The Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 is available in black. The bag can be purchased directly from the Think Tank Photo web site, other online photography stores, and from a growing number of retail stores in North America and Europe.
With an original Urban Disguise 35 already widely used, and generally well-liked, we can all be forgiven for asking why Think Tank Photo decided to rev this particular bag. It begs questions about the differences between the original and V2.0. A comparison of the two versions was easy in this case because I have a perfectly good original, well-used Urban Disguise 35 already.
The Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 shows definite improvements in several areas, all of them user oriented, and one 'miss' which I'll get to a little further into this review.
Features abound. Think Tank added 8 exterior lash points to the outer seams of the side panels. Effectively then, you've got lash points on each side through which you can reeve elastic cord to hold a rain shell or outer jacket. The lash points can also be used to reeve nylon webbing or buckles to tie on a tripod or folding stool. The original model had no exterior lash points of any kind. Much better - advantage V2.
The V1.0 front flap is used to cover the deep & wide front pocket. It had a somewhat useless, exterior zippered slot that was difficult to access if the flap was cinched over a body in the front pocket. The panel in the V2.0 front flap has an L-shaped zipper which opens wide to provide full access even when the flap is cinched over a big body (e.g., a D300s, D700, D800, 5D MKII, 1D MKIV, E5, etc.). Better still - advantage V2.
V1.0 has an unshrouded zipper at the bottom of the rear slot compartment. V2.0 has a shrouded zipper track. Unzip to allow the Urban Disguise 35 (V1 & V2) to slip over the extension handle of a rolling suitcase. Call it even.
V1.0 has a pair of slim, padded top handles. So does V2.0, but with the addition of a snap clip which can be used to combine the grips for somewhat easier carry. A little better - advantage V2.
The weight of V1.0 is 1380 grams (3.0 pounds) including shoulder strap, one pair of interior dividers and the raincoat. The weight of V2.0 is 1310 grams (2.9 pounds). Lighter is better, even if it's only 70 grams lighter, but it's not enough to give another point to V2.
The padded divider in V2 which separates the main camera compartment from the laptop slot has a hinged, Velcroed upper portion which can be folded down, thereby increasing the depth of the camera compartment. The additional 4.4cm (1.75") of depth accommodates the extra grip bulk of a full-size pro body. The only drawback is that the laptop slot will then only hold a 10" laptop, but that's still enough room for a netbook or small laptop or the smaller MacBook Air plus an iPad or Samsung Galaxy or some other thin tablet. Call it even for users of regular size DSLR cameras, but advantage V2 for users of full size Pro camera bodies or large regular bodies to which a battery/vertical grip has been attached.
The Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0, like its V1.0 parent, is a relatively tall bag and can accommodate a DSLR of any kind with attached 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens (hood reversed). I seperately tried both a Canon 5D MKII, Nikon D3s and a Nikon D700 each with a 70-200mm f/2.8 optically stabilized zoom. It worked, although the enormous Canon 1D- and Nikon D-series bodies are a tight fit - you have to firmly belly the top opening to stow or draw such a large rig. Stow the camera lens down and there's still room on either side for another medium size lens and a big strobe such as a Nikon SB600/700/800 or 900.
We used the Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 on a four day research trip, an additional couple of weeks of urban exploring in Toronto, and for casual daily carry in and out of the car, office, shopping and so on. The bag performed well in all situations. The gear didn't change: Nikon D7000 (sometimes with a grip, sometimes not), attached Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 with hood extended, Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 AF-S primer lens, spare battery, Lenspen, Nikonians cleaning cloth, neutral density filter, circular polarizer, Amazon Kindle 3, Samsung Galaxy Tab (Android tablet), iPod Touch, earphones, and a Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket SD card holder.
Air travelers will be relieved to hear that at 26.5 x 34.5 x 15 cm (10.5"W x 13.5"H x 6"D) the bag will usually pass as a personal carry-on item on all major commercial airlines. As usual, check with your airline and with the airlines operating your connecting flights to ensure carry-on size compliance, but in my opinion you're unlikely to have a problem with the Urban Disguise 35. The bag fits easily in overhead train car racks, the small overhead bins found in regional jets, and in overhead highway bus racks. For regular use in and out of the car (on the passenger seat), lay the tall bag on its back to avoid nasty tipovers during emergency stops or hard braking. The front flap and front pocket are unpadded, so ensure that nothing is placed on the bag when it's stowed on its back in an overhead bin.
