Think Tank Photo has a reputation for high quality bags and when I first heard of the Urban Disguise 35 shoulder bag ($150) I decided to purchase it immediately. I have numerous bags for my camera gear because quite simply, I can’t find one that is just right for me. I want a small bag that can carry a three lens travel kit, have minimal padding (just enough to prevent lenses from banging together), and not be too bulky.
As you might guess from the name, ThinkTank’s entire line of “urban disguise” bags are designed not to look like a camera bag. However, most of their bags are shaped like briefcases and look exactly like a laptop case so I think they would still be enticing to a potential thief. The Urban Disguise 35 is an exception to the line as it is taller than it is wide and looks more like a satchel or a school bag. (I’m planning to abuse mine so it doesn’t look so nice.)
The build quality of the bag is excellent. The zippers and fabric are extremely heavy duty and in my opinion, the Urban Disguise is better made than bags I’ve used from other manufacturers such as Lowe Pro, Tenba, or Domke. The bag weighs 2 lbs 6 oz and has the following dimensions:
- Interior: 10″W x 13.25″H x 4.25″D
- Exterior: 10.5W x 13.5″H x 6″D
- Laptop compartment: 10″W x 13.25″H x 1.5″D
The bag has a main compartment for camera gear with removable dividers (Figure 2) and a narrow compartment at the back for a small laptop (Figure 3). The front of the bag also has a flap and a small pouch which can be used for storing gear (Figure 4).
My Storage Setup
I have the bag in a three column setup with lenses in the side columns and the camera mounted with a wide-tele zoom lens in the center. The camera sits on top of the two dividers which separate the bag into three columns as in Figure 5.
Here’s what I fit in the bag when I using it to shoot:
- 70-200 f/4 (side column, lens hood reversed)
- 17-40 f/4 (side column without lens hood)
- 24-105 f/4 mounted on a Canon 5d II (center column)
- lens hood for the 17-40mm lens stored beside the camera at the top of the bag
- CF cards
- remote cable release
- extra battery
With all three lenses sitting side by side, it is snug fit. For me, if the bag were 1/2″ wider it would be just the perfect size. When traveling, I also carry the following:
- Macbook Pro 13″ laptop
- power brick for laptop
- Canon battery charger
- paperback book for reading
The power bricks and charger go on top of my camera gear in the main compartment. I could put it in the front pouch as in Figure 4, but this tends to make the bag really bulky (wide). I take this extra gear out of the bag when I reach my destination.
- The “water bottle” holders on the side are very small and fit tightly (you have to stretch the fabric considerably for a water bottle) and I don’t think I could fit one of my travel zooms in there. On other bags, I use the bottle holders to store lenses that I switch to frequently while shooting.
- The padding is very minimal compared to other photo bags. This is a plus for me as I want the least amount of padding to reduce weight and bulk.
- The bag is very convenient for airplane travel and fits easily under seat in front of you.
- In terms of a working bag, it’s not as convenient as using a shoulder bag with wider footprint (the Urban Disguise trades width for depth) such as a Lowepro Street & Field Reporter model, however it still works reasonably well. Most shoulder bags also don’t let you store a laptop.
- It’s easy to put too much gear in the bag making it quite heavy. Also because of the vertical design, you may need to stack gear in order to get it all to fit.
- You can get shoulder straps for the bag and use it as a back pack. The straps wrap around the handles at the top of the bag and connect to small metal rings at the bottom.
The Urban Disguise 35 is very well made and it can hold a lot of gear although there are some tradeoffs. In particular, the bag uses a deep vertical design and may be slightly less convenient than a regular shoulderbag. However, this allows it to hold an SLR with a big tele-zoom mounted. The bag also has a laptop pouch which uses up space but is obviously required if you carry a computer. I would also have liked bigger pouches on the sides that I could use to hold lenses. However, these are relatively minor points and overall the bag works extremely well. I’m pleased with my purchase and going to be reaching for the Urban Disguise 35 whenever I need to travel.