Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic Review

Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic Review

There’s much buzz about the new “Sling-O-Matic” range of bags from the camera bag manufacturer — are they too big, are they too small! Well, I only had one turn up on my desk today and here’s my initial impression of that very bag, The Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic 30

Here’s what Think Tank Photo say;

“Think Tank Photo introduces the Sling-O-Matic, the photo industry’s first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder. The Sling-O-Matic’s adjustable, fully padded shoulder strap “automatically” slides along a set of rails to change which shoulder the bag can be worn on. This is the innovative solution to the problem inherent with other sling bags: only being designed to wear the sling bag over the same shoulder. With one smooth motion, the Sling-O-Matic can be quickly switched to the opposite shoulder without losing the characteristics that have made sling bags popular among photographers. The Sling-O-Matic series offers three unique bags to choose from, depending on the set of photo gear a photographer needs to carry.”

I currently use the Urban Disguise 60 as my daily “go to” bag – I can take my laptop (A 17″ MacBook Pro) plus my camera (Canon 5DMKII / Battery Grip) plus a couple of lenses, now I do have the option of purchasing the optional backpack straps that go with the UD series if required, but I wanted to keep it simple… Then Think Tank Photo announce that they’re going to release a “Sling Bag” onto the market and I think – if this is a good bag, this could be a game changer…

I’ve travelled with a sling style bag, all around Cuba was the last time – four lenses, camera body, laptop, bits and pieces… That stuff gets heavy as I’m sure you’re all aware! With a traditional sling style bag, you can end up with a really very sore shoulder, which I did! (take care of your bodies folks…)

Think Tank Photo have come up with this “sling-o-matic” which very easily switches from one shoulder to the other, literally in seconds (once I got the hand of it – the first few goes made me look VERY silly! ha!) You take the bag off, slip the straps across, put it back on and you’re away. Whilst you’re wearing the bag, there’s a handle at the base to easily pull the bag around to your front so you can access your gear via the main compartment pocket…

Pulling the bag around to your front (unless you’re wearing your headphones and you tangle everything and end up hog-tied on the floor) is dead simple and once there, it’s like having your very own “stable table” you unzip the main compartment, access everything very easily, change a lens, write a note… it’s a really good, flat surface for working from if required. There’s enough room in my Sling-O-Matic 30 for my Canon 5DMKII with 24-70 f/2.8 attached (hood in place), my 100-400L f/4.5 – 5.7, The 70-200L F/2.8IS II, My nifty fifty, a flash, my 17″ MacBook Pro (be careful, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere) and many cables and “stuff” — Is it heavy, oh yes… Can I swap sides when shoulder number one is fed up? yes, easily. The amount of gear this bag holds astonishing, but, at the same time – very importantly! – you can shoot from it!.. Getting the camera out is a complete doddle, grab, pull, zip, grip, pull, shoot. – sorted.

The regular build quality is immediately apparent with the new bag, I have many Think Tank Photo camera bags and this one is no different – near to bomb proof with ballistic nylon construction, no PVC and sturdy YKK zippers… There’s something about putting my thousands of pounds worth of camera equipment into “any old bag” that slightly bothers me… If you drive a Ferrari, you’re not going to stick any old car cover on it, are you?

The shoulder strap is thickly padded and quite comfortable, with solid metal buckles and hook loops for attaching the cross strap that makes the bag stay in place very well. How this strap works is, there are two sets of “rails” on on the top of the bag (you can see it below) and one at the base to the side. Your shoulder is crying out for a break, you whip the bag off, grab the top handle and slip the strap to the other “front” of the bag, the lower, side rail strap slips across too… voila! you pop the bag back on, on your other shoulder and you’re away.

As I’ve mentioned, my 17″ MacBook Pro slides in, but it is a very tight fit. I’ve been using the Sling-O-Matic with my MacBook Pro for a few days now and it’s become slightly easier to put in and take out, but be warned that if you slide the laptop in with the side all the ports are on (power / firewire / usb etc) against the zipper, you could incur some scratches if you’re not careful – afterall, the Sling-O-Matic is billed as “takes a 15″ laptop”

One thing that was talked about quite a bit after the release of the Retrospective series of Think Tank Photo camera bags, was that there was no place to stick a water bottle, should that be your thing… Well, the Sling-O-Matic does have a spot for the water bottle, and it even has a little “escape hatch” in the bottom, should you spill some – I’d be quite happy to put a water bottle in the provided pocket (though I don’t have one with me on this train right now) in the comfort that there’s not a hope in hell of the water and my camera gear meeting for a chat unless I was being really silly! (camera gear and water are not always friends!) …today, however, I have my waterproof rain jacket in the water bottle section. perfect.

The Sling-O-Matic comes with the required attachment straps to sling a Tripod from the side of the bag, or if you get lazy like I did, you can pop it into the waterbottle pocket if you don’t have time to stop! (Though, in the picture, I’ve attached it correctly and it stays where you strap it)

So, in conclusion, the Sling-O-Matic bag from is a great bag for me, it’s a good daily bag that takes my laptop and all my camera gear, in comfort, to wherever I need it to go.

