Todd Hatakeyama

Nov 252014
 

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Longtime readers of this blog will know how much I’ve admired Think Tank’s diverse product lines. With its new CityWalker 10 Shoulder Bag, the Think Tank brain trust provides a great new “in-between” option to its trusty Retrospective bags. As its name implies, the CityWalker 10 gives the on-the-go urban photographer room for enough gear for a day’s shooting while keeping the bag light and streamlined enough to carry through bustling city crowds.

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Larger than the Retrospective 5 but smaller than the Retrospective 7, the CityWalker 10 still offers enough storage capacity to accommodate two camera bodies with lenses attached and an extra lens, with space left over for a tablet or a small laptop (Interior Dimensions: 10″W x 7.5″H x 5.3″ D or 25.5 x 19 x 17 cm).

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I was able to fit my Sony a7r with Leica 50 Summilux, an NEX 5r with 10-18mm lens, a Sony 55mm lens, an iPad Mini 2, a Lenovo Miix 8 tablet, a Bluetooth keyboard, charging cables for all my equipment, some extra batteries, a portable hard drive, a few SD cards, a card reader, and other small accessories. In addition, I slipped a bottle of water into the stretchable outer compartment and rolled up my Uniqlo down jacket so I could squeeze it into the main compartment with my gear.

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If I need more computing power, I can slip my Macbook Air 11″ in between the camera compartment and the tablet sleeve. Despite the fact that there was no dedicated space for it, the laptop nestled well there in the middle, snug and safely padded.

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As usual, Think Tank has put extra thought into the bag’s construction. Unlike the vast majority of shoulder bags, which put the hard, unyielding laptop or tablet at the back of the bag where it’s right up against your body, the CityWalker places its tablet compartment toward the outer side of the bag. This design allows the soft, padded, pliable fabric of the bag to mold to your body for greater comfort. Made of a water-resistant nylon, the CityWalker stays far dryer on rainy days than the cloth-covered bags in the Retrospective series, particularly when sheltered under an umbrella.

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Think Tank also increases the CityWalker’s utility and versatility by incorporating a removable camera divider insert that enables you to convert the case from a camera bag to a messenger bag.

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On our recent trip to Tokyo, Taipei, and Hong Kong, my wife took advantage of the CityWalker’s dual nature by using it as her main carry-on bag for plane flights, where it stowed easily inside overhead bins or under the seat. It not only safely stored some of my camera gear, it also served as her purse and makeup case. Indeed, the bag has such a plethora of pockets and storage compartments that I was tempted to keep cramming it with knickknacks until it became quite heavy. However, the comfortable shoulder strap ensures that the CityWalker remains easy to carry all day long, even when fully loaded.

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Think Tank’s CityWalker 10 is smaller than its sister bags, the CityWalker 20 and 30, yet it should provide ample room for most of the mirrorless camera setups. As such, city-going photographers should find the CityWalker 10 a fine alternative when they want the perfect-sized shoulder bag to hit the streets for a day-long urban shoot.

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Oct 292014
 

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With its rotation180° Panorama camera backpack, Mindshift Gear debuted a truly innovative two-bags-in-one design that solved the perennial dilemma of the hiking photographer: how to access your camera gear without removing your backpack? The Panorama offered you the best advantages of both types of bags, giving you the large storage capacity of a backpack for extra food and clothing and the convenience of a detachable waist pack for ready access to cameras, lenses and other accessories without requiring you to take off the entire pack.

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Not every photographer who wants to shoot the scenery needs to take enough gear and supplies for a whole day’s trek through the wilderness, however. For those who want to travel light as they go for a relaxed afternoon walk, Mindshift Gear presents its new, smaller rotation180° Trail backpack. The Trail is essentially a “Mini-Me” version of the Panorama, featuring the same sort of detachable camera pack in a scaled-down size (Exterior Dimensions: 9.4″W x 21.3″ H x 5.9″ D or 24 x 54 x 15 cm).