One of the things we always notice about these sorts of bag designs is that there is no top padding. To accommodate easy access, the top of the bag is fully zippered, so once the zipper is open you have direct access to the main compartment. There's no associated padded top flap. If you're used to a traditional, oblong/cube Kata, Lowepro, M-Rock, Tamrac or Tenba shoulder bag with their thickly padded top covers, you have to think a bit about not resting other gear and bags on top of the Urban Disguise 35 V2. That said, the bag is taller than it is wide, so using it as a temporary base on which to rest other gear is a terrible idea in the first place because it's liable to topple over.
The initially stiff shoulder pad breaks in quickly over about a week of daily use. The relatively narrow strap webbing is very pliable and very strong. The shoulder pad is stitched in position, which means that the Urban Disguise 35 V2 is best carried inline with your hip. Left or right shoulder carry work equally well, as does a sling-style cross-shoulder carry. The one drawback for cross-shoulder carry is that the fixed position of the shoulder pad means you'll either have to adjust the strap length if you sling the bag behind you or simply live with the weight of the bag on your shoulder distributed only by the strap webbing. There's also a wear factor to deal with because the strap pad, rather than allowing the strap to slide through it and staying in place when you change bag position, drags back and forth a bit over your shoulder. Daily use over many months will shred the outer nylon cloth layer on underside of the strap.
The Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 does not look like a conventional camera bag. That, in any case, is what Think Tank's marketing material states. Crumpler photo/video gear shoulder bags don't look conventional either. Tenba Messenger Photo/Video shoulder bags don't look conventional. There are a whole lot of photography bags which don't look conventional. It all begs the question about what constitutes a "conventional bag" these days. On our research trip, at least two different strangers (one in a coffee shop, one at an art exhibit) remarked to us that we were carrying a "great looking" camera bag. Okay - great - but not exactly a vote for the "Disguise" part of the bag's name. The facts seem to be that Think Tank Photo and other bag makers have ridden the "it doesn't look like a camera bag" horse about as far as it can run. On the other hand, walking around with a functional, good looking, conservatively styled shoulder bag does tend to make one just a bit more confident, and that's a feeling which can for many people translate into more actively engaged interest in photography, less worry about their gear, more frequent use of their photography gear and a bit less worry when exploring not-quite-perfect neighborhoods or locations.
The Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 is listed for US$155. The price of V1 is listed at US$149. That's a tiny version premium of US$6 for a bag that's slightly lighter, with slightly reconfigured pockets, and 8 exterior lash points (which a large number of Urban Disguise V1 users asked for). If you've already got the Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V1 and it's your primary bag, be happy with it unless you just can't live without those new lash points on V2.0. Frankly, they're very handy. If you don't already own V1 and you're in the market for a tough, good looking, well made shoulder bag, the price is right. Think Tank is maintaining its generally high manufacturing quality. Compare the Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 to the Tenba Shootout Photo/Laptop Courier at US$155.95 and the Lowepro Classified 250AW at US$169.95.
Cons: I have for years been criticising Think Tank Photo about its shoulder straps. My complaint has been about one thing and one thing only with respect to the shoulder straps - the fixed shoulder pad position. As far as I'm concerned, the best shoulder pads allow the strap to slide through. A sliding pad effectively helps to keep the pad in place no matter how you position the bag itself, and also prevents a shoulder pad from being dragged back & forth on your shoulder. Think Tank's revised (and superb) new shoulder strap and sliding pad featured on the Retrospective shoulder bag models is an example of excellent design and excellent usability, so I'm not happy that the otherwise wonderful Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 does not also feature the great new shoulder strap that Think Tank already has in-house. The outer layer of nylon cloth on the underside of the shoulder pad literally wore to shreds after approximately 5 months of active, daily use (average walkabout of 7 kilometres, 3 times per week). We're serious photography walkers.
Pros: Notwithstanding the 'Cons' above, the Urban Disguise shoulder strap & pad still work well for light and moderate loads during long days walking and wandering through urban canyons, easy to moderate trails, and when doing the long trudges through airports and train stations. Unless you're planning on walkabouts covering tens of miles or kilometers per week, my cavils about the shoulder strap and shoulder pad might be completely unimportant. The fact is, I think the Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 is a terrifically useful photography shoulder bag. Pack it light or pack it heavy; it handles quite easily all loads that fit properly, and it handles even the heavier loads remarkably well. That's one of the very important benefits of a structured bag. It generally carries well and doesn't deform under any reasonable load. Construction quality, materials durability, accessibility, speed of use, adjustability and basic design are all first rate. Accessibility, good in V1.0, has been slightly improved by changing the zipper configuration of the front flap pocket. The addition of 8 tough, unobtrusive exterior lash points along with a full set of 4 steel rear D-rings, help to expand the usability and versatility of the Think Tank Urban Disguise 35 V2.0. Good value, versatile and highly recommended.