Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review - Think Tank Photo Urban Access 15 Backpack

A few years ago we reviewed the Think Tank Photo Trifecta 10 backpack, a camera backpack which had the feature of being able to access the interior of the bag from both sides via two side panels.  While it was a good design, there was room for improvement. Now Think Tank Photo has come out with the Urban Access series and they have sent us the Urban Access 15 for review.

The Urban Access 15 has been slightly enlarged from the Trifecta, which now allows for a dedicated laptop pocket to be added to the interior of the backpack.  

Unfortunately, although this bag is advertised as being able to hold up to a 15.4” laptop,  I was not able to fit my older unibody 15” MacBook Pro into this pocket.  It was only able to slide it in about 3/4 of the way in before the fit got so tight that I would have had to use considerable force to push it in any farther.  I was able to wiggle it in a little further, but not all the way in. Plus, it then became a huge struggle to pull it back out again.

If you have one of the newer MacBook Pros which are slimmer, they will probably be a better fit, but I did not have one available to test with this backpack.  However the laptop pocket does fit my 13” MacBook Air or my 12” iPad Pro with no problem.

The front pocket of the Urban Access is very large and is accessed by releasing two magnetic claps.

The pocket is large enough to store an AD200 with MagMod accessories.

The Urban Access 15 includes straps and a fold out pocket which allows you to mount a tripod to the outside of the backpack.

The side panels on this backpack are wider than on the Trifecta, allowing for more access to the interior.  Another improvement that has been made is that the interior panels on both sides now have pockets. 

The top section is very roomy, and can hold another AD200. The sides of the interior of this section are also lined with mesh pockets to hold batteries, memory cards, keys, etc.

Like the rest of Think Tank’s bags, a seam sealed rain cover is included.

On the outside of both side panels is a large expandable pocket, which easily fits a good sized water bottle.

The bag features an integrated waist belt to help take the load off your shoulders.  It can be stowed away when not needed.  It is also removable, so you can replace it with a Think Tank Speedbelt.

The back of the Urban Access also has a luggage pass-thru so that it can be slid over the handles of a roller bag, I found this to be very useful while traveling abroad and hope that this feature will be made standard on all backpacks.

The interior of the Urban Access is quite roomier compared to the Trifecta and the backpack also ships with more dividers. 

The main sectional dividers incorporate a new type of attachment that connects to loops on the edges of the interior.

Thanks to the larger interior, I was able to easily fit everything that I normally carry for weddings in my Airport Navigator roller bag into the Urban Access 15 (minus the 15" laptop).

A7rii body with battery grip
A7II body with battery grip

16-35mm f4
24-70mm f4
70-200mm f4
35mm f2.8
55mm f1.8
85mm f1.8
fisheye lens
2 Godox AD 200 flashes with MagMod attachments, grids and filters
2 Godox triggers
business cards
air blower
Think Tank Photo Pro Speedbelt with Spiderholster

At several beach weddings this past month, I found the Urban Access 15 to be much better to use than the Trifecta. The combination of a roomier interior and larger side access panels made it easier to get gear in and out of the bag quickly without having to set the bag down.  

About the only things I would like to see improved on a v2 of this bag would be a larger interior (perhaps an Urban Access 20?) and maybe a larger laptop pocket.

If you're interested in purchasing the Urban Access 15 or any other Think Tank Photo bags, please consider using the links in this article.  A small portion of the sales will go toward helping us continue to do these reviews for our readers.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Review - Think Tank Photo Retrospective Series V2.0

We reviewed the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30 way back in early 2011. It remains one of our favorite camera bags to use because of its durability and design.  Even now after 8 years of heavy use on numerous photoshoots, the bag hardly shows any wear and tear. When Think Tank Photo recently updated their Retrospective line, I was very interested to see how they could improve an already great camera bag.  Thankfully they were gracious enough to provide us with several bags to review for our readers.

Today we will be taking a look at three of the bags in the Retrospective V2.0 lineup - from left to right the Retrospective 10 V2.0, Retrospective 20 V2.0  & Retrospective 30 V2.0.

The basic design is the same between all 3 bags, with the main difference being capacity - the Retrospective 10 being the smallest of the three and the Retrospective 30 being the largest. 

All of the bags have the same heavy duty non-removable padded strap.

A new feature for this update is that they all now have a pass-thru slot on the back to slip it over the handles of a roller bag. This was one of the main things I sorely missed on the original bag and I'm glad they added this to the 2.0 lineup.

The front flap now has a slight design accent with two metal grommets.

Like the previous version, Think Tank wisely kept their logo small and on the back of the camera bag so that the front of the camera bag remains discreet and doesn't scream " camera bag"

The front pockets are also the same as before, very roomy and able to accommodate a gripped camera body in each pocket.

