Monday, June 13, 2016

Review - Think Tank Photo Trifecta 10 Backpack

When shooting weddings on the beach, I usually prefer to work out of a shoulder bag or a belt system.  Each has their own pros and cons and as a result, I'm always on the lookout for ways to keep my gear accessible to me when shooting events.

Think Tank Photo recently announced their new Trifecta Series Backpacks and I had the chance to review one for a few weeks to see if I could use it in a typical wedding scenario.

The Trifecta 10 is similar in size and shape to the Urban Approach 15, which I've also reviewed on this site in the past.

There are currently two models in the Trifecta series of backpacks - the Trifecta 8, which is intended for use with smaller mirrorless systems, and the Trifecta 10, which is designed for DSLRs.

Even though I shoot with the Sony mirrorless system I chose to review the Trifecta 10.  This is mainly because I tend to use battery grips on my Sony a7II cameras when shooting weddings, which makes the bodies larger than the average mirrorless camera.

First thing to note out of the box, unlike Think Tank Photos other bags, the Trifecta 10 does not come with a lot of extra dividers.

You get 3 - count 'em,  3 dividers. Plus the main divider that splits up the backpack.  That's it.

These dividers are much sturdier than the average camera bag divider, as they help support the structure of the bag itself.  One of the issues I've run into with typical soft removable camera bag inserts is that eventually the inner foam material has a tendency to fold over on itself inside the divider, so you have to massage it back into shape.  That shouldn't happen with these sturdier dividers.

I spoke to a Think Tank Photo rep and was told that they can ship you additional dividers if you need, but this is how it comes standard. If you like to haul a lot of additional gear with you, Think Tank Photo's Streetwalker series will better fit your needs.

The Trifectas are unique among Think Tank's lineup of backpacks in that it they are the only backpacks that Think Tank Photo has designed with side access zippers so that you can access the contents from both sides of the backpack while still wearing it over your shoulder. This concept has been done by other camera bag manufacturers where they have a side opening for just a camera with 1 lens attached, but Think Tank goes a bit further by letting you access a whole half of the bag from each side.

On the inside of the left side of the bag are some pockets that will fit memory cards and a couple of spare batteries.

The bag can also be opened from the other side.

However, there are no pockets on this side.  

They probably could have added some more pockets on this side. As it is, this is a bit of wasted space.

The iPad pocket will hold up to a 10in tablet.  12" iPad Pro users like myself are out of luck.

The Trifecta 10 comes with an integrated waist belt.

This allows you to swing the pack around to the front and hold it horizontally to you like a tray table so that you can access your gear from the back of the bag while still having the bag on you as opposed to taking the pack off and laying it down.

This is a handy feature and I'm wondering why they did not also include that on the Trifecta 8.

Though would be nice if they could design it so that you could tuck the straps away when you don't want to use them.

Like other Think Tank bags, the Trifecta 10 also includes a raincover.

The Trifecta 10 is very comfortable to wear. The padding, especially the lumbar support, is a bit thicker than other bags.  

One thing that I liked on the Urban Approach 15 that I missed on the Trifecta 10 was the handle on the back of the bag that you could use to slip over the handle of your roller bag.  I wish Think Tank could have found a way to also incorporate that feature here as well.

Something else I noticed - most other Think Tank backpacks have the style of zippers that can be padlocked like this:

On the Trifecta 10, however, the zippers are not lockable.

I kind of understand their thinking on this one - as the large opening of the backpack is concealed against your back when you are wearing it, no one can open it but you.

However that still leaves both side panels accessible, so be aware of this if you are wearing this bag in a crowded area.  I would have preferred if Think Tank had standardized on the lockable zippers for all three access panels.

 There is a compartment on the top of the bag which is not accessible from the back or side panel.

This is roomy enough to fit a flash and  remote trigger.

There are a few pockets in this section as well as an attachment point for your keys or Think Tank Memory Card wallet.

In here you'll also find the straps for attaching your tripod to the front of the bag.

The pocket is also large enough to fit a water bottle if you don't need to carry your tripod.

