The Top Loader from Shimoda Designs is a holster style shoulder bag made from water-resistant resin-coated nylon. Designed for a single camera and a single lens, the main compartment is expandable to allow you to use any lens up to a 70-200mm f/2.8. It offers multiple carry options that I will show in more detail later in the review, and it comes with a padded shoulder strap.
- Weight: 0.8lb / 0.36kg
- Outside Dimensions (in): 7.1W x 10.2H x 5.9D in.
- Outside Dimensions (cm) :18W x 26H x 15D cm
- Inside Dimensions (in): 6.3W x 7.9H x 5.1D in.
- Inside Dimensions (cm):16W x 20H x 13D cm
Note: Use discount code ShutterMuse10 to save 10% on any items from the Shimoda Designs store. Read this for more details: Shimoda discount code.
The Top Loader is designed for mirrorless cameras or regular DSLRs. There is not enough room for gripped bodies or pro-sized DSLRs like the Canon 1D X series.
In the bag’s regular mode, you can comfortably fit a 24-70 f/2.8 with the hood attached. If you use the zipper on the bottom of the bag to expand it, you can fit up to a 70-200 f/2.8. The expansion mechanism is quick, smooth and easy. Probably the best implementation of an expanding camera case that I have seen.
Carrying the Top Loader
The Top Loader comes with a lightweight shoulder strap that offers just enough in the way of padding. Those that think they will carry it on their shoulder should note the images above.
If you carry it on one shoulder, the rear positioning of the strap attachment points (D-rings) causes the bag to hang awkwardly (left image). Only the bottom of the bag contacts your body and it has a tendency to swing around wildly when you walk. If you wear the strap across your body, you’ll notice that the bag now hangs in a much better position. It’s flat to the body and the added contact makes it much more stable when you move around.
I found this difference between strap modes to be unfortunate. I personally don’t like wearing straps across my body, and I avoid it wherever possible. I have tried many similar bags to the Top Loader, and all of them have the shoulder strap mounted on the side of the bag, not the rear. Had the shoulder strap mount points been on the side in the middle, the bag would have worked equally well in either carrying orientation.
Backpack Waist Belt
The next option you have to carry the Top Loader is to mount it onto the belt of your backpack. While this would work with a number of different packs, the Shimoda Action-X packs are designed with this in mind.
The waist belt of the Action-X series is tapered in width towards the body of the pack. This means that once you slide the wider part though the Top Loder’s belt loop, it’s fastened on incredibly tightly. This clever piece of the design means that even when you have the weight of a camera in the Top Loader, you can safely unfasten the waist belt of the pack and just let it hang. With most other packs the Top Loader would slide right off onto the floor at this point, but not with the Action-X.
I was really pleased with this setup, and I absolutely loved being able to undo the belt and not worry about the Top Loader coming off. The size of the bag is perfect for this application, too. It disappears out of your peripheral vision and doesn’t get in the way while you are hiking. Yet remains easily accessible in a hurry when you need it.
Backpack Chest Harness
If you purchase the additional accessory straps for the Top Loader, you can also mount it on your chest. Again, many backpacks with daisy-chains on the shoulder straps will allow this, but the Action-X packs have been designed in tandem with the Top Loader so it’s perfect.
I know some people like to use holster style bags in this way, but I personally prefer to mount it on the waist belt. When I have it on my chest, I can’t see much of my feet. Still, the option is there for people who like this, and you can use two or four straps for the attachment.
I have to say that I haven’t tried this particular mode, but I saw the video of it on the Shimoda YouTube channel!
What about the weather?
The exterior material of the Top Loader is heavily weather resistant, but the main access zipper is not. It’s just a regular zipper, nothing like a YKK Aquaguard. I would have liked to see a waterproof rain cover included with the bag, such as it is with the similarly priced MindShift Outbound holster. Or at least to have one available as an optional purchase.
This bag was designed to work well with the Action-X backpack series. Those bags use the same external material, yet they do have an optional rain cover. What happens if you are using the Top Loader externally mounted to your Action-X pack and then find yourself in prolonged torrential weather? You can reach for the rain cover for your pack, but there’s nothing to cover your Top Loader. This means you have to hope you have enough spare room in your bag to pack the Top Loader into it.
I rummaged around in my cupboards and found a cover from another old bag, which now lives in my Top Loader.
This is another really well-made product from Shimoda Designs. If you’re looking for a holster bag for a camera with one lens, it should definitely be on your shortlist.
For owners of the Simoda Action-X backpacks, I think it’s a must-have accessory. It just works so well when you have it attached to the bag’s waist belt. It’s also nice to have a shoulder bag when you reach your final destination, whether that be an entirely different country, or simply your camp for the night.
One thing I would like to see for future iterations is a relocation of the D-rings for mounting the shoulder strap. If they were placed on the side of the bag and not the rear, the bag would be easier to carry on one shoulder. I’d also like to see a rain cover available as an optional accessory or even included with the bag.
Overall though, this is a great bag. The rugged materials are appreciated for days in the mountains, and the stealthy black design also makes it a low-key option for general travel and city usage.
Buy from Shimoda – Save 10%
The Shimoda Top Loader is available from the Shimoda store for $64.95. You can save a further 10% on your entire order in the store if you use the coupon code ShutterMuse10. Please refer to these instructions if you have any problems with where to find the box to input the discount code.
–>> Worldwide distribution is available from the Shimoda store.