Packing a Wista VX into a Lowepro Flipside 400 AW II

Recently I acquired a Wista VX camera, and several new lenses to finally make an adult out of my 4x5 large format kit. But, as with every new camera kit I put together, I hit that point where I realize that none of the bags I own are adequate for it.

There are several large backpacks on the market that I know would fit the kit without issue, but I wanted something that was about as small as I could get, and still fit everything I need into it. The problem with searching smaller packs these days is that most of them are designed and laid out for the typical DSLR camera kits, instead of wacky shaped large format cameras. So, much like trying on new pants, I usually prefer to be able to go into a store and try them on.

This time, however, I did some crawling on the internet forums to see what other people have done to put the same camera into a backpack. I found one person, who across several different photography forums, swearing by a Lowepro 400 Flipside as a compact backpack to fit into his Wista RF kit.

It looked like just what I wanted, and B&H had the Mark I version of the Flipside at 50% off! ORDERED!

Then a week later I received an e-mail letting me know that the mark I backpack I ordered was now discontinued and out of stock. There were plenty of LowePro 400 Flipsides on eBay for the same price as B&H, but they all felt a bit like the sketchy Chinese knockoff packs. So I bit the bullet and paid full retail on the newer Lowepro Flipside 400 AW II from a reputable source.

When the backpack arrived, I unboxed it and looked it over. The size of the bag was about as big as I wanted to go, but it felt like getting all my gear into it might not be possible. Here is the way that all the inserts looked when the backpack was received.

Lowepro 400 Flipside - default configuration

The only way to find out was to get packing. The inserts will need to be rearranged to fit the following camera gear into the backpack.

Wista VX Camera Kit
  • Wista VX 4x5 folding field camera
  • Nikon 90mm f/4.5 NIKKOR-SW lens
  • Nikon 150mm f/5.6 Nikkor-W Lens
  • Fuji 250mm f/6.7 Fujinon-W Lens
  • Fuji 400mm f/8 Fujinon-T Lens
  • Light Meter
  • Loupe
  • Four or more standard film holders

Will it fit?

It only took me three attempts to figure out a layout that allowed all the Four lens Wista VX kit I wanted to fit into the Lowepro 400 AW II Flipside backpack, to fit in the backpack.

Wista VX with four lenses packed into a Lowepro 400 Flipside bag

And before you hit the comments section to yell "YOU CHEAT. I ONLY SEE THREE LENSES!!!" I did employ this one weird trick whereby reversing the Nikon 150mm f/5.6 Nikkor-W Lens; it can fold up inside the Wista VX camera body. Thus, negating any additional space needed to store the lens.

Need More?

I also chronicled the journey of arranging the backpack to fit my large format kit in video form.

PS: Please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Backpack Update

So I have had a few opportunities since making this post to actually get out into the field using the Lowepro Flipside 400 with my 4x5 camera. So far I'm really impressed with this backpack as it is a pleasure to work with.

The size is exactly what I wanted, and working out of it on the ground with the flap open is very easy. I haven't yet tried the flipside feature where the photographer can open the backpack to access everything while still attached to their hip. This isn't a feature I bought the backpack for, so in all honesty, I may never even try it.

I also didn't have high expectations for the tripod tie-downs on the backpack given that I have a large Induro AT-413 tripod with a big Manfrotto 229 3-way head. I figured that using the tripod feature the proper way, with the feet of the tripod in the little pouch/flap that hangs off the bottom of the backpack would cause the tripod to tower over my head and be awkwardly top-heavy, which it was. However, once I turned the tripod over so that the heavy Manfrotto head was at the bottom of the pack, and put one of the handles into the pouch/flap, the tripod actually fits very comfortably onto the backpack.

Lowepro 400 Flipside with Induro AT-413 Tripod