing.
After an extended period of making do with what I had I came across the Ortlieb V-Shot holster style case. With its unique feature set including being weatherproof to an IP67 rating I was intrigued enough to make the (not insignificant) investment and try one out for myself.
My first pleasant surprise came when I found that Bogong Outdoor Equipment had them in stock and ready to go. Ortlieb are more well known for making waterproof bike panniers, so I was pleased that they certainly weren’t new to the game. I also purchased the chest carrying harness.
My first impression once receiving the bag was the obviously high level of construction quality. Obtaining an IP67 rating for a product is not an easy thing, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The welded seams were all trimmed and sealed immaculately, the plastic screw mounted hardware was all very high quality, the waterproof zip was of course a YKK and the interior padding was a beautiful bright orange colour with a very nice soft finish.
Before making the purchase I was very thorough with the measurement of my gear, to ensure it would fit based on the dimensions supplied by the manufacturer. Overall the dimensions supplied are reasonably accurate and would probably allow for a nice snug fit if your gear was pushing their limits. My Sony A7 with either of my zooms (FE 24-70 or 16-35) easily fit with the hoods in the fitted position. I’ve actually placed a soft divider from another bag at the base to space the camera up a bit for easier access.
Having now used the bag on a variety of walking and climbing trips I have come to a few conclusions.
Comfort and Ease of Access
I’m a big fan of carrying my camera up front. No swinging bags around to pull things out. The main downside is the obstruction to visibility; particularly when rock hopping or scrambling. When worn using the chest harness there is good adjustability and the camera is securely mounted to your body independently of your pack. Wearing it lower on your front does improve visibility.
If using the camera with the small and light kit lens I found the comfort of the harness to be good. However, with a heavier lens like the 16-35F4 fitted I did find it digging into the back of my neck. For this reason I imagine that if using a bigger DSLR with a big 24-70 f2.8 zoom or similar the comfort level wouldn’t be great. I have started experimenting with attaching the bag to the shoulder straps of my pack and so far this has proved the better option. It does mean unclipping the camera from one side when taking off the pack though.
On one recent trip at Lamington N.P. with hot and humid conditions I did reach the point where having the bag sitting on my front was too stifling, and on what seemed like a never ending ridge ascent I had to resort to packing it in my bag.
Whatever system is used by a manufacturer, it is always going to be a compromise between speed of opening, weatherproofing and convenience. The zip system used here strikes a reasonable balance. It definitely ticks the weatherproofing box, however for convenience I prefer a clip. Personally I would have loved to have both options on this bag. A clip for temporary closure while on the move with the option for zipping it up tight when needed. Currently I zip it up just enough to keep it closed when on the move.
I have been very happy with the level of protection offered to my gear inside. Sure it’s not going to survive any major crush incidents, but with the semi-rigid base and top panels, combined with the good padding internally I am confident that it will protect my gear in most situations that I plan on throwing at it.
Robustness and Weatherproofing
The V-shot weighs in at 450 grams. Overall it uses lightweight construction methods, with robustness built-in where it matters. You can see some abrasion on the shell in my photos above. This is mostly from Tasmanian dolerite on my recent trip; a worthy test for any gear. It has held up well so far, but I would not expect it to take this sort of punishment day-in, day-out for years on end.
The zip does its job at keeping out dust, however the effort that it takes to pull into its parked/waterproof position when fully closed tends to deform the case somewhat. So far this has had no ill effects, however time will tell how it handles this. For this reason I have taken to only zipping it fully closed when absolutely necessary. Another argument for an added clip closure.
The photo at the top of the article should show how serious I am about testing (Maree seems to be having way too much fun by the way). I definitely put the V-Shot through its paces with respect to waterproofing and am very happy with its ability to keep out a significant amount of moisture. As the manufacturer suggests though, I won’t be trusting it if fully submerged.
Overall, I’m very happy with the bag. Its high level of construction quality gives me confidence to use it how it was intended. As usual though, the search will continue. Happy shooting.
Having now extensively used the V-Shot for a bit over 12 months I feel like I should provide an update. These are a few brief comments:
- Ease of Access: The position of the chest mount clips is great. This is one of the best features of the bag and puts it above so many other options. Having the top one closer to the back makes it sit flat if clipped to your pack straps.
- Mounting: I have almost exclusively been clipping the bag to my pack straps rather than using the seperate chest harness. This puts a lot less pressure on the back of the neck.
- Durability: I have been very impressed with the durability of the bag as far as scrapes and bumps. It has protected my gear extremely well.
- Closure Mechamism: This is the big BUT!! The zip failed me! It started getting caught and skipping some teeth, which isn’t great for waterproofing. Bogong have been great and will be sending me a new one, but I will be searching for other options again. I knew early on that having the zip only would be annoying, but didn’t think it would fail. I believe the problem is due to the stress put on the zip if wearing the bag flat against the chest. You tend to pull up on the zip while opening and closing it because there is no room. A secondary closure like a clip or a good magnet would help this situation greatly as you wouldn’t need to open and close the zip so frequently.