The Retrospective 30 has two front pockets while both the 10 and 20 have a single front pocket.

One big change they have done in this revision is the organizational pocket (for pens, business cards, etc.) which has been moved from the inside of bag to the outer front of the bag.  On the Retrospective 30 this is in a zippered compartment on the front of the bag.

While this makes for easier access to the organizational pocket, I kind of wish they had thought to relocate the velcro flaps for the front pockets to just under the zipper since the flaps block access to the zipper.

In the case of the Retrospective 10 and 20, the organizational section is outside of the zippered front pocket, which makes it easier to access.

One thing that was missing from the original Retrospective was a dedicated laptop compartment - this has been rectified in 2.0 and you can now easily fit a 15" MacBook Pro in the Retrospective 30.

Because the 10 and 20 are smaller than the 30,  neither one of them can fit a 15" laptop.  Specs on the site state that a 10" tablet or 12" laptop will fit but unfortunately at the time of this review I didn't have either one available to try out with these bags.

The interior of the main compartment of the original version of the Retrospective featured pockets on both sides of the bag which have been removed in version 2.0.  In all the years I used the original Retrospective 30, I never really used those pockets, so I don't miss them.  Their removal just makes for a cleaner looking interior.

A tethered clip is included to attach things like keys or a Think Tank Pixel Pocket memory card holder.

They have reworked the sound silencer velcro closures in this revision so that they now tuck in behind the velcro hook panel.  It makes for a much cleaner appearance.

Also new to the 2.0 revision is a separate panel under the main flap which can zipped to close off the entire top of the bag.  This is a useful feature for deterring pickpockets when you're traveling with the bag.

It is a bit of a struggle in the corners when trying to zip or unzip this cover.

During a typical shoot, I will usually leave this panel unzipped.

To keep it out of the way,  you can attach it to the main flap using this circular spot of velcro.

Or you can tuck it into a pocket on the inside of the main flap so that it is completely out of the way.

The back pocket is not large enough for a laptop,

but it does easily handle a 12" iPad Pro.

To help you get an idea of the size differences between the three Retrospective bags, here is how much a 12" iPad Pro sticks out of the back pockets of the 10 and 20.

Like all Think Tank bags, a raincover is included with each Retrospective bag.

The side pockets on the original Retrospective bags were really tight and since it was difficult to get anything in and out of them, I rarely ever used them.  In version 2.0, they have eliminated the pocket from one side of the bag.

They kept the horizontal strap on this side of the bag, which makes a good mounting point for a Peak Design Capture Clip.

On the other side they have thankfully made the pocket much larger and also expandable.

Unhook the strap, flip down the little panel inside the pocket...

and you can now fit a lot more than before.  You can even fit a pretty decent sized water bottle in there.

I used each of these bags on several different shooting assignments over the course of several months and here is what I ended up carrying in each one:

The Retrospective 10, the smallest of the three bags, I found perfect to use as an everyday carry for stills and video.

Sony a6300 w/18-105 f4 G lens
Sony a6000 backup body
ND filter
spare batteries
spare memory cards
Cheetahstand V850 flash
Godox XPro S flash trigger
Tascam DR10C audio recorder with lavalier microphone

The Retrospective 20, due to its taller form factor, was particularly suited for lighting gear.

Flashpoint Evolv AD200 with MagGrip attachment
3 Cheetahstand V850s with MagGrip attachment

Eventually I am planning to replace the 3 V850s with 3 AD200s, which this bag will have no problem accommodating.

The Retrospective 30, the largest in the lineup - made it very easy to carry pretty much everything I needed for a typical wedding shoot.

Sony a7rii with battery grip
Sony a7ii with battery grip
Sony a6000 spare body
Sony 16-35mm f4
Sony 24-70mm f4
Sony 70-200mm f4
Flashpoint Evolve AD200
Godox XPro S flash trigger
spare batteries
spare memory cards
Tascam DR10C audio recorder with lavalier microphone

The new zippered panel that can seal off the interior of the bag also makes for a handy way to carry a small light stand and umbrella with you in the same bag (instead of carrying it in a separate lightstand bag).

While the zippered panel does not have much in the way of padding, it does protect the back of the cameras from getting scratched by the lightstand when carried like this.

Overall, I really liked the improvements they have made to the lineup.  If you are in the market for a good shoulder bag for your camera gear that is durable enough that it will probably outlive your camera gear, the Think Tank Retrospective V2.0 line is definitely worth checking out.

If this review has been helpful to you, please consider using the links on this page to visit Think Tank Photo.  A small portion of the sale will go to help us keep this blog going and continue to do more reviews and behind the scenes posts of our photoshoots.