A capacious backpack for serious photographers who frequently travel by air.ThinkTank Photo is a new brand name in the Australian market with products that are designed by photographers for photographers. The company's design philosophy focuses on 'speed' and 'accessibility', helping photographers to 'be ready' when a photo opportunity presents itself. Three of the company's designers are photographers (the fourth is a former Lowepro designer), while the 'design board', which provides direction and product testing, consists of 11 photographer/photojournalist members, selected from leading US publications. . . [more]
ThinkTank Photo is a new brand name in the Australian market with products that are designed by photographers for photographers. The company's design philosophy focuses on ‘speed' and ‘accessibility', helping photographers to ‘be ready' when a photo opportunity presents itself. Three of the company's designers are photographers (the fourth is a former Lowepro designer), while the ‘design board', which provides direction and product testing, consists of 11 photographer/photojournalist members, selected from leading US publications.
Photo Review was provided with two sample products to review, one of them the Airport Antidote V 2.0, a capacious backpack that fits all international airlines' carry on requirements, and fits into the overhead of very small planes. This pack aims to tick as many of the ‘wants' and ‘needs' boxes as a travelling photographer or photojournalist can list and is jam-packed with useful features, including:
1. The ability to accommodate professional cameras and lenses. You can pack in a camera body with telephoto lens attached plus up to four additional lenses, an electronic flash unit and other small items into the customisable main chamber (see illustration below).
The Airport Antidote V 2.0 packed to capacity with camera, lenses and other accessories. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
Alternatively, you can use the bag for large professional lenses and carry the camera separately. In this configuration it will accommodate a 400mm f/2.8 lens plus one or two smaller lenses, as shown in the illustration below.
The Airport Antidote V 2.0 configured to hold a 400mm f/2.8 lens plus two smaller lenses. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
2. A separate laptop case that packs into the front of the backpack and holds laptops with up to 15-inch screens. The laptop case is easily removed for security inspections and for use while the photographer is travelling. It will fit easily under a seat in a plane and can be used as a stand-alone carry-pouch, thanks to a top-mounted handle. Lugs are provided for attaching a shoulder strap.
The pull-out laptop case has a top-mounted handle and lugs for a shoulder strap. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
When the laptop isn't required, this compartment becomes available for other equipment, such as reflectors, white balance targets, jackets, user manuals and other items that need to be carried.
Alternative uses for the laptop compartment. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
3. Extensive security protection, including a lockable metal security cable that can be threaded through the top of the laptop case and/or used to attach the backpack to an immovable object if you have to leave your equipment in a media room, wedding hall, hotel room. or other open area.
The security cable and combination lock. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
The main zipper sliders also have large enough holes to allow a separate lock to be threaded through them for added security.
The locking zipper sliders. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
The laptop compartment has a fold-over cover with a locking front clip. This allows the pack to be worn on the photographer's back without revealing the laptop or making it accessible to thieves.
The secure clip on the laptop compartment. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
4. Adequate storage for peripheral items. In addition to inside organiser pockets with zipper closures, which can hold small items like memory cards, lens cleaners and cables, the cover for the laptop compartment has a similar zipped compartment. In addition, a side pocket made from stretching material can hold a monopod or small tripod.
An additional tripod cup, which attaches to the buckle on the side panel, is provided for holding larger tripods. Its length is adjustable to suit popular tripod sizes. Tethering straps with quick-release buckles are provided to keep them in place.
A small tripod or monopod can be attached to the side panel with the supplied straps. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
The side pocket can also hold a water bottle or similar item when it's not being used for tripods. Each pack comes with a business card holder in the top panel - and also a small storage compartment that can hold items like memory card wallets. An additional side attachment point allows a carabiner to be attached. It can hold items like hats, knee pads, gloves or other clothing items that have become wet or dirty.
The small storage compartment and business card holder on the top panel. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
5. Features for user comfort and convenience. Instead of just one carrying handle, the Airport Antidote V 2.0 has three, mounted on the top, side and bottom panels. This makes it easy to grab the bag when lifting it into or removing it from a place of storage. The back panel is contoured and covered with a ‘breathable' mesh material that is designed to allow moisture to evaporate readily.
Handles on three sides of the pack make it easy to grab when required. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
The shoulder harness has thick padding and has the same mesh cover plus an adjustable sternum strap. Stretch pockets are provided on the front of each strap for holding items like a mobile phone, GPS unit or MP3 player. Memory card cases could also be stored in these pockets. D-rings on each strap allow additional items to be attached.
