Todd Hatakeyama

Oct 162016

Think Tank just released it’s third generation of their Airport International Rolling Case. There’s a brand new reinforced telescoping handle, a dedicated padded pocket for both a laptop and tablet which is lockable with a coated cable and lock which can also secure your bag to an immovable object, and user-replaceable parts. It’s outer dimensions of 14” x 21” x 8” complies with most international and domestic airlines.

I’m able to fit two full camera systems, Sony A7r II and Olympus Pen F, a camcorder, 2 microphones, a sound recorder and filters. There’s so much room in the main compartment, lots of dividers to customize the space to fit your gear.


The interior lid has 4 zippered pockets to store memory cards, batteries, filters and other miscellaneous accessories.

The laptop compartment also has a separate tablet pocket, plus several small pockets and a zippered compartment to fit small accessories.

The top of the bag has a business card holder as well as a zippered pocket for small items, plus a nice handle and the retractable handle.

There’s a badge with a serial number for Lost & Found registration with a phone number for Think Tank to help return the bag to the owner.

The tripod mount on the side with a pocket will hold even large tripods, or a water bottle.

High-performance, 80mm wheels with sealed ABEC grade 5 bearings provide quiet rolling and are user replaceable as well as the wheel housings, feet, kick plate and extendable handle.

The new Airport International is a great bag when you need to travel with a lot of gear. The upgrades are just what the Airport series needed, a stronger handle, user replaceable parts, and extra pockets. The only problem, I’ll be leaving the Airport International Version 2 at home now, it won’t see much use unless I need to bring an extra large amount of gear.

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Aug 312016
GP 2 Kit Case

MindShift Gear’s MindShift GP Series is a complete storage solution for your GoPro action cameras and accessories. Typical camera bags and backpacks sometimes just don’t work for carrying all of my GoPro gear. The cameras fit well in the dividers where lenses usually go, but all of the accessories just don’t fit well in the small pockets of the bags, or loose in the main divider compartment.

GP 2 Kit Case

GP 2 Kit Case – 6.7” W x 2.6” H x 3.7” D

I can fit two GoPro cameras, most of my attachments, chargers, extra batteries in the GP Bundle Medium which includes the GP 2 Kit Case, GP Cables & Power, GP Mounts, and GP 2 Batteries & Cards.

GP Cables & Power

GP Cables & Power – 6.7” W x 3.7” H x 1.4 D

If I’m taking my large Think Tank Airport Roller with the Canon C100 and Sony A7rII systems, I’ll put the GoPro cameras in the GP2 Kit Case, and use some of the accessory pouches for the rest of the GoPro gear. Then I can store all of these bags in the outer compartment of the Airport bag.

GP Mounts - Medium

GP Mounts – Medium – 7.1” W x 7.1” H x 1.2” D

I like the convenience of the clear windows so it’s quick and easy to find what you need instead of digging through a pouch or dumping everything out. The sizes are perfect, not too big, but will hold what I need for most shoots. The quality is just like all other MindShift Gear products, very well made, great attention to detail.

GP 2 Batteries & Cards

GP 2 Batteries & Cards – 4.3” W x 0.8” H x 2.4” D

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Aug 142016
Think Tank Video Workhorse 19

The Think Tank Video Workhorse 19 fits professional camcorders or video camera rigs up to 19” long and 7.5” tall. Unlike other photography bags, you are able to store your video rig without breaking it down for quick access when you need it.

Think Tank Video Workhorse 19

I’m able to fit two camera systems, the Sony CX675 camcorder with the Rode Videomicro and Velbon Ultra Stick Super 8 Monopod attached, along with the Olympus Pen F with the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens attached. I haven’t set it up to fit the Pen F without breaking down, but I’m sure it would fit nicely with the Zoom H5 and hot shoe stabilizer mount. I took this bag on my recent road trip to my favorite restaurant Jocko’s Steakhouse. It fit everything I needed for the two day trip of eating and hiking. I didn’t need to carry it on the hike so it worked out perfectly, putting the Sony camcorder away after each shoot was quick and easy, much faster than using one of my photo backpacks.

