Review of the F-Stop Satori EXP

I really thought about naming the blog entry “Carrying a giant” but more on this as we go.

I bought and reviewed the Tilopa BC a while back. You can read the initial review here. And this is a blog entry I wrote after using the Tilopa in the Netherlands on a trip.

I was happy with the Tilopa. It is an awesome backpack, fact!

BUT I always said that I would really like that bit of room the Satori EXP (62 liter) would give me. The Tilopa BC is a 48 liter backpack which isn’t small but I wanted to have just that extra bit of space that allowed me a bit more freedom in choosing my gear for a shoot.

I had the opportunity to buy a used Satori EXP in Foliage Green and I was able to sell my Tilopa BC for only slightly less so there wasn’t much of a price difference. The only thing that I really regret is the fact that my Tilopa BC was Malibu Blue (The most awesome color a backpack can be!). I loved that color. Now I have a greenish/gray backpack which looks like any other backpack out there (color wise). But believe me, it isn’t when it comes to features and it certainly isn’t when it comes to price. That baby isn’t cheap!!

The setup I own now (a Satori EXP, a Large Pro ICU and a Small Pro ICU) will set you back around 526€ (BAM!!). Shipping to Germany and taxes included. That hurts!!! To be fair, I didn’t pay that much but still, you have to think about it. On the other hand if you want the best photo backpack out there, THIS is it!!

Is it without any flaws? No, but they are minor, especially compared to the “flaws” of the other backpacks I tested on my blog. More on the pros and cons later.

Let’s take a look at the backpack. The image quality isn’t as good as it usually is (at least not for all shots,  I shot a few things a  few days ago). I had set this backpack up for a shooting and shot some of the imagse in this review with my backup body, a D90 and a manual lens.That way you can see what I had in the backpack for the Session.

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I had a light stand mounted on the side and a reflector on the front. The reflector is held in place by the large Gatekeepers (there is one pair of Gatekeeper Straps included, if you purchase the Satori EXP). Unfortunately for me I bought my backpack used so mine didn’t have them but Vedran over at F-Stop hooked me up when I ordered my Small Pro ICU. Thanks again! You’re the best! That’s one hack of a customer service.

With the Gatekeepers you are able to attach a shit load of stuff to the outside of the backpack like a tripod, a lightstand, a reflector, your baby brother (kidding but it would probably work),a snowboard or skateboard and even an sleeping mattress, sleeping bag or a tent …

You have 14 Gatekeeper mounting points so you can attach a whole city to the outside of your backpack.

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At the sides you have a lot of straps tto attach something like skis, dolly sliders, tripods, ice axes, or in my case a lightstand on one side and an umbrella softbox on the other.

There are also two pockets on the side which are perfect to carry a bottle (in this case 1,5 liter) or you simply put one leg of your tripod in there.

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You have a big pocket at the front and an even bigger one behind it (nothing on the Satori is small, except for the “Pack-It-In, Pack-It-Out” trash pocket. But it is a “useless” feature anyway. I don’t mean it is useless to watch the garbage you produce and carry your waste with you to an base camp or something but an extra packet is useless, especially one this small, at least for this special purpose. I use it for tooth paste if I travel.

The pocket in the front has a whole on the bottom, that way water gets out, but a weather sealed zipper (kinda strange) and it is designed for a wet jacket or an avalanche shovel. I use it as an extra pocket for some gear and I have a box that fits perfectly in there and carries a lot of small equip.

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My Rapidstrap and a small foldable reflector are always in this pocket, especially if I travel without the big one.

The pocket behind the front is used by me for carrying a scarf or a shirt or some other parts of clothing. It is also equipped with a weather sealed zipper.

There is one small pocket on the bottom of the backpack which can be used for the rain cover. I received mine courtesy to Sinh over at F-Stop after writing my last review! Thanks again!!!It looks like this when attached to the backpack.

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There is just one thing that bugs me a tiny bit. There are a few weather sealed zippers around the backpack but the zipper for the main compartment (which sits on your back and is still unprotected even with the rain cover) isn’t weather sealed. In 99% of cases that won’t be a problem, seen that you will carry a jacket when it is raining like hell and that way the zipper is protected. Still there is that 1%.

You get one other big pocket on top of the backpack, which is also equipped with a weather sealed zipper.

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The pocket is big enough for a 1 liter bottle with room left and even a 1,5 liter bottle without much more room left. I usually use it for my Kindle, my earphones (Westone 1, which I highly recommend), my wallet and sometimes even for my box with the CF-cards (during a Session, not for extended travel). A passport can be replaced, the pictures can’t…….