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As with the Panorama, you can pull the beltpack out from under the main pack and maneuver it along the belt to serve as either a side holster or waist pouch while you shoot, then stow it back under the main pack for safe keeping–all without having to shrug the pack off your shoulders or set your camera bag on the ground. For added comfort when hiking, you can tuck away the waist strap in the beltpack compartment when not in use, then easily put it on when you’re ready to shoot. And when you want to travel really light, you can remove the beltpack entirely and use it solo.

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I decided to try out the new Trail on my recent two-week trip through Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Unlike my photo safaris in the Valley of Fire and Zion, which required the carrying capacity of the Panorama, this vacation consisted of the sort of brief day-trips and afternoon excursions for which the Trail was perfect. It seemed about half as large as the camera backpacks I saw other people carrying, yet it still held all my essential camera gear. This made it an ideal size to carry on the plane, for it fit easily either in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of me.

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The Trail’s waist pack (Belt Pack Interior Dimensions: 8.7″ W x 6.3″ H x 4.3″ D or 22 x 16 x 11 cm) accommodated my Sony A7R with 10-18mm lens attached and the Sony NEX-5R with 55mm lens attached. For the most part, I wore my A7R around my neck with my Street Strap and took out the NEX-5R when I needed a longer lens. The compartment also has a slot for an 8″ tablet such as an iPad Mini.

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For getting in and out of cabs or the tour bus, I stashed the pack’s belt so I could take the bag off and put it on again easily, but when walking around, I took out the belt so I could get into the camera compartment quickly when necessary.

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To take advantage of the Trail’s more compact size, one must, of course, sacrifice some carrying capacity. Storage space in the main upper compartment is a bit limited, but I found it more than adequate to carry the basics: a folded jacket, a few snacks, and small accessories. The compartment on top of the backpack is even smaller, but very handy for little items one need to access quickly, such as pens, medications, or batteries. The rear hydration compartment can hold up to a 1.5-liter water reservoir, but I used it as a fast-’n'-easy place to slip in my 8″ Windows tablet instead. In the outer stretchy compartments I carried an umbrella and a water bottle. Even fully packed, the Trail remained lightweight and very comfortable to wear.

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If you need enough food, water and layers of clothing to sustain you for a whole day of hikng through rough terrain, then you might want to consider upsizing to the Panorama. But if you want a light, easy-to-carry, all-in-one backpack for a shorter day of shooting, then the Mindshift Gear rotation180° Trail makes a nice compact alternative.

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Sep 082014
 

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As longtime readers of this blog know, it is my mission in life to find the perfect camera bag for every occasion. I’ve been so pleased with my previous Naneu bags–the Military Ops Bravo Camera Backpack, the K3L Backpack, and the Urban Gear U120n Backpack–that, when I heard the company had come up with a larger, updated backpack to replace the discontinued K3L, I couldn’t wait to try it. Based upon my experience with the impressive new Naneu Adventure K4L v2 35L Hiking Camera Pack, I think I’ll be using many more Naneu bags in future.

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Like its predecessor the K3L, the Naneu Adventure K4L is designed to provide enough storage space for and easy access to essential camera gear, a large laptop, and all the necessities for a full day’s trek through the wilderness. Made of durable nylon, the K4L is big enough to offer plenty of room (External Dimensions: 21.5″H x 14″W x 10″D or 54.6 cm H x 35.6 cm W x 25.4 cm D) , but not too bulky or awkward to lug around for hours. For extra comfort, the pack has well-ventilated backing material, because there’s nothing worse than having your shirt drenched in sweat while you’re wearing a backpack all afternoon–believe me, I know! The mighty K4L is the largest of the 15 or so bags in my current collection and I don’t often need to carry as much gear as the pack can hold, but for an all-day hike in uncertain weather conditions, this backpack is my first choice.

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Featuring a clever bag-within-a-bag structure, the K4L’s bottom compartment holds a removable camera pod that you can wear as a waist or shoulder pack for quick access to your camera and lenses while you’re on the move. The pod accommodates a pro DSLR body with a medium-sized lens attached (up to about a 24-70mm f/2.8) with additional compartments for a few other lenses and accessories.

