Tuesday, July 19, 2011

REVIEW: Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter®

This is the review I thought I’d never write. The reason why is because when I first got this bag I was very unimpressed with it. So much so that it sat in my closet for 6 months before I finally decided to try it out. I had already planned to give it away after my review was done as I simply had no desire to own this bag.

That was then, and this is now.

For my recent trip to Texas I found myself needing a backpack that could hold my 17” MacBook Pro plus some other things, but only a limited amount of camera gear (rare for me) as shown below:

Now I had a wide variety of chargers, cables, doodads (i.e., Hoodman Loupe, Pixel Rocket, Purosol lens cleaner, etc…), etc… as well as Speedliter's Handbook (which I’ll be reviewing soon) and some magazines.All of which packed this bag to maximum capacity making me and my bad back very thankful for its chest and waist straps to help distribute the load.

Despite its size with all of my crap in it, I was able to easily fit this big bag under my Alaska Airlines coach seat and still squeeze my size 13 shoes and 6’1” frame into my seat without spilling over into another seat or the aisle. This gave me the freedom to extract phones, laptops, books, chargers, etc… out during the flight for myself and my family of 5.


Front View as Delivered

Rear View with Support Straps Out (they can be tucked away)

Side View – Expanded but Empty

Side View – Minimum Depth Empty


Play in HD

This is probably the worst of my videos because after two hours of fighting with video software on the Mac and PC, I finally gave up and just tossed the thing on YouTube as is. I didn’t have the time tonight to do a second cut, so it’s pretty raw footage – with flaws and all. However, this is a bag where a video is a must as you have to see live footage on how the interior works as photos are useless.


If you want to carry a big laptop in your backpack and you like lots of pockets, then this is your bag! It’s very comfortable to wear even under heavy loads (and I know – I had it maxed out for a week of travel) and the usefulness of the many pockets are the best I’ve seen on a Think Tank Photo bag. Laptop users will love it!

The only thing I can knock this bag for is the lack of configuration options in the center due to its design. Personally I just don’t get that part of this bag. Perhaps readers will enlighten me, but I don’t see the value of collapsing the center – it’s then not even as useful as a normal backpack – it’s just an overweight and thick laptop bag. Personally, I’d rather see this bag design with a traditional TTP center with configurable dividers. Perhaps the Streetwalker HardDrive (see my review of the Streetwalker Pro) is supposed to fulfill this need, but that’s only useful if you have a 15” laptop. I’ve always carried 17” laptops for as long as they are available, so my message to Think Tank Photo designers is to consider some hybrid of this bag design with the center portion replaced with the configuration design of the Streetwalker series – to me that’d be the perfect back pack! It’s even better if it can be done in a way where the dividers aren’t so tall that I can stuff my bag under the seat on a plane as I could do with this one.

FREE STUFF: Special Offer on ALL Think Tank Photo Bags

Click here for special offer details... or just click this link for the Shape Shifter to order and you’ll be given a special offer before your order is submitted.

Other Think Tank Photo Bag Reviews

Considering other Think Tank Photo bags? Then take a few moments to check out these other reviews found on this blog:


I was provided a free bag for testing for the purpose of this review. If you purchase TTP bags using links on this blog I will get a small commission, so I appreciate your support by using the links here!

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Kaz said...

Thank you for the review. I've been looking for a bag like this one. One to use on short overnight trips; when I carry a few photo items, 15 inch laptop, file folders, clothes and toiletries.
Based on your review, I'll be ordering one.
As for the video, it was perfect for my needs. No need to waste time on making it perfect. Getting it out is more important.

Jim said...

Re: Center configuration

You're there. Your laptop, cable bag, magazines, etc. are in your hotel room and you go out to shoot. With your camera body and one lens on your shoulder, the expansion section of the bag zips shut to make a very compact, very un-camera-bag-like backpack. You don't have quick access to your remaining lenses and flashes, however.

I do this all the time with two flashes and three lenses in the backpack.

ronmartblog.com said...

Kaz & Jim,

Sorry, i've been behind on processing comments on the blog - my apologies for the delayed response.

Thanks for the comments.

Kaz - I hope you are enjoying your bag

Jim - You hit the nail on the head about what I don't like about it. I always want my gear with me so having it zipped up doesn't server me much use so this bag always had the main compartment in the expanded position when I used it.

bgood said...

Just got this bag to add to my large collection and it finally is what I've been looking for. Holds a large BIRDING SCOPE on one side bottom lens pocket and a 32 oz water bottle in the other bottom lens pocket. The remainig free (not coveted up by long scope) top lens pocket holds Canon 5D3 with 24-105 LENS MOUNTED pointing down allowing for quick extraction from the top ready to shoot. Tripod mounts very well on center rear with provided straps. Because this heavy load is kept very close to your back, it feels like half what it would in other packs. Brilliant! Thanks for your review.

Vin said...

I ride a motorcycle and I do two things very often:
1. Go on photo-trips
2. Go to the gym

I've been looking for one bag that I can use for both and I think this might be it. Since it does not have the rigid compartments in the middle, I'm thinking I'll be able to use the space to carry a pair of shoes and workout clothes instead. Do you think that'll work?

ronmartblog.com said...


Yeah, you can use it as a regular bag too.

Personally I'd put my gym clothes in a cheap Jansport Target/WalMart backpack that I can pick up for $20 mainly because the bag will be super light.

Since this is built as a camera bag you'll have extra pound or so of bulk that isn't needed if you use it for something besides a camera bag.

It would work as a dual purpose bag though.