Review – Case Logic SLRC-206 SLR Camera (and 15.4-Inch Laptop) Backpack

caselogictbc-307

I had been happy with my Case Logic TBC-307 Camera Bag (I’ve including a link to one similar to it, but not the same one as Case Logic does not make this particular model any more) – that was up until I acquired another lens, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II (see my review of this lens here).

So while the lens does fit physically into the Case Logic TBC-307, the case itself:

A) Didn’t have any more internal straps to hold the extra lens securely as they were taken up by my other lenses.  Case Logic for some reason put lens storage straps only on one side of the internal structure.

B) Doesn’t have a structure rigid enough to hold that much equipment,  for my taste.  In other words, as I put more stuff in the bag – the weight of everything, with the camera at the top, caused it to ‘slouch’ or collapse a bit.  It just didn’t seem like it had enough protection, plus I had accessories that I never carried before because, again – there was plenty of room for them in the bag but there was no way to secure them without just letting them rattle around inside of it.

Back view, the Case Logic TBC-307

Back view, the Case Logic TBC-307

I set out to look for another bag.  Of course, I perused many review sites.  Many, many review sites – but there were certain ones that stood shoulders above the rest.  I also read many pieces of feedback on Amazon.  And here’s some shameless promotion of a friend’s blog here – a good review of some of the top bags are here.

One of the biggest decisions I had to make  came down to whether I wanted a sling back or another backpack.  I had bought a slingbag once, but I didn’t like it all that well even though it was a great bag, and an almost direct clone of the Lowepro series.  I ended up selling it to a photographer friend of mine, who loved it.

Really I just wanted a duplicate of my old camera backpack but with better internal mounts and structure.

But there wasn’t really a direct equivalent.  The replacement models were bigger, or slingbags.  I wasn’t sure if I needed something bigger but I went ahead, after many weeks of hair-pulling over a decision, and got the Case Logic SLRC-206 – another backpack and a similar but larger more modern model of my old one.

Funny that immediately after I bought it on Amazon.com the price has been rising steadily, day by day.

So anyway, it took quite awhile for Amazon to note that they had shipped the item, the order surprisingly sat in the queue for an alarming amount of time, saying it hadn’t shipped from the warehouse yet.  But when it did ship it didn’t take long to get to me.  Not sure why there had been such a delay but I do know that it is a popular bag.  As seems to be reflected in the increasing price of it that I mentioned above.

When I received the box I was quite surprised.  The shipping box was gigantic.  I hoped the backpack wasn’t THAT big!

The box, by the way, made a great playhouse for the cats, of course…

While the backpack itself was indeed smaller than the box, it’s still quite a large backpack.

Which is a negative, and a positive too.

It is large enough to incrementally take up more space when packing the car for trips and bulkier for carrying around on my back than my old backpack camera bag.

On the other hand, there is obviously and conversely more space for camera equipment, more internal padding and convertible dividers, and more rigidity and padding overall in the whole backpack than in the older Case Logic one.  Which is exactly what I was looking for.

Main backflap fully open.  Dividers pretty much in stock locations.

Main backflap fully open. Dividers pretty much in stock locations.

The size issue is maybe nitpicky here, as I had the measurements for the new backpack and knew the size it would be before I bought it, and the size rivals my conventional hiking daypack in height and width.

Nitpicky, sure – I guess I wanted a smaller case but with more room; an impossibility.

But guess what?  Now I can carry ALL of my camera equipment with me.  At least all of the ‘walking around’ stuff (I wouldn’t normally carry something like my diffusion umbrella reflector, though it would fit on the tripod-carrying straps along the side if I wished to).

The pack is deep/thick enough to accommodate my Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS II Telephoto Zoom Lens slid in horizontally front-to-back (see pic at left –  you can see the dust cover just sticking out of the right-hand dividers).  My old backpack was not deep enough nor was the strapping that held the lenses configured to allow the lenses to be held this way; they all had to be vertically mounted, which was a bit more awkward to pull out.