Think Tank Video Workhorse 19 pic 2

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Aug 022016
MindShift Gear Moose Peterson M-P3 V2.0

MindShift and wildlife photographer Moose Peterson worked together to update the original Moose Peterson Photopacks. There are three sizes ranging from 15.5″ external height for the MP-7, 20″ for the MP-3 and 23″ for the MP-1. The three compartment design allows quick access to each section individually, with self closing flaps that help to keep out dust to protect your gear.


Each compartment is fully customizable with additional included dividers, plus two removable mesh pockets are included in addition to a mesh pocked on the inside of each compartment flap. On top there’s another zippered compartment, business card/ID window, and a padded handle. On one side there’s another padded handle, the other has a large elastic pouch for a water bottle or tripod. The backpack straps are able to be tucked away as well as a removable waist harness. The only thing missing is a laptop or tablet compartment, but it seems this bag is made for a day out in the field when you can leave the laptop back in your car or hotel room.


My choice was the MP-3 which is large enough to hold all of my videography gear for a one day shoot. I was able to easily fit the following: Sony A7r II, Sony 16-35mm f/4, Sony 70-200mm f/4, Sony 55mm f/1.8, Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4, Olympus Pen F, Olympus 9-18mm, Olympus 75-300mm, Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, two GoPro Hero 4 Silver, Evo Pro Gimbal, Tascam DR-10SG Microphone/Recorder, Gorillapod, Vanguard Alta 225CT tripod, Feisol CB-30C head and rain cover. Plus all kinds of small accessories like batteries, memory cards, etc.


Overall the MP-3 V2.9 is a very well built backpack with nice materials like other MindShift Gear bags. It holds more than enough gear for a day trip and the unique three compartment design is nice to keep your gear safe from the outdoor elements.

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Jun 052016


The MindShift Gear Card-Again Memory Wallets are a great choice for carrying your SD and CF cards. There are so many memory card holders and wallets on the market it’s hard to decide which one to buy.


I have some other SD card holders that are too thick and bulky so sometimes I would just use the plastic holder that the SD card comes in, but then it’s easy to lose and hard to keep track of. I like the small and thin size of the Card-Agains, the 6 SD card or 4 CF card capacity is more than enough for a short trip, and doesn’t take up much space in my bag.


I like the tri-fold design with two rows of cards and a Velcro flap, it keeps it thin, but still securely holds your cards in place, and is water resistant. There’s also a nice little loop to tether to a clip on your bag or clothing. Exterior Dimensions: 4.3” W x 2.4” H x 0.5” D (11 x 6 x 1.2 cm), 0.9 oz. (25 g)


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Apr 242016


The new Think Tank Photo Retrospective 6 is a great sized bag for mirrorless or DSLR camera systems. It’s small enough to carry enough camera gear for a day out shooting, but still not too large to discourage you from carrying a bag around town.


The Retrospective 6 has many of the features that we’ve seen in the entire Retrospective line of shoulder bags. It comes in Sandstone, Pinestone or Black, has the Sound Silencers for discrete opening, expandable front pocket that fits an 8” tablet, removable carrying handle, adjustable cushioned shoulder strap, rain cover and much more.


On my first day out with the Retrospective 6, I was able to carry my Sony A7r II, Sony 16-35mm lens, Sony 55mm lens, and Voigtlander 40mm lens, with my iPad mini 4, extra batteries, sd cards, Anker battery charger, and a few other small accessories. There was still plenty of room to fit a flash and small lens or charger.


With Internal Dimensions of 13” W x 7.5” H x 5.3” D (33 x 19 x 13.5 cm) and Exterior Dimensions of
13.5” W x 7.9” H x 6.7” D (34.5 x 20 x 17 cm), I like that it’s just a little larger than the Retrospective 5, but fit’s a lot more and isn’t nearly as large as the Retrospective 7. I lost my Retrospective 5 to my wife, she loves that size when we travel, I think the 6 will be a really nice size to take with me when I don’t need to carry a Macbook.


Think Tank did a perfect job creating another bag for the mirrorless shooter, not too big and not too small. I’ll definitely grab the Retrospective 6 when I need to carry a few lenses and iPad Mini 4.

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Feb 062016

It’s the perennial dilemma of the backpacking photographer: By definition, a backpack is on your back, so unless you’re a double-jointed circus contortionist, you can’t get reach into the bag to get anything without taking it off. But if you take it off, you have to set it down somewhere, unless you happen to have an extra pair of arms to hold the bag while you dig through it. When you’re out in Nature, it can be hard to find a spot to put your pack that’s not dirty, wet, rocky, icy, or all of the above. What to do?


