The ultimate photographer briefcase -- Think Tank Urban Disguise Field Test and Review

The ultimate photographer briefcase -- Think Tank Urban Disguise Field Test and Review

As a travel and nature photographer, I’m often carrying a large bag full of gear. But for many shorter trips, or for photo tours where I’ll only need shorter lenses, I’m always looking for the perfect travel photo bag that can double as my briefcase. It needs room for at least two cameras (I’m willing to check my third in a solid case or bring a rolling camera bag if I can carry a lot of gear on the plane), a few lenses, and at least one of my flashes. However, I also need to stash my laptop and papers in it – and these days even a tablet. So camera-only bags just don’t cut it. And most briefcases aren’t well suited as camera bags.



So I was excited to read about the Thinktank and anxious to try one out on my trip to report on CES and PMA. I knew I’d be walking several miles each day (my hotel was a mile each way from either show for starters), so I wanted a comfortable bag that still had enough room for all the gear I needed to report on, photograph, and then edit and upload my stories and photos. My laptop is a 14” model, so the was perfect. For a larger laptop I would have used the .



Easily accessible zip front divided front pocket on the Urban DisguiseI loaded The up with my laptop, a low-profile portable laptop charger, either my or (depending on whether I needed to shoot video that day), a mid-range zoom lens, my Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens for low-light portraits, my Nikon SB-900 speedlite, water bottle, paperwork, mouse, point and shoot I was reviewing, and various connecting cables and accessory chargers. There was even enough room to stash my tablet in the back of the camera compartment with my paperwork.

The bag was easy to use and everything in it was easy to get to. I really like the side ‘elastic’ pockets for quick storage of water bottles or small items vendors are handing out (press kits on USB drives are all the rage now – I wound up with 20 of them by the end of the shows).

Expandable front pockets on the Urban Disguise, capable of holding 1 or 2 DSLRsThe Urban Disguise also features an expansion zipper if you need to fit pro-size DSLRs in the bag (although it would start to really weigh on your shoulder if you go overboard loading it up in expanded mode), as well as expandable front pockets that you can divide into easy places to carry one or two cameras. Here too that puts a lot of weight far from your body so its something I’d only want to do for short movements.

The bag worked very well, holding up under the wear and tear perfectly and looking professional enough that I could look like a journalist with a camera when I wanted to in stead of an over-burdened PJ. The shoulder strap is quite good, but as with any bag that gets loaded up, if you fill it you’ll feel it on your shoulder. If that is going to bug you, definitely consider a .

Urban Disguise compared to Lowepro Classified 250 AW

Regular readers will know that I’ve been carrying my as a combination briefcase and photo bag since it was introduced. I still really like it for when I need the absolute maximum storage space for cameras, and heavy padding on all sides, but the lack of side pockets, inability to get at the front pocket without opening the main flap, and the bag’s overall bulk make it a little awkward when all I need is a briefcase with limited photo equipment.

Both bags are well designed overall, featuring a back “slot” for sliding onto a roller – a must have in any hand or shoulder bag I buy from now on.

The is about a pound lighter than the equivalent Classified, and also more modular, with the capability to attach various other Thinktank pouches and accessories. Personally I liked the easily accessible, but not padded, front zip pocket of the Urban Disguise for quick access to chargers, business cards, or other small items. But if you like the maximum in protection, or a more classic “stealth” styling, the padded cover that the Classified throws over all your gear is certainly a plus. The Classified has the trademark "AW” all-weather Lowepro cover hidden on the side of the bag nearest your shoulder, while Thinktank has a detachable version stashed in the front pouch.

In its favor, the offers a nicer mesh against your waist, which coupled with the added padding of the AW cover nestled next to it, makes for a more comfortable position for long hikes – I noticed the difference when walking some of the mile plus distances in Las Vegas with a heavily loaded bag.

Summary: If you’re looking for the ultimate photographer’s briefcase with room for a laptop, some camera gear, papers and some accessories, then the Urban Disguise is perfect. On the other hand, if you want more of a pure camera shoulder bag that also holds a laptop and documents, the Classified may be perfect for you.