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The case easily fit my Sony a7R with a lens attached and my Sony NEX-5R with a lens attached and still had enough room for three more lenses or other items. The camera pod also has side stretch pockets if you want to keep a bottle of water, spare batteries, or other gear handy while it’s separated from the backpack.

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The top compartment provides enough capacity to store clothes and sundries for nearly any change in weather conditions. If the early morning is chilly, I can start out wearing a light jacket, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and other cold-weather accoutrements, then peel off the layers and stuff them in the backpack as the day warms up–far more comfortable than trying to knot the sleeves around my waist and wear the garments like a kilt, as so many backpackers do when they get too hot. Even with all the clothes, I have plenty of space left for lunch and snacks. The K4L includes an internal hydration sleeve (hydration bladder not included), but you can easily insert a couple of extra bottles of water as well.

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The laptop compartment is huge for a bag of this size, big enough to fit a 17″ notebook computer. The configuration of the compartment is a bit unusual with the zipper on the side instead of the top, but it’s nice to have such open access to the full pouch. I didn’t need a laptop on my most recent outing, so I slipped a folding camp stool in the space instead, ensuring that I always have a clean and dry place to sit when venturing outdoors.

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The K4L rounds out its design with a generous number of side and front pockets for memory cards and such, rain covers for both the pack and the camera pod, and a tripod support system on the back of the bag. When I don’t need a tripod, I find the support system is a convenient place to hang my walking stick when I’m not using it.

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With such an array of useful features and a well-planned, efficient design, the Naneu Adventure K4L v2 35L Hiking Camera Pack serves as an excellent option for hiking and photo daytrips. For those hikes when you need to take both a lot of gear and a lot of clothing, it’s as close to a perfect camera backpack as you’re likely to find.

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Aug 302014
 

I’m planning a road trip in my RV to Zion National Park, Page and Sedona, Arizona in a few weeks to check out locations for our upcoming workshop with Steve Huff in November. We’ll be scouting locations for the workshop and we decided to take an extra day to hike the Narrows in Zion, unfortunately we won’t have time to hike the Narrows during the workshop in November.

The Narrows, Photo courtesy of Utah.com

The Narrows, Photo courtesy of Utah.com

Since hiking the Narrows is a nine mile round trip hike mostly in water, I needed to buy some new waterproof gear. There are several outfitter companies that rent everything you would need, but since I’ve switched to the minimalist shoes, I didn’t want to take the chance on renting shoes and hiking 12 miles in water with shoes that may hurt my feet.

Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport

Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sport

I’ve been recently hiking in my Vibram Five Fingers Komodo Sports, but wanted to find something that would work well in the water.

Vibram Five Fingers Signa Water Shoes

Vibram Five Fingers Signa Water Shoes

I decided to try the Five Fingers Signa Water Shoes but the fit was much different than the Komodo Sports and I couldn’t imagine hiking all day in them. So back they went and the search was on for another minimalist water shoe.

VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra Shoes

VIVOBAREFOOT Ultra Shoes

I have a pair of Vivobarefoot dress shoes so I figured I’d try the Vivobarefoot Men’s Ultra Running Shoe. They have a removable nylon/airpene/neoprene footbed and look like they’ll do well in the water. I didn’t want to pay full price so after searching for a while I ran into a store selling this model at almost 50% off.

VIVOBAREFOOT Breatho Trail Shoes

VIVOBAREFOOT Breatho Trail Shoes

LeftLane Sports seemed too good to be true, at almost half off I couldn’t wait to buy them, but my suspicious mind wouldn’t let me put in my credit card number until I did some research on the company. I did Google search for LeftLane Sports and found a few good reviews, some mentioned the slow shipping time, but overall it looked like a legitimate company. I was able to find out they’re in San Luis Obispo, California, which is about four hours from home. Luckily we were camping in the RV just 30 minutes North of San Luis Obispo that week, so I went ahead and placed my order, and added a pair of Vivobarefoot Breatho Trail Shoes.

