As one of the perks of being a Seattle SMUG (SmugMug Users Group) co-leader, we on occasion get some new gear to check out. A month or so ago, Think Tank Photo gave the SMUGs a camera bag to test drive.
The bag I received is a their City Walker 20 photography bag. Overall, I’ll give this bag 4 out of 5 stars. It does have some flaws I believe Think Tank should address.
With this being a shoulder bag, my immediate enthusiasm would be equated to the amount of enthusiasm I had when I had to clean up the dog poop in the yard. I just shrugged my shoulders and said “What the hell, I’ll give it a shot.”
At first, its small size made me wonder if I could fit all the gear I used most. It sat on my floor next to my desk for about a week and a half. During that time, I’d pick it up, go through the pockets, and try to figure out how I would pack it.
It’s small size was oddly intimidating. Mainly because I couldn’t figure out how to organize it. It has a 3-compartment removable insert, extra pads to create new compartments, a protective pouch for a small (11″) laptop, tablet, or iPad. I don’t plan on carrying a laptop so I figure I could use it for something else, like my filter pouch.
There are 5 outside pockets. Mesh pockets on each end, on back pocket, one in the flap, and one to help you organize your pens and such. This is good for me as I like to keep several notepads to write down notes and ideas.
So after finally deciding to test it, I pulled my gear out from my Lowe Pro Mini-Trekker and began stuffing it into the City Walker.I wrote about that bag in a earlier post: Be Critical of Equipment Tests
First thing I noticed was the inability to organize my lenses. I keep my 80-200 and 17-35 on my cameras. My other lenses I like to carry are my 24 f/2, 50mm, 55mm macro, and 85.
I used the extra pads to build vertical compartments. the most used lenses on the top to keep them within easy reach. My filter pouch (which holds 4 filters) goes in the laptop/pad/tablet pocket for easy access.
Without much finagling, I was able to get my gear transferred from my old Lowe Pro to the new City Walker.
Two big surprises:
- It held more than I thought. In fact, there is extra room if I decide to ditch an extra body and put the lens in.
- It is actually pretty easy to carry.
Without further ado, I went out and began walking around with it. My first time was during a very foggy evening. I use a shoulder bag over my head so it’s not directly on my shoulder. Makes it easier for me to carry and get into when I need something.
What I liked right away is that as a soft bag, it formed around your hips. I really do not feel it much when I’m waling around.
Also, the bag rests on by lower back and I don’t fee the weight. When I do carry it, I keep the flap towards my body for easier access. It also helps prevent pickpockets from getting to this easy access.
The flap closes and then Velcro keeps the flap against the body of the bag. Also for added protection, there is a clasp. Good for when you sit it on a rock while you’re shooting landscapes. Just in case it decides to roll over on its side.
Even with all my gear in it, it was easy to carry. The strap has a padded section with non-slip silicon and it is amazing. Fully loaded, I could barely feel the weight even after several hours.
With the exception of having to stack my lenses, this case is pretty damn good. It’s easy to keep things organized and easy to get.
But, not all is well on the Western Front. There are a few issues that Think Tank should address:
1. This is very important: First is the lack of padding on the BOTTOM of the bag. There is just a thin layer of foam. For me this is a big issue as I’ve experienced what can happen if the bag is dropped, or put down roughly upon a hard surface.
Years ago I had a bag with a thin bottom. It was a fanny pack and a really good one. However, the belt broke one day as I was shooting a structure fire for the Bowling Green (Ky.) Daily News and the bag hit the ground. I was swapping lenses out when the buckle cracked. I did not notice anything at first. Everything looked good.
When I got back to the paper, I pulled my gear out looking for the film I shot so I can process it. I pulled one of the lenses and notice the front element was chipped. My 35-135 Nikkor was toast. It was the lens I had on my camera when I switched to a wide.
That being said, I think the bag could definitely use a thicker padded bottom.
2. An Avoidable Annoyance: The next big drawback for me is that the shoulder strap tends to twist easily. This is annoying especially if you are in a hurry moving from one place to another. You pick up the bag and then have to readjust the strap each time.
A simple matter of adding swivels to the strap would be great. I know they make strong ones capable for the job as my laptop bag has them.
3. An Attached Rain Cover: Living in the Pacific Northwest, this is a big issue. There is one that is supplied with the bag, however, for the sake of convenience, it would be nice if it was attached in some way. Many bags I know have one you can pull out and it quickly covers your bag. Then when the downpour is over, you can stuff it back into its storage pocket.
Although it comes packed in a small bag with a clip, I don’t like having a little extra bag I have to worry about. Especially if the little plastic clip breaks.
Overall, I really like the bag. It is convenient and easy to use. Think Tank makes some great products so I believe with some tweaking of the design, this could easily have gotten 5 Stars from me.
Here’s a List of the Gear I carry:
- Lenses – 50 f/1.4, 55 f/3.5 Macro, 85 f/1.8, TC14EII
- 4 Extra EN-EL3A camera batteries
- Flash: SB-800 with the SC-17 cord, filter pack for flash (Tungsten & Florescent), 10 AA batteries in a bag
- ColorChecker Passport calibration tool by X Rite
- Sekonic Light Meter
- Lowe Pro DMC-Z CF Card Wallet which is attached to the shoulder strap
- Filter kit with a Polarizing, B+W Neutral Density, extra UV, Red (for B&W photography)
- Two tripod plates, extra back caps, lens caps, and body caps
- 5 pens, 2 notepads, lens cleaning solution, lens cloths, sensor cleaning solution and wipes
Thank you for stopping by and reading. All comments, good or bad, are appreciated.
Paul “pablo” Conrad