Think Tank Photo Mirrorless Mover 30i: A two year review

The Mirrorless Mover 30i is Think Tank Photo’s roomiest bag in the Mirrorless Mover line. It’s also my first ever Think Tank Photo bag. Two years after I first got it, I finally managed to sit down and write a review of it for my use case of photo and video work.


20150601-img_6507

The backstory

This bag has been with me for exactly two years now, but I never intended to actually get one.

Back in 2013 while researching some photo and video gear I bumped into the Think Tank Photo line of bags. At the time, the Retrospective line was all the rage around the web. Unfortunately shipping one to Lima was not easy nor cheap, so I decided to just be a fanboy follower.

Things got interesting when they launched the Mirrorless Mover line and I happened to be following the Twitter launch event. Good luck and a craving for donuts led me to win a MM 30i on one of the random draws.

20130606-20130606_002-1

With that story in mind, disclaimer: I’m reviewing a Think Tank bag that I didn’t pay for.

Now here comes a funnier disclaimer to that disclaimer: Just last week I happened to win another Mirrorless Mover 30i on another random draw based on guessing the bag model from a picture showing only some seams. Good two year anniversary for my MM 30i :-).

This means I have two Mirrorless Mover 30i bags, both free from Think Tank. I have no relationship with them besides these two lucky happenings. I don’t even have an affiliate code, so rest assured I’m not trying to sell anything here.

Day to day with the Mirrorless Mover 30i

How does the bag behave on daily use? I’m mainly a video shooter but I also do photo work occasionally. This means “run and gun” situations and also film set scenarios where you can put your bag down.

The bag is great for both situations, the shape helps with organizing gear and keeping it in place, while the size is just right to be comfortable on your side. For calmer situations, like leaving it on a table, it’s a great hub for your gear.

My standard storage and "gear hub" setup: Canon 600D / EF-S 18-55mm / EF 50mm + EF-S 24mm.
My standard storage and “gear hub” setup: Canon 600D / EF-S 18-55mm / EF 50mm + EF-S 24mm.

According to Think Tank, these are the bag specs (and I can confirm they are accurate):

  • Interior Dimensions: 10.6” W x 8” H x 3.9” D (27 x 20.5 x 10 cm)
  • Exterior Dimensions:: 11” W x 8.9” H x 5.7” D (28 x 22.5 x 14.5 cm)
  • Smart Phone Slot: 2.8” W x 5” H x 0.6” D (7 x 12.7 x 1.6 cm)
  • iPad pocket: 9.8”W x 8.1”H x 0.9” D (25 x 20.5 x 2.3 cm)
  • Weight with all accessories: 1.0 lbs (0.5 kg)

It’s worth saying that for the size, price, and weight (500 grams!), this bag has an amazing capacity and is a great deal. But let’s see why.

Pockets and organization

There are a lot of pockets in the MM 30i. Maybe not as many as other lines like the Retrospective, but the ones you get are very useful and I haven’t really missed having more.

You get two side pockets which are great for lens caps, your phone, your wallet or tickets. Great for keeping things at hand. I specially like that each of the two are made of different materials. One is elastic canvas which makes it super quick access and allows you to fit bulkier stuff, I usually carry my phone here. The other one is regular nylon which does not stretch as much, so although it’s stiffer it’s also safer. Here I usually put lens caps, tickets or cash.

Under the main flap you’ll find a front zipper pocket with two flat divisions inside, you can fit a small memo book like a Field Notes in these. I usually put a pen, a Field Notes, wallet and keys.

The out of the box configuration puts the rain cover here, hooked into the elastic loop. But since it never rains here, I just leave that at home and use the space.

iPad pocket fits an A5 notebook and bigger.
iPad pocket fits an A5 notebook and bigger.

On the inside of the bag you’ll find two more pockets. One for an iPad (or A5 notebook), and one on the flap made of mesh fabric. The iPad pocket also works to store pointy things that don’t fit on the rest of the bag. For example, some times I throw my keys here so I can use the external zipper pocket for gear that I don’t want to scratch. Although my favorite use for this pocket is to fit the removable shoulder strap. This allows the bag to turn into a briefcase style carry without putting the brass buckles of the strap on top of all the precious gear.

