Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins

Started May 14, 2013 | Discussions
HomoSapiensWannaBe
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Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
May 14, 2013

I am about to buy a Think Tank Modular System for shooting fast changing events, starting with the Pro Speed belt and pouches for 24-85G and 70-200/4G used with a D600 w/ grip.  I am favoring the Lens Changers 50 & 75 because the padding will help cushion knocks and bangs while shooting and transporting the lenses.

However, Skins seem like they would be faster to use, and they have a flat storage compartment on the outer flap (pouches are round so the storage is less useful, imo).   Just raise the flap and stick your hand in the somewhat roomier and more flexible compartment to grab the lens, or tuck the flap away for even faster use.  In a sudden rainstorm, they would possibly offer more protection due to the top flap.  Yes, I understand that both types of pouches include a rain cover, but they take time to install.

Has anyone here used both types?  What did you experience in practical use?

I will leave the hoods on and front lens caps off with lens facing up so when I grab the lens it is ready to mount.

In use, do you leave the rear caps off?  Is there a need to put something really soft in bottom to protect the rear element on those lenses that don't have recessed rear elements?

I will eventually get a small rectangular bag like the Hubba Hubba Hiney, Speed Changer, or Skin Body bag for carrying a flash, filters, another lens, body without lens mounted, etc., so any insight in that is appreciated.

Thanks for any input.

Nikon D600
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Yorkshireman
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to HomoSapiensWannaBe, May 15, 2013

Leaving the rear lens caps off your lenses is not a good idea. You realise that any dust particles which get on the rear end of the lens will be very visible in photos, whereas dust on the front end of the lens might reduce contrast, but in general is less critical?

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HomoSapiensWannaBe
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to Yorkshireman, May 15, 2013

Yorkshireman wrote:

Leaving the rear lens caps off your lenses is not a good idea. You realise that any dust particles which get on the rear end of the lens will be very visible in photos, whereas dust on the front end of the lens might reduce contrast, but in general is less critical?

Thanks for your comment.  Makes sense.

I thought some more about how I'd use this system and ordered the padded pouches.  I will put the lenses in the pouch face down with hoods mounted, front lens caps off and rear lens caps ON.  The hoods will keep the front of the lenses off the bottom of the pouch.  I've stopped using protective filters anyway, so having the lens pointed down is much safer.

So, the routine for changing lenses, or some variation thereof, will be:

1.) open drawstring for pouch with target lens

2.) reach into empty lens pouch with left hand to grab rear lens cap

3.) take lens off camera with right hand

4.) put lens cap on rear of lens with left hand

5.) put lens into empty pouch with right hand

6.) get lens from other pouch

7.) remove lens cap

8.) mount lens on camera

9.) put lens cap in empty pouch

10.) close drawstring for pouch with lens in it

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11.) get ready to take the photo only to discover the situation has changed and I need the 1st lens mounted again.  (;->)

I think I'll try the Skin Body bag because it can expand for carrying more stuff if needed.

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HomoSapiensWannaBe
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to HomoSapiensWannaBe, May 21, 2013

I have purchased the ProSpeed Med-Large Belt, padded Lens Changers 50 & 75, and the Skin Body Bag.  Here is my review.

I chose the padded pouches because after thinking about how I'd transport and use this system, I concluded I'd just carry the belt loaded with gear to the car, either on it's own, or stuffed into a small backpack with zipper panel access.  The padding will help protect the lenses from inevitable bangs and possible drops.

How do they work?   Great!

They have large openings which stay open and roundish, so it's easy to reach in and grab a lens by the barrel.  With my trusty Nikon D600 dust generating device, I mean camera (LOL), I use four lenses at this time, a 24-85G VR, a 70-200/4G VR, an 85mm/1.8G and a Sigma 35/1.4.  I don't have any lenses which take 77m filters yet, so they will no doubt fit more snugly in these pouches, but should have plenty of room still.

