Think Tank Photo to the rescue?
On the trolley at Frankfurt Airport
Certainly Think Tank Photo addressed this conflict much earlier than all competitors. In the wake of September 11, 2001, Think Tank Photo seemed to be the only manufacturer of bags for photographers who interpreted the new stricter security correctly (and even in a think-ahead manner) and created a comprehensive line of air-travel cabin luggage compatible products.
My investigations ended in spring 2009 with the impression that all competitors still adhered to the classic top-rounded backpack designs. Think Tank Photo sets itself apart from the crowd in creating suitcase-like box-shaped layouts targeting at maximising spatial efficiency without sacrifice to comfort in carrying.
From a traveller's point of view, box-shaped designs make a lot of sense and the design similarities between most flavours of hand luggage used by business travellers and the trolleys and backpacks from Think Tank Photo are obvious. With the waist support detached and the shoulder straps tucked away, the shape of the rucksack is neat and flush like a box.
As a consequence of the streamlined external design, the Airport Acceleration V2.0 sacrifices some of the versatility known from day-to-day backpack offerings. No generous external mesh pockets for water bottle or collapsible umbrella, for example. No jungle of zippered compartments for keys, mobile phone, batteries and memory cards. Some of that would be nice to have in my opinion.
I believe that Think Tank Photo had to compromise on such minor aspects in order to satisfy the main design target and, really, there are numerous other ways to maintain accessories organized.
The Airport Acceleration V2.0 accompanied me during three travels, two inside Germany and one to Namibia, Africa. The domestic travels served me in getting familiar with the bag and there I already learned that the carrying comfort is quite on par with the conventional bags from competitive brands. Loaded with some 15 kilograms (33 pounds) you learn quickly whether or not a backpack suits you comfortably. At no point did I have the feeling that the Airport Acceleration V2.0 suffers from comfort issues.
Now that you already know about my generally positive impression, it is time to dive into the details. My quest for the ideal travelling bag started with several requirements and the most important ones were (listed in order of priorities):
1) compatibility with international airline cabin luggage restrictions
2) enough storage capacity for my "African Safari" travel
3) carrying comfort
4) quality of workmanship and zippers
5) compatibility with laptop computer
6) option to remove or tuck away shoulder straps and waist support
7) weight of bare bag
Think Tank Photo seemed to be the only manufacturer who offered bags that met all my criteria with ease and my impression of their product quality, witnessed at the recent Photokina fair booth, spoke very much for their offerings.
Eventually, I only had to distinguish between the three models of backpacks that seemed to meet the capacity target and I opted for the second-largest model, the Airport Acceleration V2.0. With this model, full compatibility with the international "handbag test cage" is not to be taken for granted when the front pocket is loaded with a laptop computer, but I was told by travellers that most airlines accept a laptop as second hand luggage item without discussions. Anyway, it will be possible to utilize the low dividers, initially designed for the trolleys, hence store the laptop inside the bag.
With my laptop in the laptop case fitted into the front pocket and the straps tucked away, the bag fit easily into the overhead compartments of both the Air Namibia Airbus A340 aircraft and trains in Germany. I witnessed plenty of people struggling with the straps and belts of their conventional backpacks and felt very happy that the smart design of the ThinkTank made my handling so smooth.
Talking about storage capacity, I was immediately impressed by the internal depth of the bag. Two camera bodies of Nikon D300 size fit vertically side-to-side with enough slack to conveniently move them in and out and my bodies are even fitted with Kirk angular brackets. The AF-S 4/300 and AF-S 2.8/70-200 fit on top of each other into one compartment without affecting closing the bag. Great! I cannot praise enough the design approach of "deep compartments" as it turns out to be so very versatile. I know many bags where the insufficient inner depth limits the packing density in such a way that one feels in need to fill the gaps with towels or socks. Not so with the Airport Acceleration V2.0. It is absolutely no problem to fit more equipment into the bag than you eventually want to carry. For the journey to Namibia, the bag carried almost 14 kilograms (30.8 pounds) of equipment and, as you see, the weight scale at the Windhoek airport shows that I am not joking.
Windhoek weight scale: 14 kg, ex camera
Originally written on November 5, 2009
Last updated on April 22, 2016