At Bempton Cliffs RSPB reserve.
When I made the switch from DSLR to mirrorless, it meant having to re-think my camera bags, all of which were made for DSLR’s and bigger lenses. Tamrac’s Evolution 8 was just way too big, but there really weren’t many options for mirrorless camera users. I didn’t want another shoulder bag since the Think Tank Retrospective 7 I wasn’t using suddenly was just about the right size. But backpack choices were non-existent, until Think Tank released the Perception series.
The Perception 15 was the size I went for, having a sleeve for a 15” laptop, which proved a suitable home for an A4 pad, which is what I used it for.
The outside of the bag has two pockets. The larger bottom one holds the rain cover, and really isn’t much use for anything else once the rain cover is in there. (I wish Think Tank would stash the rain covers under the bag like they do with some of their smaller pouches and like Lowepro does)! The top pocket is useful for storing a memory card wallet, a phone, snacks and other odds and ends. A small tuckaway pocket right at the top of the bag holds a small strap to hold a tripod.
Inside the bag there are two pouches attached to the bag of the bag. One designed for the camera with a lens, and a second for a lens. These are a great size and took the Sony A6000 with Zeiss 16-50, the 55-210 lens sitting comfortable in the other pouch. Under the pouches is plenty of room for other things such as gloves, a small jacket or a spare lens. I filled a Cable Manager 20 with odds and ends and had the Sony 10-18 F4 in a neoprene pouch and another pouch with filters. All fitted without any problems.
The inner front of the bag has Think Tanks usual assortment of pockets. If there’s one thing Think Tank excels at, it is the number of pockets and pouches available for organising things. I’ve yet to find a company that does this better.
This is, without doubt, one of the most comfortable backpacks I’ve ever used. The shoulder straps have lots of padding. Let’s face it, the bag is not heavy with mirrorless gear in it, but even when loaded with the laptop, you barely feel the weight and I was happily carrying the backpack for a full day without feeling the need to take it off and give my shoulders a rest. It doesn’t have a waist strap to balance the weight and to be honest, it doesn’t need it.
The bag is a bit chunkier than some mirrorless backpacks that have started to appear – thanks mainly to the laptop sleeve, but it is still a small, compact bag. I never felt I had to be careful in shops or moving through crowds like I did with the Evolution 8. It’s also an ideal size for a daypack, stowing everything I needed for a day’s outing.
Ease of Use
It was all so promising, but this is a typical backpack with typical backpack problems. in order to get at your gear, you have to take the backpack off, put it on the floor, and root around for what you want. Accessing the lens at the top of the bag is easy and quick, but getting at anything underneath the pouches is awkward and soon gets irritating.
Although you can fit a travel tripod onto the front of the bag, it’s not the best. It does tend to crush the top of the bag and with a tripod attached, it’s even harder to access anything stashed below the two pouches.
On the plus side, The Perception 15 is a good size, comfortable and has lots of space for gear. It’s also a nice looking backpack, certainly one of the more pleasing designs Think Tank have come up with.
On the negative side, it is just so awkward getting at everything and I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated as the day progressed. Think Tank have addressed this with the new Trifecta bags, which have side panels like Tamrac’s Evolution.
If you don’t mind taking a bag off to access gear, or don’t need to access anything often beyond the lens pouch, then this is a bag worth looking at, otherwise you might be better off with a shoulder bag, or something like the Trifecta.