Is it wrong to love a bag? Well, I do! Think Tank Photo’s Shape Shifter is the biggest revolution in camera back packs in the 19 years that I’ve been a news photographer.
What makes this bag so revolutionary is quite simply that it can shape shift. It has an ingenious zip that expands the bag, turning it from a slim line laptop bag (3” deep) to a full professional size DSLR outfit carrying back pack. The camera section uses very clever neoprene pouches with draw strings, which are sewn into the bag and lie flat when not in use. When in use, I managed to comfortably fit two Canon 1D MkIII bodies, a 70-200mm f2.8L IS, a 16-35mm f2.8L and a 580 EXII flash. By putting the flash into the main front external pocket, I can even fit a 24-70mm f2.8L lens too.
The bag’s design came about because of the need to carry a full working camera outfit, laptop and associated accessories in one bag. In the past this whole kit would fit into the LowePro Computrekker. The main problem however was the LowePro was very bulky and once you had arrived on assignment and taken out your cameras, the bag still remained huge and heavy. This resulted in knocking into people or objects when moving about. With the Shape Shifter, once you get to your assignment, you simply get your camera gear and then compress the compartment shut.
The rest of the bag is also extremely well designed and superbly made. The zippers are top quality as is the workmanship. I’ve been using this bag for almost a month now and it still looks brand new.
The laptop sits in the back compartment in a separate padded area which is large enough to take an Apple MacBook Pro 17” laptop. Moving to the front, there are three separate zipped pockets. The top one lends itself perfectly to carrying external mobile hard drives, card readers, 3G modems and other bits. The lower area has two other pockets which are larger and will swallow laptop chargers, blank DVDs, notebooks, a flashgun or two and spare batteries.
Moving back to the main camera compartment, the inner lid area also has a couple of pockets and a larger zipped pocket. In one of the pockets I’ve put a Think Tank Photo Cable Management 10 which is a transparent organizer and carries my essential computer accessories and spare cables. In the other I’ve put the supplied seam-sealed rain cover. It has to be said that the bag can handle short showers, but for heavy and prolonged rain, I’d definitely recommend using the cover.
One of the most important things in any back pack is how comfortable it is to carry when fully laden. I’m pleased to report that its by far the most comfortable back pack I’ve ever used. The back is very well padded and has channels to allow air to circulate and increases comfort. The shoulder straps are well padded and shaped and there is a chest strap. They also have neoprene pockets on them to carry mobile phones or memory card wallets. To top this off, there are a couple of D-rings, and fabric loops which allow you to attach the company’s camera support straps. This is a neat idea as it spreads the weight of the camera on both shoulders, relieves neck ache and still keeps the camera in a ready position. Also supplied is a waist strap which can be removed and replaced with an optional modular speed belt, allowing you to carry pouches. Talking of which, you should check out the Skins pouches which also fold flat and have a silent closure mode on the velcro flaps. Lastly, the bag is designed to carry a monopod or a tripod.
I can’t recommend this bag highly enough; its superbly designed and very well made. Anyone who needs to carry a professional camera outfit and laptop around all day will definitely benefit by adding this to their kit.
This article originally appeared in the British Journal of Photography, December 17, 2008.