I have to admit, backpacks are difficult for me. Why? Because I’m a wedding photographer, and so far only one backpack has proved useful to me at a wedding.
The HoldFast Gear Sightseer Backpack System has been my choice due to its built-in MoneyMaker camera strap and attachable Quick Detach Adjustable Slider. These make it a two-camera setup with gear safely tucked away inside.
However, what about when I simply want to head into the city and shoot street, architecture or travel photography and have my gear easily accessible?
Well, the Think Tank Photo Urban Access 15 Backpack can certainly fill that role.
Think Tank Photo Urban Access 15 Specs
- High-quality construction
- Easy access to gear on the fly
- Attractive urban aesthetic
- Extremely comfortable
- Does not hold enough gear for my needs
- Does not hold two normal-sized bodies with lenses attached
- Interior Dimensions: 11.42 x 14.57 x 5.51″ / 29 x 37 x 14 cm
- Exterior Dimensions: 13.39 x 20.47 x 9.06″ / 34 x 52 x 23 cm
- Laptop Compartment Screen Size: 15.0″
- Laptop / Tablet Compartment Dimensions: 9.8 x 14.2 x 0.8″ / 25.0 x 36.0 x 2.0 cm
- Weight: 3.97 lb / 1.8 kg
Build & Appearance
Think Tank Photo has a reputation for making some of the best camera bags, thanks to their fantastic build quality and design.
The Urban Access 15 Backpack is no exception with its water-resistant polyurethane-backed fabric and very confident feeling YKK zippers. I have no doubt that although this is a bag for urban exploration it could easily be used for light hiking andstill hold up.
It’s an attractive backpack in my opinion and looks like it belongs in an urban environment, hence its name.
I like that my gear is securely tucked away with the main opening facing my back and a top compartment perfect for snacks or more inexpensive gear such as memory cards.
There are expandable water bottle pockets on both sides.
The backpack is one of the most comfortable I’ve worn. It’s hard to explain, but it sits upon one’s back rigidly but without any pain or feeling of heavy weight.
I’m generally not a fan of backpacks as I find them clumsy and uncomfortable, but that is not the case with the Urban Access 15 (also available as an Urban Access 13 for smaller laptops or tablets).
While the Urban Access 15 Backpack may look average in its outside features, what puts it a cut above is the incredible toughness of the latches, zippers, fabric and more.
As I bumped it against concrete while maneuvering the busy streets of Chicago, it felt as though it could handle this on a daily basis with no issues and the backpack appeared relatively un-scuffed when I brought it home.
Exterior features include a deep front pocket for a light jacket, a shoulder harness with load lifter to distribute weight, removable sternum strap and waist belt, and a seam-sealed rain cover.
The center tripod mounting system balances even large tripods securely while still allowing access to your gear.
The marquee feature of the Think Tank Photo Urban Access 15 Backpack is how it easily slips down to become a sling bag with access to gear from either side.
This is perfect for street shooters and travel photographers, or even photojournalists who don’t want to lay their backpack on the ground to get at their gear.
The rear panel will allow for access to ALL of the gear when working out of the bag.
While I feel the Urban Access 15 Backpack is a one-body bag, it does house enough room for a backup body without lens attached.
If you are shooting smaller mirrorless cameras like this Olympus EM1 II and Olympus 75mm F/1.8 lens with grip or rangefinders like the Leica Q2, two bodies will be fine.
Officially the backpack will house one ungripped DSLR or mirrorless body with lens attached up to a 70–200mm f/2.8, 3–5 additional lenses, a strobe, a 15” laptop, plus personal gear.
I shoot multiple systems and within the backpack on this day (see photo above) I had the following:
- Olympus OMD-EM1 II Camera
- Olympus 75mm F/1.8 Premium Lens
- Olympus 40-150mm F/2.8 Pro Lens
- Olympus 12-40mm F/2.8 Pro Lens
- Sigma 24-35mm F/2 F Mount Lens
- Nikon 105mm F/1.4 F Mount Lens
A nice touch is the velcro holder that secures your laptop or iPad Pro from falling out when the backpack is completely open.
Mesh pockets on the inside are perfect spots for phones, chargers, headphones, wallet, memory cards, lens caps, etc.
Ease of Use and Comfort
I can barely tie my own shoes, so fiddly backpacks have never been my style. Nylon straps become a bowl of spaghetti for me in no time.
Nonetheless, I found the Think Tank Photo Urban Access 15 easy to maneuver when I needed to get to my gear on the fly.
While I prefer the Think Tank Airport Security Rolling Bag at weddings – as I like to have two camera bodies on me all of the time and the rest of my gear secured nearby – this backpack would be a great addition to engagement sessions or personal work when I travel into the city and want to go light on the gear.
Although it weighs in at nearly 4 lbs (1.8 kg) sans gear, it is an incredibly comfortable backpack and does not feel heavy. Do not hesitate to carry it for an all-day urban exploration.
The Urban Access 15 would also be good for photo conferences to avoid leaving gear in the hotel room.
Value for Money
While this backpack is not cheap in price, it’s not over-the-top expensive for the quality that you receive. This is on par with most Think Tank Photo offerings.
Like most photographers, I have many bags that are great at certain things I like to do, whether it be for work or play. The Urban Access 15 Backpack is as its name implies: perfect for hitting the city streets and having easy access to your gear without fumbling around with laying the bag down on the ground.
These features, along with robust build quality, make this backpack good value for money and a winner in my book.
Think Tank Photo Urban Access Review | Conclusion
This product convinced someone who doesn’t like backpacks to want to use it.
However, I’d love to see Think Tank Photo make one with built-in camera straps. Then I’d look at that product for the weddings I shoot in Chicago, where I’m constantly on the move with no place to put my gear.
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