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Thread started 04 Oct 2009 (Sunday) 05:06
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Review: Think Tank Photo Airport TakeOff Roller Backpack

 
Headshotzx
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Oct 04, 2009 05:06 |  #1

Hey everyone! I just purchased this bag yesterday and I thought I'd give a short review about it. This is by no means technical in any way, and I won't be giving measurements. If you need measurements, go to TTP's website or take hints from the measurements of the gear I've put in. This review will highlight the good and bad points that matter to the photographer.

My search for a roller bag started when I bought my Think Tank Streetwalker Harddrive. Yes, I could load it up with lots of stuff. Yes I could put a tripod on it. Yes I could put a notebook in it. Yes I could make everything go well, except for the bad stress my shoulders had. Got that bag in April, shot with it for about five months, and sold it in September.

When I bring lots of gear, I'm primarily an event photographer or portrait photographer. I wanted a bag that could completely take the load off my back, and either give me the ability to bring about personal stuff in a small daypack, or let my shoulders be free from any baggage. I shoot in urban environments all the time, and usually there is easy excess for the handicapped like lifts and ramps. However, where I spent lots of my event photography time in school, there aren't any lifts. So I knew I wanted backpack straps to be available. I don't travel, but when I do and need the roller, I've read in many threads here about backpacks not being weighed, so that's a plus.

Before this bag, I owned 3 lowepro bags and 1 think tank bag. I knew TTP bags had way better materials than lowepro bags and security functions like locking zippers. That made me go with the TTP Airport TakeOff instead of Lowepro's Pro Roller X series.

Anyway, I'll be splitting up the review into little sections and update them accordingly when I have the time and manage to use the bag a bit more.

Onto the review:


Introduction & First Impression:

Well made is the key phrase to the construction and design. Everything is put together so well and integrates with each other element so nicely. Nothing wobbles too much, the bag never ever tips over even when the COG is nearer the top, and the stitching is clean. All zippers fully close and no loose stitches interfere with them.

Brand logo:

IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2490/3979080163_522675ba72_o.jpg

Front, showing the laptop compartment and buckle.
IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2495/3979840656_d83af933a1_o.jpg

Right, showing the tripod/monopod/misc attachment area.
IMAGE: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3495/3979080715_f163ca8619_o.jpg

Back, showing the shoulder straps properly kept when rolling.
IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2639/3979080981_3b3eb78a4b_o.jpg

Zexun | Flickr (external link) | YouTube (external link) |

  
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Headshotzx
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Oct 04, 2009 05:09 |  #2

Storage (interior):
For the purpose of distinction, the interior refers to what is inside the main zippered compartment.

There are two types of dividers. One type is the lightly padded one with two toothy (for the lack of a better term) velcro sides, and the other type is the more padded dividers that also have toothy velcro sides, but has a hairy velcro surface all around. For my kind of shooting and transportation, the padding is enough.

The interior of the bag is also 'hairy velcro' all around, and so is very customisable.

The bag holds a ton. What I own (not borrowed for a recent shoot) probably only takes up half the bag. Here's how I would customise my bag for events and studio portraiture:

Studio Portraiture:

IMAGE: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3490/3979078617_efb7b93c40_o.jpg

1D2 body
17-40L with 17-55's hood
70-200 2.8IS
580EXII (ability to fit two)
CP-E3 batt pack
Water Resistant cover for bag
Small 60x60cm softbox folded up in a bag with speed ring
Cotton Carrier Vest
Think Tank Photo pixel pocket Card Wallet

With umbrella and lightstand put outside in tripod holder, or in a bag slung on body.

IMAGE: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3452/3979078303_084e875cd2_o.jpg

Folded softbox is above the CP-E3.

Event:
IMAGE: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3023/3979078989_a3a49c197d_o.jpg

Left:
580EXII above CP-E3 with acrylic bounce card next to it.
Space for a second 580EXII (in think tank lighting fast pouch)

1D2 with pixel pocket rocket next to it
400D gripped

Center:
70-200 hood below, space for 50 1.4 above (on divider)
70-200 2.8L IS, inside Think Tank Photo WhipItOut pouch, inside TTP Lens Changer 25

Right:
Cotton Carrier with holster
Lowepro Water Bottle Holder
17-40L with 17-55 hood

Usually with monopod outside in holder.

UPDATE 10.24.09:

IMAGE: http://img20.imageshack.us/img20/9750/takeoffresized.jpg

Both cameras gripped, all lenses hooded:

50D
400D
11-16
17-40L
50 1.4
70-200 2.8L IS
580EXII
Think Tank Pixel Pocket Card Wallet
Water bottle + strap + towel

Cotton Carrier in the laptop compartment (not pictured).