As I said above, the padding and dividers are thick.  Some people might think they are too thick.  But for me they are an extra layer of protection, both front to back and side to side (depending on how you configure them they can go vertical too).  And they are bright orange for greater visibility when the back is opened, the entire inside is bright in fact, as you can see in the photos.  Not annoyingly so, at least for me, and I bet it makes it easier for fumbling around in low light conditions also.  But you do carry a little flashlight around for those times, right?

The dividers can be configured in any number of different ways, not only for camera equipment but for other things.  After all, this does have a large padded, and memory-foamed compartment in the back for a laptop.  I don’t imagine I will have a use for a laptop in it but I can store other things in the space there, if needed.  Notepads and sketch pads, perhaps, or just charge cords and USB cables for the camera.  Maybe my tablet for reference once in a while.  But if you do carry your laptop you’ll appreciate all of the extra space inside and configuration options, not to mention the external pockets.

Top flap open, there's some wasted space but it gives you plenty for your camera strap.

Top flap open, there’s some wasted space but it gives you plenty for your camera strap.

The only downside to the divider system is that the lowest ‘shelf’ level of them is somewhat covered along the bottom by the waterproof rubbery bottom of the pack (you can see this somewhat in the photo above-left).  This bottom is one of the best parts though.  You can set it down somewhere wet, even with a bit of water on whatever the surface it is, and have the pack stay dry.  But it also curves up around the side and in the back where the zippered flap is, which makes it a tight fit for anything stored at the very bottom.  Not a big issue, I put items down there that are smaller, flatter, and that I don’t need continuously, like the charger and extra batteries.

The backflap itself is pretty nice.  Big heavy-duty zipper heads, padded flap, high visibility orange for when you open it, and with large enough holes in the two zipper parts to slide a small lock through to lock this section.

The flap has Velcro straps about three-quarters of the way along either side and up near the top part where the camera is slung.  You can close these bits of Velcro which stops the zippers from going any farther down so when you access your camera the flap doesn’t open any fupast that point.  You can then quickly unzip the zippers down to the Velcroed part where they stop, right below the level of the camera where it perches at the top.  Quick access to the camera but your lenses and other equipment aren’t exposed nor have any chance to fall out.

The camera sling/hammock at the top is an interesting concept. With my other cases the camera either just sat in the case or; with the Case Logic TBC-307, it securely mounted downward with the lens in a tube-like structure in the top part of the case.

Camera hammock/sling

Camera hammock/sling

In the Case Logic SLRC-206 the camera is mounted similarly, but with the addition of  a rubbery, stretchy adjustable sling-like piece for the camera to lay on while the lens protrudes into the tube-like space in the middle of the case.  The sling has a Y-shaped place for the lens to fit through (perhaps coincidentally, or not, this same ‘Y’ is a design on the underside of the rubbery waterproof bottom – just interesting; see photo at the end of this blog entry) and the sling piece itself is adjustable front and back so that you can angle it outward or to the back or have it in a more horizontal attitude.  Heck, you could tilt the camera right or left in the bag if you wanted to. The sling is a little springy too so there’s some nice shock protection going on, it almost floats in there.

It seems like a great system and very secure yet easily accessible both for taking the camera out as well as putting it back in.

The only downside, and this was relevant to the previous backpack bag also, is that this system does waste some space in the top section.  The nice thing is that this is good space if you have an extra heavy-duty camera strap that needs to fold into there – a complaint I had with my old bag where many times I let the camera strap hang out with the two zippers zipped up to the protruding strap.  Not the best solution.

The tube for the lens could accommodate quite a long and wide telephoto or zoom lens or any lens, and is part of the adjustment system of dividers through the middle section. If you don’t have a long lens you can use the space through the middle for other things, and adjust its length.

On the back of the backflap is another flip-out pocket, also with two zipper heads.  This has a number of interior pockets too, both on the flap itself as well as on the interior part against the back of the larger flap.

