Still, all in all, the new bags have much going for them. I chose to review the smallest of these, the Spectral 8, since it’s primarily aimed at the mirrorless camera (as well as compact DSLR) user and I wanted to address a market segment I tend to overlook. The two larger bags, Spectral 10 and Spectral 15, address more robust DSLRs, but without grips.
The Spectral 8 has a fairly slim profile. There’s only one outside pocket on this bag beyond the cover flap – elastic mesh for a small water bottle. The larger bags in the series have a full width/full depth outer sleeve as well. Not sure why this was omitted on the smallest bag. You can never have too many outside pockets.
There’s also a small padded handle on top, but the main mode of carry is obviously the shoulder strap. Sadly, the Spectral series returns to the more conventional sliding pad, in contrast to the narrow, elongated sewn-in-place pad on the Signature. The pad is wide and stiff, but you can still wear the bag cross-body (sling-style). However, the non-slip strip could have been extended for a larger gripping surface.
In contrast to the Signature series, the Spectral bags can carry a tripod. A pair of tripod straps are included. They attach on the bottom. Granted, this does make setting the bag down on any surface somewhat cumbersome, but it sure beats having to carry a tripod by hand or in a separate bag. You’d do best with compact tripods, especially for this small bag.
Where can I get more info?
Think Tank Photo Spectral Series
Manufacturer (use this link to order):
Think Tank Photo
The cover flap has a magnetic clasp. Nice touch. Pull a tab to release; just drop the flap back down and it should close on its own. I would have preferred this mode of closure to the metal buckles used on the Signature, although it doesn’t reflect the same level of chic. (I’m always afraid the metal buckles will come crashing down on the camera’s LCD when I use the Signature.)
Lift the flap and you come to a small outer sleeve that will hold a cell phone of any popular size. Behind that is a zippered pocket designed to hold an 8” tablet, or accessories, such as maps, a guide book, and such. Sleeves within the pocket will hold spare batteries and a memory card wallet. (The larger bags will carry 10” tablets, and the 15” bag will carry a laptop.)
Before we go inside, we encounter a secondary cover flap. As on the Signature, this one is zippered and designed to keep out prying hands, as well as the elements. Unlike the one on the Signature, it’s not pleated (which would have been nice – to accommodate lenses that protrude just a bit when standing on end).
Open this second flap to access your gear. You can leave it open and fastened to the cover flap via a Velcro-style hook-and-loop attachment, or tuck it into a sleeve inside the cover flap. To be practical, don’t tuck this inner lid away. Instead, use that additional pocket as a “secret” compartment for valuables (it closes with hook-and-loop fastener). By the way, I prefer this arrangement to the one used in the Signature bags.
If you use a sling strap that fastens to the camera’s tripod socket, you may be able to leave it attached, since there is enough room for it.
One convenience feature carried over from the Signature line of bags is the trolley sleeve (luggage-handle pass-through). This lets you easily piggyback the bag on your roller luggage.
The inside of the Spectral may not be as tricked out as that of the Signature series, but it certainly is functional.
The bag easily supports a body with attached lens, and because the camera with lens is suspended from a platform consisting of two padded dividers, it’s an easy grab on the run. There’s also room for an extra lens or two or three (depending on size), and possibly an external flash. There is certainly room to squeeze in a sub-compact flash.
Additional dividers let you stack small items. All the dividers are movable, making the interior fully customizable.
How much is it?
I gave the bag to a friend with an Olympus mirrorless outfit. She cradled the super-compact Pen E-PL6 with attached 14-42mm lens atop the supporting dividers and stowed the 40-150mm lengthwise bottom left. The 9mm fisheye found a secure berth as well, along with a variety of accessories, including a sling strap.
Her one complaint: the bag was too wide for a camera this compact. But she found a way around that, securing the camera in place with one or two pouches filled with accessories. Still, from her expression, she would have been happier with a slimmer bag.
Next came the Manfrotto Compact Action tripod.