Since I was camping nearby in Santa Margarita, I emailed to see if I could pick up my order on the way home. They quickly replied and said it would not be a problem. They’re location is a bit tricky to find, but they have a nice retail store next to the warehouse.

It was a great experience and the best deal I’ve found on minimalist shoes. Plus if you use my referral link, we both get $10 in store credit. I used another referral link with my first purchase so I ended up paying about $76.00 for what would cost me $175 anywhere else.

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Jun 272014
 

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Duck hunters and nature photographers may shoot in vastly different ways, but they both need two things: lots of patience and a decent place to sit. Unfortunately, there isn’t always an old tree stump positioned just where you need your seat, and without a place to perch, your legs can go numb from squatting while you wait for the perfect shot. But who wants to lug a big, bulky folding chair on a five-mile hike up a mountain?

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Clik Elite to the rescue! This manufacturer of quality photographic accessories has come up with the perfect camp stool to take on a hiking trip. The Clik Sit is a sturdy seat fashioned from high-quality aluminum, durable ballistic fabric, and riveted reinforcements that is strong enough to support a 250-lb. individual yet weighs a scant 1 lb., 5oz.

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The stool opens easily, measuring 12.5″ high when set up. It folds down to a mere 9 1/4″ x 8″ x 1 1/4″, so it will readily slide into the laptop compartment of most camera backpacks. Similar chairs on the market may be less expensive, but they lack Clik Elite’s trademark high standards or build quality, and they can be heavier and more cumbersome.

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At last, you no longer have to plop your tush down on hard gravel or wet grass! No matter what kind of wilderness you’re shooting in, with the Clik Sit, you’ll always have a comfortable seat.

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Jun 232014
 

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When it comes time to take one’s “home office” away from home, couldn’t we all use a 2nd Brain? I know I could. My livelihood depends on my computer and assorted accessories, and if I forget to pack a crucial component when I travel, I could have serious problems. When I recently purchased a motorhome for prolonged road trips, I needed a computer bag that would organize the primary necessities for my home-based business and make sure nothing important got left behind.

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Fortunately, the brain-trust at Think Tank Photo has done the thinking for us. The new My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 offers a convenient and effective way to transport your mobile office, particularly for Apple users. The bag’s design and compartments are optimized to fit any 13″ MacBook, plus an iPad, iPhone, and assorted support equipment and sundries.

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With external dimensions of only 14.2″W x 11.8″H x 4.5″ D (36 x 30 x 11.5 cm), the briefcase holds a surprising amount of gear and has more pockets than a men’s clothing store. I can easily and safely carry my MacBook Air 11”, iPad Mini, iPhone, and chargers, each in their own compartments, and still have pockets left over to add my wife’s Kindle and iPad Air or perhaps some portfolios or magazines. A plethora of smaller pockets provide additional storage for other accessories, pens, and business cards. Compressible side pockets accommodate a water bottle and compact umbrella when necessary.

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Think Tank’s My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 is definitely priced as a premium product, but it delivers premium performance. The build quality and materials are top-notch; the case feels very sturdy and well-constructed. The exterior fabric boasts a durable, water-repellant coating, and the bag comes with a seam-sealed rain cover for extra protection. A removable strap adjusts for either chest or shoulder wear, and the bag features a handle pass-through that permits you to sling the case over the handle of a rolling suitcase, making it easy to carry through the airport.

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Roomy as it is, the Think Tank bag was not designed to hold camera gear as well as computer electronics, but I have plenty of other bags available if I need to carry both my laptop and DSLR in the same case. Now that I’m doing a lot more traveling by road rather than air, I have the luxury of bringing along an extra bag just for my camera equipment, so the My 2nd Brain Briefcase makes a perfect complement to my other luggage. It’s so thin and compact that I can slip it out of the way behind either the driver or passenger seat of my motorhome, where I can easily grab it if I need to log on at a restaurant with a convenient WiFi connection along my route.