I tested this bag out on a few beach weddings with the following gear:

Main compartment:

Sony a7RII with battery grip
Sony a7II with battery grip
16-35 f4 Zeiss
24-70 f4 Zeiss
70-200 f4 G
4 extra batteries

Although the Trifecta 10 is designed for DSLR systems with one body and the 3 main workhorse lenses,  it works equally well for mirrorless systems as well.  An added benefit is that you can fit a second backup mirrorless body - essential for anyone shooting weddings.  If you're shooting with a DSLR setup, I think you might have difficulty getting a second body in there with your three zooms, especially if you have battery grips. Like I mentioned before, this is not the bag for you if you need to carry a lot of gear.  It's mainly designed for a single camera body and three main zoom lenses.

Top compartment:
2 Phottix Mittros+ flashes
Phottix Odin transmitter
Think Tank Pixel Pocket

In actual use, I found the side access panels quite useful when I needed to switch lenses.  While it was not as fast as using a belt system like the Think Tank Modular set, I did like the fact that my gear was more protected from the elements by being in the bag as opposed to being in pouches on my belt.  I also liked using it better than a shoulder or sling bag as the weight was distributed to both shoulders instead of just one.

It also made it easier for times when I needed to get the gear off of my body so that I could climb up a tree or lie down low in the sand to get a shot - situations that would normally be problematic when using a belt pouch system. With everything housed in the Trifecta I could quickly take off the bag, hang it on my lightstand, and go get the shot.

Swinging the Trifecta around to the front and accessing gear from the back while the waistbelt held the bag on me - "tray table position" - was a nice feature, but in practice I found I didn't use it much in that manner.  In actual use, it was faster to just use the side panels to grab a lens and swap it.

Also when using the bag in "tray table position", the entire weight of the backpack is in front of you supported only by the unpadded belt around your waist.

This made it a bit unwieldy as the bag kept wanting to tilt forward.  This is mostly because I had more gear in this bag than the designers intended.

To counteract this, I would put one foot forward and rest the bottom of the bag against the upper thigh.  This had the effect of tilting the top of the backpack back towards me which made it slightly more stable and easier to access the contents of the bag.

While I didn't feel that the belt buckle was in any danger of unbuckling while using the bag in this manner,  I preferred not to use the bag in this position too often.

I also wished you could access the top compartment of the bag from the back and side panels. That would have been more useful.

Overall I liked this new backpack from Think Tank Photo.  The side access panels are actually pretty handy to use and as long as you're not planning to haul a lot of gear around, you should definitely check out this bag.

We are a part of Think Tank Photo's Photographer Support Program, so whenever you use the links on this blog to shop at Think Tank Photo, you will receive a free gift from them whenever you order $50 or more.  You also help support this blog in the process and we greatly appreciate that.


Paul Dhadialla said...

Great review, thank you. Paul

Unknown said...

HI, very good review. I was wondering if the Trifecta 8 would take a Sony A7 11 with grip attached and a 85mm. Also a 55mm and a 24mm plus a flash and wireless trigger and a few extra batteries.

Kind regards

Unknown said...

HI, great review with some very relevant points on how to fine tune this bag. Would the Trifecta 8 take a Sony A7 11 With grip attached and a 55m lens. Also I would need to house 2 extra lenses and a flash , transmitter , 4 extra batteries and a few more small extras.

I look forward to your thoughts.

Kind regards
Shaun Gara

MauiPhoto said...

Aloha Shaun,

Even though the Trifecta 8 was designed with mirrorless cameras in mind, I prefer the slightly roomier Trifecta 10 for my Sony mirrorless cameras so that it is easier to get stuff in and out of the bag when I'm running and gunning on a shoot.

Since I only had the Trifecta 10 for review, and not the Trifecta 8, I can't speak for how the setup you mentioned would fit in the Trifecta 8.

The Trifecta 10 will easily hold my Sony a7II with battery grip & Spiderholster plate attached, 55mm lens attached with the hood extended, an 85mm GM lens, a 16-35mm Zeiss lens, Phottix Mittros+ flash, Phottix Odin transmitter, 4 Sony batteries, memory cards etc. And all this fits in the lower part of the Trifecta 10 - the upper compartment is still available to hold more stuff if you need.