I bought the Skin Body Bag a few days after starting to use the other components.   I will use it for up to two lenses, or one lens in combination with an SB-910 flash.   It comes with three padded dividers that can be placed anywhere along the width.  The bag is padded on the back side, so it helps prevent banging on the legs/hips.  The dimensions are 7.5"w x 8.2-11.8"H x 4"D.  The depth dimension is actually 3"D inside the main compartment.  The extra inch comes from the outside, bellows-pleated compartment, which has Velcro at top to help keep it closed.  Speaking of Velcro, those clever folks at Think Tank have devised a system to let you close off and disable the Velcro on the top flap, so it doesn't make any noise when you open it!  (Of course, it also doesn't secure the flap when used this way.)  I was concerned about the 3" depth not being enough for my 24-85 (72mm filter and even larger hood).  However, the bag expands enough that the lens fits just fine.   By unzipping the spiral zipper on bottom, the height can expand from 8.2" to 11.8", more than enough length for the 70-200/4 with hood in place, should I need to put it in there for whatever reason.  Another likely use for this bag is to hold a bottle of water.

By now you've probably noticed that I bought an unpadded bag for use with lenses.   Though I would have preferred the Skin Body Bag to be fully padded, I liked the dimensions and extra storage capability so much I chose it over the other options.   I'll just have to be more careful than otherwise when putting the loaded belt into the car, etc.

About that ProSpeed Belt...  I couldn't find it online in my size from my normal vendors, and my local dealer didn't have it in stock, so I figured, what the heck, I'll try Think Tank direct.  Sure enough, they had it, and the nice fellow who took my order agreed to ship it US Priority mail for no extra charge (they were offering free FedEx ground at the time anyway.)  It arrived in time for an outdoor street festival shoot I wanted to do.   The Med-Large sizing is supposed to cover from 32"-42".  I have a 34" waist, and even with pants and regular belt on, this belt was almost too big to go around all that.  I have the straps pulled in almost as far as they will go.   Just a word of warning that if you are near the transition zone for two sizes (Small-Med runs 27-34 according to Think Tank), you might want to actually try the belt on before purchase, or at least get it from a vendor that is easy to exchange with.

Once I got the belt adjusted and everything loaded, the whole shebang is comfortable and easy to use.  I don't lock the pouches in place on the belt, so I can slide them around as needed.  I keep the longer Lens Changer 75 pouch slightly behind me on the left side, with the Lens Changer 50 about where my pants pocket entry is.   The Skin Body Bag goes on the other side over the pocket.

A minimal shoot with 24-85 zoom and flash, or the 24-85/70-200 or 35/85 combo wouldn't need more than the Skin Body Bag, which can be put on a regular pants belt just fine.  In fact, the first time I used the two Lens Changers, I didn't have the ProSpeed belt yet.  I do recommend getting it because the padding is very thick and makes carrying everything more comfortable.  If I had heavier F2.8 lenses I would consider the Speed Harness to add shoulder strap support for the belt.   I don't think I'd get the bulkier 3.5" wide Steroid belt because the way it is designed, you can't slide the pouches in front without rotating the entire belt.

I am eyeing the MindShiftGear Rotation 180 pack for overnight backpacking carrying a basic 2-4 lens kit, tripod and all the other regular camping gear needed for an overnighter.  It's rotating waistbelt pack is 12.5"W x 7"H x 7"D, and can be used separately.  Any one of these modular components can attach on each side of this waistbelt pack, as well as on many other Think Tank packs like the Glass Taxi or Glass Limo.  When the waistbelt pack is used with the Rotation 180 upper shell, only one modular component can be used, on the side you rotate the waistbelt from, and then you can't rotation it fully 180 degrees because the pouch will get in the way.

I will review the MindShiftGear Rotation 180 here if I purchase it.  By the way, Think Tank claim the design almost fully supports the internal frame on the upper shell, so almost all of the total pack weight can be placed on the hips.  I am somewhat skeptical about this, but eager to confirm one way or the other!