The left side of the backpack has a vertical pocket with mesh interior pockets.  There is also a small loop on the outside for hanging lens cases and other accessories from (see photo at the end of this blog entry).  Some reviewers mentioned that this space (and the one mentioned above) are too flat to fit much but I think they are meant for flatter objects or memory cards or cords or business cards, etc, and not anything thick.  I managed to fit quite a lot into them – model releases, The Photographer’s Rights (if you don’t have a copy of this in your camera bag you should!), pens, biz cards, etc.

Laptop section, lots of room for other stuff too

Laptop section, lots of room for other stuff too

Along the other side is a system of two velcro-able straps to hold your tripod.  The straps are fairly long to accommodate pretty much any sized tripod, if needed.  It works okay, though it depends on your tripod and may require the use of bungee cords or carabiners or straps or something else to keep the tripod from sliding.  They should have added some sort of system so that a tripod would be less likely to slide out the bottom, like a pocket of some sort.

You can also carry other things in these strap, like a water bottles, or maybe lens case cases.

Though some things will slide through.  My CamelBak Waterbottle worked fine in it but I think for a long trip I would fasten it in with a carabiner, just to be sure.  I also have a waterbottle holder/sling for hiking that secures into these straps nicely.  Not perfectly but it is very safe.

I don’t think the straps were really intended for other things besides tripods but it does work, though if you’re carrying a water bottle on a humid day you might want to wrap it in something, or take some packing tape and temporarily stick it along the side of the bag so no moisture seeps into the case while you have the water bottle on it.  Thick case though, but just to be sure you might keep this in mind.

The laptop slot also has an orange high visibility interior and goes the entire length and width of the backpack, it also has a padded thickness to it. It’s quite large and padded on both sides (though I think I read that this is supposed to be memory foam but it doesn’t feel like it, though it is a thick padded foam nonetheless).  My large laptop fit it in perfectly.

I’m writing portions of this review on my Google Nexus 7 (my review of the Nexus 7 here) which fits into the laptop space very nicely, including with the armored case it is in.  Along with the armored tablet I also have my VirginMobile MiFi, in a padded case, and an Apple iPod Touch, also in a padded case, in this space too – I felt like nothing was squashed or squeezed because of the padding along the sides which keeps the laptop space at about the thickness a laptop.  But these are all small devices of course.

The backpack itself is black with a few orange accents.  It feels like nice tough material.  It LOOKS like a well-built backpack. And you know it’s going to be pretty good quality if it’s Case Logic.

While the Case Logic TBC-307 looks like a nicely-built backpack there’s nothing about it that screams ‘expensive camera inside’.  I think it would have been nice to have more ways to lock and secure it – but as I said above; the beefy locks on the main flap will easily fit a small lock hasp.  You could also lock the rear pocket as it too has a pair of zippers, as well as the laptop section.  The small side pocket only has one zipper-head but everything else could be locked for at least some security.

If you’re afraid that the zippers, while at the top, might pull down or work their way down or catch on something and pull down – all you need is a small carabiner or a small lock, for long trips maybe, or when traveling through brush.  The carabiner works great for quicker access.  Note; this must be a TINY carabiner or small luggage lock or snap to fit the holes, they’re not tiny but they aren’t real large in diameter either.

Front View.  You can see the tripod straps extended quite a ways to show how long they are.  The extra shoulder strap lengths are not secured in their velcro folds in this picture.

Front View. You can see the tripod straps extended quite a ways to show how long they are. The extra shoulder strap lengths are not secured in their velcro folds in this picture.

The back is heavily padded with extra thick padding under the shoulder blade area and across the bottom, with air spaces/air channels between. This is another great design and some good forethought on Case Logic‘s part as this allows some cooling of the back to occur. And if you’re used to long hot hikes you know your backpack can get literally soaked from a badly-designed backpack back with no ventilation, or even with a well-designed backpack.  This bag also has lots of padding as a moisture barrier between your back and equipment.  (Also see photo at the end of this blog entry.)