UPDATE

IMAGE: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4027/4239674333_6df49e43b8_o.jpg

EF 100mm f/2.8 macro non L
EF 50mm f/1.4 (swapped with 17-40 f/4L for the shoot)
Kirk BH-3 Ballhead
Travel Mouse above Kenko Extension tube set

Canon EOS 1D Mark IIN + Markins PG-50 plate
Think Tank Rain Cover

580EXII
SB800

Giottos Rocket Blower
Polariser, Battery, Macbook Charger, AV Cable, Gaffer Tape, Wireless Shutter Trigger & Right Angle Finder in box.

Zexun | Flickr (external link) | YouTube (external link) |

  
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Headshotzx
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Oct 04, 2009 05:14 as a reply to  @ Headshotzx's post |  #3

Storage (exterior):
For the purpose of distinction, the exterior part of the bag refers to whatever that is not inside the main zippered storage area.

What I love is the ability to fit a folded 110cm reflector in the laptop compartment. Sure it has to be compressed at the sides a bit, but i'm sure it won't affect the structure unless it's put in there for a long time.

IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2581/3979838090_83da79e946_o.jpg

For monopods and tripods, it can hold any sized monopod or tripod.

For belts, here's what I think:

For think tank skin belt and pro speed belt, fold it up and stash it inside the roller. Skin belt will take 1 small lens space, and the pro speed belt will take up about the space of a 70-200 or more.

As for the steroid speed belt that I own, I tuck one end into the monopod cup, secure it with the tripod compression strap, and secure the other side with a loop of velcro, as such:

IMAGE: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3427/3979840178_c47ca3d686_o.jpg
IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2491/3979079633_c3e6a5213a_o.jpg
IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2622/3979079365_3b1ce95619_o.jpg

At the side of the two large and padded handles are small zippered compartments. I keep little bits of paper there.

IMAGE: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3517/3979081913_5692eb4da0_o.jpg

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Headshotzx
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Oct 04, 2009 05:15 as a reply to  @ Headshotzx's post |  #4

Moving it around:

Wheels have no resistance when rolling. Easy to turn a very small circle with it by pivoting around one wheel.

Telescoping handle is sort of an issue because you'll have to dig in to the bag to get it (padded structure surrounds the handle, so thicker fingers have problems. Telescoping legs also don't telescope properly together in pairs. Like, on the first pull to 3/4 height, one side might have the smallest and largest section, while the other handle might have the smallest and medium section. Weird.

Shoulder straps are great when you need to ascend many flights of stairs. Easily taken out, cumbersome to put back because the bottom of the flap is too tight. Of course, this will be used only in emergencies where rolling is not a good idea, because the weight of the wheels and handle probably add at least a kilogram to the bag.

IMAGE: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3490/3979841590_078b82d6e2_o.jpg

IMAGE: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2450/3979081631_c192021915_o.jpg

When hand holding, the bag has 3 handles for you to grab. One on the top, left side and bottom. The top and left handles are thickly padded and really comfy to handle, and the bottom handle seems to be made of a hard plastic and is the part that the bag rests on when stationary (2 wheels at the back, handle at the front = 3 point resting support). This makes it get a little dirty after awhile, so washing it is advised.

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Headshotzx
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Oct 04, 2009 05:16 |  #5

Odds & Ends:
Lockable zippers allow you to lock the main compartment with a thin padlock. Under the laptop compartment flap, there is a lock and cable designed to secure a laptop placed in an Artificial intelligence 15 or 17 laptop case, but it can also be used to secure the bag around a thin pole, table leg, etc. Namecard holder at the top gives easy identification of the owner of the bag.


Final Summary:
Best S$419 ever spent on a bag, ever. I'm so happy that my shoulders are finally free from the 10-12kg of gear I lug around to shoots. I also love the fact that you can put other things on te bag and still roll it, such as a daypack or plastic bags filled with stuff.

Everything is integrated so well. It fits all my gear, plus more. Replaceable parts mean that this bag can last a long time, and a lifetime warranty guarantees that it does.

I'm extremely happy with this bag, and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone looking for a roller.

Pros-
Lots of space
Customisable inserts
Large exterior pocket designed for laptops (but can fit clothes and other stuff as well)
Transparent thin pockets on the inside of the flap
Smooth wheels
Heavily padded handles
Tripod/Monopod add-on system makes a lot of sense

Cons-
No way to lock a laptop if it's not inside a TTP AI-15 or AI-17 laptop case
Telescoping handle difficult to take out
Telescoping handle difficult to get to desired position without it retracting back in


------

Alright, that's it from me, for now. Hope you've enjoyed the short review!

