At the end of last year, a rather large cardboard package arrived. Sitting inside, with a crisp black finish, was Think Tank’s Airport Accelerator. It’s a bag I’d been looking forward to for some time, the one that would hopefully solve some problems I have.
You may well have read earlier about my tale of camera bag wreckage across the years. They all had good and bad points, but no one bag or case covered all the bases. I’d resigned myself to the fact that camera bags were always going to be a compromise, doing most things to get the job done, but being annoying in the small things they don’t do. Then I discovered Think Tank. I started using the Urban Disguise last year and was mighty impressed by the sheer number of places I kept finding to put stuff. Just when you think you’ve discovered all the compartments, another zip, clippable loop or velcro flap appears. Which, of course, is great for forgetting where you put stuff.
The Urban Disguise is great, it’s my Murder Bag. But I needed a bag that would carry the Canon EOS 1DS sized bodies and other stuff. The Urban Disguise is great for a Canon 5D and vertical grip, or I can get a single 1DS in vertically, but not all of my gear. Which brings me to the contents of the cardboard packaging in front of me. Slide it out of the box, slip off the plastic packaging and set it down. It’s BIG. And it’s square. Well rectangular actually, but there’s a sharpness to the edges of the design that appeals to me. Many bags on the marketplace are shaped like conventional rucksacks, giving them a tapered shape. The problem with that design is that it’s an inefficient use of space, you finish up tugging and swearing at the hook n loop flaps as you try and figure out what item of kit you can fit into that odd, tapered bit of compartment you’ve got left over. This is sharp, angular. OK, I might look a little odd if I have to sling it onto my shoulders for a hike, I’d probably look like a Marine on cross country exercise. But in my line of work, that’s not something I do too often. Far more likely that I’m lifting it a shorter distance into the back of the car or into an overhead airline storage bin.
However, if you are the kind of shooter that has to hike a distance, or if you dread the airport concourse adventure, then the rucksack shoulder straps are very think. Don’t forget it’s a big bag, so don’t go trying to hang it on one shoulder. That will just give you long term problems. Use the design properly, both straps, plus the waist belt that folds away when not in use. That spreads the load and saves your back.
So, What About The Inside?
Grab the industrial grade YKK zipper and open it up. It’s deep. Real deep. I take a Canon 1DS body and lens and drop it in. It swallows the thing up. Previous bags used to leave the top of the prism and hotshoe of 1D series Canon EOS bodies sitting just proud, always vulnerable to damage if the bag took a tumble. With this thing, it’s sitting deep inside. You’d get a Phase One system in here without problem. Time to do battle with the velcro dividers and figure out a layout.
It’s a right of passage for a new camera bag that I spend way, way too long trying to figure a way to house my kit. If you’re like me, you probably spend an entire afternoon working up a sweat tugging at the moveable dividers until you’ve got everything as you want it. Then a few days later, you’ll change it again. Unlike the images of many camera bag makers publicity images, I leave my cameras with lenses attached, ready to shoot. Pack shots of neatly stacked bodies with caps fitting don’t make sense to me. I want to grab it, power it up and be ready to shoot. Now that creates a problem. Because a camera / lens combo isn’t square. It’s kind of ‘T’ shaped. With Rucksack Bag I always used to have a camera / lens combo running down the centre, then slotted everything else in around it. With the Airport Monster, there’s no need. The bag comes with more dividers than you’d ever need, enabling you to pack stuff around the camera/lens combo. It also has a very useful divider with a supporting cutout for protecting a camera body / telephoto lens combination.
The top takes a 17 inch MacBookPro and an iPad without a blink, plus there’s an additional, smaller compartment that’s easy to get to with velcro compartments and a strap that’s just perfect for clipping the Pixel Pocket Rocket memory card holder to.
Things I Like
It’s square. Did I mention that? Well, OK, it’s rectangular…. Why is that such a big deal? As I described above, far too many rucksack type bags have tapered shoulders, looking like a traditional hiker’s rucksack. It’s an inefficient use of space. Angular bags work for me and this one is really, really angular.
It’s deep…. I can almost fit my 70-200 F2.8 vertically into it. My Canon 1DS is totally protected and the abundance of dividers means that I can pack everything tight, with no room for movement, important to avoid damage.
Handles, lots of em…. You’ve got the rucksack harness and waist belt, plus two grab handles, one on the top, ideal for sliding it into overhead cargo bins on jets, plus a side mounted handle, perfect for carrying it like a suitcase down the airport concourse.
It’s built like a tank. In idle moments, I sometimes wonder if companies like Think Tank aren’t shooting themselves in the foot. This thing feels like it’s built to the highest standards, top draw components, YKK zippers, quality material and it has the feeling that it will literally last a lifetime. So why would you ever need to buy another?
Very, very few. The bag is top quality any dislikes are really just personal foibles. Living in the UK right now, I have only one concern and that is our UK budget airlines. The Airport Accelerator, as you’d guess by the name, is designed to international airline luggage standards for carry on bags. Fine for international travel, even within Europe, but our cunning, conniving UK airlines keep changing the rules on sizes and weights.
Finally, not a dislike, but something to bear in mind. The Airport Accelerator will carry pretty much most things a working photographer will need to exist and produce images. That makes it heavy. The first time, I lifted it once I’d loaded it, I got a shock. Time for me to man up and get used to the weight, it is after all, the camera bag I’d looked forward to and the solution to all my woes. But gone are the days of sidling up to airport check-in casually holding my bag with a few fingertips, pretending that it’s lightweight and not worth weighing.
If I sound gushing in my praise fort his bag, please excuse me. For sure there are many good quality camera bags on the market today and indeed, the choice is a very personal one. But the quality of the construction and the sheer practicality of this bag make it a firm favourite. And did I mention that it’s an exact fit for the luggage compartment of a modern Porsche 911? Porsche and Think Tank, you guys should talk to each other….
You can order online direct worldwide on the Think Tank store here. We get some beer money if you do, which is always refreshing.