Friday, July 14, 2017

Fancier Large Camera Backpack Review


When you think of camera bags, you think of names like Lowepro, Tamrac and Crumpler. What about the brand ‘Fancier’? No, not so much….

Fancier is a Chinese camera accessories manufacturer who specialise in bags. Not surprisingly, given the Chinese penchant for ‘imitation’ (shall we say) most of their bags have more than a passing resemblance to other, more famous, manufacturers’ offerings. And of course, they also tend to be cheaper than the more ‘name brand’ camera bags. We like less expensive – right?

Well yes, we do like less expensive – but only up to a certain point. If the bag is cheap, but rubbish, then it’s certainly worth paying a bit (ok, sometimes a lot) extra for ‘quality’. Are the Fancier camera bags worth taking a serious look at – or are they disappointing rubbish?

I’ve been looking for a decent sized backpack to use for my medium format film gear, but, as per usual, I didn’t want to spend a lot to get one. Second-hand is the best option for cheaper gear without necessarily compromising on quality, so I started looking on Trademe (NZ’s internet auction site) to see if I could find a backpack to suit my needs.

Even second-hand, most of the Lowepro and Tamrac large backpacks were out of my price range, and the ones that weren’t were of the more ‘well used’ variety. And then I saw a listing for a large backpack, hardly used, that looked to me like a larger version of a Lowepro Mini Trekker.

The Lowepro 'Mini Trekker'. A classic backpack
The Mini Trekker and I have a long history together. It was the first backpack-style camera bag I ever owned, and I loved it. It was perfect for my DSLR with two extra lenses, a flash and other accessories thrown in for good measure. Very well made, comfortable to use and just a great backpack. I sold it when I moved to all mirrorless gear because I didn’t need a backpack anymore, and have regretted it ever since. So finding an ‘as-new’ pack that was practically identical, at a very good price, was an exciting find. Except – it wasn’t a Lowepro Mini Trekker, it was a Fancier knock-off. Can’t be any good, can it?

Luckily, the seller was local to my area, and I was able to have a good look at the pack before bidding. I didn’t go in with high expectations, especially since the pack I have been using is also a cheaper Chinese bag with Velcro dividers that are next to useless and drive me crazy. So to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. But I have also briefly owned a smaller Fancier shoulder style bag, and it really wasn’t a bad bag – so I figured it was worth the look.

Fancier Large Camera backpack. Look familiar?
Well, to cut a long story short, I’m glad I did check it out, because it’s a surprisingly good bag – especially for the price. To say that it is an imitation of the Lowepro Mini Trekker is something of an understatement. To all intents and purposes it is an upscale Mini Trekker, practically down to the last detail. Are the zips as solid as those on the Lowepro? Probably not. But they do seem solid enough. Importantly, the velcro dividers attach firmly and stay attached, giving secure protection for your gear. And the size is excellent – bigger than the Mini Trekker, but not too big.

The one thing that the Fancier backpack has that the mini trekker doesn’t is a laptop compartment at the back of the bag – big enough for a 17” laptop. Not that I will use the compartment for a laptop. But it’s there for future use.
Heaps of space for a Bronica ETRS Medium format kit and more!
 As you can see from the image above, it fits my Bronica ETRS with 40mm attached (yes, I got the 40mm lens – more on that later), with heaps of extra space for another two or three lenses, extra film backs, filters, film and other accessories. Exactly what I was looking for to carry my medium format gear around in. Wearing it it feels comfortable, with reasonably thick padding and shoulder straps, although I’m sure it isn’t as well padded as the Lowepro version. But I’m also not a serious hiker, so it won’t be a pack that is on my shoulders for hours at a time. Time will tell if the Fancier backpack can stand up to the rigours of being out in the field. Having said that, I’ve owned a lot of camera bags in my time, and this seems to be as sturdy as any of them.

So yes, I’m impressed, and happy to report that the Fancier backpacks are worth taking a very serious look at.

A very solid 4 out of 5 stars.

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