Leave it to MindShift Gear, the folks who gave us the rotation180° backpack series, to solve this conundrum. As readers of past reviews may remember, the rotation180° backpacks all have an ingenious detachable beltpack that you can slide along the harness around your waist until it’s in front of you for easy access to your camera accessories. MindShift Gear’s new BackLight 26L backpack applies the same principle to the whole pack, so you can get at the entire contents of the bag without ever taking it off.


Like the rotation180° bags, the BackLight 26L (Exterior Dimensions: 11.4″ W x 20.3″ H x 7.9″ D or 29 x 51.5 x 20 cm) features a sturdy belt harness that fastens around your waist. When you want to access the pack, you simply slip the shoulder straps off your shoulders and rotate the belt until the pack is jutting out in front of you like a kangaroo pouch. A zippered rear panel allows you to open the back of the bag and pull items from the capacious padded main compartment (Interior Dimensions: 10.2″ W x 19.3″ H x 5.9″ D or 26 x 49 x 15 cm). When you’ve retrieved the gear you want, you zip the bag up, shift the belt until the pack is on your back again, hitch up the shoulder straps, and you’re ready to move on.


The BackLight 26L can accommodate a DSLR with lens attached, with enough space left for a smaller mirrorless camera and several lenses. as well as filters, batteries, and other gear. Mesh pockets in the lid and zippered pockets on the top and front of the backpack provide additional storage space for smaller items, while dedicated sleeve compartments can hold both a 15″ laptop and a full-size tablet computer. Side pouches let you stash a couple of water bottles within easy reach, and an assortment of external loops and straps permit you to attach a tripod and other equipment to the outside of the pack. The BackLight 26L is also compatible with MindShift Gear’s Tripod Suspension Kit, Filter Nest/Hive, and other backpack accessories (sold separately).


Thanks to MindShift Gear, you need never again stoop to set your backpack down in muddy, treacherous terrain. The BackLight 26L combines the carrying capacity and all-day portability of a rugged backpack with the convenience and accessibility of a shoulder bag, so you can always grab your gear on the go.

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Oct 222015


It’s become something of a family tradition for me to accompany my dad on a trip every year in the fall for some prime father-son quality time. Recently, however, his mobility has become more of an issue, so on this occasion we decided to take a cruise to Alaska, which would not require my dad to walk as much as on some of our past excursions.


I’ve been on more than fifteen large ocean-liner cruises all over the world, but lately I find that I prefer small-ship cruises like those that tour the rivers of Europe. With fewer than 200 passengers on board, small-ship cruises offer a more intimate, relaxed experience: no crowds or long lines for dining or activities, more personalized attention from the crew, better food, tours and day-trips included with the cruise package, and myriad other advantages. Thus, when I began planning the annual trip with Dad, I searched for small cruise lines in Alaska and found Un-Cruise Adventures, a company for travelers like me who are tired of the impersonal big-line corporate cruise.


Un-Cruise specializes in small-ship adventure cruising, with tours in locations such as Hawaii, Mexico, the Galapagos Islands, and the Northwest. From their Alaska tours, we chose the cruise through the Northern Passages and Glacier Bay, which started in Sitka and ended seven days later in Juneau. We got the lowest-priced room they offered, which was still much costlier than cabins for comparable tours aboard large ocean liners. However, when you calculate the value of the day-trip tours that Un-Cruise includes with their cruise package and for which a large cruise line would charge extra, the difference in total cost is not that great.


We were a bit taken aback when we saw how tiny our cabin was: barely long and wide enough to accommodate two side-by-side berths, with a bathroom smaller than the closets at most of the hotels in which I’ve stayed. Located on the lowest deck of passenger cabins, the room was very near to the engine room and generator, so we had to put up with quite a bit of noise as well. Both Dad and I are used to sleeping with earplugs, though, so it was worth saving $1000 or more rather than upgrading to the next higher room category. As for the small space, we would only need to be there to sleep. The rest of the time, we intended to be out adventuring!