That pocket is big! It might not look like it from the outside but believe me, you get a lot in there.

Now for the two main pockets.

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This was what I had in the backpack (in my Large Pro ICU) for my last shooting.

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What you don’t see is the D90 body (the backup body). I use it to photograph the whole thing.

Just in the main compartment I have:

  • D700 with battery grip attached and a Tamron 28-75 2.8
  • Nikon D90 (body only)
  • Yasica FX-D with a 50mm and a Kodak Portra 400 film loaded
  • Nikon 50 1.8 G and 85 1.8 D
  • Sigma 70-200 2.8
  • Yongnuo YN-622N flash trigger
  • A small first aid kit
  • Lens cloth and a lens blower
  • A Honl Speedstrap
  • A flashlight
  • The head of my Jinbei FL-II 500

There is also room on top of the ICU and with the Large Pro ICU and the Satori EXP you get quite a bit of room.

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You can fit a lot of stuff in there.

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On top of the ICU I had:

  • The Unit of the Jinbei FL-II 500
  • A SB-900
  • A Honl Grid and a small foldable softbox.
  • Last but not least my trusted gaffa tape.

You see I carry a lot of gear and I am one of those “Maybe I need it” kinda guys and it is an awesome backpack for “Maybe I need it”.

AND with the small pro ICU it is an awesome rucksack to visit another city. I had a recent trip to Hamburg with a friend. I used the Small Pro ICU to carry my D700 (without the grip this time), my 50 1.8, my 85 1.8 and my Nikon SB-900. So it was a really small equip that I carried with me. And I was able to carry enough clothing for the weekend. I also carried the Satori around in Hamburg for hours at a time without any back pain with about 5-6 kilo of equip, clothing, something to drink….In fact, carrying the Satori was  more fun than carrying some way smaller backpacks I had. Even with  a volume of 62 liter the backpack doesn’t feels like a giant on you back. It is awesome especially for carrying it in the streets. I never felt like I was carrying a huge backpacks that in and of itself weighs about a ton, on my back.  It ways 1.8kilo (without ICU) and the Small Pro ICU is 400 gramm.

So let’s get to the end.

Pro:

  • HUGE!
  • Well thought through
  • Superb build quality and quality materials
  • You can configure the pack the way you want it due to the ICUs. If you want a backpack with a lot of room for clothing and a small camera space, buy a smaller ICU (like the Small Pro ICU). If you want a big camera backpack and nothing else, get the XL Pro ICU.
  • A lot of attachment points for gear on the outside (MOLLE attachment points on the harness, 14 Gatekeeper attachment points, clips, loops………….)
  • The backpack has a big laptop compartment 17″
  • A good harness system that allows you to carry the backpack over long periods of time without back pain
  • 3 different colors with the most awesome backpack color out there (Malibu Blue)

Cons:

  • Very Expensive! It is one of the biggest backpacks when it comes to size (if not the biggest) and if you take a look at the few other companies that are in the league of the F-Stop Satori or even Tilopa BC you will see that F-Stop is the best but it is also the one that costs the most.
  • You have to pay an additional price to get the rain cover. It isn’t included in the backpack. With a backpack that size and with that price tag and considering the production costs of the rain cover……On the other hand, you normally don’t need a rain cover. The Nylon has a Polyurethane coating with makes it water repellent and it works very well.
  • The main zipper isn’t weather sealed. If you carry the backpack on your back you create a kind of seal with your clothing. It is totally fine but a very good weather sealed zipper would have been cool.

Other then the price and the “flaw” with the zipper you get a backpack that will hold a lot of gear and it will give you a smile when you load it and you see how much you get in there (but consider the fact that you have to carry the backpack afterwards…..). It is the best camera backpack I have ever seen and used and I tested the Lowepro Pro Trekker 600, the Tenba Shootout Backpack Large, The Tamrac Expedition 9x and I have owned a smaller backpack (a Lowepro Primus AW and owned a F-Stop Tilopa BC). If you don’t need the size, get the Tilopa BC if you need a big backpack, get the Satori EXP (and get them in Malibu Blue).

I talked quite a bit about the session I shot with that particular setup. This is the photo session I shot with this backpack configuration.

Ciao Björn

P.S.: Shot the image below while drinking a superb coffee in Hamburg at the coffee shop.

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