For dPS members in the USA, you can purchase Think Tank Photo products via this link and receive a free gift on check out when you use the code AP-223

I thought I’d pop in some size comparison images between the Sling-O-Matic and the RetroSpective 20 and the Streetwalker HD and the Urban Disguise V1.0

An Urban Disguise 60 along side the Sling-O-Matic 30
The Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic along side the Retrospective 20
…and the Streetwalker HD beside the Sling-O-Matic 30!

I hope this has helped, please feel free to ask any questions — Sime

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Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Mati
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Sime (aka #gtvone) is the customer support manager for dPS, and lead blogger in our Cameras and Gear Blog. He's a Melbourne based photographer, and please feel free to follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

Some Older Comments

  • Charles December 6, 2010 04:47 pm

    I have the sling-o-matic 10 and it lists to little to the side too. As Sime said, that's the way the sling bags tend to work and it does feel a little better when you tighten it up. I tend to pull the strap fairly tight now.

    That said, I love this bag. I liked the more narrow bag so I picked the 10 rather than the 20. The 10 gets heavy enough when I load it down, so I think I made the right choice here for my gear. I shoot Olympus, so I can put the E-30, 7-14, 12-60, 50-200 and PL25mm in the bag at the same with various accessories and filters. The E-30 fits with the grip, but it does seem to take quite a bit more storage space. I can put it in with any of lenses attached except the 50-200. If I adjust the dividers I can put it in the long way if I plan to shoot with it alot. For me, I'd probably keep it to 3 lenses just because of the weight. I put my Gitzo GT1550T in the side pocket. I can either put the whole tripod in, but I often leave 1 or 2 legs exposed and use only the top most strap to keep it tight against the bag.

    I was using a backpack before this and I found that stopping and taking my camera out was enough of a pain that I just didn't do it while walking around Tokyo. I wanted a sling that would carry my tripod and not stick out too far, and this bag has been great. When walking for hours I often swap which shoulder I'm carrying it and it's just so fast and easy. One thing I love is that the pocket to access your equipment is long enough to get into the whole bag. It comes up on top no matter which way you wear the bag. The pocket will open toward or way from you depending on the shoulder. It makes a great bag to shoot out of too. Changing lenses is a breeze. If you like to keep your hoods extended I'd look at the 20 for the extra space. With as much as I carry I wouldn't want to load it down, but it would be easier to access things.

    I think it's one of the most sturdy Thinktank bags I have. I think this will last me quite a long time. I wouldn't be worried about putting a water bottle in the pocket. If there is a leak it will drain before it gets on your equipment IMO. Carrying a bottle with a tripod is little more of a pain. I'm thinking of seeing if the R U Thirsty will fit on the bottom, similar to how you attach tripods on some shoulder bags.

  • Sime November 8, 2010 11:18 am

    James - That's a (Brian)

    Sheri - Sling bags are actually supposed to sit at a diagonal across the bag. Think Tank chose a square shape in order to accommodate the maximum amount of gear but it does look slightly ajar when being worn. This also helps to sling the bag around to the front as it's in a primed position. You'll find that the tighter the bag is worn, the more upright it will remain on your back. As the strap loosens, the tilt becomes more apparent.


  • sheri neville November 4, 2010 02:12 pm

    I waited anxiously for the sling-0-matic 30 to arrive. It seemed like it would be perfect to hold my graphic 4x5 camera (6 lbs), film holders, exposure meter, loupe, etc. while I trek up and down the streets of Seattle. The sling pack arrived today and it does, indeed, hold everything and is fine looking. However, for some reason it lists to the side instead of staying straight up on the back when I put it on. My tripod only weighs 5 lbs so I don't think that's tipping it. Also, I realize it may fit a female a little differently than a male. Did the one you reviewed become off-balance at any time?

    Thanks much.

  • James September 30, 2010 02:27 pm

    Thanks for the review Sime, What tripod did you strap tot eh side of it? I am trying to gauge the size and weight that might match well with this bag. Thanks.

  • James September 30, 2010 02:27 pm

    Thanks for the review Sime, What tripod did you strap tot eh side of it? I am trying to gauge the size and weight that might match well with this bag. Thanks.

  • 3 Legged Thing September 27, 2010 02:58 am

    The 3 Legged Thing Empire has not yet been unleashed - - the Slingback is an amazing product, as is the new Urban Disguise. I shall be buying both when I get back to earth...

  • Edwin A. Hernández-Caraballo September 26, 2010 08:22 am

    Hi Sime. I looked at the bag you recommended me, and it is pretty much what I'd like to buy: inconspicuous and small. Thanks.

  • Roy September 25, 2010 09:27 pm

    One flaw I can see in the design is that on one shoulder the laptop is against your back and on the other its on the outside of the bag, not sure which is best in terms of security and protecting the laptop from knocks. I prefer the Kata 3N1 approach to the straps which can be either sling or backpack, but the kata bags aren't good on use of space and access with big zooms fitted.