The mesh pocket keeps its shape no matter what you throw in there, I like this. I have other bags with mesh pockets but they are made of cotton so they bulk and deform easily if you load them too much. This one is made of a tighter nylon grid that keeps the pocket from going too loose but also allows items to fit even if they are not perfectly flat. I usually put batteries and SD cards here.

Bulk in the main compartment can conflict with bulk in the mesh pocket.
Bulk in the main compartment can conflict with bulk in the mesh pocket.

There’s a catch with the mesh pocket though. If you put bulky things in it, other tall things that you put in the main compartment can crash with it. Say, if you put a flash or a glasses case, it can hit the top pocket and make it more difficult for the bag to close. It closes fine, but it bulks a bit.

20150530-img_6439

The dividers in the main compartment deserve a special mention. You get 3 dividers, two regular flat ones and one which is padded for you to fit a phone inside of it. It also has some smaller pockets around it for SD cards or other tiny things.

In my 2013 copy of the bag the divider seems more geared towards “older” iPhone models. That is, smaller screens. An iPhone 6 will fit just fine, but it’s clearly taller than this pocket was meant to hold, so it will look funny.

Bag space: Undetectable Extension Charm

Speaking of dividers, if you remove them, the bag is huge. And I mean huge. I know I keep hammering the point that the bag fits much more than it seems but let me tell you how I discovered how huge it is.

20150531-img_6453

I was coming back from a trip and my luggage was already full so I relocated some t-shirts into my carry on stuff. My carry on backpack was full too so I had to get creative. I folded about eight or nine t-shirts into squares and put them into the bottom of the bag. I managed to get eight t-shirts, my Canon 600D, my 18-55 zoom, the 50mm, and a RØDE VideoMic Pro. It all fit!

Simple setup.
Simple setup.

I’m convinced this bag has some kind of Undetectable Extension Charm.

The top handle

It’s fantastic. It seems odd to praise a handle, but this one is maybe the best positioned top handle I’ve used. Many bags and backpacks include a handle but they fail to position them correctly. Take the Nat Geo Africa Series A2540, its top handle is sewn into the seam between the top and back plates of the bag. This makes the bag “drop” forward when you use the handle. This awkward hang tends to hit you on the side, it’s odd. It’s by no means a deal killer, but I much prefer the one in the Think Tank bag.

20150530-img_6432

The removable strap

You never appreciate removable straps until you have them. Being able to completely hide the strap lets you fit the bag in overhead compartments, stack it with other bags. But what I like the most is that it saves you the hassle of resizing the strap when you are not carrying the bag on your shoulder. When I have to carry bags with sewn-in straps as briefcase style bags, I’m always worried that I’m gonna get the strap hooked into something and tear apart the bag, or worse, trip myself with it and kiss the ground.

As bonus points, having a removable strap lets you store different bags next to each other without worrying about getting the straps tangled up.

Gear profiles

Now let’s see what fits in the bag.

I’ll first say that I’m not a fan of stuffing shoulder bags with everything you can put in them. When you use them for transportation, sure, take some liberties, but when it’s gonna hang on your shoulder all day I suggest you rather keep things light with only the gear you really need. A camera with a lens, maybe a battery, glasses, phone, wallet. No reason to carry all your gear when you are just out for a walk.

Remember that more gear doesn’t mean better photos.

That said. Here are some “packed” combinations that can give you an idea of what you can put in the main compartment:

Canon 600D +EF-S18-55mm + EF 50mm + EF-S 24mm. My storage and film work setup. I usually add a RØDE VideoMic Pro and a camera strap here. Even then, there’s still plenty of room.

My standard storage and "gear hub" setup: Canon 600D / EF-S 18-55mm / EF 50mm + EF-S 24mm.
My standard storage and “gear hub” setup: Canon 600D / EF-S 18-55mm / EF 50mm + EF-S 24mm.

Canon 600D + EF-S18-55mm + EF 50mm +RØDEVideoMic Pro. Fine for an afternoon of shooting on the go. The RØDE is tricky to store but adjusting the dividers does the trick.

Simple setup.
Simple setup.

