Think Tank Skin Set Component Camera Gear Carry System review . . . continued

It's true what they say. Half the battle is being able to envision yourself getting the shot you want. Using gear that doesn't get in your way helps a lot. The Think Tank Skin components obviously aren't for everybody, but for the still-very-large number of people for whom the Skin components are ideal, there are precious few other solutions available.

We field tested the Think Tank Skin Set on a Skin Belt and a Belly Dancer shoulder harness at three different locations: the massive Tamil anti-Sri Lankan government protest rally and march that took place on Saturday March 14, 2009 (in Toronto), a three-alarm blaze that took place at a small shopping plaza on March 5, 2009 (in Mississauga, just west of Toronto), and an investigative research trip to a bit of a mess in Slovenia (outside Kranj). The Tamil rally and protest march was peaceful but loud, busy and all over the place in downtown Toronto. Large groups, each consisting of thousands of people, formed, dispersed and re-formed repeatedly throughout the day. Being able to talk to individual marchers, get shots of faces & protests signs intermingled, then quickly back off for long shots of the long lines of marchers meant we had to be quick and agile. Because the crowds were peaceful, nobody was trying to smack our gear, but because the sidewalks and streets were absolutely packed sardine-tight in many locations, we had to avoid bulk. The Skin Set components worked perfectly.

lenses not included


The shopping plaza fire was certainly less crowded than the protest rallies. The shooter spent most of his time with two lenses. Quick access (and no zippers to fight with) was important. So was waterproofing when the shooter was heavily splashed by a passing car hitting one of the many large pools of water during the firefighting as he changed CF cards in his Nikon D700. He snapped the CF door closed quickly. Camera, lens and Skin components were thoroughly splashed without any harm and, most important, without any water penetration. Again, the Skin set worked quite well. The shooter thereafter unzipped the bottom of the Skin Chimp Cage (which extends the height by a good 3.5"/8.9cm) so he could drop the D700 with 24-70 f/2.8 attached lens down into the bag for protection.

The investigative research trip to Slovenia was conducted by one of our research associates who has been in and out of the entire region frequently over the past ten years. She found herself in a bit of trouble during an interview with a consultant at factory facility. She had to beat a hasty retreat, Skin Set and all, while the consultant's security people trailed her on foot. Our own security team had "gone for coffee" (or so they claimed), and weren't around for the festivities. Despite having to run & gun over a five block stretch (our RA wanted shots of the faces who were trailing her at an increasing speed), and despite at least one trip & fall, the Skin Set held up perfectly, protected her camera gear effectively, and didn't prevent her from sprinting the last 50 meters to her hired car & driver. The Q&A meeting held on the following day took place only after the consultant agreed to calm down and provide some simple answers to the simple and non-threatening questions. Some people are just spoiling for a fight. The point is that the Skin Set worked well in a very tight factory environment (safety concerns in cities and manufacturing regions throughout Slovenia have improved dramatically in recent years, but still aren't what they should be). Lest one bad apple spoil the bunch for readers, aside from the eerie feeling sometimes that the neighbor to the south is watching a bit too intently, and aside from the feeling that the Slovenian government takes a singularly harsh stand on certain 'humanitarian' issues, things are improving (and with Austria and Italy as active bordering trade partners, that's how it should be).

Cons: The Skin Set and the Skin components in general are purpose-built. Seemingly simple, the successful approach taken by Think Tank Photo was to not give in to the temptation to add bulk here and there, or the temptation to add features that their customers hadn't actually requested. Think Tank started off using some sort of extremely tough, heavy-duty rip-stop nylon and/or Duratex (there are several great brands of synthetic cloth out there), the correct sort of cutting & stitching/construction for the material and its intended uses, the correct angles on all stress points, and a continuation of compatibility with the successful belt and harness mounting design first seen in the Modulus system and its components. In other words, we can't find anything sufficiently 'wrong' with the Skin components to warrant mentioning as a "Con." First time in a while for us about any product.

Pros: Keeping your gear close to the body in rough, tight quarters, while also presenting easy access is quite a neat trick. Think Tank Photo has managed to pull off just such a trick with the Skin series and the Skin Set. If you want even more space inside existing Skin components, just remove the rain covers from their bottom compartment in each bag (they're sized and labeled for specific bags to avoid confusion when matching them up again later on). There are plenty of photographers out there who've independently come up with the travel trick of stuffing Skin components with socks and underwear in checked or carry-on luggage. Because the Skin components are essentially unpadded, they take up only a tiny bit of extra space when used as storage bags in your luggage. The other trick photographers are discovering is to strip out the small dividers in a Think Tank Airport International or Airport Security rolling bag and simply stow all your gear inside Skin components inside the roller. Get to your destination or venue, open the roller, mount the Skin (or Modulus) belt & bags and away you go. Suddenly, any 16"-20" rolling luggage becomes a photography travel bag? We prefer the Think Tank Airport International and the Airstream, frankly, because of their superior protection, security features and great wheels, but Think Tank nonetheless presents us with a modular design that is exceedingly versatile for serious amateur and pro photographers on a budget. The Skin components are meant to be used day in, day out, for many, many years. Novel and easy to use integrated flap system for silencing the velcro closures means you can silence the flaps while still keeping gear weather protected, securing everything using the drawstring inner top closure. If you're shooting shows, exhibitions, concerts, protests, emergency scenes, crowds, or shooting along crowded sidelines at sporting events in stadiums, pitches, arenas and stands, or running & gunning toward politicians, news makers, celebrities or away from hostiles and villains in trouble zones, the Think Tank Skin Set may be exactly what you need to keep your gear close, protected and ready in a flash. Highly recommended. Get it from Think Tank or Amazon.



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