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It would be an understatement if I said that I travel often for the work that I do. Whether it’s for a major client and I spend two weeks running around San Francisco, or I’m shooting for fun with friends while out on a hike, I have little patience for gear that is either heavy or useless. GoPros and smartphones often find their way into my kits and, in this review, I’ll be sharing some insight on a series of cases from Lowepro that were made with POV action cameras in mind, as well as a unique jib concept from Joby that’s made to work with those cameras.
I’ll start with some aesthetics; while I value function over aesthetic most of the time, I have learned to appreciate it when a product can offer both. One thing I’ve been digging about a lot of the gear coming out of Lowepro in the last year or so is the “tactical” styling of it. The smaller cases in the ViewPoint Series even display the occasional splash of “fractal camo,” while the BP 250 AW (the backpack) is all black—just as Batman himself would prefer.
This style of pack looks just as good on a hike as it does on a set. I loaded up for a hike around a nature preserve in Kentucky, an area where I needed to scout locations for a future shoot. GoPros aren’t very heavy, but once you add a full water bottle to the side, stash a jacket, some tools, and maybe a microphone, you’ll get a little sweat going from lugging everything around on a warm day. I carried mine around for about four miles, and the pack was never uncomfortable.
The ViewPoint BP 250 is a slim backpack that holds form even when it’s not filled with gear. It has some flexible padding, which protects the gear inside from bumps and scrapes. It’s built with two primary compartments and several smaller accessory sleeves and stash areas. The top section is accessible from a zip, and is large enough to pack small gear, clothes, shoes, or whatever extras you want to bring with you. The bottom section took me a moment to figure out, because it is covertly accessed from the side! With a quick unzip, a small case for video gear pulls right out. I’m all about versatility in my gear, and the ViewPoint delivers! For example, if I’m not going out on a shoot, I can remove the video case and pull the internal hook-and-loop divider to the side, which opens up the entire bag for use as a day pack. This feature basically makes it a 2-in-1 backpack.
Rounding out the rest of its features, there’s a side pocket that holds a small water bottle perfectly, a sleeve for a tablet or laptop up to about 15", built-in rain cover, and a stash pocket for things like keys, gum, wallets, phones, etc. There is a small hip belt, but I didn’t find myself using it while out hiking. If I were to travel on bike, board, or ATV, I’d definitely use it to secure the pack to my body, though, so it’s good to have!
As for the smaller ViewPoint Cases (I have the CS40 and the CS60) they are simple, yet well-featured padded mini-cases meant for action cameras, but I think they would also make great accessory cases for audio gear, cable adapters, tools, and lots of other things. They have a couple of padded dividers with elastic straps, and the CS60 has memory card pockets and a zipped sleeve for other flat items (business cards?!) They’re great for tossing into whatever pack you’re using that day, especially if you have a hiking or biking pack you already own.
On another scouting shoot, I packed my new GoPro HERO4 Session (and two older models for backup) inside the ViewPoint, and I attached the pieces of the Joby Action Jib on the outside of the bag. Yes, you read that right—I was able to affix the three boom sections of the jib to the outside, while the included pouch carried all the accessories I would need. To read my review of the GoPro HERO4 Session, click here.
Now, this isn’t a 30-foot cinema-grade jib. Those things cost more than my truck and need a team of people to set up and operate! This particular jib weighs only 1.5 lb, and you don’t need a tripod, or even counterweights, to use it. How is that possible? Well, the Joby Action Jib is a pole-and-clamp system that uses a pulley system to tilt a camera, enabling jib-style shots with lightweight cameras like GoPros and iPhones. The clamp on the camera end hosts a ¼"-20 screw that fits into most small cameras or threaded mounts for action-camera frames.
By bracing the pole in your midsection, the user raises and lowers the pole with one hand, while gently twisting the grip handle in the other hand. This cranks the head section, tilting the camera as you boom it. Spin while standing in place, and you’ve got a pretty complex move that you can add to your shots!
The pole system can be purchased with the clamps, or if you have a monopod or painter’s pole, you could easily use those instead. The Joby poles that come with the kit version are about five feet in length when assembled, so they provide enough range of movement for most shots I had in mind, but it’s cool to know that you could go even bigger with this setup! Again, versatility is huge for me, so I really dig that you’re not restricted to one particular boom length for this kit. The poles themselves have threaded ends just like a real painter’s pole, so you could attach these directly if you wanted to extend a painter’s pole you already own.
The poles and clamps are made of a sturdy plastic which, of course, isn’t as awesome as carbon fiber, but I don’t think a product like this even needs that—it’s already lightweight and super compact—a carbon fiber option would needlessly up the price. There are two cords included, so you could double the length or just carry a spare, which is a good idea. GoPro shoots are often dirty and close to the action, so I could see getting things roughed up and easily needing to replace the cords.
At first, I was thinking that I could use a handlebar mount or something to place my iPhone on it, to monitor my shot through the GoPro App, but then I noticed a thread on the end of the handle-end clamp. It turns out that you can use a small Locking Arm accessory with a GripTight Mount to do exactly that! I didn’t have one on hand, but it’s good to know that it’s possible.
You might think that with the GoPro you can get away with a point-and-shoot approach but, on one such occasion, I had to re-mount the clamp on the camera end because on the very edge of the frame I could see the end of the pole. I would have not noticed this without checking the frame on my iPhone! The extreme wide-angle nature of the GoPro means you can’t leave more than a few inches of the pole sticking out in front of the camera-mount clamp.
In summary, if you’re shooting action sports or activities with your friends or athletes regularly and want a slick way to carry your GoPro kit around, the Lowepro ViewPoint backpack is a solid choice. The entire series has a consistent look, but even the smaller ViewPoint cases are helpful accessory packs if you already have a backpack you like. They’re perfect for protecting and sorting your gear.
The Joby Action Jib looks a bit awkward at first, but the results speak for themselves. It totally works for adding a cinematic-style move to your shots. The jib packs down and weighs next to nothing, and the fact that it can be used on other pole systems means you could do some really big, sweeping shots without going Hollywood budget.
|Mike Wilkinson’s interest in sports and the outdoors have taken him across the country and back again, many times over. After years of living in Colorado, Wilkinson has “gone mobile” and completes video assignments for productions all over the United States from the back of his truck, with a little help from cafes with Wi-Fi. When not freelancing or producing video for Wilkinson Visual, he is an avid adventure photographer. In the last few years, his images and videos have been seen in Backpacker, Rock & Ice, Climbing, Red Bull, and Outside. Besides creating images, Wilkinson also loves to share his knowledge, giving presentations at national conferences while regularly contributing gear reviews and editorials to the creative blogs Resource Online and FStoppers.|