I’ve been on a bit of a quest to find the perfect sling bag for photography. In the Think Tank Turnstyle, I think I’ve found a sling bag that’s great for not only photographers, but anyone who likes the sling bag format in general.
I should say first that that I’m not a big fan of wearing a bag at the same time as shooting, especially a sling bag or anything off one shoulder.
I’m happy with my Holdfast MoneyMaker dual camera strap like so many other wedding photographers out there, and have never felt the need to change.
However recently, I’ve come to the realisation that having 2 cameras dangling from my hips during the portraits session of the wedding is inconvenient and unnecessary.
Some wedding photographers choose to ditch their straps after the ceremony is complete, and favour a one camera set up with lenses in a separate bag. Here’s where the sling bag comes in, and my search for the perfect sling bag which has ended on the Think Tank Turnstyle. But first, we need to define something…
What is a Sling Bag?
Sling bags have been around for ages, but only relatively recently for photographers, particularly for professional use.
The sling bag is essentially like a backpack, but with a single strap that’s worn over one shoulder and across the front of the torso, instead of a strap for each shoulder. Thanks Wikipedia.
What are the benefits of Using a Sling Bag?
To explain this, let’s look at the sling bag’s main rivals – the backpack (rucksack) and the messenger bag. I’ve owned and used both, favouring the messenger bag until recently.
The backpack is great because the bag is out of your way 100% of the time. You can carry a lot of weight easily, with the load distributed over both shoulders equally.
However, you have to take it off to get gear out! If you’re a run-and-gun style photographer, this sucks.
The messenger bag hangs at your side, allowing easy access to your gear with the bag still on your body. One disadvantage is that one shoulder and eventually your back can get sore due to the imbalance of weight distribution.
The other major disadvantage of the messenger bag for a photographer is that it keeps sliding around in front of you – this can get annoying.
Now, the sling bag is the best of both worlds. Whilst not in use, it sits on your back, out of the way. The weight is only on one shoulder, but since the position of the bag isn’t on your side, the distribution is different and more manageable.
Then, when you need your gear, you can slide it around your body in one movement, and have your lenses and flashes at your fingertips right in front of you.
An added advantage of a sling bag with a rigged body such as the Think Tank Turnstyle is that you can use the bag as a kind of ledge to support your camera while you make your changes. This makes lens changes very simple and convenient.
A Review of the Think Tank Turnstyle
So now I’ve convinced you that a sling bag is the best way to carry your camera gear if you need quick access, let’s look at the Think Tank Turnstyle.
There are 3 sizes of the Think Tank Turnstyle available – the 5, 10 and 20. It’s easy to decide which one to get:
Use mirrorless/rangefinder or other compact cameras? Get the Think Tank Turnstyle 5:
Use a dSLR with prime or small zoom lenses? Get the Think Tank Turnstyle 10:
Use a dSLR with big-ass lenses like the 70-200mm?! Get the Think Tank Turnstyle 20.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s look at why this bag is great.
Features of the Think Tank Turnstyle
Here’s a summary of what I loved about the Think Tank Turnstyle:
- Awesome build quality. It’s Think Tank – enough said.
- Water resistant outer. Professional testing shown below.
- Wide zip – it opens far enough at the edges to make getting gear in and out very easy.
- Useful side panel – there’s a small piece of material on the edge of the bag that’s the perfect size to help prevent any gear in the edge compartment spilling out when the bag is open.
- Perfect shape – this is where sling bags in the past have let me down. I used to own the good looking Incase Ari Marcopoulos sling bag, but the shape meant it was always sliding around my back. It was trying to be too many things at once. The Think Tank Turnstyle‘s kidney shape fits my back perfectly and stays put.
- Comfortable straps – Think Tank knows how to make a great strap and this is no exception. Well padded, lightweight and with just the right amount of grip/slip to make usage frictionless.
- Size – this is a subjective one, but I like that the smallish size of each bag limits your gear choice. The Think Tank Turnstyle isn’t meant to be stuffed. Whatever size you opt for, it should be good enough for a weekend trip, or a few hours shooting professionally. It’s also great just to carry sandwiches and a water bottle!
- Weight – see the specs below depending on the model, but this thing is featherlight – much lighter than any other sling bag I’ve used for photography.
- Weight distribution – this is a comfortable bag to wear, even for long periods. Once you set the strap length to suit your body, the bag sits nicely in the dead centre of your back.
- Useful top loop – bit of a weird example, but I used the hoop to hang the Think Tank Turnstyle on the back of a toilet door recently. While it was safely hanging there, I thought to myself… what a great idea! I also use the hoop to carry the bag when it’s not on my back.
- Bum Bag (fanny pack) conversion – love em or loathe em, it’s hard to argue that a bum bag is one of the most convenient ways to carry anything. The weight distribution is perfect, and the position makes it great for quick access. On the Think Tank Turnstyle, the bum bag buckle is equally great quality, and tucks away neatly when not in use.
- 3 customisable padded velcro dividers – change the inside compartments to suit your gear.