Cheers.

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HomoSapiensWannaBe
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to HomoSapiensWannaBe, May 21, 2013

Today, I discovered that the Skin Body Bag can serve as a camera/lens holster.  The D600 without grip, along with any of my lenses including the 70-200/4 with hood mounted, can slide entirely into the bag.   Of course, the bottom extension has to be unzipped for the 70-200.  The Velcro on the top flap engages with this combination, too.

With the grip and 70-200 w/ hood attached, the body won't go completely into the bag, but I would feel secure carrying it around like that with the OpTech Sling strap across my body, and it would provide some protection and less flopping about when I'm on the move.

Think Tank make actual holsters in different sizes for gripped/ungripped bodies and various length lenses.  Besides working with the modular padded belt, they can attach to the fronts of many shoulder strap systems on backpacks.  Maybe I'll add one of those someday...

Meanwhile, this works pretty well as a generic holster.  It could even accommodate two smaller lenses, with one laying horizontally in the extended bottom with a divider placed parallel above it for some padding.  This could be a useful, one-bag solution for the un-gripped D600/35/85 combo, though not as fast for changing lenses.

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HomoSapiensWannaBe
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to HomoSapiensWannaBe, May 21, 2013

In actual practice, it's more like:

1.) take lens off camera and face body inward to protect mirror and minimize dust.  I use the OpTech sling strap mounted to lug opposite the grip, so this is easy to do.

2.) reach into empty lens pouch, grab rear lens cap and put on lens

3.) put lens into empty pouch and close drawstring

4.) open drawstring and get target lens from other pouch

5.) remove lens cap and put in empty pouch

6.) lift body and mount lens on camera

Take the shot.

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Phillip S
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to HomoSapiensWannaBe, 1 month ago

HomoSapiensWannaBe wrote:

Today, I discovered that the Skin Body Bag can serve as a camera/lens holster. The D600 without grip, along with any of my lenses including the 70-200/4 with hood mounted, can slide entirely into the bag. Of course, the bottom extension has to be unzipped for the 70-200. The Velcro on the top flap engages with this combination, too.

With the grip and 70-200 w/ hood attached, the body won't go completely into the bag, but I would feel secure carrying it around like that with the OpTech Sling strap across my body, and it would provide some protection and less flopping about when I'm on the move.

Think Tank make actual holsters in different sizes for gripped/ungripped bodies and various length lenses. Besides working with the modular padded belt, they can attach to the fronts of many shoulder strap systems on backpacks. Maybe I'll add one of those someday...

Meanwhile, this works pretty well as a generic holster. It could even accommodate two smaller lenses, with one laying horizontally in the extended bottom with a divider placed parallel above it for some padding. This could be a useful, one-bag solution for the un-gripped D600/35/85 combo, though not as fast for changing lenses.

So, would you say that carrying the D600 with 50mm lens attached is a comfortable thing with the Think Tank Skin Body Bag? Think Tank site really does not show real world uses of this bag, nor can I find any online photos showing this bag in real world situations. You are the only person that I have found that mentions using it as a camera/lens holster, and I would like to hear more about that.

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Julius P.
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to Phillip S, 1 month ago

Phillip S wrote:

HomoSapiensWannaBe wrote:

Today, I discovered that the Skin Body Bag can serve as a camera/lens holster. The D600 without grip, along with any of my lenses including the 70-200/4 with hood mounted, can slide entirely into the bag. Of course, the bottom extension has to be unzipped for the 70-200. The Velcro on the top flap engages with this combination, too.

With the grip and 70-200 w/ hood attached, the body won't go completely into the bag, but I would feel secure carrying it around like that with the OpTech Sling strap across my body, and it would provide some protection and less flopping about when I'm on the move.

Think Tank make actual holsters in different sizes for gripped/ungripped bodies and various length lenses. Besides working with the modular padded belt, they can attach to the fronts of many shoulder strap systems on backpacks. Maybe I'll add one of those someday...