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Previously, I’d relied on the Think Tank Photo Retrospective Laptop Case 13L to transport my small electronics. The Retrospective expands a bit, so it holds more overall than the My 2nd Brain, but the new Think Tank briefcase has far more pockets and compartments than its predecessor, all tailored to hold the computer gear I need. With the Retrospective, I was able to insert my Sony A7r with an attached lens in the large main compartment, but then I’d have to stash my iPad Mini in the same pocket as the 11″ MacBook Air. My 2nd Brain gives me safe, padded, individual compartments in which to stow not only the Mini but several other tablets in addition to my laptop.

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For anyone who needs to pack a lot of computing power into a very small space, the Think Tank Photo My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13 provides a great way to stay organized and keep your mobile office mobile. Whether you’re an on-the-go photographer or a traveling sales rep, this bag is one smart Brain!

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May 052014
 

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It’s the perennial dilemma of the nature-hiking photographer: Which bag to carry? You need a backpack to lug your food and clothing along with your camera gear, but it’s a pain to shrug the pack off your shoulders every time you want to change a lens or battery.

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Thanks to the innovative minds at MindShift Gear, you can now have the best features of both backpack and sling bag in one easy-to-carry combo. Their new rotation180° Panorama backpack boasts MindShift’s ingenious “rotation technology,” which permits you to slide a detachable camera gear compartment out from the bottom of the pack on your back. This beltpack moves along a belt around your waist, becoming either a side holster or front kangaroo pouch for the gear you want to keep handy. When you’re done shooting, you can maneuver the beltpack back under the backpack and secure it with straps for transport or for rain cover–all without taking the pack off your back. (Compatible, seam-sealed rain covers are sold separately.)

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My recent trip to Death Valley was the perfect opportunity to put the Mindshift Gear rotation180° Panorama to the test. I only brought my Sony A7r, Leica 16-18-21mm f/4 lens, and the Sony 55mm f1.8 lens on this trip, which all fit easily in the roomy beltpack (beltpack’s interior dimensions: 9.4” W x 7.5” H x 4.7” L or 24 x 19 x 12 cm). I could even slip my iPad Mini in the compartment’s tablet slot. For those occasions when you don’t need much gear, you can detach the beltpack and carry it separately, so the rotation180° Panorama really is like having two bags in one. Yet the whole combo weighs a mere three pounds.

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For about 80% of the Death Valley trip, I shot with my wide-angle lens, but the rotating beltpack made it easy to change lenses while leaving the backpack on. This design proved a major advantage, for I’ve never liked to put my bags on the ground and it’s not always easy to find a clean, level surface on which to set them.

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The spacious main compartment of the Panorama backpack easily fit a light windbreaker, hat, sunscreen, and other miscellaneous items. The small pocket on top held my spare batteries, memory cards, and lens cleaner. I didn’t use a bladder for water during the trip, but the backpack’s hydration compartment accommodated my 20-ounce water bottle–a vital feature when hiking through a parched desert wasteland! Although I went without a tripod this time, the Panorama does have a nice tripod carrying system on the front of the bag. There are also attachment points on the harness for a Tripod Suspension Kit (sold separately) that hangs the tripod at your side so it’s ready at a moment’s notice.

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MindShift Gear offers several other optional accessories that complement the rotation180° Panorama backpack, most of which allow you to stow additional equipment. The r180° Panorama Photo Insert is a padded modular compartment that fits inside the backpack’s main compartment so you can safely stash additional lenses and assorted components. The Filter Hive and the Lens Switch Case are also modular compartments, tailored to protect their respective accessories, which can be stored inside the backpack’s main compartment or attached to the belt as side pouches for ready access.

With its novel design, the MindShift Gear rotation180° Panorama backpack has come up with a creative solution to a problem that has vexed many a photographer. At last, you can easily change your lenses without removing your backpack.

