Vanguard has been known in the camera industry for many years for its unique pistol grip heads. Recently the company decided to make some changes, expand and create new lines of products. We got our first glimpse of those in Photokina 2016 and a few months later we became one of the first websites in the world to try two of the company’s newest photography bags.
The one that we shall be reviewing today is part of a new all-around photo bags series called “Alta Rise” designed for walk around and shoot scenario with plenty of room for both camera gear and personal equipment. The Alta Rise 45 is the mid size version with a larger Alta Rise 48 (which can easily hold a DJI MAVIC) and a smaller Alta Rise 43 sling bag (there are also a number of Messenger Bags in this series).
We had a long talk with Vanguard’s new camera bag product manager who was responsible for the creation of the Alta Rise series, coming from KATA which is now sadly gone, we have a long track record with her and as you will see in this review we definitely feel that with this new design she was able to surpass anything she has done previously – which certainly sais a lot given her past work.
Alta Rise 45 – a well thought of camera bag
Size/weight, materials and build quality
The Alta Rise 45 is a mid-size bag which weighs at just under 1.5kg or 3.3lbs but actually feels lighter.
The bag is very well made, the stitching is excellent and the materials reminds me a bit of one of my all time small KATA bags but it has a honeycomb pattern and feels like it will be significantly more water resistant than the old KATA bag was. One place where you can actually feel how much thought was given to the materials is the right side pocket – unlike many other bags (including much more expensive ones) which use thin fabric here – the Vanguard designers choose a more expensive thick but stretchy material that will probably not tear down easily – like some side pockets on other bags.
This is where the Alta Rise 45 really shines. We have not seen any mid size camera bags with so many storage options and it can even compete with some larger bags in this respect.
Let me go over them one by one:
On the front you have a small pocket for keys and other small-size items, above it on the top you have a somewhat larger pocket which can hold a mid size wallet. Sadly it can’t also hold a 5″ or larger smartphone which would have been great. Another pocket on the front allows you to get into the tablet compartment inside the bag if you want to quickly access it without opening the bag large gear compartment – we will get back to that later.
On the right you have a nice pocket made out of the thick stretchy material we mentioned before. It can hold a water bottle, even a 1.5L water bottle will hold and it has a top lock to hold it in place.
The really cool thing Vanguard done on this side is make a pocket which hold a heavy duty tripod holder – this is fantastic since on many other bags the side pocket simply can’t hold the tripod legs for a long time without breaking apart – especially tripod legs with spikes which tend to open when you don’t want them to – this pocket is made from a very heavy duty fabric and it has Velcro straps for keeping your tripod secure and even a small attachment that holds the pocket in place – really high attention to details here. One thing to keep in mind – if you have a tripod on one side and an empty or almost empty bag – it will tend to pull to one side – it isn’t anything special it’s just physics but remember that when you take your tripod with you.
On the left you have a quick draw opening which allows you to put the bag on your left shoulder and draw your camera quickly. This isn’t as quick and useful as the rotation mechanism on some of Mindshifts bags, but it is still pretty quick. Above the quick draw zipper you also have a pocket for the included rain cover – which is really nice.
The final pocket is hidden in the back of the bag. This is a small pocket that can hold things that you don’t want to get stolen such as a passport or money and is a really thoughtful addition to the bag.
The two main compartments of the bags are the camera gear and personal gear compartments – let’s take a closer look at those:
The personal gear compartment is on the top of the bag – it has two mesh net pockets on the back and you can rearrange the bottom and make it larger if you have more personal gear and less camera gear. You can see some of the stuff that we have been able to squeeze inside in our video (quite a lot of stuff actually).
The camera gear compartment is relatively large for a mid size bag. You can easily put in a mid size body with a 24-70 attached and 4 mid size lenses. A pro DSLR with a 70-200mm might squeeze in barely but if this is your setup you will probably want to go with the larger Alta Rise 48 anyway.
Lot’s of room for gear and accessories
Another nice touch is the strap that prevent the camera from moving or falling out of the bag – it can be removed if it bothers you or used in a different way if you wish.
On the cover of the camera gear compartment you have two padded pockets – a smaller one for a tablet and a larger one for a laptop. We had no problem with our Lenovo Yoga Pro 2 which has a 13.3 display, a 14″ laptop should also fit but beyond that you might need the larger version. A cool feature we discovered is that you can pull the laptop from the personal gear compartment and you don’t need to open the camera gear one for that – really nice, it would be even nicer if it had a Velcro holder like the tablet pocket has so the laptop won’t fall when you open the cover of the gear compartment .
Another neat thing that this bag has is a an extra zipper on the front called +6 which expands or reduces the volume of the bag given it a little extra depth in case you are carrying some taller gear inside or a thicker laptop.
+6 expansion system
Back support and straps
The bag has very nice back system made with air breathing material which should prevent sweating to some degree. The back straps are also made in this way and they are also fairly comfortable for women with larger chest area (or at least that what my wife told me after using it for a while).
The bag has a belt straps and chest straps. The belt straps are tucked away in the back system – we highly suggest that you release them and secure them every time you walk more than a few minutes with the bag – the chest straps also help on longer walks with heavier gear. As always be sure to fit all the straps to your height and size – initially the bag didn’t sit well on our lower back but after playing with the straps things got much better.
Note that the belt straps is not padded – it didn’t bother us so far but maybe with very long walks with heavy gear it might, however we guess there is just so much you can add into one mid size bag – especially for the price.
Good back support
The bag has a really nice top handle which is well padded – this is great and even much more expensive camera bags don’t always come with such padding. We would suggest to Vanguard to add another simpler, less padded and smaller handle or loop which can be used to hang the bag from a hanger (these heavily padded ones do not always hold well on small hangers and in this case the bag might simply fall).
So let’s some things up. We are extremely impressed with what Vanguard did with the Alta Rise 45. This mid size bag has anything a full day out shooter might want – it has plenty of room for camera gear with a quick draw option, spacious personal compartment for some extra stuff you might want, a padded tablet and laptop pockets and a full host of smaller external pockets just in case.
Innovative tripod holder
Besides that you also have an innovative tripod mounting pocket, a rain cover and an extending gear compartment in case you need just a little bit more room.
With all of that going for it you might have thought that it is either poorly made or going to be super expensive, well we are happy to report that it is actually extremely well made with very good fabrics and great finish and is also very affordable at just under $100 which is just a terrific price even for a much simpler bag at this size.
Are there any drawbacks to the bag? we honestly have to be super picky here but besides some of the small things that we already mentioned a pocket that can hold both our wallet and a smartphone would be great and maybe a way to carry a water bottle with a tripod would be on our wish list as well although it would make the already complex design even more complex.
Regardless of all this nitpicking, we can highly recommend the Alta Rise 45 and we will be looking at another one of Vanguard’s new bags later on this year and can’t wait to see how it functions in the field.
You can check out more LensVid exclusive articles and reviews on the following link.