MindShift Photocross 13 Review
MindShift is the outdoor spin-off from famous Think Tank Photo. They now have several series of photography bags, all built from lightweight rugged materials, designed for outdoor photographers. Their latest is a pair of sling bags, the Photocross 13 reviewed here and the smaller Photocross 10. Both follow the same design, with the former being sized for a 13" ultra-book and the latter for a 10" tablet.
The Photocross 13 is a very lightweight sling sized to accommodate one DSLR or large mirrorless camera with a lens attached and two or three extra lenses, plus a slim 13.3" laptop. Like all slings, this one is worn as a single-strap backpack but the Photocross 13 adds a retractable stabilization belt to keep it in place while hiking or performing other outdoors activity. Its rounded profile makes makes it footprint rather compact for a sling that can hold photography gear and a laptop.
Being intended for outdoor photography, the Photocross 13 is weatherproof with all its external fabric being sandwiched between a water-resistant polyurethane underside and water-repellent coating. The bottom panel is made of waterproof tarpaulin, for when the bag is put down. In case of heavy rain, there is even a seam-sealed rain cover included with all Photocross 13 sling bags.
A set of anchors on the back makes it possible to attach a tripod at the back using a pair of supplied straps. An additional stretch pocket on the side can accommodate a typical 1L bottle, while keeping it secure using a built-in elastic string. A secondary pocket is there to accommodate small accessories while handles on two sides of the bag make it easy to carry when not worn.
The MindShift Photocross 13 fits within a 12.6” x 17.7 x 7.1” (32 x 45 x 18 cm) boundary and offers an interior space of 9.4” x 14.2” x 5.5” (24 x 36 x 14 cm) plus a 9.1” x 13” x 1” (23 x 33 x 2.5 cm) laptop compartment. The whole thing, including all optional straps, weighs in a mere 2.4lbs (1.1kg).
The MindShift Photocross 13 is available from Amazon.
The sling bag is one of the most significant development in camera bags of recent times. While worn on the back like a backpack, a diagonal single-strap makes it possible to rotate the bag to the front of the wearer with ease. This lets photographers to access their gear efficiently with the sling at the front and move it out-of-the-way onto the back when on the move. This is a fantastic design for all types of photographers yet none need it more than outdoor photographers. Having their camera bag on the back makes activity much easier, while being able to access its content without removing the whole thing avoid slow-downs and having to find a clean and dry place for the bag each time gear is needed.
The Photocross series of sling bags are designed with a very rounded profile to stay close to the body and with contours to remain comfortable for hours. MindShift put a lot of effort into making their Photocross exceptionally comfortable. The main strap starts very wide to distribute weight on the shoulder. It adjustment strap on top of it, controls the distribution of the wide part of the strap between the shoulder and back of the wearer. The entire back of the Photocross 13 is made of breathable air-mesh to maximize airflow and keep the photographer as dry as possible.
While a sling bag is much more stable than a shoulder bag, it does not quite match the stability of a traditional backpack. This is not usually noticeable during city walking but it is during more vigorous activity. To solve this problem, MindShift added a retractable belt that loops around the photographer at the base of the sling. A nearly invisible pocket allows the belt to be completely hidden when not needed. Even the clip folds in to make the bag appear more streamlined. One can easily used the Photocross 13 as a regular sling without ever being encumbered by the additional belt.
Another compression strap is layered at the base of the sling to adjust the horizontal sling position when worn on the back. Together with the upper compression strap and retractable belt, the Photocross 13 can be placed with unprecedented precision, giving the wearer control of the vertical and horizontal resting position of the bag. This makes the Photocross 13 exceptionally comfortable.
A pair of tripod straps can be added horizontally across the front panel of the bag. This places a tripod more-or-less in the middle which is the most wearing comfortable position, although it adds some depth to the photographer. When the sling is swung to the front though, even a mid-size tripod causes the bag to pull forwards. There is no way out of this, either the tripod is on the side and ends below with the sling in front or it is one the back and ends further in front. Of the two possibilities, MindShift made the right decision for outdoor photography.
Materials used for the Photocross 13 are high-tech and of excellent quality. The main fabric has a nice has a fine texture which adds durability without being heavy. The bottom and main panel are made of thicker tarpaulin with a smooth matte finish that exudes quality. All the seams are tight double-stitching along most edges. Every part of this bag feels very solid and extremely well-put together. The two external zippers glide on top of a layer of fabric to make them more weatherproof than standard zippers. Our review sample has been worn for days on end for over a month and shows no sign of wear.