  • Roy September 25, 2010 08:08 pm

    One thing thats not clear from the think tank website is how you get access to your other lenses if you have a body with a 70-200 lying across the top of the compartment (i.e when you open the flap the lens is horizontal), what seperates the top layer from the bottom layer ? The spec says it *may* hold a pro body, I haqve a D300s with grip and 70-200 with 1.7x TC and need to make sure its going to fit. How snug is a body with grip in this bag ? how much length is there spare with a body + 70-200 with hood in place ? Its a toss up at the moment between the sling 20 and the streetwalker pro for me. I may strtch to the sling 30 if its not much bigger but I already have the airport accelration if I want loads of gear and a laptop (and a bad back :-))

  • Bifi September 25, 2010 08:29 am

    hi sime,
    where can i buy/get more info on those tripods, there is nothing on there website.

  • sunscapes September 24, 2010 10:51 pm

    Do they come in more colors? Black is so ........ hot in sunlight. Beige, tan, yellow, green.. anything but black. And WHY black?

  • Sime September 24, 2010 04:01 pm

    Hi Edwin,

    I've not used a Kata I'm sorry to say - so I'm not sure about their range. If you're not after a sling or a backpack, check out the ThinkTank Photo Retrospective series... I have the Retrospective 20 - it's old school and really sturdy! -->

    I put my 5DMKII / Battery Grip + 70-200 2.8IS + 100-400 + 50mm + Flash in mine.... (There is a model 10, which is a little smaller) It's a great bag...!

    Any questions, you're welcome to keep on posting until we find you the right bag.


  • Edwin A. Hernández-Caraballo September 24, 2010 09:23 am

    Hi Sime. I am not a big fan of backpacks or slingpacks, at least not for carrying things around on a photowalk or something like that. I preferred sometime with doesn't attract that much attention, and which can be carried without thinking too much on your back, or your shoulder, or much you want to get back to your house and put that thing away. However, choosing a pack has become quite challenging this days due to the their profusion on the market. That being said, do you have any experience with the torso packs made by Kata? I need something small enough to be carried around without too much trouble, and where I can fit my Rebel XSi with the battery grip attached to it and, if I wanted to, the 70-200mm f/4L is lens. I'd really appreciate your advice on this.

  • carolyn September 24, 2010 05:32 am

    I have the Kata 3N1-20. I like it because it's both a sling (right or left shoulder) and a backpack.

  • Sime September 23, 2010 08:04 am

    Nick - It's not. It's a

    Tom - The SLing-O-Matic 30 is $189 the Slingshot 100 (very different bags) is £58.00

    and, it looks like this :

  • Celebratographer September 23, 2010 07:54 am

    Nice bag.

    I have an M-Rock 674-Olympic bag that gives me the swing-to-front feature and holds a lot (Nikon D-80, and 3 lenses (a mounted 17-135, 50, and 150-400), SB600, bracket, filters, batteries, chargers, remote triggers). It looks like a back pack and not obviously like a camers bag/target. As a back pack it has most of the comforts of a real back pack but one of the straps has a convenient quick-disconnect and then it acts like a sling bag. It will fit most any equipment because of the velcro dividers.

  • pockystick September 23, 2010 04:56 am

    isn't there any weak points for this bag? or it's 100% perfect? it's nice that it can switch shoulders :) like it :D

  • Burnabytom September 22, 2010 02:18 am

    It would be nice if you could post some pictures showing how it looks when you "sling it on" . Also a price comparison would be nice as well.... I've got a Lowepro Slingshot 100. How does this compare?

  • Nick Pauly September 22, 2010 12:29 am

    What model of Manfrotto tripod is that? I haven't ever seen one with twist locks.

  • Sime September 21, 2010 11:37 pm

    Jason - A heavy bag for an extended period of time does damage - this gives you options to swap it out to the other shoulder.

    Cezar - I have two shoots this evening, but will get you some photos up as soon as I can. The rails are pretty sturdy, I'll try show that in the images.


  • Cezar September 21, 2010 04:54 pm

    Cheers for the review, this bag caught my eye after seeing the announcement and since I pretty much wanted a sling bag ( a backpack is very confy but having to put it down every time you need to change a lens, take camera out, take *ANYTHING* out ...) I was wondering if it's worth getting one of these, I absolutely love the spartan design.Out of curiosity though, does the changing shoulder rails seem sturdy to you ( maybe stupid question, but where I live the only way to see new camera bags, and at times even older ones is to order them heh) ? And secondly, could you please post some shots of the open bag when you have the time ? I'd kind of love to see how it's organized etc.

    Have a gready day :)

    If this is doubled please delete one of them, connection timed out ( I thinks) when submitting.

  • Jason September 21, 2010 04:39 pm

    Okay, but what I don’t get is – why would you want to be able to switch shoulders?