- Front pocket with wide zip access – it’s a good size for cable releases, spare batteries, memory cards, business cards – basically anything that’s thin. There are compartments and one long pocket.
- Rear pocket (Turnstyle 10 & 20 only) – you can store an iPad Mini in the rear pocket of the 10 and a full size iPad (or a Retina Macbook) of the 20. Sam Hurd is a big fan of the Think Tank Turnstyle 20 and mentioned that he once carried his Retina Macbook in the Turnstyle for a whole wedding without noticing!
- Easy grab zippers – Think Tank use these a lot to make the zippers much easier to pull open, especially if your fingers are frozen!
- Front buckle – I didn’t feel the need to use this once, opting instead to just lift the Think Tank Turnstyle over my head to remove it. I guess if the bag was really heavy, or you had a shoulder injury, removing the bag using the front buckle could be useful though.
- Small interior pockets – with my gear in, I can’t really fit much in these. It’d depend on your own set up.
That’s a hell of a lot of greatness in such a small, simple bag! But this being an honest Think Tank Turnstyle review, let’s have a quick look at what’s not so great about this sling bag.
- One shoulder choice – you can only carry the Think Tank Turnstyle with the strap over your left shoulder, running down to your right hip. I usually carry messenger bags on my right shoulder, so initially this felt weird to me. I guess Think Tank could have included an option to swap the strap side, but this would have over-complicated the design. I got used to it.
- Front logo – Think Tank is usually pretty good about hiding their logo. I have the Think Tank Retrospective 30 for example which is essentially logo-less. Even though the logo is small on the Think Tank Turnstyle, I didn’t like it. Could’ve been hidden inside.
- Colours – personal choice again, but I’d have liked a 100% black version. Currently they only exist with a grey or blue front panel. I went for grey.
Other than this, I really couldn’t think of anything else I didn’t like about the Think Tank Turnstyle sling bag.
Some reviewers have mentioned the lack of locks on the zippers, or more ventilation on the back panel, but these kind have things would completely alter the design of the bag and what makes it great in the first place.
How I use the Think Tank Turnstyle
On a wedding day, I usually break out my Think Tank Turnstyle when it’s time for the bridal portraits. I load it up with whatever I think will bring some variety to the shoot, then have my main body with one lens in my hands.
When I need to change lenses or feel like using a speedlight, I simply slide the Turnstyle around my body, open it up, then use it as a kind of ledge to place one lens until I’ve screwed on the other.
In the photo below, I managed to fit in a Nikon SB-700 speedlight, a set of Yongnuo YN622 flash triggers/receiver, a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D, a Nikon 20mm f/2.8D and a Nikon 85mm f/1.4G all into the main compartment. In the front section, I keep 2 batteries, then in the back I have my iPad Mini 4.
Note that the Think Tank Turnstyle tapers significantly and dimensions are taken at the largest point.
6.3” W x 11” H x 3.5” D (16 x 28 x 9 cm)
7.1” W x 13.8” H x 3.9” D (18 x 35 x 10 cm)
6.3” x 8.7” x 0.4” (16 x 22 x 1 cm)
Small–medium mirrorless system (1 body, 2–3 lenses); Up to an 8” tablet. e.g. Olympus EM-5 attached to 17mm f/1.8, 12mm f/2.0, 75mm f/1.8 and iPad Mini
7.1” W x 12.6” H x 4.8” D (18 x 32 x 12.2 cm)
8.3” W x 15.4” H x 5.2” D (21 x 39 x 13.2 cm)
6.3” x 8.7” x 0.4” (16 x 22 x 1 cm)
8.3” W x 15” H x 4.8” D (21 x 38 x 12.2 cm)
9.3” W x 17.3” H x 5.4” D (23.5 x 44 x 13.7 cm)
8.1” x 10.2” x 0.6” (20.5 x 26 x 1.5 cm)
The Think Tank Turnstyle is a simple product that does its job excellently. Every element of this bag has a purpose, with no superfluous design elements.
Whatever size you opt for of the Think Tank Turnstyle, it will limit you in a good way to taking only what is absolutely necessary.
That sounds strange, right? Well it’s actually a very hard thing for a bag manufacturer to decide. They can make bags as big as they want, but they need to think about usage, and the Think Tank Turnstyle gets this completely right.
All the essential gear you need for a short trip or a couple of hours with your clients on an engagement shoot or portrait session can fit in one of the Think Tank Turnstyle options.
If you’ve never tried a sling bag before, I recommend you try the Think Tank Turnstyle. It’s well priced, amazing quality and does what it’s meant to do perfectly.
Think Tank may not be well-known for making the most attractive camera bags, but with the Think Tank Turnstyle, they’ve managed to create a decent-looking bag that performs excellently and it priced under $100! That’s a success in my book ;-)
Disclaimer: The bag in this post was kindly provided by Think Tank. The products in this post include affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission if you choose to purchase. This helps pay for the running of Shotkit and my time invested into creating posts such as this. Thank you for your support!