Verdict: 5 stars ★★★★★
If you’re prepared to put up with a short learning process to try something new, the FastTrack-8 shows it’s not a gimmick and is actually a great idea. It’s a really good sling bag with lots of pockets for all your other paraphernalia, and it’s also a way of keeping your camera to hand, ready to shoot, but still secured on a strap.
This is a bit different! The Manfrotto Pro Light FastTrack-8 is a sling bag with a built-in shoulder strap. Sling bags are a cross between shoulder bags and backpacks. They go over one shoulder but are shaped to rest tight against your back rather than swinging freely against your side. When you need to open the bag to get your camera out, you swing it round under your arm to get access to the contents.
The FastTrack-8 current comes in one size and is designed for compact mirrorless cameras, though you could probably squeeze in a compact APS-C DSLR if you had to.
What’s different about the Manfrotto Pro Light FastTrack is that there’s a camera shoulder strap that runs parallel to the sling strap and is attached to the same anchor points at either end. There are attachment loops for your camera, and these are designed to slide up and down the strap so that you can leave the camera hanging at your hip or quickly slide it up to eye level without having to move the strap itself.
The idea is that you get the convenience and comfort of a sling bag, the speed and access of a shoulder strap, and without having two straps getting tangled up and fighting with each other.
The FastTrack has two compartments – one in the top for your camera, and one in the side for your lenses and other accessories.
How to wear a sling bag
If you’re not used to them, sling bags take a little acclimatisation. You need to hold them upright and then put your head and one arm through the strap loop. You can wear the FastTrack over either shoulder, but it works best if you put your head and right arm through. You can get to the top pocket where the camera is stored either way, but if you put the bag over your left shoulder, the side compartment opening will be on the underside of the bag.
The trick to using sling bags – well, this one, anyway – is to shorten the strap so that the bag rests snugly against your back, and you do this by pulling on the top of the strap where it passes over your shoulder to pull the bag against your back. Otherwise, if you just swing the bag under your arm, it will hang loose. When you swing the bag round to the front, it will pass quite close under your arm and sit at about upper chest height – sling bags aren’t designed to sit at hip or waist level like shoulder bags.
Pockets and compartments
The FastTrack’s top compartment is designed so that you can put the camera inside, even while it’s still attached to the strap, and zip it up leaving a small gap between the zip tags for the strap to pass through. Alternatively, if you’re putting it away for longer, it only takes a few moments to unclip the camera attachment loops from the strap so that you can close this compartment completely. There’s even a stitched in loop that slips over the zip tags to prevent the bag being easily unzipped behind your back (very literally).
Inside the lid of the top compartment is a velcro flap which looks like it conceals a small pocket but actually opens (with a bit of effort) to reveal a slim, padded compartment running the full length of the bag.
The side compartment has space for two longish lenses, or more if you’ve got a collection of shorter primes and don’t mind stacking them on top of each other. They’re protected by a single vertical divider in a padded insert that’s stitched to the bag on one side but has a gap on the other for sliding in a tablet. It’ll take a 9.7-inch iPad very snugly. This is the space you access via the velcro flap in the top compartment. Oh, and the top of the side compartment padded insert has an elasticated strap for securing a small tripod like the Manfrotto PIXI, or some other accessory.
This side compartment is closed by a single zipper, and this has its own small securing loop to prevent it being opened easily. In the lied are a couple of mesh pockets with fold-over securing flaps for storing memory cards, batteries or other small bits and pieces.
We’re not quite done yet. On the other side of the bag is a small zip-up pocket which would be idea for passports and other travel documents, and on both sides the compartment lids have elasticated flaps ideal for storing maps, water bottles, sunglasses (probably not expensive prescription ones) or any other bits and bobs you might need in a hurry and where it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they fell out.
There’s also a small zip-up pocket in the top and a much larger full-size pocket in the back, which is accessed via a zip in the side and would be ideal for larger documents, or maybe your tablet.
How the strap works
This requires a bit of concentration at first, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it works really well. The strap length is adjusted independently of the sling strap, but will probably end up a similar length, and just in case you’re worried about having two straps, they don’t end up in a tangle when you’re putting the bag on or taking it off.
The trick lies in how the camera is attached and how it then slides up and down the strap. You get two buckle attachments which you can quickly loop through the camera eyelets and then clip to two sliding buckles fitted permanently to the strap. The camera can now slide freely up and down the strap, resting just below hip height at your side when you’re not using it and then sliding easily to eye level when you want to take a picture.
The natural stop point for this upward slide movement is the clip used to adjust the strap length, so in practice you position this clip so that the camera comes to a stop in the right place. This does leave the camera hanging quite low at just below hip level when you’re not using it, but it doesn’t take long to get used to that.
Manfrotto Pro Light FastTrack-8 verdict
First, sling bags are not to everyone’s taste because they take a bit of figuring out. Up is down and down is up, depending on whether you’ve got the bag on your back or swung round to the front. It’s disorientating.
Second, be aware that you’re not going to get even a mid-sized DSLR into this bag’s top pocket. It’s designed for the smaller bodies of mirrorless cameras – though you could probably squeeze in a Nikon D3400 or a smaller Canon EOS DSLR.
Third, this idea of combining a sling bag with an integrated strap takes a bit of getting used to as well. It looks like an overcomplicated gimmick, right?
Probably your first hour with the FastTrack is going to be spend fiddling with the straps, re-checking the photos in the leaflet and staring at a mirror wondering why you don’t look like the guy in the photos.
Soon enough, though, you figure it all out. You learn how to sling the bag over your shoulder, adjust the strap lengths and learn the movements needed to swing the bag around, shoot with the camera and get to your gear.
And that’s the thing – if you’re prepared to put up with this short learning process to try something new, the FastTrack-8 shows it’s not a gimmick and is actually a great idea. It’s not just a really good sling bag with lots of pockets for all your other paraphernalia, it’s also a way of keeping your camera to hand, ready to shoot, but still secured on a strap.
Find out more: Manfrotto website