I have a real problem when it comes to camera bags. I  have never found one that I didn’t want and I have never found one that fit all my needs perfectly. The closest I have come is the Shape Shifter backpack from Think Tank Photo. I started using this backpack about 2 years ago and it is still the first bag I grab when packing for a shoot. I look for three things in a bag:

  1. It needs to hold my gear
  2. It needs to be compact enough to wear or stash in a photo pit
  3. It needs to be comfortable enough to carry all day

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The Shape Shifter does all that, and does it well. the Shape Shifter back pack hold two camera bodies and three lenses (including the 70-200mm f.2,8), it has a pocket that holds my 15″ MacBook Pro and plenty of smaller pockets than can hold batteries, cables, cords, even a SB-900 and battery pack and a couple of FlashBenders.

This is what my bag looks like fully packed for a shoot.

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Here is the list of gear that I take for a regular concert shoot these days:

The cameras I use are the Nikon D700 with the Nikon battery pack / grip attached and the Nikon D4. I pack the D700 in the first pocket since it is usually used with the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. So they both come out of the bag first. The D4 is usually used with the 70-200mm f/2.8 so that lens and camera combo are second out of the bag. The final lens is the 20-35mm f/2.8 that gets packed in the bottom of the bag.

With the camera and lenses all packed up, it is time to pack the rest of the stuff.

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In the top pocket goes the business cards, sharpies and pen, extra batteries in a Think Tank Photo DSLR battery holder, the Think Tank photo Pixel pocket Rocket which holds both the XQD and CF cards.

The front bottom pocket holds Hoodman lens wipes, spare earplugs, and some Advil. Then I add a SB-900 Speedlight if needed for a trade shot or if I am doing any kind of backstage shoot to the bigger front pocket. Once that is all packed away, the bag is ready to go. There are two more things I add for regular shoots. Both on the straps of the bag.

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I add a locking carabiner with a set of earplugs so that they are always there when I need them. This also allows me to clip anything I need to the bag if needed. The other addition is a set of Camera Support straps by Think Tank Photo. These allow me to attach the camera to the bad using the metal rings in the Think Tank Photo straps on both my cameras.These are great as they allow the weight of the cameras to be spread out over the backpacks straps.

When shooting a festival or on the road, I add the following gear: A 15″ MacBook Pro, power cord, locking cable, laptop sleeve, and card readers.

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Now for the real pluses. This bag compresses when the camera bodies and lenses are removed making it small enough to wear or stash in a photo pit.  You can see from the following photo that even with a laptop in the bag, it can compress thinner than the height of my D4. That is pretty thin. It also makes for a great travel bag and easily fits into the overhead compartment of any airplane. The bag is also really well made, standing up the abuse of a working concert photographer, well, at least the abuse from this working photographer.

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So what is it about this bag that isn’t perfect? It’s a small thing really. When the two camera bodies are removed and matched with two lenses, the third lens needs to be moved to an outside pocket for the bag to be compressed. That third lens is tough to get to when the bag is being worn. Hey, it’s a small thing.

So when I am leaving for a shoot, the Shape Shifter is my first go to bag, making it one of the essential pieces of gear I use.

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