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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There are two kinds of reviews. There are first impressions, “fresh-out-of-the-box” reviews, and there are those (usually more useful) that come later, after the reviewer has had a chance to really put the product through its paces. Considering that I’ve been using the Think Tank Pro Speed Belt and Modular Components for almost ten years, I’d say that this review falls squarely within the second category.
If you’ve been doing this long enough, you know that the right bag for getting you TO the gig is not always the right bag for getting you THROUGH the gig. You event photographers know what I mean. Whether it’s sports, concerts, weddings, or general location shooting, chances are good that at some point your bag has frustrated the hell out of you. Big and bulky may be great for safe transit, but you need lean and convenient once you’re inside the stadium, arena, or church.
My favorite solution to the problem is the Think Tank Pro Speed Belt with the Modular Component System. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like Batman and have a utility belt of your very own, now’s your chance. Think Tank offers a wide selection of components for the belt, ranging from lens pouches and accessory bags, to a holder for your water bottle. The modular components have more padding and removable inserts than the skin set, but both have their pros and cons (e.g., heavier and more protection vs. lighter and less protection).
Note: I should note that in the almost ten years since I started using this system, Think Tank has introduced Version 2, slightly updating each of the components. The pieces you see in the photos are from Version 1, but all are available in the newer models.
This review covers only the six modular components I actually own. I’ve never used all six at once. Just like I have different camera bags for different types of assignments, I can tailor the belt and its components in the same way. All have the high-quality construction I’ve come to expect from Think Tank, from the water-resistant materials and stitching, to the durable zippers and padded inserts. All components have their own removable rain covers, and are designed to either rotate freely around the bag (perfect for redistributing the weight when necessary), or be “locked” in place via the loops on the belt.
Made of nylon webbing, three-ply bonded nylon thread, and high-density closed cell foam, the belt is comfortable, durable, and comes in four sizes.
The Speed Changer is an incredibly versatile bag, and is my favorite belt component. It’s a bit deceptive-looking, actually capable of holding quite a bit more than it would seem from a quick glance at the outside. This is where I usually pack extra memory cards and batteries, as well as my cell phone, business cards, notebook, pens, lens cloth, energy bar, and more. Removing the padded insert allows enough space for a pro-sized DSLR body without a lens attached and a few small accessories. This is also a great belt pouch for assistants, who are often in charge of keeping spare batteries and accessories close at hand.
The Lightning Fast is a pouch designed to hold a standard speedlight (Nikon SB900, Canon 600EX) with the included diffuser attached.
The Lens Changer 50 is designed around wide-angle lenses like the 16-35mm f/2.8 or 17-40mm f/2.8. It’s a great pouch for carrying the lens with either caps and hood in their closed and reversed positions, or with the lens hood in its shoot-ready position. As shown in the photo, I also occasionally use the LC50 for my 70-200mm f/2.8. It doesn’t fit completely–especially not with the hood in a shoot-ready position–but it still works well when I’m trying to travel light.
The LC35 is almost identical to the LC50, and holds my 24-70mm f/2.8 with the lens hood in its shoot-ready position.
The LC75 is the one lens pouch in the line that is expandable. In its shorter size, it holds the 70-200mm f/2.8 with the hood reversed. By unzipping the bottom, the pouch expands to accommodate the lens with the hood in its shoot-ready position.
Don’t let the name worry you. The Lens Drop is a very secure and versatile pouch. Designed primarily for standard zooms and small primes, I’ve used it for every thing from lenses to small water bottles. Most of the time, though, I keep it empty. It gives me a place to put the lens that just came off the camera until I get the new lens on the camera. Without an empty pouch on the belt, I’d have to stop and find someplace to put the lens down until I had a free pouch for it. Keeping an empty pouch available lets me change lenses while I’m on the move. The Lens Drop is pictured above, directly to the left of the LC75 Pop Down.
My favorite configuration of the bag is the Speed Changer for accessories and the Lightning Fast (Strobe Stuff in V2.0) for my speedlight. I’ll also add on the appropriate lens pouch for whatever back-up I’m carrying. If a traditional shoulder bag or backpack is giving you fits once you get to the shoot, consider the Think Tank Modular Components and Pro Speed Belt for a more convenient and even distribution of the weight around your waist, and for keeping everything at your fingertips.
Just like Batman.