Although, I like the sun very much, I can’t pass a year without a ski trip. A few weeks ago, I was quit happy to go, along with some journalists, to ”La Clusaz”, a relatively small and little-known ski resort in France, but a very pleasant place with a great variety of tracks and a real charming and authentic village. During this short ski, I had the opportunity to test and review a very special Think Tank photo backpack: the innovative ”Shape Shifter” which is unique in its kind.
© Think Tank
At the outside, the backpack seems very normal with some small pockets everywhere and two sturdy shoulder straps. Around the bag, a heavy zipper permits to obtain a larger backpack with more volume inside. When the zipper is closed, the bag is very thin, but once opened, the bag looks more like a real photo backpack, which every photographer will recognize. When the second zipper (slightly thinner than the first zipper) is opened, you get access to the center compartment of the photo backpack.
Exterior dimensions (closed ) = 51x32x8cm
Exterior dimensions (open) = 51x32x18cm
Laptop compartment = 48x30, 5x4cm
Weight (empty) = 1.73 kg
Most people know photo backpacks because there is always one parallel, namely a large center compartment with Velcro distributions. The Think Tank “Shape Shifter” is however different. Inside you'll find 5 neoprene “pockets” which you can use to store lenses and cameras.
© Think Tank
It's surprising what this bag can hold. For my ski-trip I could store the following equipment in the middle compartment:
- Nikon D4
- Nikon D800 (with battery grip)
- Nikon AF - S 16 - 35mm F / 4
- Nikon AF - S 24 - 70mm F / 2,8
- Nikon AF - S VR II 70 - 200mm F / 4
- Nikon TC 1.4 II
- Nikon TC 2.0 III
- & some filters & batteries
The above material was the maximum in order to permit closing the heavy zipper around the bag and be able to take the bag, as hand luggage, on a plane.
The placement of your equipment is not only crucial in order to obtain a good distribution of the weight, but it is also important for an easy take-out of material once the compartment is filled. So you will have to figure out beforehand how to stock your camera and lenses. I choose to put my 70 - 200mm lens in the bottom right pocket and above the 24 - 70mm lens. On the left side, I ranged the 16-35mm lens along with the two tele-convertors (wrapped in a tissue to avoid scratching) and above my two cameras with the D800 at the top.
Innovation can be beautiful, but is it also practical? On that question, I was looking forward receiving an answer during my ski trip. Apart from the bag filled with the equipment described above, I also took a Think Tank Pro Speed Belt and a Digital Holster 30. The last one, I mainly used to store the camera-lens combination for only a very short while and the sturdy Pro Speed belt was used to hold the backpack. The supplied belt was very thin, but I must admit, easy to remove. On the Pro Speed Belt, you can however hang lens cases and other bags, which is very handy.
Then the Backpack itself: the backpack is in my opinion a genius, but you must accept the idea that no lens can be attached to a camera. The great advantage is that the backpack is very thin, but it’s also obvious that in raining or snowing times this becomes a disadvantage. To keep your camera and lens dry will be a challenge on those moments, which I could not test for you due to the very sunny weather circumstances during my short ski. For the bag itself, Think Tank has provided a separate rain cover.
© Think Tank
I would like to explain for which type of photography I would recommend this type of Think Tank bag. I will f.i. not use this bag on a trip where I need my big telephoto-lenses for the simple reason that they don’t fit into the Shape Shifter. For this type of trips, I would recommend the Think Tank Rollers (e.g. Security and International). But occasionally, I photograph for running competitions where I sit backwards on a motorcycle riding along with the runners and I think this is the ideal bag in combination with a belt with some lens cases. On these occasions, the backpack is primarily intended as storage of emergency equipment. I also think of festivals where I mainly use the 70-200mm lens and would store a backup camera together with some lenses (portrait lens and wide angle) in the backpack. I am sure there are plenty of other examples in photography where this backpack can be very useful.
The Think Tank “Shape Shifter” is sold for 269 EURO.
On the outside, the Think Tank “Shape Shifter” looks like any normal photo backpack, but the inside is very innovative. No Velcro partitions, but five neoprene pouches to be filled with your lenses and cameras. The placement of your equipment is not only crucial in order to obtain a good distribution of the weight, but it is also important for an easy take-out of material once the compartment is filled. So you will have to figure out beforehand how to stock your camera and lenses. You must also accept the idea that no lens can be attached to a camera. The great advantage is that the backpack is very thin, but it’s also obvious that in raining or snowing times this becomes a disadvantage. To keep your camera and lens dry will be a challenge on those moments although Think Tank provided a separate rain cover. For the photography of active sports (f.i. running competitions), but also for festivals I use this bag regularly, but I am sure there are plenty of other examples in photography where this backpack can be very useful.
Thanks to Think Tank for delivering the products.