The backpack straps are heavily padded and adjustable. Nothing special but they do their job and there’s an ingenious Velcro system to hold the excess adjustable straps ends folded up – something manufacturers of any kind of backpack or slingbag should adopt. There’s no belly strap like on regular hiking backpacks, but likely not needed.  You can always add one with some spare straps (see my blog entry Modify Your Backpack and Other Gear).

The carrying handle is adequate, with extra padding for the hand. It could be more heavy-duty in my opinion but it works well and you’re not carrying a ton of bricks anyway…

The stitching seems to be good quality, I see no excess thread nor seams nor stitches that are looking loose.

As I mentioned earlier in this review – there is a plastic bottom that is waterproof (see photo at the end of this blog entry). Very nice.  This also stabilizes the pack, even if you have too much weight on one side, so the whole thing will likely stay upright better.

There is no water-resistant rain cover included. I bought one elsewhere but I have been carrying a white garbage bag in the laptop storage part, pull it out and wrap the whole thing, pull the drawstring and you’re pretty water-resistant. Doesn’t look pretty, not elegant, but it works.  At least for other bags I’ve had.

I‘d love a smaller less bulkier bag yet to be able to fit the same stuff in it.

But unless I can somehow invent a small version of Dr. Who’s Tardis I don’t think that’s possible.

In the meantime, I’m finding the Case Logic TBC-307 more and more useful.  Recently I was taking pictures under a number of different conditions – sunny, rainy, people, landscapes, animals, action; so I needed quick access to all of my photography stuff.  And this bag certainly provided it, operating from the opened hatch of our SUV I could pop the bag open and all compartments to switch lenses easily and securely, as well as accept other accessories like a cleaning cloth for a particularly dirty fingerprint-smudged lens filter.  I felt like I had access to a full photo studio in the back of the vehicle!

It’s certainly a nice bag, durable and well-padded.  There are a few points that could be improved, like more accessory attachment points for one, and other things that I mentioned throughout this review – but are you ever going to get a bag that is made exactly the way you want it to be?  Probably not.

This bag is pretty close.  Check it out if you need one, you won’t be disappointed.

A few stats;

Size: 15.4x 10.4 x 1
Weight: 2.7 pounds
Capacity: Can hold most SLR bodies up to 10.4′ x 4.7′ x 5.6′ with an attached lens up to 9.8 in length
Laptop/Tablet compartment: 16″ laptops and the 17″ MacBook Pro
Weather Resistance: Waterproof plastic hardshell EVA base, water-resistant nylon material on the rest of the bag
Warranty: 25 years

A few more pics;

Close-up of the waterproof bottom of the bag

Close-up of the waterproof bottom of the bag

Side Pocket

Side Pocket

Padded back with mesh

Padded back with mesh

5 Comments:

  1. Pingback: Review - The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens - The Random Bits & Bytes Blog

  2. I really enjoyed your review. I have been reviewing a lot of bags the case logic was first on my list, other reviews seemed not to go into the same detail. I have a Nikon camera and just added a 55-200mm lens. So I needed a new bag. Some of the bags I reviewed did not have the larger padding for protection. I know it takes space, but is secured. I wanted a bag which would allow me to remain my attached telephoto lens, with a quick reach, which this does have. Over all, a very informative and educational review, and I thank you for your time and thoughts.
    Coty
    http://vidcopy.com

  3. Hi! What size of the Mountainsmith rain cover did you buy and how good was the fit? Have you been using the plastic bag more often instead?

    • I got a large sized cover, it fits fine – as well as it can I believe because there’s no way to completely wrap it around and under the shoulder straps. It’s not as waterproof if it gets completely soaked as a plastic bag but it sure looks nicer, and is easier to fit and keep in place. An extra large rain poncho works too, you can put the back of the poncho right over the entire backpack as well as yourself and keep everything dry, outside of how it looks and getting it on without help – it is probably the best solution.
      More recently I went with a waterproof backpack which works well, though in heavy downpours or walking through wet brush the seams and around the zippers can wet through some.

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