Fuji X-E2 +600D +XF18-55mm + EF 50mm +EF-S18-55mm +XF 27mm. The bulkiest setup I’ve ever put into this bag (t-shirts aside). Used when transporting both cameras from point A to B, not meant to be on my shoulder at all. Everything fits fine. And yes, there’s still free room. You could fit a camera strap there, even a mic.

20150531-img_0439

It’s worth noting that you can fit a camera strap on top of most of these setups, and maybe one or two non heavy things like sunglasses, a wallet, paper tissues, etc.

20150531-img_6469

In actual use

When doing photography work the bag is just fine, you can access gear, you have pockets to store stuff on the go, the dividers help with keeping things in one piece and quickly dropping your camera or lens in the bag.

The one fact I don’t like that much is that the zipper can act up some times when you are hanging the bag across your chest. The pull of the strap and the bag conforming to your hip will inevitably interfere with the zipper curvature once or twice. This is troublesome some times.

The problematic curve. I'm pulling the zipper but it's not moving. Reshaping the fabric a bit fixes the problem.
The problematic curve. I’m pulling the zipper but it’s not moving. Reshaping the fabric a bit fixes the problem.

To be fair this is not a big deal and not very common. Problem is that the zipper path gets misaligned and you can’t quickly “pull and close” the zipper, you have to align the canvas a bit before the zipper keeps going.

Also, you don’t really need to fully zip the bag when you are walking around shooting. The flap remains closed on top of the bag even if it’s unzipped. If you open it though, it will remain open

When unzipped, the flap tends to keep the position you give it: opened or closed. It's reliable.
When unzipped, the flap tends to keep the position you give it: opened or closed. It’s reliable.

Again, this is not a problem. Just a limitation of how I use the bag.

It’s also fair saying that this might be a problem of my particular copy of the bag. The zipper problem happens only on the right side, while the left side never exhibits this behavior.

With respect to size and form, I like it a lot. It’s a great form factor that doesn’t feel bulky or ridiculously tiny. The nylon material is water resistant and conforms to your body just fine. It also “flows” over other fabrics with no problem. I mean “flow” as opposed to canvas bags that are more friction prone when you are trying to quickly slide them around you when carrying them cross-shoulder.

The strap is comfortable too, the pad does a great job of distributing the weight even if it’s just a very thin pad. I guess the thinness helps distribute the weight better and faster.

I have never really regretted taking this to a shoot. It’s been all positive for me in that respect.

Conclusions

This is an amazing bag. When I first learned of Think Tank bags I had bag lust for the beautiful Retrospective line. I completely went over the then soon to be released Mirrorless Mover bags. But this is a completely underestimated line. It’s spacious, super functional, extremely light (an equivalent Retrospective weighs three times it), and tremendously cheap when compared to fancier options like Retrospective bags.

I’m very happy this bag found its way to my team in such a lucky manner. Like others, I had completely ignored this line just because it was not as “stylish” as the Retrospective line or other fancier bags like the Crumpler or Domke ones. For work, I would trade some of the style for this level of functionality, any day.

That said, the bag is not ugly by any means. There are certainly ugly bags and this is not one of those. It’s much more functional, yes, but it has a style of its own in that.

It’s like Hawkeye. In The Avengers: quiet, functional, underestimated. You just need to get to know him in Avengers: Age of Ultron to appreciate him.

Goods

  • Extremely light and spacious. One of the most efficient weight/space/price bags out there. It’s only 500 grams. That’s barely the weight of a bottle of water.
  • Side pockets, front zipper pocket, internal mesh and iPad pockets are fantastic to organize gear. Bonus points for the phone and SD card slots in one divider.
  • Removable strap and a perfectly placed top handle which lets you carry the bag vertically.
  • Brass rings for the removable strap and also pull tabs. Super handy for storing and retrieving the bag from overhead compartments, a car, or a typical photographer closet.

Bads

  • Zipper can act funky in the corners when the fabric is pulled in certain ways. Probably a bug in my copy.
  • The smartphone divider is a bit too tiny for recent phones with huge screens like the iPhone 6. Not really the bag’s fault.

I can recommend this bag many many times, check it out on Think Tank’s website:

One Reply to “Think Tank Photo Mirrorless Mover 30i: A two year review”

Comments are closed.