Handbag Spleen, Photographer Variant (Review of Think Tank Shape Shifter Photo Backpack)

Pocketzezz for all my Precioussss!

Pocketzezz for all my Precioussss!


My name is Christoph, and I’m a bag-o-holic. A common weakness in photographers. The latest object of addiction is think Tank®’s (can we stick to *one* mode of capitalization, guys?) Shape Shifter® (and leave out the stupid ®s?) photo backpack.
It is unique among camera backpacks because it has no stiff foam dividers for cameras and lenses inside the main compartment

It is unique among camera backpacks because it has no stiff foam dividers for cameras and lenses inside the main compartment


Instead, there are Neoprene pouches with drawstrings for camera bodies and lenses. Even long ones fit, like the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G VR II

Instead, there are Neoprene pouches with drawstrings for camera bodies and lenses. Even long ones fit, like the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm F2.8G VR II


All else goes into well-organized outer pockets. Even the bag itself is flexible. Expanded, it takes an enormous amount of gear. Too much, probably. I got it used, and the only thing belonging to the previous owner I found in it was a packet of painkillers. Compressed, it shrinks down to a thickness of 3 inches!

All else goes into well-organized outer pockets. Even the bag itself is flexible. Expanded, it takes an enormous amount of gear. Too much, probably. I got it used, and the only thing belonging to the previous owner I found in it was a packet of painkillers. Compressed, it shrinks down to a thickness of 3 inches!


Mode of operation with this backpack is as follows:

  • Once you’ve reached your destination, you take the bodies and lenses you’ll need out of the bag and drape yourself with them.
  • The empty (or almost) Shape Shifter® is compressed with the circumventing zipper and goes on your back again.
  • Because of it’s thinness and flexibility, it won’t bog you down in close quarters like a stiff backpack would.
  • The cameras with the appropriate lenses are then outside and always available for use. In other reviews, this has been called a photojournalistic way of working, but I have no problem hiking with that to nature and landscape locations.
  • An ergonomic carrying system for the cameras is beneficial for this mode of operation. I use a Sun Sniper “bandolero” strap for the camera with the long lens so that it hangs at my left hip. The camera with the short lens is on a Think Tank neck strap that attaches to carabiners on the backpack’s shoulder straps. Properly adjusted, this takes the weight of that camera (an F6 most often) off the neck.
  • Both cameras are at the eye at a moment’s notice but don’t swing around too much.
  • By the way, don’t go for a walk in Baghdad with this setup. Might be your last one.

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