The Niko F-Stop is made by a company called Aconcagua, which just started making backpacks in 2016. The bag has the main camera compartment on one side and an external pocket for extra battery packs or lenses on the other. It also has rain protection built into its design to keep your gear safe from wet weather conditions.
The Niko F-Stop Camera Backpack from Chrome, everyone’s favorite urban-themed, gryphon-logo’d seatbelt buckle backpack company, is the subject of this review. These guys have been producing bags for a long time and focused their talents on messenger bags and camera bags.
The Niko F-Stop is a medium-sized backpack with a strong emphasis on photographic equipment. It offers several excellent capabilities for the on-the-go urbanite photographer. We believe it has a decent overall structure with sturdy craftsmanship—much like the other Chrome gear we’ve used.
Aesthetics & Materials
This pack has a beautiful, simple appearance to it at first sight. It comes in a traditional black color scheme with discreet branding and Chrome “seatbelt-style” straps. It also offers a surprising number of useful external functions, skillfully kept from view until it’s time to utilize them.
We believe Chrome did an excellent job with the pack’s overall size. It has a rectangular form that allows for a lot of storage, but it’s not too hefty or bulky, especially compared to Chrome’s Machito travel bag. It seems to be a solid balance that provides enough storage and efficient space while maintaining a narrow footprint.
According to Chrome, the capacity of this bag is roughly 23 liters, and the dimensions are 10″ wide, 20″ tall, and 7″ deep. As previously said, it falls within the medium-sized pack category. It’s a little larger than a typical daypack but not big enough to be used as a one-bag travel pack. It is, nonetheless, ideal for transporting photography equipment and other requirements.
The outside comprises 1050D ballistic nylon, while the inner is made of 400D tarpaulin. Thanks to the ballistic nylon, you shouldn’t have any issues with scratches, rips, or tears. In addition, the canvas adds a layer of waterproofing and is a beautiful addition.
This bag includes YKK zippers, usually a good indicator, and the top compartment has a waterproof YKK zip. This is a valuable feature since the entire box is the first to get soaked if you’re trapped in a downpour. Is it, however, really waterPROOF? We’re usually skeptics when it comes to this kind of thing, so we decided to put it to the test. Check out the “Inside the Bundle” section for further information.
Components from Outside
This bag has a lot of fantastic elements on the exterior. First, we’ll look at the shoulder straps and back panel.
The shoulder straps are constructed of a breathable mesh material that is well-cushioned. They also have bright stripes sewed into the nylon, which Chrome presumably included for cyclists—a nice feature, but we’re not crazy about it. If you get the angles perfect, it may be a helpful safety feature while strolling in a dark city, or you could use it for some form of morse code communication from your hotel room because it’s something we do all the time (obviously).
Each strap features a D-ring at the top for a carabiner, and the fluorescent nylon webbing has some surplus fabric you can loop items through. We haven’t used them yet; however, they may be helpful depending on your needs. Also, if you have a case that allows it, you may be able to attach a phone here. Finally, if you have any suggestions, please contact us—we’d love to hear them!
The buckles at the bottom of the straps may, of course, be modified. All of the parts are made of metal, which is fantastic. These straps should be pretty durable as long as the stitching holds up—which, based on Chrome’s prior work, it should.
The sternum strap is a little different in that it has a little seatbelt clasp on it. You may remove the waistband by pressing a little Chrome logo (#branding), and you can adjust it up and down the shoulder strap as needed.
We were ecstatic to see this because it significantly differs from the standard DuraFlex buckles we see all around. This item is quite sturdy and one of the few metal sternum straps we’ve seen! Our only criticism is that there’s no way to remove it indeed, and there’s no way to connect it to one strap when it’s not in use, so if you leave it unclipped, you’ll have a hanging sternum strap.
If you want to connect a Peak Design Capture Clip to this pack, we’ve found that the vertical nylon webbing where the sternum strap attaches is the best place to do so. It’s pretty simple to use, and it’ll stay put beautifully.
This set has a hip belt, but it isn’t very unusual. There’s no cushioning, and the width of the actual webbing is relatively small since it’s simply a piece of webbing with a buckle on it. What we’re saying is that this item doesn’t provide a lot of support and isn’t comfy to wear.
We were a bit dissatisfied with the hip belt if you couldn’t tell. Regarding hip belts, we’re usually in the center of the pack, but this is a camera bag. Hip belts are necessary for dragging about a lot of heavy equipment since camera gear is hefty. We believe Chrome might have improved it by adding more padding or just making it broader. It may, however, be readily deleted. That’s great.
Moving on to the rear panel, you’ll note that it has a ninja-turtle armor aspect right away. This thing isn’t too rock hard, despite what you may think—all those shapes are packed with foam and give some excellent, comfortable-yet-firm back support.
Each side of the backpack features a compression strap that can also be used as an “accessory holder,” which is ideal for tripods. A tripod may be thrown on any side (provided it compresses adequately), which is quite helpful. For those not interested in photography, these straps are ideal for a yoga mat, a tiny sleeping pad, or practically any long, cylindrical object.
Two identical straps on the front of the pack also include that luminous nylon. They’re perfect for heavier goods that won’t fit on the sides, and you can even strap a rolled-up jacket to them.
Alternatively, if you really enjoy tripods, you could set two on each side and one in front! That would be incredible.
While they seem to be compression straps, we can confirm that they have no effect on the bag’s compression. This is mostly due to the fact that they aren’t made to compress, yet the bag is already extremely hard. Because of all that padding, if you give it a good “squish,” it would bounce straight back, so even if it had full-on compression straps, they wouldn’t help much.
