Looking for something different? Check out our review of the ThinkTank Turnstyle 10 sling bag.
The task of choosing the correct bag for your photography gear can be daunting. Most photographers own at least a few and often resort to a particular bag dependent upon the assignment. The Think Tank Speed Freak V2.0 has become my go-to bag of choice for most circumstances. I’ve yet to find the perfect bag for all situations. I used to carry the Lowepro Classified 200 AW Shoulder Bag for the majority of my gear. However, it was overkill for most instances and when I’m shooting a show it can be very cumbersome. The Lowepro is great when I need most of my gear at hand but that’s generally not the case.
Lately I’ve been using a Think Tank belt system to give me rapid access to my lenses while shooting gigs. This has worked great for concerts but it’s not something I want to use when walking around the streets of New York City. Think Tank has recently released three Speed Convertible Series hybrid shoulder bags with built-in belt. The three bags are similar in design with varying amounts of storage capacity consisting of the smaller Speed Demon V2.0, Speed Freak V2.0, and largest Speed Racer V2.0. The concept provides storage capacity to cart your gear around, while affording the ability to convert to a belt system for active shooting.
With the two-day Kanrocksas music festival on the horizon and a two week trip to Europe just beyond, it seemed a good time to give a new bag and convertible concept a test run. We decided to test the mid-sized Speed Freak V2.0 and it has since become my bag of choice. It’s large enough to hold a 70-200mm lens, with hood reversed, and two mid-sized lenses (the 24-70mm with SLR body attached and 16-35mm wide angle) snugly within the main compartment. More than enough velcro dividers are included to categorize this area into numerous configurations. The bag itself is well padded, adding some extra heft (about 2.5 lbs, 1.1 kg) when empty. The padding provides satisfaction that your gear is being protected, but will also be felt by the end of a long day. Its padding also lends to increased stability, such that it retains its shape whether completely empty or stuffed with gear.
The included shoulder strap is of very high quality with solid padding and a rubberized interior to prevent slipping. I carted the bag around for two 10-hour days at Kanrocksas with extreme (> 90%) humidity and it stayed attached to my shoulder despite my sweat soaked shirt. Solid metal clips attach the adjustable shoulder strap to the reinforced nylon rings on either side of the bag. Though the bag is described as a belt pack, the shoulder strap is, in our opinion, required when the bag is fully packed. My suggestion would be to use the shoulder strap under most circumstances, while utilizing the attached belt system when you want to ensure the bag stays close to your body (e.g., hiking or active shooting). The permanently attached belt can be stowed in two concealed side-pockets when not in use. All Think Tank products are designed with flexible integration in mind and the Modular Rail on the belt can handle the Think Tank Modular Rotation System components for extra storage. The belt is flimsy when compared to the heavy duty Think Tank Pro Speed Belt, but solid enough to provide needed stability to the bag when shooting or an addition amount of storage via the modular components.
There are also two stretchable side-pockets, with a pull-string closure, on either side of the bag that can hold an external flash, sunscreen, or a few energy bars. Another thin pocket exists within the main compartment, perfect for a lens filter or microfiber cloth. There is also a zippered front pocket with space for pens, memory cards, small notepad, and a lanyard for securing keys or a memory card caddy. Another small zippered compartment on the outside of the larger front compartment could be used to hold lens caps or press credentials.
High quality zippers, with a rain-seal will ensure your gear stays clean and dry. In the event heavy rain, a removable, seam-sealed, rain cover is included. I got to test rain cover during an outdoor concert I was shooting when a sustained, heavy downpour erupted for over 20 minutes. The bag was attached to my side and rain poured from my rain parka, over the covered Speed Freak bag, and down my rain pants. I pulled the rain cover off within a few minutes after the rain stopped, shook it dry, and everything on the inside was dry as a bone. The seal has a pull cinch around the edges which allow the bag to be covered even when the outer pockets are stuffed full (as they were at the time). Thumbs up on the rain cover, I would not purchase a gear bag without one. During the two week trip to Europe I experienced a great deal of rain and frequent periods of heavy drizzle (often without the rain cover attached). The interior of the bag didn’t show any signs of moisture and my gear remained dry.
The cover of the main compartment unzips and though it was not designed to accommodate the Canon 5D with 70-200 attached, I was able to slip the lens through the unzipped top compartment with the body sticking out above the bag. This was something I found myself doing repeatedly as I hustled back and forth between stages (about 100 yards apart) to ease the strain of the gear on my shoulder while not shooting; but also to consolidate while moving through a thick crowd with my camera at the ready if needed. I would prefer to have the top compartment zipper as an arc rather than straight across the top. The arc would allow a little more ease in moving full-sized lenses (e.g., > 72mm lens cap) in and out of the bag.
If I could add a single feature it would be to include a pair of rugged velcro straps to the bottom of the bag. I have a 21″ tripod that I use for travel. Having straps below the bag for toting a smaller tripod while on the move would be much appreciated. A second request would be to allow integration with the Pro Speed Belt.
Speaking of travel, this bag replaced my Lowepro backpack on my most recent trip. Though the backpack does provided a greater distribution of weight across my shoulders when traveling long distances, the combined shoulder strap with belt made carrying a second backpack with my clothes a little easier. Also, my gear was much more accessible with the Think Tank Speed Freak than the Lowepro backpack while sightseeing. I have also experienced a few episodes of theft attempts with the backpack while navigating stairs or escalators over the years and that’s not an issue with the shoulder bag. You’d be surprised how simple piece of mind can improve a vacation.
The padding on the Speed Freak V2.0 offers great protection. I’ve never dropped a gear bag before, until a few weeks ago. While on my trip the gear bag was sitting on a standard height table (about 3 ft from the ground). I caught the shoulder strap on a chair and the bag came crashing down to the ground whiled loaded with about 12 pounds of gear, landing on the floor with a thud. Upon checking the gear, all was fine and the bag took the brunt of the impact (as it should).
Build Quality 10/10
- As mentioned above, we’d prefer to have optional integration with their pro speed belt and an option to attach a small tripod.
- This is a trade-off with build quality; the top notch padding, material, and a heavy duty strap imply it’s not going to be a featherweight bag. If weight is a concern you might want to look elsewhere, but you’re also going to give up protection for your gear (which is the generally the primary reason for purchasing a gear bag). 1.9 – 2.5 lbs (0.9 – 1.1 kg), dependent upon included dividers and shoulder strap.
Interior Dimensions (10.3″ wide x 8.75″ high x 5.5″ deep; 26.2 x 22.2 x 14.0 cm).
Exterior Dimensions (12.5″ wide x 10.5″ high x 8.5″ deep; 31.8 x 26.7 x 31.6 cm).