The ThinkTank StreetWalker HardDrive can hold a lot of gear, but as you can see in the photo the GH4 and GX7 cameras are much more shallow than the bag itself. Most lenses have too much bounce room, and most of the lenses that reach the top are actually multiple lenses, stacked on top of each-other!

When I became a LUMIX Luminary several months ago, one of the "challenges" I faced was how to best move all my gear around. Not just for doing product presentations, but for actually shooting, too. I put challenges in quotes because it's more like a reverse challenge… none of my bags were compact enough to hold this small, light weight gear! When I was lugging full-frame Canon bodies and lenses, carrying everything meant multiple bags and a Pelican case. However with the smaller micro four thirds (MFT) gear that is the LUMIX lineup, carrying everything suddenly became viable. Time to go bag shopping for something big enough to carry a litany of lenses, bodies and strobes, but stout enough to hold these short lenses snugly.

Fit

I found a very good bag, but I will also say that this isn't a perfect fit for the small mirrorless kit. There's still room for improvement in a bag that's truly designed for the serious MFT shooter. We need to carry multiple bodies and a wide variety of lenses, just as dSLR shooters do, but when the depth of my LUMIX lenses range from 1⅜ʺ to 4½ʺ  (with one "monstrous" 6ʺ exception) vs the Canon 3ʺ to 7ʺ range, a very different bag is in order to what we're used to. This bag gets close – very close – but it's not my perfect solution. I'll point out that a lot of manufacturers (ThinkTank included) have designed small bags for small gear; i.e. little shoulder bags designed to hold a body and a few lenses, and an iPad or iPad mini, but the big small-camera bag is still elusive.

What I settled on was the ThinkTank StreetWalker HardDrive bag. This is a backpack, which certainly facilitates carrying through airports or en-route to a shoot. It's stout enough (and by that I mean the height when laying on its back, or the depth when standing vertical) that it'll slide under most airplane seats or in most overhead compartments. It's certainly within range of carry-on size, as long as you don't stuff it, but that's easy not to do as the external pockets don't have a lot of stretch room. I found I could even wiggle it into smaller overhead bins on the turboprops that fly out of my local airport as long as I removed the laptop from the rear compartment first.

Looking at the photo above, you'll see there's a lot of empty space. The two bodies, each on their side (one being the LUMIX GH4 at only 5ʺ wide, and the other, the LUMIX GX7) have loads of space above them, so they aren't snug. Of all the lenses you see that reach the top of the bag, only one of those is a single lens, and that's the "monstrous" LUMIX 100-300mm ƒ/4.0-5.6 (a 200mm to 600mm equivalent lens); certainly not a common lens and likely the first one I'd leave behind. Also, if the bag was shorter, this could lay on its side. The rest of those lenses are stacks of shorter lenses! The strobe reaches the top but it too could be on its side, and the Fiilex P100 could also lay flat. The two little bags are leftovers from international business class flight upgrades and are stuffed with little cables and accessories; again bags that could be replaced by something a different shape in a heartbeat. The Zoom microphone in there falls into the "I don't really need this every day but there's space so why not carry it" category.

Come to think of it, I could easily be carrying a smaller bag and still have room for everything. Goes to show how compact this mirrorless gear really is!

The rear laptop compartment will accommodate a 15" laptop. This is a MacBook Pro retina, which is exceptionally thin, so the depth fits easily. It is a bit of a squeeze though vertically to get it in; I always feel like I'm scraping the bottom edge of the Mac on the zipper.

The bag also has a compartment for your laptop, up to 15ʺ in size. The MacBook Pro retina 15ʺ fits just fine. You really have to slide it straight in; if you try to angle it in it feels like it won't fit, but in the end it does. Just takes some getting used to. Checking the bag's specs, you can also fit a 17ʺ instead if you don't put a "gripped" camera body in (so really, I could probably flip up the little shelf, have a snugger fit for the GH4 and a looser fit on the 15ʺ if I wanted to. Hmm, I may have to try that out.)

The outside pockets aren't huge, but that's a benefit in a curious way. It's easy to get carried away stuffing our bags to near-exploding, but when we do, the bag that we bought specifically to fit in the overhead compartment on domestic economy class flight no longer fits. These slim pockets can store a few things and still keep the bag legal for the plane, which works out just fine.

This bag has a variety of outside pockets and pouches, as you'd expect. They are quit flat though, which on one hand means you can't stuff much in them, but on the other, means that the bag won't change size much and will be easier to get onto the plane. Since the bag is right at the edge of carry-on dimensions, any big bulge could quickly disqualify it, so in that sense the slimline pockets are an advantage. There's the requisite tripod pouch as well on the front and the bag comes with straps to hold a big tripod in place if you like. There are stretch pockets too (neoprene or something) that are great for that water bottle you want to stuff in at the last second.