Meanwhile, this works pretty well as a generic holster. It could even accommodate two smaller lenses, with one laying horizontally in the extended bottom with a divider placed parallel above it for some padding. This could be a useful, one-bag solution for the un-gripped D600/35/85 combo, though not as fast for changing lenses.

So, would you say that carrying the D600 with 50mm lens attached is a comfortable thing with the Think Tank Skin Body Bag? Think Tank site really does not show real world uses of this bag, nor can I find any online photos showing this bag in real world situations. You are the only person that I have found that mentions using it as a camera/lens holster, and I would like to hear more about that.

Hi Phillip, I can give a bit of feedback around this as I use both the Modular and Skin systems on a regular basis. I use these during travel to carry around my M43 kit. When I'm out shooting gigs, 2-3 of these pouches/bags on the belt provide convenient access to and storage of additional equipment such as lenses, flashes, microfibre cloths, filters, lens pens etc.

It's possible to use the Skin Body Bag the way the OP describes (D600+70-200 f4) but that amount of weight would be towards the upper end of what I would carry in that. I normally stash a D300 + Tokina 12-24 in the Body Bag and carry this on the speedbelt with a Flash Changer (or Skin 75) while I have a D700+24-70 and D7000+70-200 2.8 on a Black Rapid dual strap.

The problem with using the Body Bag as a holster is that it's a compromise. The camera body + lens combination will flop around to varying degrees inside the Body bag. With a Digital Holster, the shape and padding in the bag keeps it always vertical.

What the Body Bag is very useful for is to act as a multipurpose pouch for storing things and lens changing. I typically use mine to change lenses, store CPL or ND filter in front pocket, and store memory cards in flap pocket.

There are a number of videos on Youtube with various photographers showing how they use the Skin/Modular systems. Did you want photos of any particular camera and lens combos?

 Julius P.'s gear list:Julius P.'s gear list
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Phillip S
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to Julius P., 1 month ago

Julius, I would appreciate a photo of a full frame DSLR with short lens attached using the Skin Body Bag. I have a holster but I always find them bulky (plus intrusive if at a conference or convention — A holster seems to bump into everything). I really like the feel of the skin bags, but I have never seen the Think Tank Body Bag. I live in central North Carolina and most of the upscale camera stores are gone.

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Julius P.
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to Phillip S, 1 month ago

Phillip S wrote:

Julius, I would appreciate a photo of a full frame DSLR with short lens attached using the Skin Body Bag. I have a holster but I always find them bulky (plus intrusive if at a conference or convention — A holster seems to bump into everything). I really like the feel of the skin bags, but I have never seen the Think Tank Body Bag. I live in central North Carolina and most of the upscale camera stores are gone.

Hi Philip,

I've taken some quick snaps here of the Skin Body Bag here with a D700+24-70 2.8 and a D7000+17.55 2.8.

Skin Body Bag, D700 + 24-70 2.8, 24-70 hood

D700+24-70 inside bag, no hood, no internal divider, no bag extension

How D700 could move around inside bag.

How D700 could move inside bag

Body Bag flap barely velcros in place with D700+24-70 inside.

D700+24-70 with bag extension unzipped. This makes it easier to move your hand around the grip.

D700+24-70+hood. Camera and lens end up closer to the opening.

D700+24-70 next to fully extended Body Bag.

D7000+17-55 unhooded.

Inserting hand into bag to grip D7000 is relatively easy.

Inserting hand to grip D700 is not easy.

The D600 will fit tighter than the D7000 as it's a bit taller and wider.

The main issue with fitting a DSLR inside this bag is the height and width to squeeze into the bag opening. I would not store a D700 or D800 in this bag unless it was using a short lens like a 50mm 1.4D:

Hope all the photos help.

