Lowepro Nova Mini AW camera bag Review
By Steve Kuo, June 17 2007
The Lowepro Nova Mini AW is great camera bag. It's just the right size for a Nikon D80 DSLR and Nikon 18-200mm VR zoom lens. The 18-200mm is a great lens but suffers from zoom creep. When pointed straight down, the lens will slowly extend to 200mm. Because of this, it's not suitable for carrying around the neck with a camera strap. Actually I try to avoid having an exposed camera dangling around my neck, both for the security of the camera and candidness while photographing people.
The Lowepro Nova Mini AW is top loading and includes a shoulder strap. This configuration allows for the camera to sit securely in the bag and be removed in an instant. The cover opens in the front and is secured via a zipper and quick-release snap (buckle). The snap works really well. I can quickly unsnap the buckle and remove the camera all in less than a few seconds. While not using the camera I'll use the zipper for extra security.
The camera faces down and rests on both the front of the lens and the adjustable dividers on the sides. For smaller lenses the camera simply rests on the dividers. As long as the lens isn't too heavy it's no problem for the dividers to bear the weight. It works fine with a D80 plus 50mm, 24mm and 18-55mm lenses. While walking around, I'll keep the lens cap removed and tucked just right of the divider. I haven't had any problems with the lens filter getting scratched from resting on the camera bag.
A really nice feature of the Nova Mini AW is the built in rain cover. The cover is normally tucked away in the front pocket. When removed it's just the right size to cover all but the back of the bag.
Other features include various zipper accessible compartments (perfect for extra memory cards or a spare EN-EL3e battery) and a belt loop on the back. A section of 1.5 inch nylon strap and locking plastic buckle (less than $5 at REI) makes a perfect belt for this bag. I got this idea from Karl Grobl's camera bag page.
Before getting this bag I experimented carrying the camera in various backpacks. This really doesn't work because of the time invoked with removing the camera. Photography is all about being ready for that moment. There's just no time for fumbling with unpacking the camera. Backpacks are also vulnerable to being opened by pickpockets. With this bag you could wear it over the shoulder and use a nylon strap secured around body and the bag's belt loop (warning, this might look dorky).
After giving up on backpacks, I sifted through many bags (including some giant carry-all-your-camera-gear packs) before coming across the Nova Mini AW. It's about the smallest bag that will fit a D80 and 18-200mm VR zoom. It will of course hold smaller lens like the Tokina 12-24mm and small primes (such as the 24mm f/2.8D and 50mm f/1.8D).
Copyright 2007 Steve Kuo, All rights reserved.