Review: Nikon Gaston Luga GL X camera bag
Although 'collabs' are nothing new in the photography accessory world (I own a Filson x Magnum satchel bag for example), the GL X Nikon backpack I was sent recently by Nikon Australia is, I believe, the Japanese company's first camera bag developed in partnership with another brand, in this case Swedish lifestyle brand Gaston Luga.
At launch, the $289 GL X backpack was described as a product that 'invites creators to embark on a journey to transcend the ordinary and create extraordinary visual narratives that resonate with their unique stories', and while this may be the most bewildering description of a camera bag I've ever heard, when I was offered the opportunity to review the backpack for myself I was suitably intrigued, especially so as I'm a fan of backpacks for lugging my own camera gear.
So, putting aside the PR hyperbole, is the GL X any good? Let's find out.
Out of the box, the GL X is a nicely made bag, manufactured from a 'premium', water-resistant material, described on the tag as 100% recycled polyester with a a TPU coating. It feels and looks a bit like PU leather.
Gaston Luga's website does mention that its bags are not made from animal-based materials, which means no leathers, no adhesives, and no colourings sourced from animals. In addition, the company's materials meet PETA’s requirements and are approved as PETA-approved vegan materials - all good things.
Moving to the look of the thing, and as my colleague Tim Levy over at Capture wrote in his write-up of the bag, it doesn't scream 'camera bag', and seems more of a hybrid lifestyle / camera backpack suited to urban environments.
This is further reinforced by the subtle branding - there's a small Swedish flag on the side, and only very subtle Nikon branding on the front which all help sell the clean aesthetic.
However, while the material the bag is made from is nice to the touch and well sewn, it's hard to tell how well it will wear over time when exposed to the usual conditions camera backpacks experience - think airport conveyor belts, trains, buses etc.
I've always preferred more heavy duty synthetic fabrics such as Nylon as camera bags traditionally have a tough life. That said, this is just my personal choice, and this is clearly a bag designed for a more urban environment. It's quite likely buyers of it won't be taking it hiking anytime soon.
On the rear, the bag fully opens like a suitcase and can fit both a 14' laptop and tablet alongside a detachable camera holder with adjustable dividers that attaches to the bag with velcro. It's large enough to hold a couple of camera bodies and a few lenses, with room to spare.
There are also two tripod or bottle holders on each side, and a small compartment on the front of the bag that could be used to hold cards or papers.
It's worth noting that the detachable camera holder itself is made of a relatively thin fabric, with much of the protection for your camera coming from the dividers themselves and the padding on the rear of the bag.
The bag is relatively comfortable to wear with decent padding for the shoulders, although the straps are still quite thin, so if you're carrying a bit of weight you may find it uncomfortable over time, especially as there's no waist strap to cinch it to your back.
Finally, the bag has a nice and quite hip roll-down top compartment that is secured to the body of the bag via some well-made metal buckles that also carry subtle Nikon/Gaston Luga branding. It all adds up to make for a really premium looking bag.
Loaded up with gear and with the rolltop secured, the GL X holds its shape well, although if you do have a big telephoto on your camera body you may notice a bit of a bulge on the bag as the bag doesn't have an internal frame to keep its shape rigid.
Despite this, it comfortably held my laptop, Sony (sacrilege!) A7 IV and 100-400mm lens, a bunch of clothes, a drink bottle, a tripod in the side pocket and a few chargers and small cables - all the kinds of things most photographers find themselves lugging around.
Although I didn't get to test the GL X's waterproofing, which is rated to 16000mm, the zips on the front of the bag are all seam-sealed, which is reassuring, but the zips on the rear don't appear to be, which is an unusual choice, especially as this is the part of the bag you're likely to be going in and out of the most.
Speaking of which, when it comes time to taking your camera out of the bag, it's relatively quick, although it likely won't be as fast as you can take a camera out from a satchel or side-bag.
I really enjoyed using the Nikon Gaston Luga GL X, and maybe just because it was nice to use a camera accessory that could double for an everyday non-camera related item as well. It's nicely made, albeit with some curious design choices like the zips, reasonably priced, has (I think) some decent environmental credentials, and it looks great too. That said, if you're not a Nikon shooter, you'd probably never look twice at it, which is a bit of a shame.
All-in-all though, the collab in question makes for a camera bag that's well worth a look if you're in the market for a bag that can double for other duties too.
You can order yours from nikon.com.au.