ThinkTank Photo Skin Set

      Photo Review 8.5

      In summary

       A non-padded, lightweight, modular system of equipment pouches than can be worn on belts or harnesses.Modular systems represent a relatively new type of ‘camera bag’ but they’ve become quite popular with some professional photographers (especially photojournalists and multi-media shooters – because they’re designed to be customised. You simply purchase a belt or harness and then add the required pouches and hangers to carry your kit. This system is exemplified by the Skin Set from ThinkTank Photo.  . . [more]

      Full review



      Modular systems represent a relatively new type of ‘camera bag’ but they’ve become quite popular with some professional photographers (especially photojournalists and multi-media shooters – because they’re designed to be customised. You simply purchase a belt or harness and then add the required pouches and hangers to carry your kit. This system is exemplified by the Skin Set from ThinkTank Photo.
      The Skin Set consists of five pouches, each designed to accommodate a different piece of equipment. Overall build quality of each pouch is very good and some come with innovative zip-down extensions to make them deeper, should more space be required. You could also tuck items like soft lens cases in the bottom of the larger pouches for additional padding.


      The complete Skin Set of pouches. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)

      You have to buy the belt (or harness) separately and can choose from three belts and two harnesses in the company’s line-up. Belts range from the Pro Speed Belt, which is a medium-weight, fully-padded belt to the heavyweight Steroid Speed belt at one extreme and the lightweight, unpadded +Skin belt at the other. Each model has loops for attaching the pouches.
      Of the two harnesses, the Pixel Racing harness is the more robust – although you need a separate belt to attach it to. The lighter Belly Dancer harness is unpadded and comes with its own belt. Both have been designed to provide support for a variety of ThinkTank Photo pouches. Buying the Skin Set saves you approximately 20% on the cost of the pouches if each was purchased separately.
      Comprising five pouches, it includes the Skin 50, Skin 75 Pop Down, Skin Double Wide, Skin Strobe and Skin Chimp Cage. Although each pouch has a specific application, it’s not essential to use them for that purpose and most can accommodate alternative devices, should the need arise. Key applications and specifications are as follows:
      Skin 50 pouch is designed to hold a 16-35mm f/2.8 or similarly-sized lens with hood in position.


      The Skin 50 pouch. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)

      Skin 75 Pop Down can hold a larger lens, such as the 70-200mm f/ 2.8 with its hood reversed, or can “pop-down” to accommodate the lens with the hood in position.


      The Skin 75 Pop Down without the zip-down lower section of the pouch extended. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)

      Skin Double Wide is designed to accommodate two larger lenses, such as the 70-200mm f/2.8 with hood reversed and 24-70mm f/2.8 with hood in position, in one unit. Each lens pouch measures 254 x 133 x 95 mm internally, while the total internal dimensions are 229 x 102 x 70 mm.


      The Skin Double Wide twin pouch for two lenses. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)

      Skin Strobe is designed to hold an SLR flash and includes a front pocket for batteries.


      The Skin Strobe flash pouch. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)

      Skin Chimp Cage can carry one pro-sized digital SLR body as well as other SLR equipment. It includes a front pocket for accessories, interior pocket for reporter’s pads and an inner divider for customised arrangement of gear.


      The Skin Chimp Cage, which is designed to hold a professional DSLR body. (Source: ThinkTank Photo.)
      In total, the Skin Set can accommodate a DSLR body, up to five lenses and an add-on flash unit. Each pouch has some extra room for stashing memory cards, cables, note pads and pens and other small items. The back of each pouch is reinforced to maintain its shape. On the outside of the back panel is a lift-up flap with a broad Velcro closure. Underneath it is a rigid white plastic divider (which resembles a tongue depressor).
      Pouches can be attached in two ways: rotate or lock. The rotate configuration positions the divider behind the belt, allowing it to be slid backwards and forwards along the belt. In this position, you can pull pouches to access their contents or shift them towards your back for a more comfortable weight distribution.