Pro tip: If you have a somewhat bigger tripod that you want to mount on the front, position it as we did in the photo above, with the top strap snuggled in between the legs. It will not be able to slide out of the straps as a result of this.
The top and side handles are the last exterior components. On the top, there’s just one handle, which is made of folded nylon webbing. This works for grasping the bag in a rush, but it’s not ideal for carrying.
On the other hand, the side handles are ideal for carrying the bag over short distances. They’re a little hard to notice (to be honest, it took us a long to even find them), but they’re in a good spot. When in use, they evenly distribute the weight and keep the bag level. The side handles are also a little more cushioned than the top handles, so if you’re moving this item into another room or simply need to get out of that cab fast, they are your best choice.
Inside the Pack
We’ll start with the top pocket for the inside components. A waterproof YKK zipper towards the top of the bag opens to expose a rectangular-shaped pocket of reasonable size. There’s some great cushioning in here, and depending on the size, it can comfortably handle a DSLR with a medium-sized lens and one more lens.
A mesh pocket on the inside of the flap may carry a phone, an external hard drive, or any other devices you may have. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be curious as to how many Pop-Tarts this can carry… Unfortunately, you’ll have to split one in half and place it in a plastic bag or something.
Now, just because one section of the bag has waterproof zippers doesn’t imply the whole compartment is watertight.
We put this to the test and can assure you that the whole compartment is NOT watertight. We were fortunate enough to have a waterproof camera with us at the moment.
So, even though the zippers are waterproof, you’ll want to be cautious with this compartment. You’ll probably be OK if you get caught jogging during a thunderstorm. However, if you leave your backpack out in the rain or walk through a rainstorm for an extended period of time, this pocket will not be dry.
Overall, we’ve found this pocket to be really useful and ideal for the on-the-go photographer. When your brunch waiter comes and you forget to bring your camera, you can whip this out in a matter of seconds and shoot that fantastic #foodporn shot while just mildly disturbing your tablemates.
In addition, if the rest of the pack is full of photographic gear, this may be a fantastic place to stash additional clothing and basics for an overnight stay. A rolled-up t-shirt, some underwear, and a few toiletries may easily fit in here.
Moving on, this bag has a one-of-a-kind laptop sleeve that is located on the front panel rather than the rear panel like most other laptop sleeves. It has a lot of cushioning, but since it’s on the outside of the pack, you’ll want to be cautious with it. If you throw this bag to the ground, your laptop is likely to be the first object to strike the ground. So although we haven’t encountered any severe troubles yet, it isn’t ideal.
We’re sorry to announce that this sleeve will not accommodate a 15-inch MacBook Pro. Although it would fit a 13-inch laptop well, it is a disappointment.
It’s now time to examine the primary pocket. This bad boy can only be accessed from the rear panel, which is a fantastic feature for various reasons.
First and foremost, the rear panel entrance protects your camera equipment from theft. Nobody can get inside the main compartment without your knowledge when you’re wearing it. Furthermore, the lack of zippers implies that someone will take a little longer to figure out how to open the dang thing.
If you can make a thief take a little longer to get into anything, they’ll be more inclined to move on to the next chance.
The rear panel entrance, besides providing additional security, is significantly more accessible than you may assume. For example, when you remove a backpack, you usually do it by removing one strap and swinging it around your body. When you complete this move, the pack panel will appear in front of you; place the bag down, and you’ll be ready to go in no time.
Not only that, but instead of sitting unevenly on the shoulder straps and hip belt, the bag will settle comfortably on the ground in this manner. Overall, it’s a beautiful system, and the ease of use may surprise you if you’ve never used anything like it.
Many dividers are included within the main compartment to keep your photographic equipment secure and organized. These things are wonderfully cushioned, and the velcro is incredibly sticky, allowing you to alter the arrangement to your preference completely.
You’ll want to modify depending on your loadout, but you can see what this device can accomplish by looking at what we have. You can quickly put a few camera bodies and lenses in here, with enough left over for a few additional knick-knacks. For example, if you have some big boy glasses, you may be able to adjust the arrangement to fit them vertically.
It would be best if you were alright tossing a naked camera in this, despite your fears, due to all the cushioning on the bag and the dividers.
While the apparent objective is to utilize them to organize your photography equipment, you could alternatively remove them and use this section of the bag as a conventional clamshell. This good feature makes the bag more adaptable than your typical camera bag, which we like.
Testing & Durability
We’ve been putting the Chrome Niko to the test for the last four months.
Overall, the backpack is an attractive choice for photographers who need to transport a lot of lenses and equipment. While we appreciated the bag’s general style and several of its features, we didn’t feel like we were entirely using the bag’s space. However, this is mainly because we employ basic camera packages instead. Therefore, the Chrome Niko is an excellent pick if you have an extensive kit or are seeking something that will easily accommodate your photography gear, clothes, and other items.
The tripod carrying method and the laptop compartment are our primary gripes. In all honesty, the tripod setup seems more suited to a skateboard than a tripod. While it does, the not be may be not accessible to 1) lay the pack down when you have a tripod tied to the back and 2) access the stuff inside when you have a tripod fastened to the back. The actual mechanics of utilizing the bag are dramatically changed when you have a tripod on it, which felt like an afterthought. The tripod carrying method significantly impacts the rhythm of this bag for a professional photographer who is frequently going in and out of their pack.
The Chrome Niko, on the other hand, can be an excellent alternative if you’re the sort of photographer that unloads their gear in one location and doesn’t move around often or swaps things around.
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