Perhaps it’s a stretch to incorporate Cartier-Bresson’s “Decisive moment” into my review of the Vision 15 camera bag. But, good photography is almost always about timing. And in this case, Think Tank’s offer to send their bag for review was a case of perfect timing. While I already had one or two bags for my “every day carry” photo kit, I needed something more. After many years of dodging the bullet, my employer finally issued me a laptop. The unspoken expectation was that now I could work from home. Sure, I had a bag for my own laptop, but it didn’t have much room for photo gear. Could I carry two bags to work and back every day? Yes. Would I? Probably not. So a new camera bag which could accommodate a laptop was in order. And Think Tank just happened to have a solution in the Vision 15.
What can you fit in it?
As the largest of the Vision series (there is a 10 and 13 as well), the Vision 15 is roomy, but not bulky. It should fit a body with a 24–70mm f/2.8 attached, and 2-4 more lenses. Along with that, you could squeeze in a flash, 10” tablet, 15” laptop, plus a detached 70–200mm f/2.8. For my needs, I carry a full frame body (Canon 6D) with 24-70 f/4, and a 2nd crop body (Canon SL2) with 70-200 f/4. No, it’s not pro-level gear. But it’s what I’m comfortable dragging around every day. Light weight is key for this kit. My usual subjects are wildlife, some landscape, macro, and flowers. So the kit lets me go wide, plus has a bit of reach, and even video capabilities. Leaving the faster lenses at home saves me some weight. This makes the mandatory laptop less of a burden.
What’s protecting all that expensive gear?
The body of the Vision 15 is constructed of 420D velocity nylon, 500D 2-tone poly tech-weave, 350G 3D air mesh. Add in some heavy duty nylon tarpaulin for the base. Apply a DWR (durable water-repellant) coating, stitch it up with 3-ply bonded nylon thread, garnish with YKK® RC Fuse zippers. Translation: The exterior is attractive, durable, abrasion-resistant, and repels water. Inside, there is a mix of lightweight nylon and polyester. All dividers are removable closed-cell foam. Note that they are pretty thin, meant to keep gear from touching. So it’s not going to provide much protection from ham-fisted TSA officers. Yes, this is a daily bag more than a safari bag. But like all good camera bags, a rain cover is included. Unless that was a giant shower cap. Not sure.
Cool features? Yes!
If there is one thing you can count on from Think Tank, it’s features for photographers. A single buckle secures the top flap, with a zippered internal lid. That means access when shooting, but sticky fingers stay out while traveling. Often overlooked, the shoulder strap shows a lot of thoughtfulness. For cooling, the underside of the pad is mesh, but it has a gripper patch. The pad itself is a bit stiff to hold its shape, and it has sliding adjusters. And in my reasonably humble opinion, they made it wide enough, and with enough padding, to support the weight of modern cameras. I’ve seen too many bags with thin straps and pads, which are fine until you load your gear. At one end of the bag is an expandable pocket for a water bottle or more gear.
But wait, there’s more!
Man, I will never get to my opinion if I have to keep listing all the stuff I like about this bag. There’s a dedicated laptop compartment which holds my 15″ laptop. It’s got a front compartment full of organizational slots. Big phones, batteries, memory cards, pens, pencils, business cards, keys – they all have a place. Even room for a 10″ tablet. Sure, I mentioned it’s not ideal for travel, but it still has a luggage pass-through, and sturdy top handle. Want to hang your tripod underneath? Yeah, it’s got removable straps for that. One less thing to snag when they’re not needed. Oh, about that buckle and zipper – I used to be a wedding photographer. And now I mostly shoot wildlife. Understandably, I have a pet peeve when it comes to both – velcro. Think Tank gets it. Noisy hook and loop fasteners are not stealthy. /rant over.
So what’s life like with the Vision 15?
As mentioned, this is mostly my daily carry bag. After work, I might drive by the lake and look for deer. Or head down to the river bottom, where hawks and falcons are frequently sighted. Some days, our mountains are green with spring vegetation, or white-capped with snow. Or shrouded in mist. Maybe I want to take a photo of a giant sunflower. Or a little teeny snail. Whatever the subject, I just want the minimum gear needed to capture an image as I imagine it in my mind. Which is the whole point of the Vision series. And this may be my “Goldilocks” bag. Not too big, not too small. Just right. Okay, so I don’t really have any bags much smaller than this. But I do have several of varying sizes that are bigger. And I always end up bringing more than I need. For a portrait shoot, I can bring one body, a trio of primes, and a speedlight with remote trigger. A small umbrella fits in the side pouch, and compact light stand underneath. Macro days? Throw in the 50, 100, and 180 lenses. Add a macro rail, and compact tripod underneath. Golden.
With its MSRP of $139.75, the Vision 15 is a good value. It’s got a lifetime warranty against defects in materials and workmanship for the original owner. Perhaps some might expect that at its pricepoint. But the real value is that it’s so flexible. During the week, it holds the stuff I need to get my primary job done, and my photo gear. Yet it’s also a legit option for paid shoots with big lenses. Was I concerned about the minimal padding? Sort of. Think Tank specifically designed the Vision 15 for use with pro lenses and their big hoods. When I reverse my lens hood, it protects a good portion of the lens. Although I’m not rough with my camera bags, I found my worries were unfounded. Do I dislike changing the dividers to carry different gear? Yeah, but who doesn’t? Most photographers own several camera bags, as there will never be “one bag for everything”. But the Vision 15 would be a good choice for a new hobbyist, a seasoned pro, or anyone in between. Find it at Thinktankphoto.com
Think Tank was kind enough to provide their Vision 15 camera bag for this review. No other consideration was provided. And they know that as part of my review, I tug on zippers, pull on straps, and generally test the stitching far worse than any paying customer would.
Full specs, for those that love numbers:
17.3” W x 10.6” H x 6.3” D (44 x 27 x 16 cm)
15.3” W x 9.8” H x 5.1” D (39 x 25 x 13 cm)
15” W x 9.8” H x 1” D (38 x 25 x 2.5 cm)
11.4” W x 7.9” H x 0.5” D (29 x 20 x 1 cm)
5.9” W x 7.9” H (15 x 20 cm)
2.6 lbs. (1.2 kg)