Finish

ThinkTank bags have always impressed me with their quality. It's a solid product with very robust zippers, strong velcro, stiff padding walls, and very impressive shoulder straps. The design of the back padding is very well done making the bag extremely comfortable to carry, even if it's full to the brim. It feels like bag that will last forever. And that's easy to say; I have ThinkTank bags that are several years old and have been dragged all over the world, and look almost new.

Compatibility

I've had many ThinkTank bags over the years. When I was on tour with Seal several years ago, I bought the ThinkTank Steroid Speedbelt system, which allowed me to attach various lens pouches (including a very cool lens changing bag) and other pockets to a heavy-duty belt. This made carrying multiple lenses, and swapping them out, while roaming the huge concert venues, very easy. Anyway jumping forward to today, I still have this belt although it hasn't gotten much use. But it turns out, this five year old (or more) belt system is 100% compatible with this new StreetWalker HardDrive bag!

Here I've attached my five year old Steroid Speedbelt, which fits perfectly on this newer bag. I love that… my old ThinkTank accessories are not obsolete!

Changes

I almost feel like shaving a few inches off the depth would make this bag something really designed for mirrorless shooters. The lenses and bodies would fit better and be less prone to bouncing around. Or, if you wanted to keep the overall size the same, make the top half of the bag (the lid, if you will) into a whole separate compartment just a couple of inches deep. This would accommodate gear that could lay flat like microphones, strobes, and some LED lights. That might not be a bad plan, actually.

I know one of my fellow LUMIX Luminaries chides any bag that's designed to be accessed from the front since that means setting the back and straps in the dirt to get at your gear — the same back and straps that eventually goes onto your back. I'd agree with that sentiment; make the front of the bag the part that gets dirty, and keep my shoulder straps clean.

Is that new bag already here?

This being the week of Photo Plus Expo in New York, ThinkTank has released a few new bags. What's caught my attention may very well be the bag that I just described. The new line is called Perception, and comes in three sizes and two flavors. These are designed for mirrorless and to carry either a tablet or laptop, depending on the size you go with.

Since I haven't touched one yet, I'll leave the description up to the copy writers at ThinkTank. Here's the official release…

Marketing photo provided by ThinkTank

Marketing photo provided by ThinkTank

Think Tank Photo introduced its smallest, lightest backpacks, the Perception™ series.  Designed specifically for mirrorless systems, the Perception series will become the “go-to” pack for photographers looking to add flexibility to their workflow while using a smaller system along with a laptop and tablet. It’s an all-new and advantageous way to carry smaller camera systems and is ideal for travel and city walk-arounds.

The Perception series comes in two colors, black and taupe, and three sizes.  The smallest size, The Perception Tablet™, accommodates a mirrorless system and an iPad Mini. The largest size, the Perception Pro™, holds a 15" laptop and a 10" tablet, plus one mirrorless body or small DSLR with a small to medium zoom attached (lens hood reversed).  Plus, the largest size fits four to five more lenses or a large GoPro® kit.

“Our designers took inspiration from Think Tank’s award-wining and popular Shape Shifter backpack, which includes protective features to enclose and secure camera gear, but with the Perceptions it is scaled to a smaller form factor,” said Think Tank Photo’s CEO and lead designer Doug Murdoch.  “For the first time mirrorless system users have a backpack designed specifically for them that has Think Tank’s commitment to innovation, workflow, and quality.  The fitted backpack straps accommodate either male or female body types.”

Key Features

  • Cinch cord pockets provide flexibility for gear.
  • Dedicated laptop/tablet compartment.
  • Interior organizer provides quick access to pens, business cards and keys.
  • Extra space to fit a jacket, food, water bottle or additional gear while on the go.
  • Breathable padded airflow harness with adjustable sternum straps.
  • Removable waist-belt.
  • Tripod-carry on the front of bag allows for access to gear even when tripod is attached.
  • Stretchable side pockets hold water bottles or compact umbrellas.
  • 600 denier twill fabric feels soft yet durable matte finish.
  • Top pocket with plush liner for smart phones.
  • Specially designed divider holds a pancake lens or small accessories.
  • Seam-sealed rain cover included.

What Fits

Perception Tablet

Mirrorless camera, iPad Mini, GPS device, smartphone, radio, headlamp, knife. Examples:

  • Fuji XT-1 with 18–55mm f/2.8–4 attached (hood reversed) + 35mm f/1.4.
  • Canon Rebel T5i or Nikon D5300 with 18–55 kit lens attached + 50mm f/1.8.
  • GoPro Hero 3, batteries, memory cards, cables, charger, remote, etc.