The Photocross 13 is much less padded than most photography bags. Most padding is found at the back between the photographer and his gear. There a good half-inch of dense foam provides protection and comfort. All other sides have less than a quarter inch closed-cell foam which provides minimal protection. most likely in an effort to save weight. This is bag is not meant to be dropped or knocked. Still, as a sling expected to be kept on the photographer, this should not be a common occurrence.
A small grippy rubber flap at the base of the bag provides somewhere to pull swing the sling from the back to the front. What fantastic attention to detail! When swung to the front of the photographer, the main compartment is accessed through a U-shaped zipper which opens away from the photographer. This is absolutely the best arrangement but we are surprised that so few bags work this way!
Opening the bag revealed an interior compartment officially measured at 9.4” W x 14.2” H x 5.5” D. The 5.5" depth is a generous measurement though. While the bag can be filled that much, it would hardly close. Count on 4.5" though and things will fit more comfortably, particularly towards the sides (top and bottom if looking at the bag vertically). One can easily place a DSLR with a bright 16-55mm (APS-C) or 24-70mm (Full-Frame) lens attached and have room to put an extra lens on each side. One of these lenses can even be a constant-aperture 70-200mm or could be two smaller lenses placed on top of one another. This leaves a little space on the right side of the bag to slip in some accessories like a 4-pack of filters or an add-on flash.
The outer shape of the Photocross 13 has a noticeable impact on its interior space. When used horizontally, sides are tighter than the center, while the bottom is slanted. This means that, even though space is already tight, its volume is difficult to use completely. Still, one can manage with a DSLR and classic trio of wide, standard and telephoto lenses. A mirrorless system fits much better in there. There are a few padded inserts to move around but their shape is very specific, so configurations can only vary a little.
The Photocross 13 is named this way for its 13" laptop compartment. Although specifications list the depth of this compartment as 1", this is again very generous. Luckily, 13" laptops are not that thick. Many ultra-books are actually measured as 13.3" laptops and those would still fit quite nicely in the 9.1” x 13” compartment, assuming they are of 16:9 aspect-ratio. In fact, even a 14" ultra-book fits just and we really mean just. Had they only made the compartment half-an-inch larger, there would be no issue and so many more laptops would fit, since 14" is a much more common size than 13".
The main flap has a mesh pocket going from one side to the other with a double-ended zipper on top. This provides space for small accessories such as batteries and memory cards. Basically, anything that would easily get lost must got here. A little stitching in the center divides the pocket in two to keep things in place. Each half though is long enough to hold a Lens Pen, easily the best product for keeping lenses clean. One could also place the tripod straps there but it would be a waste of valuable accessory-space. The rain cover is best placed somewhere in an odd-shaped corner of the bag, below a lens for example.
A secondary zippered-compartment at the front of the bag can hold extra accessories. This compartment is sawn flat with the rest of the bag, so it is rather tight. Anything too big within it takes space from the main interior compartment. There are two pockets with a small Velcro within the secondary compartment. One of them is also a good place for the tripod straps. Since these pockets do not close completely, they are best for mid-size accessories such as filters or a memory-wallet rather than individual memory cards.
One signature feature of ThinkTank bags is also found in this MindShift one, and that is a hook at the end of a small strap. One can use this to hold on to a key chain or other small item with its own loop. The secondary compartment offers no external padding, so no fragile items should be placed there.
The last item of note on the Photocross 13 is a stretchy pocket for a bottle. The pocket has a thick elastic with tightening element to keep in place. This is important for a sling since the bottle goes from vertical to horizontal when the bag is swung between the back and front of the photographer.
Overall, t he MindShift Photocross 13 earns top marks for comfort. It delivers all the expected benefits of a sling bag with added stability and a great system to balance it. Ergonomics are also very good. The bag is easy to carry and switch positions. Its interior is suitable for basic professional and enthusiast photography gear, although accessory space is tight. The tripod attachment system works best with lightweight tripods yet can handle mid-sized ones if needed.
This sling bag feels very sturdy and looks really good while doing so. Materials are excellent all-around and the weatherproofing is well done without making the bag ever feel heavy. This is the first MindShift product reviewed at Neocamera and it certainly sets the bar high for other camera bags to come.
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