Bags, Bags, Bags.
Photographers have such a love / hate relationship with our backpacks, messenger bags, sling bags, or what have you. Personally, I’ve gone through several iterations of bags that I use. Granted, this has been required because I’ve been adding to the array of lenses that I have, so it’s been necessary… but there really is no substitute for a quality bag to house your camera, lenses, filters, and everything else you may need on a shoot.
For the past six months, I’ve been using the Shape Shifter backpack from ThinkTank Photo. I use it in almost all situations where I’m shooting out of a backpack. Photowalks, Travelling, you name it – it’s there. The only exception to this rule is when I shoot a concert, in the crowd a backpack of any kind is far too encumbering so I shoot out of a small messenger bag there. I also don’t need all my gear there so a backpack is certainly overkill in that case.
So, what can fit in the bag?
The two pictures above are taken from the ThinkTank Photo website showing what they present as possible uses of the bag. The main components of the backpack are suited for a laptop computer, and photo gear. In the photo gear component, there are 5 internal sleeves with drawstrings that you can use to hold whatever you wish. I don’t have two camera bodies as they show above, so I double up one of the internal sleeves to hold a couple of other smaller lenses. That said, it does comfortably hold a camera body, wide-angle lens, mid-range zoom lens, telephoto lens, and a couple of other smaller lenses (I also keep a 50mm and a fisheye).
Along with raw camera gear, I also keep a raincover for my camera, and assorted filters on the other side, pictured here:
This part of the backpack I also find useful to keep cords and things, like remote shutter cables, and shoulder straps.
What Else Can I Keep In There?
One great thing about this backpack (and I’ve seen it in much of the other ThinkTank bags too) is that there are pockets galore. There’s enough space for other compact cameras (like an X100 or other micro 4/3 or P&S), memory cards, lens brushes, microfibre cloths, tools, car keys, or any other miscellaneous items. Here’s a shot of the top pockets:
The bottom image of the two also shows the lower pocket on the outside (which doubles as a pocket to help carry a tripod with the clips you can see). When I’m not carrying my tripod, it’s a perfect sleeve for an iPad, or travel documents.
The Good, The Bad, And The… Otherwise.
As I said, I really love this bag. I wouldn’t be writing about it here if I didn’t love to shoot out of this bag or if I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else. Any time someone asks me “What bag do you use?” the Shape Shifter is my answer. It just does the job really well. It’s light, fits a tremendous amount of gear inside, travels well (fits underneath an airline seat or in an overhead compartment very easily) and also doesn’t look like a backpack that could be filled with thousands of dollars of photography gear to any would-be thief.
So… what’s bad about it? If you’re the kind of photographer who likes to shoot out of a bag – meaning take a camera out of a bag, shoot, and put it back, this bag isn’t for you. The bag is set up in such a way that you can’t feasibly store a camera with a lens attached. For me, that’s not a problem because when I shoot, I only ever set up and tear down once – before and after the shoot respectively. There’s no big deal for me to carry around a camera outside of the bag. This also ensures that my camera is always at the ready for the shot which is nice.
A Final Thought
I really love this bag. It allows me to carry all of my photo gear with me when I’m on a shoot and my tripod very easily. Loaded up, it’s not that heavy and is quite comfortable to wear. There’s sufficient padding on the back and shoulder straps that it’s not a hindrance at all. I would recommend it to any photographer of any level as a great walk-around-town backpack or a backpack to travel out of… or both!