After a breakfast of a $15 French dip sandwich and $9 bagel in Sitka (food in Alaska is expensive!), we settled in aboard ship for the usual preliminaries: a briefing on emergency procedures and an introduction from our guides about the various tours and activities available to us. There are generally around four activities from which to choose each morning and afternoon, and they vary depending on the current location and weather conditions of the cruise. The choices include beginning and advanced kayak tours (either solo or with a guide), paddle-boarding, vigorous hiking, and even snorkeling for the more active passengers. Dad and I selected a few of the mellower options: skiff tours, beach walks, and a short hike.


The highlights of the Un-Cruise experience are unquestionably the excellent staff and the breathtaking scenery. Our adventure guides gave fascinating on-board presentations about a variety of subjects and proved highly educated and knowledgeable about everything we encountered during our outdoor tours. As a huge added bonus for the cruise, a park ranger joined our cruise when we arrived in Glacier Bay and stayed with us for the next two days, giving several informative talks aboard ship and leading a few of our tours each day. Dad and I went on the scenic forest hike with her, and she delighted us with her enthusiasm for all things Alaskan.


We also enjoyed the delicious food served on the ship and the pleasant company of our fellow travelers. The small cruise boat had fewer than 80 passengers, and it seemed like half of them were gregarious Australians and New Zealanders. Mealtimes gave us a great opportunity to socialize, for Dad and I would share a table with as many as four other people. By the end of the cruise, our new comrades had become like old friends. The last two days of the trip, Un-Cruise thoughtfully offered an e-mail list for us on which we could sign up to keep in touch with each other, and the company also sent us a link to all of the photos the staff had taken of us.


My main regret about the cruise is that I didn’t get as many good photos as I’d hoped. I was constantly concerned about water damaging my gear, for it rained nearly every day and many of our best photo ops occurred while we were out on the bay in small skiffs. I brought some dry bags to protect my extra lenses and kept my camera nearly covered in another waterproof bag, ready to drop it in and seal it up whenever the rain got too heavy. I didn’t go kayaking, but even if I had, I don’t think I’d ever risk my Sony on a kayak ride.


Also, I wish I’d brought along a better lens for telephoto shots. My longest lens is the Sony 70-200mm f/4 for my Sony A7rII. Since I don’t often get to shoot wildlife, I didn’t think to bring a longer lens with me, but I should have been prepared with at least a 600mm. As you might imagine, I couldn’t get very close to the wild bears, bald eagles, mountain goats, orcas, humpback whales, and sea lions we saw, so I needed all the reach I could get.


I made do the best I could with the gear I had. Fortunately, the 42 megapixels of the A7rII allowed me to crop my pictures quite a bit, although their resolution wasn’t as good as that of the photos taken by one of our guides, who had a Nikon DSLR and 600mm lens. I’ve learned my lesson: It may be inconvenient to travel with a long and heavy lens like the 600mm, but if you’re going to shoot spectacular flora and fauna, don’t leave home without it! Beg, borrow, or rent one if you have to. I recommend as a good place to find reasonable rental rates.


Dad and I had such a great time on the Un-Cruise that we were sad to see it end. The smaller boat turned out to be the perfect choice for Glacier Bay, for it allowed us to approach much closer to the glacier walls than the large cruise ships could get. I imagine the folks on the ocean liner Norwegian Sun must have envied our view, for they could only sail past at a distance.


If you’re traveling without children and are keen to see Alaska’s glacial landscapes and diverse wildlife in all their glory, I’d say an Un-Cruise Adventure is the way to go. It may not offer the most luxurious ship, but the obliging staff, outstanding guides, delectable food, and the camaraderie with our fellow passengers made this voyage one of the best father-son vacations I’ve ever had.

Oct 212015


How do you make a great camera bag even better? By adding snazzy leather accents, of course! Think Tank Photo has taken their popular Retrospective line of shoulder bags and jazzed them up with fine leather trim to create camera cases so stylish you’d expect them to be worn by the runway models rather than the photographers at a high-fashion photo shoot.


