Think Tank Photo Spectral 10 Review
Think Tank Photo introduced a new series of photography shoulder bags in 2017. The new Spectral series starts off with a set three shoulder bags with some unique design elements yet a simpler approach to keep their price down. The family is made of the smallest Spectral 8, the mid-size Spectral 10 and the larger Spectral 15. These bags share the same design with the addition of a laptop compartment in the Spectral 15.
Here we review the middle one, the Spectral 10 yet most of our observations other than sizing applies to the rest of the series. This slim and relatively compact shoulder bag is designed to accommodate a mid-size DSLR or mirrorless camera with a lens attached, plus at least two additional lenses. There is a pocket for a 10" tablet, one that also exists on the Spectral 15 but is replaced by an 8" tabled pocket on the Spectral 8, hence the naming. These bags have an adjustable but not removable shoulder strap, unlike that on other Think Tank Photo shoulder bags.
The most unique aspect of the Spectral series is its nearly magical locking mechanism that magnetically locks as the flap is dropped onto the bag. There is an easy way to release it too. These shoulder bags come with removable tripod straps and a seam-sealed rain-cover. The bag measures 13.8” x 10” x 6.1” (35 x 25.5 x 15.5 cm) with an interior compartment of 13” x 9.1” x 4.9” (33 x 23 x 12.5 cm) and weights 2.2 lbs (1.1 kg) by itself.
The Think Tank Photo Spectral 10 is available from Amazon.
Shoulder bags are the workhorse of photography bags. They are designed to pack a lot of equipment and make it easily accessible for photographers to do their work. The basic design is ages old with nearly every manufacturer making one. Think Tank Photo alone lists 31 models currently available on their site, not counting the various colors, convertibles and holders! For them to add three new offering means that they are ready to offer something different.
The Spectral 10 distinguishes itself by its modern lightweight construction. This shoulder bag is relatively light for its size while maintaining good rigidity and dense padding on all sides. After all, shoulder bags have a habit of being knocked and squeezes from all angles. Most of the outer fabric of the bag is durable ballistic nylon. The base and main compartment flap though are both made of smooth waterproof tarpaulin. All materials making this bag are high-quality, including YKK RC-Fuse zippers. Wherever Think Tank Photo limited costs, it certainly has not been on quality.
A nylon shoulder-strap is permanently attached to the bag. There is metal buckle to adjust its length but it is not very tight. Even with a relatively light load, it tends to get longer as the day goes by. The sleeve used for shoulder padding has a similar issue in that the strap slips easily within it and offers very little grip to keep it in place. This saved some material in the construction of this bag but leaves room for improvement in terms of ergonomics. There is a decent nylon handle to grab the bag from the top and a pass-through sleeve to place it over luggage with telescopic handles.
The unique mechanism to close the Spectral 10 works like magic. A magnetic clasp automatically locks the flap in place as soon as it falls in the area. There are actually two clasps which allows the flap to close at two different heights. A small nylon pull releases the mechanism and makes opening this shoulder bag nearly instantaneous. A second flap right below the main one on top of the bag makes the trick work. The second flap uses a zipper to keep the top of the bag completely closed which is necessary when transporting the bag and stowing it away. That small flag unzips and gets inserted into the main flap, kept in place by a Velcro.
With flaps locked onto one another, the bag becomes incredibly efficient. This is the way to use the bag while actively shooting. It leaves very slight gaps on both sides since the main flag does not seal the bag shut, so be careful of rain and snow while shooting like this. This is a neat compromise to open the bag in one movement while being able to seal it properly at other times. For when the weather really gets rough, a seam-sealed rain-cover goes over the entire bag. There is another slot at the back of the bag to slide things in but it is best not to use it, since it does not really close.
The Spectral 10 is a mid-size shoulder bag with a rectangular interior. For DSLRs and larger mirrorless cameras, they can be slotted sideways with at least one extra lens on each side. This leaves room for a few accessories. One can also place two cameras with lenses mounted side-by-side. Mid-size mirrorless can be placed straight instead which allows at least 3 lenses to be added parallel to the camera. Think Tank supplies a number of flexible padded dividers to configure the main compartment as required.
Opening the main flap reveals an odd design to the secondary pocket. A front later is split into two yet always-open compartment. One can place a few items here, even a phone, but anything small is likely to fall out. Behind it, a zipper reveals a roomy accessory pocket. This one is separated into three layers. The back layer is designed to accommodate a 10" tablet. The middle layer is split in half open pockets which are good for small items such as batteries and memory cards. The font layer is much deeper and can handle larger items such as filters or a notebook. Inside that compartment there is a loop and a hook to attach keys or other small easy-to-lose items.
One side of the bag has a stretchy pocket for light unimportant items such as a lens cloth. The bottom of the bag features four attachments to add a pair of tripod straps. The tripod then runs parallel to the bag which is good for weight balance but makes it difficult to access. Shoulder bags generally do not allow tripods to be carried, so at least this is an option.
The Spectral 10 is a really clever shoulder bag entering a very crowded market. It manages to offer a unique performance advantage for getting gear in an out while in shooting mode and yet can close completely between shoots. Its magnetic clasp is a true innovation that performs impeccably well. For a photographer that needs only a small amount of gear and few accessories, this bag is highly suitable. The lack of more compartments and small closing pockets would make a mess out of small accessories though. This bag is one of the lowest cost ones from Think Tank while maintaining top-quality and highly durable materials.
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