Leon Rose heads out on what’s usually back-breaking work — a full-day shoot with a bundle of gear in tow. But, equipped with the new range of Vanguard’s newest range of packs, shooting’s a breeze.
Leon Rose sets out on a full-day shoot, testing Vanguard’s newest range of Alta Sky photography bags.
Most photographers have a problem finding the perfect pack. Throwing too much money away each year on the quest for the perfect bag, many ’graphers have a bag for travel, a bag for the everyday, a bag for conventions — that’s at least four different bags, simply to lug the same gear around.
It’s no wonder many photographers acquire so much gear over time — pixel-peeper camera bodies are doubling in MPs, and lens manufacturers are releasing great glass, year after year. Photography backpacks, too, have evolved significantly over time, allowing numerous configurations of camera gear, accessories, and laptops to suit any ’grapher’s requirements. Despite so many options, it too often seems as though you can’t have it all — smaller day packs skimp on the camera gear storage space, and large strap-equipped packs aren’t ideal for holding travel accessories, water bottles, and lunches.
The Vanguard Alta Sky range are bags, yes, but not just any bags. If you are like me, and you are always in a hurry to get to the next job or project, you will need a place for everything, and more importantly, everything in its place. For this, the Vanguard Alta Sky series backpacks certainly deliver.
At first glance, both models are essentially the same in every way other than dimensions, with the 51D being the larger of the two. The 45D carries one pro-DSLR body, with a 70–200mm lens attached, while the 51D offers the option to fit in a second body, if needed.
Together with the capacity to fit a DSLR body and multiple lenses, the 45D comfortably fits a 13.3-inch laptop, while the 51D can accommodate a 15-inch model. Really, you only notice the difference in size when you compare the compartment sizes — the lens pockets are noticeably smaller on the 45D, and squeezing the Canon 5D MkIII, paired with its 70–200mm lens, into the side opening is a bit tight with a double battery grip attached.
Featuring innovative two-thirds, and onethird division, the larger compartment of Vanguard’s Alta Sky 51D pack can be fully accessed from the rear, quickly reached from the side, or separately opened from the top.
The smaller compartment, perfect for lenses and lens accessories, enjoys quick individual opening from the bottom front.
With this in mind, I packed all my other favourite lenses in the bottom compartment — my 24–105mm, my 16–35mm, my 100mm Macro, and my 50mm f/2.5 Macro, a polarizer, and an LED light, just in case. Last, but not least, I packed my drone, too. The controller and iPad mini fitted perfectly into the top compartment, while the DJI Phantom securely strapped on the front via two exterior clipped straps, covered with the drop-down tripod holder. The same flap that secured and covered the drone folds down and has a pocket for the feet of your tripod to rest in, while the straps used to secure my drone can then secure your tripod.
Even after adding all this gear into the kit, I could still comfortably fit my laptop in the dedicated padded sleeve closest to my back. After all this, I weighed the pack and found it was 13 kilos — and there was still room for another two lenses, or a lens and a speedlight.
Reserving the 45D pack primarily for my main shooter — the Canon 5D MkIII DSLR with Canon 70–200mm f/2.8 L-series lens attached — Vanguard’s Alta Sky 45D offered ample room within its lower third. Though a larger lens, the 70–200mm f/2.8 is a personal favourite as it allows me to shoot a great range of images, and it’s perfect for panorama landscapes when shooting hand-held. It fit comfortably sideways within the pack, while I could easily access it through the side opening.
This allowed all the other gear needed for the day trip to sit easily within the top two-thirds of the 45D day pack — some bits and pieces for the kids, as well as our lunch, and some snacks for throughout the day.
We spent the day walking through some of Kerikeri’s idyllic spots, and I found the 51D to be extremely comfortable, even fully loaded. We trekked through the Rainbow Falls Walk back to Kerikeri, which is a lovely walk through native bush, past the falls — which were majestic after all the rain we have had lately — before we made our way to the old pā site above the Stone Store, where I finally got a chance to launch my drone over the picturesque inlet with yachts moored in the foreground as the sun started to set. Throughout the journey, the packs kept things comfortable with ergonomic back and harness systems, featuring a well-padded,
breathable 3D back. Uniquely shaped, easy to adjust shoulder straps perfectly contour to your back and torso, via adjustable sternum straps and a well-padded supporting waist belt.
Functionally, these packs are very versatile, and just as suitable as a general travel pack as a dedicated camera kit. They’re perfectly designed to cater for your equipment and the other essentials you will bring on your trek — both packs also feature a good-size stretchy water bottle pocket, and a place to store your phone/iPod with a headset port which will conveniently extend the cable from the internal smartphone pocket. For your memory cards, there are numerous storage pockets, including a dedicated one located in the access point on the side of the larger two-thirds compartment, which are labelled full/empty media storage.
Vanguard’s newest range of Alta Sky backpacks satisfied my every need — both as a travel pack on my day out with my family, and as a dedicated camera bag while shooting. It made travelling easy, even though I had a slew of gear in tow — and kept everything on hand for when I needed it.
Needless to say, I’m sold — and I think the 51D is the backpack for me: it’s time to replace my older backpacks for something that holds all the answers.
For more information on the new range of Vanguard Alta Sky bags, and to purchase, visit crknz.co.nz.
During 20 years of experience in commercial photography, Leon Rose’s unique shooting style has fulfilled the visions of advertising agencies, design houses, and corporate customers. An early adopter of digital photography, Leon has been involved in digital capture for the past 10 years. His latest project, a monograph on Muay Thai kickboxing in New Zealand, Live, Train, Fight like Thai, was published with PQ Blackwell, and rounds out his commercial and personal portfolio.
THE KERIKERI STONE STORE DJI PHANTOM ADVANCED, 1/190, F/2.8, ISO 100
GIBBS FARM FROM STATE HIGHWAY 16 CANON 5D MK III, CANON 70–200MM F/2.8L IS USM, 200MM, 1/2500, F/5.6, ISO 250
VANGUARD ALTA SKY 45 BACKPACK
VANGUARD ALTA SKY 51D LARGE BACKPACK