If you photograph anything outdoors and you use a large lens, you’ve probably thought about getting a bean bag. There are some situations and places where a tripod just doesn’t make sense. Bean bags are typically less expensive, more portable and easier to use. They have obvious limitations as well, but a bean bag certainly works better than nothing.
Having owned just about every bean bag on the market, I was excited to try to the Apex Bean Bag. My friend Greg Downing at Naturescapes.net told me about it and hence, this review.
As a serious bird photographer, I use bean bags in conjunction with very long lenses when shooting from my vehicle. Without a doubt, the Apex bean bag is the largest bean bag I’ve ever used. It’s size also makes it the most stable bean bag I’ve ever used.
What’s unique about the Apex bag is that it allows you to mount a ballhead (even a gimbal head) on the bag for increased stability and versatility.
I mounted several heads on the Apex bag and it worked as advertised. The problem I had with the bag was related to its size. By the time you mount a ball head to it, the height makes it uncomfortable to shoot with from a vehicle. Your experience may vary depending on the car you drive and the size of the window plus your own stature.
Without the ball head attached, the Apex worked better for me. And outside of the vehicle, merely turning it upside down turns into a great stabilizer for shooting on the ground or leaning over the hood of a car.
The bag features security straps that you can use to attach the bag to the car door. I don’t recommend trying to carry the filled bags by these straps since in our test, they started to give way under big loads. For the purpose of holding the bag in place in a vehicle, they work fine.
Speaking of filled – we spent an additional $21 buying pinto beans to fill the bag. If you add that to the $129.95 purchase price, the Apex bean bag is certainly the most expensive solution of its kind I know of.
The bottom line is that this is one sturdy, well-made bean bag. It supported my camera and lens better than any other I have tried. It’s the most stable solution of this kind I have found. But that stability comes at a price. First and foremost at $129.95 (plus the cost to fill it) I think this is going to be a hard sell to some photographers based on our current economy. The other caveat to remember is that this is a very large bag. It may or may not be too big for your application. If you’re looking for something smaller, (read that cheaper, easier and faster to fill,) you can find it.
In the end, because of the price I can’t give this my highest recommendation. I can say I like it, plan to use it again and that if it were less expensive, I’d give it two thumbs up.
The Apex bean bag is manufactured by Essential Photo Gear in Michigan.