You’d think choosing a camera bag would be simple. And when I started it was. My bag fitted everything I used. My equipment was limited and I didn’t need much flexibility. I just loaded it up, and off I went.
Then as I got busier, and encountered more situations my gear increased. I expanded my kit to give me backups and alternatives to handle different scenarios and to enable me to travel light and have to compromise on some flexibility, or carry a wide range to deal with whatever might come my way.
What I discovered was that for every combination of gear, there is an ideal carrying solution. Now I’m not going to go deep into my actual kit in this post, I will cover the individual set ups separately in some (cliché) “Whats in my bag posts”.
For now I just want to talk about the bags I use day to day, and my personal thoughts about that bag.
Think Tank Signature 13
Firstly my day to day, take everywhere bag. My Think Tank Signature 13.
I freaking love this bag. It is small, looks cool, fits a heap of gear, and well… it just rocks.
Think Tank released this bag a couple of years ago and I was lucky enough to score one in an online giveaway. I will show you what I can (and do) carry in it in a later post, but these are the things I love about it.
The Look. Yep, its stylish and doesn’t look like a camera bag. Classic brass fittings, beautifiul soft but tough fabric, with leather reinforcing on the bottom. It has a cool soft well padded textured lining. And because it doesn’t scream “look, I’m a camera bag” its stealthy and perfect for everyday use.
So, how is it set up? Undo the brass clasps, and you open it up to reveal a zippered main compartment, a button up from t section with another zippered front pocket inside. Undo the main zippered compartment and its stock standard camera bag inside, with removable (extra soft textured) dividers, meaning you can configure it to suit a heap of different set ups. It also has a nice iPad pocket on the inside. Outside it has a zippered back pocket that could also be used for a tablet, but I tend to use this for stuff like notes, my myki pass when I am in Melbourne, basically thin stuff I will want to access regularly without opening the whole bag. It also comes with a rain cover and has a pass through slot on the back for rolling case handles.
The build is solid. After two years of constant use, the leather is getting a bit scuffed up, but the seams, zips, buckles etc are still all perfect. I guess that when you think of Think Tank, you should think “tank” because they are built like them.
It is super comfortable to carry all day, but overload it and after 12 hours you will have had enough. Keep it light and you can go for days. Ive done days carrying a D850+D750+ 105 1.4 and 58 1.4 and that was a bit much. Most off the time it holds my Oly PenF, with 17, 25 and 45 1.8 lenses, drink bottle and snacks and it is super comfortable to carry with that load.
This bag is my all time favourite camera bag… so what isn’t perfect about it? Ok… the buckles will pop open when it is stuffed full (rare), but the zip keeps gear safe. The D loops rotate (insignificant but slightly annoying if you have OCD). biggest dislike? It squeeks. The brass buckles and swivels sound like you are strangling a mouse if you are moving quickly.
Think Tank Airport Commuter
This is my workhorse bag. I picked this up about 4 years ago before I went on an NGO trip to Northern Thailand. I wanted something that would always fit in carry-on, could take my travel kit (at the time Fuji XT-1’s) plus some basic overnight essentials. It has been to almost every wedding I have shot since. It has been dragged through gravel, covered in mud, sat in puddles, covered in snow, had drunk wedding guests spill their beer all over it, but after a heap of abuse after a wash it is still in tip top shape. It fits my primary kit comfortably. great for carrying a big load for a long day with comfy straps, the extra chest strap and belt, and a security cable to attach it to a table or railing and lock the main compartment shut. This bag will probably outlast me.. Its a sold backpack that holds a tonne. Nuff said.
Think Tank Airport Navigator
This has been my primary wedding bag for the last 2 seasons. I decided that whenever possible, with a big DSLR kit I needed to take the load off my back. So this carries my primary kit for weddings these days while the backpack is in the car with my backup gear. Its a simple bag. It rolls, takes a decent load (fractionally less than the Commuter backpack). The opening top and front give you excellent on the go access, so you keep the stuff that you want all the time (bodies with lenses attached) in the top, the rest in the main body that is accessed through the front (lie it down first). There are straps to stop the front fully opening and stuff falling out, but I dont use these. I treat it like a suitcase style bag and lie it down whenever I open the front. Also, not zipping a bag up as soon as you are done grabbing something is the kind of thing that sees assistants and second shooters cut from my list… so I just make sure its zipped up whenever Im not actually accessing it. What is the not so good… lack of security cable/lock. I would have loved it if TT could have put one of these cables on it with a couple of locks to secure it at weddings. Also the shoulder strap, while super comfy gets in the way when rolling. It does have a pass through to slip the handle through, but sometimes time is just not that friendly and you gotta run. Mine is chafed away and is now basically unusable from slipping under the bag when rolling in a hurry at weddings.
Think Tank Retrospective 30
This was actually my first Think Tank. I bought it to carry my full Fuji Mirrorless kit a few years ago. Its still going strong, but since I got my Signature 13 and ditched Fuji, its been put into my second tier. It is still the Best run and gun for a medium load when you need fast access though. It fits a heap of gear when needed, but these days it usually carries all my flashes at weddings, fitting six speed lights plus triggers, mods and barrettes in its big compartment and big pockets. Built tough, solid and durable.
This is the oldest of my current bags. I bought this when I stopped using backpacks back in 2013 after my first backpack started to fall apart (that one wasn’t a Think Tank, and I wont dwell on the negatives or name it other that to say the quality was Low, and definitely not Pro). These days it is my portable studio kit for when I am doing location headshots. I can fit cameras, lights, laptop etc. Solid. Good for standing/sitting on. Its also great for travel with the gear you can’t carry on, though I really am tempted to get the new “air” version.
Next on my shopping list? right now I am trying to decide between a Think Tank Airport Security V3 (I do love my TT bags!) or a Pelican Air 1535 (that solid shell makes a good seat/stool/step)... similar size and price, both would carry my entire DSLR wedding kit including my main speed lights meaning only one bag not two. Just cannot decide at the moment which one would be better for me.