I recently had the pleasure of trying out the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 Leather. Like the preceding Retrospective 7 bags, the Leather edition is the perfect size for photographers who want a compact case (External Dimensions: 13.5” W x 9.5” H x 7” D or 34.3 × 24.1 × 17.8 cm) that will nevertheless give them fast and easy access to a DSLR camera body with a 70-200mm or similar telephoto lens attached. The roomy main compartment (Internal Dimensions: 12.5” W x 8.8” H x 5” D or 31.8 × 22.4 × 12.7 cm) provides plenty of additional capacity for at least 2 additional lenses. This combination of streamlined design and convenient functionality makes the Retrospective 7 an ideal choice for event photographers, who often have to do quick equipment changes in a crowded, fast-moving environment.


In addition to the main camera compartment, the Retrospective 7 offers ample storage space for other necessities. Indeed, the padded front pocket is large enough to hold an extra pro camera body, although I generally stash a light meter and other accessories there. The zippered compartment on the back of the bag snugly stores my iPad or 11″ Macbook Air.


The Think Tank team have put as much thought into how the bag operates as they do into hold much it holds. The unique hook-and-loop “Sound Silencers” on the front flap, for example, allow you to open and close the bag quietly. Now you don’t have to worry about scaring off that skittish deer in the woods or spoiling that candid wedding moment with the sound of ripping Velcro.


With its accents of gorgeous, burgundy-tinged Dakota leather, the Retrospective 7 Leather is such a beautiful bag that you may find yourself skittish about taking it out in the field for fear of mussing up its wonderful exterior. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying this handsome case. Underneath that sleek facade is a product fashioned with Think Tank’s trademark quality and durability. For added protection against the elements, the Retrospective 7 Leather includes a durable, water-resistant coating and a nylon, seam-sealed taffeta rain cover double-coated in polyurethane.

So go ahead and take the bag wherever you want to shoot! Classy but not flashy, the Think Tank Retrospective 7 Leather is a camera bag that works even better than it looks.

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Sep 212015


For a landscape photographer like me, there’s nothing like the first light of day, as dawn spreads glorious, golden, diffused light over forests and fields. And now there’s nothing like MindShift Gear’s FirstLight 40L Backpack to help me get my gear out to those forests and fields before the sun comes up. This roomy yet portable pack ensures that, no matter what the weather or environment, you’ll be able to carry all the cameras and accessories you need safely and comfortably.


I’m pretty sure the “L” in “40L” stands for “Large,” for the FirstLight 40L’s main compartment is big enough to fit two DSLRs with grips and lenses attached, as well as up to eight additional lenses, two flashes, and all the trimmings (Interior Dimensions: 13.4″ W x 20″ H x 7.3″ D or 34 x 51 x 18.5 cm). Since I’ve switched to mirrorless cameras, I had even more space to play with: for my recent trip to Alaska, I easily stashed my Sony A7r II, Sony 16-35mm f/4, Sony 55mm f/1.8, Sony 70-200mm f/4, Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4, and GoPro Hero 4 Black, and had plenty of room left for an Inmarsat IsatPhone, Anker battery, some dry bags, a Uniqlo down jacket, and MindShift Gear’s House of Cards memory card wallet.


I slipped my 11″ laptop in the front pocket, which can accommodate either a tablet or up to a 17″ notebook computer, and a variety of other zippered pockets held my Sony and GoPro batteries, miscellaneous cables, medications, a first aid kit, and other necessities. A dedicated hydration pocket on the side can hold as much as three liters of water.
Despite its mighty carrying capacity, I had no trouble stowing the FirstLight 40L in the overhead bin on my plane (Exterior Dimensions: 13.8″ W x 21.4″ H x 9″ D or 35 x 55 x 22.9 cm). It also fit easily under the seat in front of me, except for certain aisle seats beneath which electrical boxes took up some of the space. (MindShift Gear advises you to check with your airline about overhead bin size restrictions.)


With MindShift Gear’s characteristic combination of durability and build quality, the FirstLight 40L performs as well out in the wild as it does in the airport. The bag complements its durable water-resistant coating with a seamless rain cover that can double as a ground cloth. This cover was a life-saver while I was in Glacier Bay National Park, where it rained constantly. The backpack and, more importantly, my gear, stayed snug and dry despite the downpour.
MindShift Gear continues to produce innovative camera bags customized to the needs of individual photographers, and with the FirstLight 40L, they offer another great option for the roving outdoor photographer. It may be the FirstLight…but I’m sure it won’t be the last we see of this line of top-notch backpacks!

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