      In the lock configuration, the divider is slid into one of the webbing slots on the front of the belt, while its cover is tucked behind the belt. This locks the pouch into position, preventing it from moving, and is ideal when you require frequent access to a lens or flash.

      In Use
      When the  Pro Speed Belt’s waist strap is pulled in as tightly as it will go, it measures approximately 109 cm, which may not suit slimmer photographers, although there’s plenty of room for expansion for users with larger frames. We found it sat reasonably comfortably on our hips and it was possible to balance the weight of the equipment we carried by judicial positioning of the various pouches.

      When it came to packing equipment into the pouches, we found our EOS 5D Mark II  body was a rather tight fit in the Skin Chimp Cage  with its lens attached. An EOS 40D with 17-85mm lens was a much more comfortable fit and left adequate space for the camera strap. Being able to unzip the bottom of the pouch and extend it made little difference to overall fit beyond allowing the 5D II to be slipped in facing down with the lens hood in place (instead of being reversed). However, pulling it out quickly without detaching the hood wasn’t all that easy. Either way, there wasn’t much room for tucking the camera strap in and no space inside the pouch for additional accessories.
      Loading the camera body into a pouch without the lens was much easier and we found the Skin 50 and Skin 75 Pop Down  were a comfortable fit for a 5D body in this configuration. However, the system doesn’t help you to gain quick access to your gear when body and lens are stored separately so you’re left fiddling to set up your equipment while you miss the critical moment.

      The Skin Strobe made a handy pouch for carrying a compact digicam; in our case a PowerShot G10. Loading up the Pro Speed Belt with all five pouches – a total weight of approximately 5.5 kilograms – was manageable, although only just.
      We found it important to adjust the bungee cords that close the top of each pouch correctly once the gear was inserted. Too tight and it became quite difficult to extract the equipment; too loose and the gear tended to slop around while you’re walking – unless it’s a pretty snug fit. We also found it important to match the pouch to the equipment, ensuring an adequate amount of room around the gear so you could extract it quickly. Trial and error should show you what fits where.

      The Silencer Flap on the rear of each pouch made a worthwhile contribution to allowing us to detach pouches from the belt quietly. However, when we needed to remove a piece of equipment from the pouch, the Velcro rip was as loud as usual and just as likely to attract attention. (Too bad the manufacturer couldn’t put silencers front and back.)

      Because they are un-padded, none of the pouches provides the kind of protection you would get with a regular camera bag – and getting gear into and out of them can prove tricky. Overall, the main benefit of this system is  the degree of customisation it provides. You can pack as many pouches as you need onto the belt and arrange them to provide a reasonably comfortable balance.

      If you only wish to carry a camera body and one or two lenses plus a ‘walkaround’ digicam, the Skin Set is a great way to go. But it’s no substitute for a ‘proper’ camera bag if you want full protection for your gear and it’s less than ideal for travelling photographers in transit.
      Buy this backpack if:
      – You only want to carry one camera body and one or two lenses at a time.
      – You can take advantage of the system’s easy customisation capabilities.
      – You won’t be taking your equipment anywhere it could be at risk of impact damage.
      Don’t buy this backpack if:
      – You want secure storage for a substantial amount of serious equipment while travelling.
      – You are very slim.





      Special feature: Consists of five items:



      Internal Dimensions


      Skin 50

      Medium zoom lens

      178 x 133 x 83 mm

      142 grams

      Skin 75 Pop Down

      Large zoom lens

      248 x 133 x 83 mm

      220 grams

      Skin Double Wide

      Two lenses

      254 x 260 x 95 mm

      299 grams

      Skin Strobe

      SLF flash

      229 x 102 x 70 mm

      120 grams

      Skin Chimp Cage

      DSLR body

      203 x 178 x 83 mm

      262 grams






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      RRP: $213 – plus $50 for the Pro Speed Belt

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 8.5
      • Features: 8.5
      • OVERALL: 8.5