Cheers,
Zexun

------


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Headshotzx
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Oct 04, 2009 11:52 |  #6

Additional setup photos:

Dance photoshoot:

IMAGE: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1115/4605652447_150ff5309a_o.jpg

1D mark II N, 2 x 5D Classic
17-40 f/4L
16-35 f/2.8L mk1
24-70 f/2.8L
70-200 f/2.8L IS mk1
35 f/1.4L
50 f/1.4L
580EXII
430EXII
SB800
Misc stuff

Sports Shoots:
IMAGE: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4028/4583316827_e50d21a1b5_o.jpg

Right: Canon EOS 1D Mark II N + 70-200mm 2.8L IS + Sigma 1.4x teleconverter apo non-dg. Raincover for camera, Raincover for bag.

Middle: Canon EOS 5D + Daniel's Sigma 24-70mm 2.8 non HSM + domke strap

Left: Change of clothes, water bottle, lowepro jockey cap, umbrella, deodorant.

Flap: Spare batteries & CF card, notebook, hand strap for 1D mark II N

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NicolasRubio
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Oct 04, 2009 13:23 |  #7

Nice review, thank you! This bag is giving me a hard time, I can't decide between this one and the Shape Shifter.

Headshotzx wrote in post #8757086 (external link)
Cons-
No way to lock a laptop if it's not inside a TTP AI-15 or AI-17 laptop case
Telescoping handle difficult to take out

You can get a cable to lock just the laptop if you want to!


Gripped 7D - 3 Ls - 3 non-Ls - 580EX II - Too much Think Tank gear - Cotton Carrier Holster


Detailed Gear List - My Website (external link)

  
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Headshotzx
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Oct 04, 2009 20:48 |  #8

NicolasRubio wrote in post #8758657 (external link)
Nice review, thank you! This bag is giving me a hard time, I can't decide between this one and the Shape Shifter.

You can get a cable to lock just the laptop if you want to!

Airport TakeOff vs Shapeshifter is an easy choice.

Shapeshifter: 2 cameras, 3 lenses, 15" Laptop, little bit of daypack things, monopod or tripod, all of it on your shoulders.

Takeoff: Unless you have a lens larger than 300 2.8, you don't need to care about space, and there's nothing on your shoulders when rolling.


@ Laptop, I use a mac which doesn't have a locking attachment.


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fungry
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Oct 05, 2009 03:23 |  #9

Great way of carrying the steroid belt. Thanks for sharing.


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Headshotzx
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Oct 05, 2009 08:34 |  #10

fungry wrote in post #8762474 (external link)
Great way of carrying the steroid belt. Thanks for sharing.

Yeah I wouldn't have thought of that unless the store owner suggested it to me.


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Z28Ken
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Oct 06, 2009 00:35 |  #11

I recently just picked up a ShapeShifter. Works great for carrying a basic set of gear (for me: 1D2, 24-70L, 70-200L, 580EX2, PW's, a G10, basic accessories, and my 15" MBP) as a personal item for carry-on, leaving me the ability to bring a roller on-board as well (whether it be in the Airport International or a traditional roller - i.e. clothes!).


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Jason ­ Kim
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Oct 07, 2009 20:34 |  #12

Anybody compared Take Off with International? Is Take Off more comfortable to wear on the back? Size seem to be about same. There must be a reason TT is keeping both on the product line.


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NicolasRubio
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Oct 07, 2009 20:41 |  #13

Jason Kim wrote in post #8781349 (external link)
Anybody compared Take Off with International? Is Take Off more comfortable to wear on the back? Size seem to be about same. There must be a reason TT is keeping both on the product line.

AFAIK, the International can't be worn as a backpack and can hold up to a 400mm f/2.8 or a 500mm f/4 while the Take Off can only hold up to a 300mm f/2.8.


Gripped 7D - 3 Ls - 3 non-Ls - 580EX II - Too much Think Tank gear - Cotton Carrier Holster


Detailed Gear List - My Website (external link)

  
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Jason ­ Kim
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Oct 07, 2009 21:18 |  #14

I have AS v2, it has shoulder harness for those times when you can't use a roller. I assumed International had one. I bought Antidote for last summer vacation and worked out pretty well but I did miss roller at the airport and AS is little too big for my comfort. I don't want it to be gate checked. I guess I should go for Take Off for my next overseas trip. Thanks.


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Headshotzx
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Oct 12, 2009 08:20 |  #15

Do you guys bring roller bags and use them on overseas vacation tours and stuff?

Oh, I know I own the bag, but I haven't found any info on this yet. Am I able to attach a Think Tank Bazooka to the bag? Currently the bag comes with a tripod holder but if I wanted to protect the tripod (and have no need to travel i.e. no size limitation) I'd need a padded bag.


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Review: Think Tank Photo Airport TakeOff Roller Backpack
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