 Julius P.'s gear list:Julius P.'s gear list
Sony RX100 Nikon D300 Nikon D700 Nikon D7000 Olympus OM-D E-M5 +16 more
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Phillip S
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Re: Think Tank Modular System - Pouches vs. Skins
In reply to Julius P., 1 month ago

Wow, thank you. These photos are the kind of thing I was looking for but could not find anywhere by any review or user. These images tell me more than all the "specs" listed for the product. Thank you very much.

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NancyP
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Thanks to all the posters
In reply to HomoSapiensWannaBe, 4 weeks ago

I am backpacking pack shopping and ran into an Internet forum user that exchanged the native lightweight belt on an ultralight Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60-ish liter pack for the ThinkTank belt and pouch system when hiking with DSLR and lenses on several-day-long trips. This is an interesting concept, and I am glad to hear from some Think Tank belt users. I have never seen a "small" belt, the only one the local stores carry is "medium to large", and I could fit two of me in that size belt.

Are people using "Skin", "Pro", or "Steroid" belts? Comfort?

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NancyP

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NancyP
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Molle strapping and Think Tank lens pouches
In reply to NancyP, 4 weeks ago

Do the pouches fit on standardized Molle strapping? For those who don't know, the Molle system and subsequent and similar MARPAT version are webbing straps sewn onto pack and belt surfaces, commonly used for military (the original users of the Molle system) and first responder packs. Molle components (pouches, holsters, canteens, etc) fit onto the strapping similar to the way Think Tank seems to work. Some hiking/sport backpack manufacturers have started adding Molle-type strapping.

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Julius P.
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Re: Molle strapping and Think Tank lens pouches
In reply to NancyP, 4 weeks ago

NancyP wrote:

Do the pouches fit on standardized Molle strapping? For those who don't know, the Molle system and subsequent and similar MARPAT version are webbing straps sewn onto pack and belt surfaces, commonly used for military (the original users of the Molle system) and first responder packs. Molle components (pouches, holsters, canteens, etc) fit onto the strapping similar to the way Think Tank seems to work. Some hiking/sport backpack manufacturers have started adding Molle-type strapping.

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NancyP

The plastic "lock" on the velcro attachment could fit through a MOLLE loop but I don't know how you'd secure the rest of the pouch on.

http://www.thinktankphoto.com/products/modular-skin-set-v2.aspx

The plastic part is the "lock" part that holds the pouch in position on a Think Tank belt. The velcro flap then loops around the belt. This might fit on a MOLLE belt as long as it isn't wider and thicker than TT's Pro and Steroid Speed belts.

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Julius P.
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Re: Thanks to all the posters
In reply to NancyP, 4 weeks ago

NancyP wrote:

I am backpacking pack shopping and ran into an Internet forum user that exchanged the native lightweight belt on an ultralight Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60-ish liter pack for the ThinkTank belt and pouch system when hiking with DSLR and lenses on several-day-long trips. This is an interesting concept, and I am glad to hear from some Think Tank belt users. I have never seen a "small" belt, the only one the local stores carry is "medium to large", and I could fit two of me in that size belt.

Are people using "Skin", "Pro", or "Steroid" belts? Comfort?

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NancyP

I use a Pro belt in medium size and find this very comfortable. I've also used pouches directly on a regular belt although I'd only use 1 pouch in this case to minimise the weight that gets forced onto your belt loops (not good for trousers, jeans OK). The Skin belt I've tried in store but discounted due to no padding. Steroid belt is bulky and you'd want to pair this up with the Pixel Racing harness to spread the load.

I use a light photo vest and TT belt with 3 pouches to carry a M43 kit. Comfortable and ideal for hiking. No issues after hours of hiking although if you wear bags oriented in front rather than at your back, the pouch material will quickly chafe your pants in the upper thigh area.

 Julius P.'s gear list:Julius P.'s gear list
Sony RX100 Nikon D300 Nikon D700 Nikon D7000 Olympus OM-D E-M5 +16 more
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