Perception is king..........
It's review time!! And this is a review I've been waiting to publish for a little while now because this is probably my new travel backpack.
BUT....Before I go any further, as a matter of disclaimer I need to note that this bag was sent to me by Think TANK Photo so I could provide a review of it. So be aware of that. :)
Now that we have the disclaimer mumbo jumbo out of the way let's get to the review!
The bag I am reviewing today is the new Perception 15 from Think TANK Photo. I will discuss why I chose this size over the Perception PRO and the Perception Tablet versions in a little while. But I will tell you right now though that I chose the taupe color over black because....SEXY! Sometimes we must forgo the utilitarian color of black in our camera bags to indulge in something a little more classy, and that my friends is what this taupe color offers, class. I know this is a totally personal thing, and not a feature or technical spec that should be included in a review, but come on. Look at it!
So let's get past the sexy looks and talk about the features.
From the outside this bag looks to have a few front access pockets, and it does as you can see from the photo above. But the lower pocket, once unzipped has a little graphic of a tripod stenciled inside. That is to let you know that this pocket doubles as a place to put your tripod legs.
So the way it works, for those who have not had a backpack like this before, is that you place a tripod leg or legs into the pouch, then secure the head using a strap. What strap? Well the one tucked into a little pocket on the top of the bag of course. The photo below show this strap. Think TANK thinks of almost everything when it comes to their bag designs. And this bag is pretty much right on par with their history of "just getting it right"....Almost.
I am almost always 100% fanboy over Think TANK bags, and this is still the case here. But I will take a moment to point out a way I think this bag can maybe be improved some. When you open the bag up you will find the top portion of the backpack has two customizable pouches for holding camera gear. They even have those cool stencils showing what will probably fit best in each one. The left pouch was large enough to accommodate my Olympus OM-D E-M1 with the HLD-7 battery grip attached. In the pouch adjacent to it I could fit the mZuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens easily, or even a combination of almost any two of the primes. But once that gear was packed in, I was left with no place else to put lenses or bodies safely. Below these pouches is a rather roomy area that could easily house the new mZuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and more! The following two images will show how this internal space is configured.
Above you can see my OM-D (with grip attached) on the left, sporting a custom Rasta paracord strap from HERE and on the right the mZuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO. Notice there is PLENTY of room on the right to accommodate a larger lens, or with a divider two lenses. And speaking of dividers, it comes with a nice divider already in place in that spot. I just removed it to allow for the larger 12-40mm. But note the image below where we can see there is a BIG open space in the bottom of the bag.
As you see, the mZuiko 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO with lens hood attached fits in the bag with loads of room to spare. But sadly it just flops around in there because there is no way to put dividers in easily. If you have spare dividers lying around it would be nice to put them in the bottom, but the material is not the type that will allow the Velcro to stick. It is the same material as the exterior of the bag.
However, MY solution is going to be that I take a divider system out of one of my older Think TANK bags, the Multimedia Wired UP 20, and modify it to fit down into the bottom of the Perception. This way I can add dividers and use the bottom of the Perception for lens storage.
I would LOVE to see Think TANK make a divider insert specifically for this bag. I know it would be a whole new accessory, and that things like that are not always an option, but for some this would be a welcome option. Again, not everyone will want to store lenses in the bottom of this pack, but for me it is something I will do.
So that was my one check mark against an otherwise perfect back pack. But I know better than to think there is "the one perfect camera bag".....If there is such a thing as "the perfect bag"...I know it will be strapped to the back of a unicorn and guarded by centaurs. Right?
Let's move on to a few other features of this bag that make it a stand out in the backpack market in my mind.
#1 is the ergonomically designed shoulder straps. Like the Shapeshifter backpack (reviewed here) it has graciously padded, and form fitting should straps that contour around your sides to keep the pack snug and in place. I haven't had this pack "in the field" yet, but I DID literally jog around the block with it on today, with my landscape shooting gear in it, and had no issues with it. Another feature, and yes, I call the ergonomics a feature, is the addition of a lumbar pad on this pack. If you are carrying around your camera gear, and a laptop (YES! This pack holds a 15" laptop!) then you will be thankful for the generous padding and lumbar support.
The next two images will give you a good idea of the amount of comfort and support this backpack will provide. I'm looking forward to traveling with it!
I still haven't touched on the little storage compartments in this backpack yet! I won't go into a ton of detail on this but I can assure you that there is an assortment of spots to store your memory cards, business cards, batteries and other accessories you have to take on a shoot. And as you can expect from Think TANK Photo they have also included a rain cover for this backpack. They really don't ever leave you missing anything. This is why I am ALWAYS carrying my gear in their bags. If I weren't reviewing them it wouldn't matter, I have yet to find better bags out there. And believe me, I see all kinds of bags.
Now before I go I said I'd mention why I chose this size over the Tablet (smallest) and PRO (largest) packs.
The tablet can as it sounds like, only accomodate an iPad or other similar sized tablet. I have had a need for a small bag that can hold not only my typical landscape excursion gear, but also a laptop. I needed this pack or bag to be smaller than the Shapeshifter Backpack but larger than one of the Turnstyle Sling bags. I know....I sound like I am picky right? Remember the Unicorn has my mythical perfect bag.
I also opted OUT of reviewing the PRO Perception backpack because I needed the bag to be SMALLER than the pro is, which is almost as tall as the Shapeshifter. The PRO Perception DOES answer some of my storage needs by having added pouches for more lenses, but again, the size ruled it out for me.
I will be adding more content to this review with a video walkthrough of the bag, and how I pack it, sometime within the next week. But in the mean time feel free to shoot any questions about the bag (or what I all I have stuffed into it) my way and I will get back to you with some answers. You can find that review in the coming days over on my Youtube Channel. While you are there don't forget to subscribe and give me some thumbs up action on any of the content you like.
And before I go, I just want to thank the cool people at Think TANK Photo for the support and for continuing to make the best bags on the planet. Even for picky people like me.