Perception 15

Fits a 15” laptop + 10” tablet (iPad), plus one mirrorless body or small DSLR with a small to medium zoom attached (lens hood reversed) plus 1–2 additional lenses, or a medium GoPro kit. Examples:

  • Sony a7 with a 28–70mm f/3.5–5.6 attached (hood reversed) + 55mm f/1.8 ZA.
  • Canon Rebel T5i or Nikon D5300 with 18–55 kit lens attached + 55–250 f/4–5.6 (or 55–200).
  • 1–2 GoPro Hero 3, extra housing, mounts, batteries, memory cards, cables, charger, remote.

Perception Pro

Fits a 15” laptop + 10” tablet (iPad), plus one mirrorless body or small DSLR with a small to medium zoom attached (lens hood reversed), plus 4–5 more lenses or a large GoPro kit.  Examples:

  • Sony a7 with 24–70mm f/4 ZA attached (hood reversed) + 70–200mm f/4 + 35mm f/2.8 + 55mm f/1.8 ZA + F60M flash.
  • Canon Rebel T5i or Nikon D5300 with 18–55 kit lens attached + 70–300mm f/4–5.6 + 50mm f/1.8 + 100mm (or 105mm) macro + flash.
  • 1–5 GoPro Hero 3, extra housings, mounts, batteries, memory cards, cables, charger, remote, suction cups, chesty, etc.

Materials

Exterior: For superior water-resistance, all exterior fabric has a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating, plus the underside of the fabric has a polyurethane coating. It is also constructed with 600D twill, YKK® RC zippers, 320g dry-flow air mesh, nylon webbing, and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

Interior: Removable closed cell foam dividers, polyurethane backed liner & dividers, 200D polyester, laminated non-woven backed nylex liner, 2x polyurethane coated nylon 190T seam-sealed rain cover, and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

Specifications

Perception Tablet

  • Exterior Dimensions: 10” W x 16.3” H x 5.9” H (25.5 x 41.5 x 15 cm)
  • Camera & Lens Pouch: 8.3” W x 4.3” H x 4.3” D (21 x 11 x 11 cm)
  • Laptop/Tablet Compartment: 7.7” W x 12.6” H x 0.8” D (19.5 x 32 x 2 cm)
  • Smart Phone/Glasses Pocket: 5.9” W x 4.7” H x 1.6” D (15 x 12 x 4 cm
  • Weight with all accessories: 1.7 lbs (0.7 kg)

Perception 15

  • Exterior Dimensions: 11” W x 17.5” H x 6.7” D (28 x 44.5 x 17 cm)
  • Main Camera Pouch: 5.9” W x 5.9” H x 3.9” D (15 x 15 x 10 cm)
  • Lens Pouch: 4.3” W x 3.9” H x 2.4” D (11 x 10 x 6 cm)
  • Laptop Compartment: 9.8” W x 16.9” H x 1.2” D (25 x 43 x 3 cm)
  • Tablet Compartment: 8.7” W x 10.6” H x 0.6” D (22 x 27 x 1.5 cm)
  • Smart Phone/Glasses Pocket: 6.3” W x 4.7” H x 1.6” D (16 x 12 x 4 cm)
  • Weight with all accessories: 2.2 lbs (1.0 kg)

Perception Pro

  • Exterior Dimensions: 11.4” W x 18.9” H x 7.9” D (29 x 48 x 20 cm)
  • Main Camera Pouch: 5.9” W x 5.9” H x 3.9” D (15 x 15 x 10 cm)
  • Large Lens Pouch: 5.9” W x 7.5” H x 3.9” D (15 x 19 x 10 cm)
  • Medium Lens Pouches: (2): 4.9” W x 4.3” H x 2.4” D (12.5 x 11 x 6 cm)
  • Small Lens Pouch: 4.9” W x 3.5” H x 2.4” D (12.5 x 9 x 6 cm)
  • Laptop Compartment: 10.4” W x 17.3” H x 1.2” D (26.5 x 44 x 3 cm)
  • Tablet Compartment: 8.7” W x 11” H x 0.6” D (22 x 28 x 1.5 cm)
  • Smart Phone/Glasses Pocket: 6.3” W x 4.7” H x 1.6” D (16 x 12 x 4 cm)
  • Weight with all accessories: 2.9 lbs (1.3 kg)

And again that's the new ThinkTank Perception line of bags.

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