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Mar 212014
 

The only problem with nature photography is getting yourself and your gear to the nature. There are a lot of great places to shoot that you can’t reach by car. For photo safaris where you have to lug all your necessities across miles of rough terrain, a little shoulder bag won’t do.

That’s why, on my recent trip to The Valley of Fire in Nevada, I took along the Clik Elite Cloudscape as my main camera and hiking gear backpack. The new Clik bag carried all that I needed for two days of hiking and photography. My Sony A7r with a Leica 50mm f/1.4 lens and Sony NEX-5r with a Sony 10-18mm lens both fit in the generous 20-liter (1200 cubic inch) padded camera compartment. Like the kangaroo pocket its name evokes, the backpack’s “Marsupial” lens pouch compartment offered plenty of room for both my Leica Wide Angle Tri Elmar and Sony 35mm f/2.8 lens. Even with all the above gear, I still had enough space left for a Garmin Oregon GPS, some extra batteries, an SD card case, a small survival kit, a light jacket, a pill container, a backup battery for my iPhone, a water bottle, and my keys.


The Cloudscape actually had more room than I needed for this particular excursion. An independent “hydration compartment,” for example, can carry up to a 100-ounce bladder, a definite plus on treks where you can work up a monster thirst. For my purposes, the mesh side pockets fit my 24 ounce stainless steel water bottle perfectly on one side and a second 20-ounce water bottle on the other.

The pack’s laptop sleeve will accommodate most 15-inch laptop. While I didn’t carry a laptop during my hikes on this excursion, I found the slot handy for storing a lot of my accessories, making it easy and quick to find the smaller items I required.

I found the Cloudscape very easy to carry all day without any fatigue; it’s well-balanced, and the padding and vents on the back make it very comfortable. The waist strap has a convenient pocket for the iPhone and the chest straps help to stabilize the bag very well.

My only wish is that pack had a few small pockets. The big compartments aren’t as convenient for carrying small items and keeping things organized. Overall, though, the Clik Elite Cloudscape is a smartly-designed bag for when you’re shooting out in the wild, and I plan on using it for most of my future day hikes.

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Mar 102014
 

Think Tank Photo Retrospective Laptop Case 13L is a great new messenger bag that fits up to a 13” laptop and a lot of accessories. The case is compact (14.6”W x 11.4”H x 2.8” D or 37 x 29 x 7 cm) and lightweight (2.4 lbs. or 1.1 kg), and its stylish and discreet design matches the rest of the Retrospective line. It also shares many of the same features, including a rain cover, water resistant fabric, Sound Silencers and a soft padded non-slip shoulder strap.

My 11” Macbook Air fits easily in the padded laptop compartment (13”W x 9.4”H x 1.2” D or 33 x 24 x 3 cm), with plenty of room left in the main compartment for other items such as files, books, and possibly even clothing or some camera gear. The outer pocket is perfect for other accessories such as batteries, chargers, and other smaller items.

As proof of just how much new Retrospective Laptop Case can carry, I used it as my only bag for a two-day trip to Las Vegas. The 13L had more than enough room for the 11” Air, a change of clothes, toiletries, chargers, and my Sony A7r with the Leica 50mm f/1.4 attached.

I chose the 13L over the Retrospective 50 since I now shoot with Sony and Leica and the 13L has enough room in the main compartment to fit a couple cameras and lenses as long as you use some type of padding for your gear such as the Micro Lens Pouch for your lenses. The 13L isn’t as bulky as the 50 which has the padded camera compartment that fits up to DSLR size gear.

In the short time I was carrying the 13L around, several people asked me about my bag and were very interested in purchasing one for themselves. I have several messenger-type camera bags, but this one is now my favorite. I know it will hold up well over the years since I’ve been using the Retrospective 5 for a considerable time now.

All-in-all, the Think Tank Retrospective Laptop Case 13L is a great combination of functionality, durability, and value.

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2014 Retrospective Laptop Case Promo