ZEP Gear Review: Think Tank Airport Takeoff Rolling Backpack - Part 1
Ask nearly any photographer what one thing they're most likely to spend money on, and not be happy about, and there's a good chance they'll tell you the item is their bag. It's bags; not lenses, not camera bodies, not remotes or triggers, that seem to constantly be "improving" and yet never seem to satisfy the average photographer. Sure, some might tell you, "Well, I love my Timbuk2 Messenger Bag" or, "I don't go anywhere without my Lowepro Slingshot!" but talk to them for a few minutes and there's probably something that bothers them about their bag. Something that just doesn't seem to fit right, or sit right.
For the last year or so, I've carried the Think Tank Retro 20. I've been incredibly pleased with this bag through photowalks and photoshoots, on countless airplanes and in countless car rides, but as of late, it's been getting a bit tougher to carry all of my stuff in that bag. I carry two bodies, and at least three lenses (one of which is the Canon 70-200), two flashes and a few accessories, and it's just gotten to be a bit of a hassle.
It was with a heavy heart, then, that I began searching for a new bag. My journey led me through Amazon, and across countless reviews, before finally ending up right back in the wonderful land of Think Tank Photo and their Takeoff Roller Backpack Bag.
I had originally planned on doing this review in one giant post, but attention spans tend to be short on the internet and, in the interest of transparency, I haven't yet had a chance to test out some of the features of the Takeoff as they should be tested. For this first part, I'll be discussing the build and storage ability, and with an impending trip to Florida, I'll be writing up part two to discuss how well it works as a carry-on bag!
The first thing you're going to notice about this bag is that it is, 100%, a Think Tank bag. The quality of it, inside and out, is built with the traveling photographer in mind. The zippers flow smoothly, the bag has some incredibly sexy angles and cuts, and everything just feels as though it's built to a little bit higher standards than you're average carry-on bag. A few key features that I really like about the build of this bag?
- Lots of zippered pockets for smaller things (memory cards, extra lens caps, cables, etc.)
- Locking zippers on the main pocket of the bag
- Handles on the top and side that make this bag easy to carry
It's important to note that this bag is one of Think Tank's hybrid roller/backpack/carry-on bags. Pull the handle out of the top, and you've got a standard airport carry-on rolling bag. Unzip the flap in the backside, and two shoulder straps pop out, giving you a backpack to zip through the terminal in a hurry. Want to pick it up and carry it like a briefcase? Think Tank has included handles on the top and side to do so! I'll speak more on the comfort of the straps and the ease of rolling after my trip to Florida.
This bag also includes a pocket in the front for carrying a 15" laptop, which would work nicely with the Think Tank Artificial Intelligence Laptop Bag (If I could just get my hands on one!). This thing has more pockets and storage than a photographer knows what to do with!
Diving into the bag, you'll see more of that same wonderful Think Tank build quality, which brings me to...
My primary reason for purchasing this bag was because I had simply run out of room in my Retro 20. I was sick of carrying equipment in that messenger bag, and Tupperware containers, and grocery bags, and my pockets. I'll make this easy:
This bag has more storage than any single photographer should need!
I'm currently storing two Canon bodies (5Dmkii and 7D), 5 lenses (50mm, 70-200L 2.8, 24-70L 2.8, Rokinon 8mm Fish Eye and a Sigma wide angle) 2 Flashes (Canon 580EXII and Yongnuo 565EX) and a handful of other accessories including wireless flash triggers, a TriggerTrap and some other stuff. All of this equipment fits comfortably in the bag (while maintaining a safe fit) and is easily accessible. That's probably my biggest complaint about most bags, especially your messenger-style bags. Sure, you might be able to get a few lenses and a body or two in the bag, but the likelihood of you having to sit them on top of each other is probably pretty high. That fear is completely gone with the Takeoff! I've probably got more room for stuff in this bag, but I don't want to force the issue before I've had a chance to stuff it in the overhead compartment of an airplane or two!
So What Do I Think So Far?
I really like this bag, and I think Think Tank has a solid winner in this item. The price might keep some folks away (Retails for around $350) but when you're putting a few thousand dollars worth of equipment in a bag, you want to make sure you stuff is going to be safe and protected. It's incredibly easy to use and, despite its size, fairly agile. If you're looking to move into the realm of "Big Boy Bags" then I can't recommend Think Tank's line of carry-on-sized bags enough! I'll leave links below if you'd like to check out purchasing this bag. The Amazon link helps keep this blog running, and the Think Tank link will get you a free gift with your order!
Stay Tuned for Part 2, coming in a few weeks!