ThinkTank Photo - Skin set v2.0
Shortly before my recent trip to Bulgaria I took delivery of a ThinkTank Photo (http://www.thinktankphoto.com/) Skin set v2.0 (http://www.thinktankphoto.com/categories/modular-sets/skin-set.aspx) and a pro-speed belt, which I had read some good reviews about and thought it would be a worthwhile addition to my kit when shooting weddings and events. Now, I won't bore you with all the technical details - there are plenty of reviews on the net which will do that. Instead, I'll just explain how I used mine and how I find the kit to work with.
In the set, you get 4 pouches:
A Skin Strobe V2.0 - loads of room for a Canon 580 EXII with diffuser attached, and the front pocket has space for spare batteries and a set of coloured gels.
A Skin 75 Pop Down V2.0 - which takes a 70-200 f2.8 lens with collar attached (and a handy wee zip down bit which extends the length of the pouch to let you leave the lens hood in place) - I kept my 70-200 f4L with the hood attached without any need to unzip the extension.
A Skin 50 V2.0 - which is ideal for my 20-40mm f2.8 lens or my 8mm fisheye and 50mm f1.8 together (dividers are included)
And a Skin Body Bag - This is sized to let you carry a pro size DSLR (my 1Ds fitted in with plenty of room to spare) although the, included, dividers let you customize it to carry batteries, cards, rocket blower etc., and I found this to be the most versatile bag - really handy to drop a spare lens and a speedlite in for a day out etc.
After the sussing out what was going in which pouch, I ran into my first wee problem - squeezing it all into my ThinkTank Streetwalker Hard-drive backpack! It all fits in on it's own, but the added bulk (minimal though it is) of the pouches made it a problem. As I wanted to ensure all my kit was with me at all times when flying, I HAD to get it all in! So, after reading another photographers review of the TTP Modular system I opted to take most of the bags dividers out and then put the pouches in. That way, my bag was used for transporting my kit and I could choose what I needed to take out on any given day (I had several model portfolio shoots, fashion shoots and a wedding planned during my 4 week trip - although, as my daughters and I were staying with my in-laws in Bulgaria, it was a mixed trip of business and personal). Here are a few shots of how it was packed to travel:
Bottom left - Body bag
Skin 50 on the right with a Canon 430 EX next to it
75 drop-down on the left
Skin strobe on top of the 75 drop-down
I managed to pack the following:
Canon EOS 1Ds with 3 spare batteries
Canon EOS 7D with 2 spare batteries
Canon G9 compact camera
580 EXII and 430 EX speedlites - both with diffusers fitted
Canon 70-700 f4 L
Canon 50mm f1.8
Sigma 20-40 f2.8
Sigma 17-70 f2.8
Rokinon 8mm f3.5 fisheye
Set of wireless flash triggers with 3 receivers and a spare transmitter - and spare batteries for all.
Wireless remote release for the 7D and 1Ds
12 spare AA batteries (in addition to the ones already in the speedlites)
iPad photo connector cable
iZettle card payment attachment for iPad/ iPhone
ThinkTank memory card holder
Notebook, pens, emergency plastic cover for camera and emergency poncho (well, you never know, do you?)
The bag was extremely comfortable to carry, despite being quite heavy (I never weighed it and, thankfully, neither did the airport!) and I attached the Pro-Speed belt to the backpack to help spread the load (it attaches and removes in seconds via a velcro flap on the bag)
In use, I found the Skin set to be damned near perfect! When out with the kids for a walk, one or two pouches sat nicely on the belt and ensured that my 2-year-old could have a rest when she needed a carry on my shoulders, as well as somewhere to keep a bottle of water. The design allows rapid access to your kit with a reasonably secure closure system (and I can see the velcro 'silencer' system being a huge boost when shooting in a church).
When I was out on location shooting, everything I needed was with me 100% of the time - even when thigh-deep in the sea and I needed batteries: no need to take a backpack off and balance it above the waves or go back to the beach, it was all at hand.
As a result, I got to the end of each day (a couple of the shoots were over 9 hour days, with a fair bit of walking involved) with no sore back or shoulders (sound familiar?) and no 'down-time' while I swapped kit/ batteries etc. I found that when I had the 70-200 lens attached, I could just put the lens into the pouch (I attached it at the front left position) and I had somewhere to rest my camera :)
In addition to the pouch on the front of the main part of the pouch, each flap has a small zipped pocket too.
Rokinon 8mm fisheye and Canon 50mm f1.8 in the Skin 50
My only concern when I first saw the skin set was the lack of padding (the Modular set has padding but no flap for rain protection - although it does have a separate rain cover, like the skin set does). I needn't have worried - the front pockets allow you to put some light material in if you want and most of the pouches come with some dividers, so it's easy enough to velcro them to the inside front of the pouch to give you some more protection. I also carried a Buff (tubular headgear) or two with me and kept these in with my lenses for a wee bit more cushioning.
EOS 1Ds with Op-Tech strap in the Skin Body Bag
The supplied dividers used to pad the front of the pouch
All in all, I can honestly say that the ThinkTank Photo Skin set has made my work significantly easier. Whether shooting a wedding or event, these handy wee pouches will be with me wherever I go. They may seem expensive for what they are, but the freedom, convenience and lack of back pain at the end of a long day is more than worth your initial outlay.