I attached the tripod straps (included) to the bottom of the bag and my friend fastened the tripod in place. As she shouldered the bag and started walking around with it, she did note that the tripod didn’t appear to be held as securely as she would have liked. In fact, she’d resolved to carry the tripod separately, just to be safe. Perhaps, with time, we could have figured out a way to secure the tripod to the bag that would have made her more comfortable, but time was short and we had to be somewhere.
I should note that she otherwise found the bag a good fit, even when worn sling fashion. My initial impression was that the stiff, wide shoulder pad might lead to some discomfort, but she found it quite comfortable. The Spectral 8 suited her well.
Who Should Use This?
Amateur photographers; photojournalists, news photographers, documentary photographers, street photographers, and travel photographers carrying a light load; the Spectral 8 in particular is ideally suited to mirrorless and compact DSLR systems with small to modest-size lenses (larger Spectral bags for pro-size DSLRs without grip).
Affordable, well designed, and somewhat fashionable; a practical shoulder bag; weather-resistant on its own, with rain cover (included) for serious downpours; Spectral 8 is well suited to a mirrorless or compact DSLR system with a smattering of lenses, albeit a bit roomy for sub-compact mirrorless bodies.
Unlike the much more costly Signature series with its leather accents, the comfortably-priced Spectral series is low-key. Yet the Spectral does carry a certain degree of panache with it.
More important than looks is functionality. The bag wears well and is easy to work out of.
- Tablet pocket (Spectral 8: 8”, Spectral 10 & 15: 10”)
- Phone pocket sized for today’s large phones
- Tripod attachment points and straps
- Highest quality materials (metal hardware, YKK RC Fuse zippers, 420D velocity nylon) and the highest quality construction
- Luggage handle pass-through
- Comfortably padded non-slip shoulder strap for all day comfort
- Customizable divider layout with dividers for stacking short lenses
- Water bottle pocket
- Seam-sealed rain cover included
- 15” Laptop compartment (Spectral 15 only)
MATERIALS per Think Tank Photo
Exterior: All fabric exterior treated with durable water resistant coating while fabric underside is coated with polyurethane for superior water resistance. The bag also has YKK RC Fuse (abrasion resistant) zippers, 420D velocity nylon, double PU coated P600D, heavy-duty nylon tarpaulin, UltraMesh pockets, antique plated metal hardware, Fidlock mangetic buckle, 350G 3D air mesh, 3-ply bonded nylon thread
Interior: PE board reinforced removable closed cell foam dividers, 200D liner, PU backed nylex liner, 2x PU coated nylon 210T seam-sealed taffeta rain cover, 3-ply bonded nylon thread
PRODUCT SPECIFICATIONS per Think Tank Photo
- Internal Dimensions: 10.2” W x 7.5” H x 4.9” D (26 x 19 x 12.5 cm)
- Exterior Dimensions: 11” W x 8.3” H x 6.1” D (28 x 21.2 x 15.5 cm)
- Tablet Compartment: 8.3” W x 5.5” H x 0.6” D (21 x 14 x 1.5 cm)
- Weight: 1.7 lb (0.8 kg)
- Internal Dimensions: 13” W x 9.1” H x 4.9” D (33 x 23 x 12.5 cm)
- Exterior Dimensions: 13.8” W x 10” H x 6.1” D (35 x 25.5 x 15.5 cm)
- Tablet Compartment: 10.4” W x 7.6” H x 0.6” D (26.5 x 19.2 x 1.5 cm)
- Weight: 2.2 lb (1.1 kg)
- Internal Dimensions: 15.3” W x 9.8” H x 5.1” D (39 x 25 x 13 cm)
- Exterior Dimensions: 16.1” W x 12.6” H x 6.3” D (41 x 32 x 16 cm)
- Tablet Compartment: 12.6” W x 7.6” H x 0.8” D (32 x 19.2 x 2 cm)
- Laptop Compartment: 14.1” W x 9.6” H x 1” D (36 x 24.5 x 2.5 cm)
- Weight: 2.5 lb (1.2 kg)