travel

The Perfect Camera Bag

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A few months I got together with a group of friends and fellow photographers for our monthly dinner.  At this particular meeting we all brought our camera bags and shared which type of bags we were using and why we liked them. There was such a wide ranging collection of bags at the table including backpacks, shoulder bags, slings and harness systems, that it quickly became clear a camera bag is a very personal choice.  What may be my perfect camera bag may not be the best choice for someone else.

At the time I was preparing for a trip back to the U.S. and was looking for a good travel bag. I wanted a backpack that could hold a camera and several lenses, a laptop, extra accessories, wasn’t too big or bulky, and would work well as a carry on bag as well as an active shooting bag.  This is something I’ve been searching out for many years and never found, until now.

The Think Tank Shape Shifter just may be the perfect travel camera bag. It holds a lot of gear. It fits a 17″ laptop. There are numerous pockets for extra accessories such as batteries, chargers, memory cards, external drives, and whatever else you may need on a long trip. It collapses down to a nice slim profile or expands to hold more gear, but whichever setup you choose it still doesn’t look or feel too big and bulky.  Most importantly it’s very comfortable to wear and has a few ways to adjust the straps so that the weight of the bag is distributed nicely.

 

You can see all of the features and specifications on the Think Tank website, and here are a few pictures:

Shape Shifter

Shape Shifter

Shape Shifter

 

For traveling through airports this bag is great. It holds everything you need and is easy to get in and out of on a long flight, but how does it work as an active shooting bag? This is where there are some problems, but most of these problems are easy to overcome.  This bag has a lot of space so it is very easy to pack a ton of gear.  The bag may not actually weigh a full ton, but if you’re walking around all day with it filled to maximum capacity it can easily feel like it. I’m currently staying with friends and family so it’s easy for me to take out whatever I don’t need as I walk around shooting. However, if you’re staying in hotels and aren’t comfortable leaving camera gear or a laptop in your room you will have to be a bit judicious when packing for your trip so that you don’t overload your bag.

Over the years I’ve primarily used backpacks so I’m pretty comfortable swinging the bag around to my side to switch lenses and get at whatever accessories I may need.  It’s always a bit awkward but with every bag I’ve owned I’ve found ways to make it work.  Getting into this bag to switch lenses isn’t easy but in my short time using it I haven’t had too much trouble. Luckily with the Shape Shifter there is a simple solution.  The bag is designed so that there is a way to attach the Think Tank Speed Belt and a lens pouch or two (seen in the third picture above), making it easy to quickly change lenses.  Unfortunately this isn’t included with the bag so you’ll have to purchase the Speed Belt and lens pouches separately.  I haven’t purchased the Speed Belt yet but from customer reviews it sounds like it works well with the bag.

Lastly, this bag isn’t cheap.  On Amazon.com it’s about $265 and at Foto File in Bangkok it cost about 8000 THB.  If you add the Speed Belt plus a lens pouch or two you’re looking at somewhere in the range of $300 to $400 or 10,000 to 12,000 THB.

 

This bag may not be for everyone but for me it’s pretty close to the perfect travel camera bag.  It would be interesting to see what bags everyone out there likes so in the comments let us know what you’re using and what you like about it.