The stretch pockets in the shoulder straps can hold items you access frequently. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
The position of the sternum strap is adjustable because the clamps holding the strap in place can slide along 180 mm long ridges, which are stitched securely into the harness straps. (We have some reservations about how long the clamps will last, although they should probably survive for the lifetime of the bag if they are not moved frequently.)
The padded waist belt is removable via a metal buckle located on the pad. It, too, is fully adjustable and covered with ‘breathable' mesh. A rain cover is also provided to prevent water and dust from entering the bag.
The padded waist band is covered with ‘breathable' mesh and fully adjustable. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
For our user tests, we loaded the review bag with approximately 7 kg of equipment (camera bodies, lenses and peripheral gear). Packing everything in was relatively straightforward, thanks to the Velcro-equipped compartment dividers, which attached securely but were also quite simple to relocate. This made customising the pack's interior uncomplicated.
The most important issues to consider when choosing a camera backpack are:
1. Does it hold the equipment you want to carry without leaving empty space in which small items can be thrown around and potentially damage other equipment?
2. Does it provide adequate protection?
3. Is it comfortable to wear when fully loaded, with sufficient scope for adjustments to make if fit your body properly?
4. Does it present a potential risk to other people when you're putting the pack on or when you turn around?
With respect to the Airport Antidote V 2.0, the answer to the first question will depend on individual photographers and how much equipment they want to carry. Overall, we feel this bag will only suit photographers with at least two camera bodies and a suite of lenses and other accessories. It would be overkill for hobbyists with a DLSR and one or two lenses.
The second and third questions can be answered with a resounding' yes'. Build quality is excellent and there is plenty of padding in key places and enough scope for customisation to satisfy most potential users. The pack's adjustability should see it suit a wide range of body types and sizes.
In the case of the fourth question, the actual design of the pack, which has been dictated by the carry-on luggage constraints of international airlines, has meant that the pack is box-like in shape.
Consequently, it pokes out a fair way behind you and care will be necessary when wearing the pack if you want to turn around - or even glance over your shoulder. (Make sure the bag doesn't hit anyone in the process!)
We also have some reservations about how the balance of the pack might be affected when a 2-3 kilogram laptop is loaded in the laptop compartment - although we weren't able to test this. Since the compartment is located on the outside of the pack, it could interfere with the overall comfort of the design.
On the subject of user comfort, by tradition, most camera backpacks have been designed for the male body and many are uncomfortable for females to wear. Fortunately, in the Airport Antidote V 2.0, ThinkTank Photo appears to have developed a design that can be made comfortable for females as well, thanks to the adjustability of both shoulder and waist straps and the ability to reposition the sternum strap.
Changing from a female to a male body required a fair bit of strap re-adjustment. However, the general consensus was that the padded waist band sat comfortably on the hips and the shoulder straps were wide enough to take the weight. Overall padding was adequate for comfort and the mesh covering on the surfaces next to the body gained a big tick for ensuring comfort when the wearer was active.
Although it's a great backpack for serious photographers who travel a lot, the Airport Antidote V 2.0 will be much larger than most amateur photographers need - but maybe not quite big enough for some professional photographers. It also has one or two limitations for travelling photographers. The most significant is that you must take the pack off to get at your gear. This slows you down and goes against the Be Ready "Before the Moment" theme the company claims underpins its design philosophy.
And, while you could - at a pinch - wear the pack on your front, this doesn't make the equipment easier to get at; it's also far from comfortable and it negates many of the great features of the overall design. In addition, because it's designed to hold a lot of equipment, this bag can become quite heavy to carry and some potential buyers might prefer the design if it had wheels (the company makes a range of ‘Roller' bags with wheels in varying carrying capacities).
Where the Airport Antidote V 2.0 really shines is its overall suitability for photographers who do a lot of travelling, particularly by air. For these users, its robust construction, security features, overall comfort and ease of customisation will make it a real winner.
Buy this backpack if:
- You want secure storage for a substantial amount of serious equipment while travelling.
Don't buy this backpack if:
- You only want to carry one camera body and one or two lenses.
- You're not looking for a traveller's bag.
Internal Dimensions (hxwxd): 400 x 280 x 165 mm
External Dimensions (hxwxd): 430 x 300 x 180 mm (with laptop case inserted: 205 mm deep)
Laptop Case Internal Dimensions: 365 x 280 x 45 mm (Holds up to a 15-inch laptop.)
Weight: 1.4-2 kg (depending on accessories used)
Special features: Fits all international airline carry on requirements
Digital cameras, lenses and accessories with 100% genuine Australian manufacturer's warranties.
Ph: (02) 9029 2219
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.5
- Features: 8.5
- OVERALL: 8.5