Most photographers I know are a little geeky. We peruse websites and magazines showing the latest camera gear like it’s porn, drooling and dreaming of what we might buy next, whether we really need it or not. As we amass a certain amount of gear we need somewhere to put it all and somewhere to put part of it. We also need somewhere that will prevent us from putting too much or limiting us to too little.
This makes for some tough decisions when it comes to bags, straps and packs. Im sure you’ve gone out on a photo walk only to realize you left that macro lens at home or burned off more calories than usual because you took the 70-200, 2.8 but never used it. All the more reason to find the right kind of bags.
Your choices range from single waist packs to modular waist packs, from full backpacks to half measure shoulder slings, and then there’s the rollies. A practical studio on wheels. If you’re the kind that doesn’t mind packing the kitchen sink into a fabric cart then more power to ya! Im not that kind of person. I need a solution that allows for enough equipment without reminding me that Im carrying it.
I believe I found that solution when I took a trip back home to visit family, country, and friends. I’ve long admired the bags and systems on offer from ThinkTank Photo but, no doubt, like you Ive always justified not buying them based on price. Lets face it, camera bags are not cheap no matter who you get them from. Hours and hours Ive spent looking over specs, dimensions, weights, number of pockets and then those images that show what “could” go in them. None of those images matched what I have anyway.
I knew I was going to be walking around, there was a Worldwide Photowalk going on and England is a great place to walk. I knew I wanted to carry a tripod from time to time and remain hands free. I knew I didn’t want to check my camera gear at the airport. And I knew I wanted something that actually encouraged me to use it because it wasn’t too big or too small. So the choice was determined in parts.
- Functionality while Im on location
- Overall dimensions for carry on
- Ability to attach a tripod
- A little “extra” for snackies
Logically, it seemed like I needed a backpack of sorts. ThinkTank Photo have several available but the name “StreetWalker” seems the most obvious. Now it was a matter of playing Goldilocks. The smallest StreetWalker and the StreetWalker Pro were neck and neck after I discounted the StreetWalker Hard Drive because one thing that wasn’t on my list was carrying a Laptop around.
I probably could have managed with the smaller StreetWalker but the difference of $20 and minor increase in outside dimensions made the StreetWalker Pro a more suitable choice. Plus, who doesn’t like to have the word “Pro” in a product? The bags are practically identical with differences of a half inch here and an inch there and both can carry a tripod with purposely located tie straps but the StreetWalker Pro has a secret pouch tucked away should you need to carry a larger tripod or as in my case you want to use the back pocket for extra snackies!
The build quality of the bag is quite outstanding. My biggest pet peeve of most camera bags is the zipper systems. Another bag I own is a little tedious to open without using two hands, the zippers are so snug. Now Im not one for accessing my gear at lightning speed but I really don’t want a zipper getting in my way unnecessarily. ThinkTank Photo bags have great zippers. Their concerns are of breakage, mine is getting in the bag easily.
Perhaps it’s psychological but the slim profile of the StreetWalker makes me think its smaller and therefore lighter, which results in me actually wanting to use it rather than thinking -“ugh, I have to lug that bag around, no thanks”. The side pockets are rather clever because they’re practically invisible most of the time. Its almost like they’re hiding so you don’t just shove “stuff” in them but when you really need a little extra, they’re available. Now whatever you put in should be slim anyway. Think wallet, Pixel Pocket Rocket, Wet Wipes, cash or… Snackies! Although I frequently used them for a bottle of water which I would be disposing of at some point during the day anyway. The pockets stretch comfortably around a flexible bottle. A hip flask would be suitable too if you’re into that sort of thing.
At the bottom of the bag there are two fabric loops. I have no idea what they’re for so that means I get to make something up. I used mine in conjunction with a couple of ball bungees to carry a light rain jacket or a sweater or a shirt that I didn’t wear all the time. On other occasions I used them to strap a lightweight light stand. Very cool.
Many bags, especially the backpack kind have rain covers. The StreetWalker line is no exception. Its not built-in but is actually completely detachable meaning you have the choice as to whether you carry it or not. You may shoot somewhere it never rains or gets dusty, why take the space?. Did I mention I went to England? It rains there and I love it! Although it never did while I was on walkabout with the StreetWalker, I did get a chance to snap a frame or two of the other ThinkTank Photo bag I took with me – the Retrospective 30 (courtesy of a loan from “R.C” Concepcion)
The Retrospective also comes in different sizes ranging over a dozen models. The Retrospective 30 being the largest but despite packing it with a Canon 7D, two Canon 580EXII’s, 100mm (2.8)macro, and a 16-35mm (2.8L) along with the usual sundries of batteries and CF cards there was PLENTY of room (for snackies). Not only that, this bag is extremely comfortable slung over the shoulder and feels like it could be dragged through a forest, up a mountain, dipped in a bucket of snow, and still come out asking for more. Its that durable.
Two pockets at the ends could conceivably be used for beverages but not if the inside pockets are holding the 580EXII’s. Those interior pockets are simply perfect for small strobes keeping them out of the way until you really need them.
Also at either end you’ll find thick strapped loops which I found most useful for holding on to as I walked through crowds although they also doubled as clamp holders and I even hooked my tripod through one as I moved from one spot to another in a local park.
The interior sports adequate zippered storage for cash or credit cards plus spare compact flash cards etc. Two front pockets are super expandable to the point you could fit a pro level DSLR in each or collapse them for a smaller profile. While I prefer the security of the velcro closure there is a rather innovative feature inside the main flap that will allow you to cover the velcro for silent access should you need it.
My only concern with this engaged was the possibility of gear tumbling out should the bag be lifted in a non optimal manner. I wouldn’t mind an optional or additional clasping mechanism such as a buckle or the standard plastic clips that we are so used to now. Still silent but understandably absent for a company whose motto is- Be Ready “Before the Moment”
Both of these bags made traveling with gear more convenient and comfortable than Ive previously experienced and Im very glad I got to try them out. Ultimately many of our decisions come down to money and its easy to write off these items as “just bags” so don’t warrant hundreds of dollars. But when you find the right one (or two), the one (or two) that makes you take your gear out more often and protects it from impact and elements while allowing you great access, you quickly realize its much more than a device to carry your gear.
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If you’ve been on the fence about a new bag or are looking for a gift this season for that special someone you can’t go far wrong with ThinkTank Photo, especially since they offer one of eleven free gifts with every order.
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Cable Management 10 ($16.75)
R U Thirsty ($19.96)
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