I want to give a special shout out and thanks to Emm from CheesyCam for recommending the bag that I eventually purchased to carry my gear to NAB. I was going back and forth between the Tamrac 5797 roller backpack and the Think Tank Airport Takeoff. Both can be used as a roller and as a backpack. I ended up purchasing both of them to test them out with different setups. Each of these are excellent bags. In the end, I returned the Think Tank.
The Tamrac won out for me because of one feature – the top loading compartment. I think that this is a smart use of space for run ‘n’ gun shooting. Because of this, you don’t need to lay the bag down in order to take your camera out. I can roll it up to location, unzip it and get my camera out quickly. When you do need to lay the bag down, the flaps are small so they don’t take up extra floor space.
Additionally, I can fit a GH3 (soon to be GH4) with a Honu Fhugen cage inside the top compartment. I had difficulty figuring out a way to fit that same setup easily into the Think Tank Takeoff due to its straightforward flat design.
What you miss with the Tamrac roller in comparison to the Think Tank are the build quality and zippers. The YKK zippers on Think Tank bags are out of this world (if a zipper could ever have such a designation!). However, I had more faith in the handle on the Tamrac than on the Think Tank. That said, I don’t really like the feel of the handle on the Tamrac. I was constantly shifting my hand to try to get a comfortable grip while rolling the bag.
The Tamrac is more compact than the Airport roller and also fits extremely well into the overhead compartment on the 737 I flew on to Vegas. I’m not sure how it would fare on a commuter plane, but my guess is that it would have to be checked.
In my opinion, the Takeoff is much more comfortable on your back than the Tamrac. But, I soon realized once I hit Vegas that there was really no need to use the backpack feature of the Tamrac. So, it’s a nice feature to have in a pinch, but I probably wouldn’t use either bag as a backpack, especially given its weight due to the amount of gear inside.
So, a big green check-box goes to the Tamrac 5797. And that brings me to my next bag purchase to complement the roller bag: The Think Tank Shape Shifter backpack. This is kind of a brilliant bag. It has an expanding center compartment and a full-sized rear laptop compartment. Camera and lenses slip into pockets on the inside. I tested it with the GH3 attached to the Fhugen cage along with additional lenses and it fits them all like a champ.
My plan was that, in the event I had to check my roller bag, I could quickly move the camera, lenses, and essentials into the Shape Shifter. Even when the center compartment is expanded, I was pretty sure the Shape Shifter could fit in an overhead on a commuter. The good news is that, when it’s expanded, it can also fit below the seat. (And ya’ gotta love those YKK zippers!)
My favorite feature of the Think Tank Shape Shifter is the comfort level and lower back support. It also has an air channel in back. Although that didn’t stop me from sweating like a mule when lugging all my gear around McCarren Airport for an hour.
Here are some pics of my gear and a list of what I took with me. It worked out really well. Thanks, Emm!
Here is the bag as-is. Some locks there to (hopefully) keep my gear secure!
The Tramrac 5797 easily and securly fits a monopod on the front. I stowed the monopod in a checked bag and then moved it over once I arrived. The Think Tank Airport Takeoff can store a monopod as well on the side. However, I had some issues trying to fit the tri-foot base of the monopod into the Think Tank.
CU of the foot of the monopod on the front of the Tamrac.
Amazingly, I was able to fit a G-Tech G-RAID with power, lav mics, RF transmitters, a small surge protector AND headphones into the bottom compartment. Additional accessories fit into the pouch on the right of the image.
CU of the surge protector and headphones snugly fit on top of the drive.
Some makeup, tape and scissors for hiding lav mics and refreshing talent stow nicely into this expandable side-compartment. I packed this plastic bag in with my larger checked bag since you can’t bring scissors on the plane.
The camera with Honu Fhugen cage, 14-140mm lens, 12-35mm lens, TorchLED light, and Airbag all fit in the top of the case.
Batteries, batteries, batteries. Can never bring enough of ’em.
Think Tank Shape Shifter bag compressed with laptop in rear compartment. It’s really thin.
Here are all the camera and lens pouches inside the center compartment of the bag.
As you can see, the GH3 with Honu Fhugen cage fits nicely. You need to take off the lens and tripod plate to get them to fit. Completely acceptable given the way I wanted to use the bag.
Fully expanded, it still fits under the seat on a 737. Great purchase. Highly recommended.