Richard Peters Photography

Modifying the Nikon 200-400 VR bag so its comfortable to wear!
August 20, 2008, 9:12 pm
Filed under: 200-400 VR | Tags: , , ,

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I love my 200-400 VR, its a fantastic lens in every respect as opinions everywhere will say. However, one thing that is not mentioned is the standard bag (the CL-L2) is just not designed for carrying all that weight for long periods of time. Buying another bag is one solution but as the bag is custom designed to hold the lens it seems a shame to cast it aside. That’s when a friend stepped in and suggested he could modify it for me at his work.

Nikon 200-400 VR bag but with a difference...

Nikon 200-400 VR bag but with a difference...

So lets see whats been done to improve things a little…

The main problem with the bag is its just not well thought out for something that is going to hold a big heavy lens and camera for long periods of time. For a start it only has one shoulder strap so carrying slingshot style is the only option and that becomes very uncomfortable pretty quickly. Second of all the carry handle on the top has been cleverly(!) placed at the edge so when you hold the bag up it hangs at an angle…so its going to end up whacking you in the legs every now and again. Below you’ll find side by side shots showing all the modifications to the bag. Photos of the original bags form courtesy of Brian Chang Photography as I didn’t take any before I modified mine, oops!

The bag in its standard form

The bag in its standard form

So with the above problems in mind the following modifications have been carried out:

  • Single strap replaced with two straps to allow bag to be carried like a rucksack. This makes a huge difference to the weight distribution when carrying on long distances!
  • The carry handle at the top has been moved from the back to the middle, so now when you use it the bag hangs straight and not at an awkward angle.
  • A small padding area has been placed at the bottom of the bag so the hard plastic base does not rub against you when wearing the bag on your back
  • The bright yellow Nikon logo has been covered over with black material so the bag doesn’t scream ‘steal me, expensive camera stuff inside’ quite so much.

The single shoulder strap has to go
The single rear strap has been removed and replaced with two contoured shoulder straps, allowing the bag to be worn as a rucksack and easily allowing the weight of the lens + camera to be distributed evenly. This has made a huge difference when being out in the field, especially if your out all day walking miles! You can also see a padded area which has been added to the bag so the hard plastic base does not bang against your lower back when worn as a rucksack. This padding slides up and down so when worn it can go a little below the bottom of the bag but when standing up, it can sit level with the bag. The shoulder straps are custom made but based on the ones from the Lowepro 600aw bag. They are stitched to the top of the bag and at the bottom they have a heavy duty nylon which is threaded through the black ‘strap loops’ that are on the side of the bag. This is nylon is then stitched to itself once looped through.

Single shoulder strap replaced with two

Single shoulder strap replaced with two

Carry handle, time to move!
Next up, the carrying handle position of the orignal bag was in such a place that if you lifted the bag up from it, it would hang at an angle and at some point that hard plastic base would start bashing you in the legs! So, the handle was moved to the centre top of the bag…now the bag hangs straight making it much more practical to use.
Handle position change

Carry handle position change

Whats in the bag?
Almost there, now lets get rid of that bright yellow Nikon label! It really does stand out a mile on the all black bag and to anyone who is even slightly in the know, a big bag with a Nikon label on it can only mean there is probably something inside that’s valuable.
Making the bag less conspicuous

Making the bag more discrete

And finally a couple more views of the changes to the rear and the carry handle. I hope some of you out there find this of some use as it makes the bag so much more usable, I really don’t know why a variation of these modifications were not on the bag as standard! I’ve been using mine in this form for over two years and its an absolute pleasure to carry the lens around now whereas to start with I used to have an aching neck and shoulders after a days use. One last point to mention after reading the comment below, this modification didn’t cost me anything as my friend did it all at his work. So, I’m unable to give you an idea of what to expect to pay to have this done to your own bag unfortunately but I’ll happily answer any questions I can about it.
UPDATE 22nd August 2008:
This topic has been very popular and a couple of people have mentioned weight would be even better distributed if there was a waist strap to take some of the weight off the shoulders. That was an idea for a mark 2 version of this bag modification however, as the weight is now completely manageable even after a full day out walking around with the lens (with no ache at all on the shoulders) it was decided to leave the bag as it is for me. That said, others may still find the weight is a little on the heavy side so adding a waist strap may be something you would want to consider.
UPDATE 25th August 2008:
This bag is listed as an accessory for the 400, 500 and 600mm lenses as well and I can confirm the 600/4 fits in perfectly with the hood reversed and without a body attached. It will fit with the 1.4xTC attached also. The new 600/4 VR will fit as well but as its slightly longer it will not fit with the TC attached.
Carry handle and shoulder strap mods

Carry handle and shoulder strap mods

Double shoulder straps

Double shoulder straps

More views of the modifications

More views of the modifications



This is a fantastic idea and will alleviate a lot of pain from my shoulders especially after hours of trails walking. Please tell me how much it will cost to have the bag modified the same way you showed it. Your reply is greatly appreciated.

Comment by Florence Yeung

Great Idea. Have you sold it to Nikon and/or are you and your friend planning to help (for a charge) people like me get their bags modified.

Comment by Srirama Raja

Thanks for the comments, glad you like the mods. Florence I trust you received the email I sent you at the time of your original question.

Srirama, the work involved makes the cost of doing these mods every now and again very expensive. As such it would probably be cheaper to buy something like the Lowepro Lens Trekker 600 II bag, that can be had for £130 if you shop around.

Comment by Richard Peters

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