ThinkTank PhotoCross 13 Backpack Review

Update! A more comfortable way to sling the bag across your body for ground-free work.

ThinkTank recently announced the PhotoCross 13 Backpack camera bag. Watch the video for my full review. If you’re pressed for time - the bag is a winner. Excellent build quality, very good capacity for its size, and comfortable to wear. I have a nit or two with the bag (when is a bag or any piece of photo gear perfect), yet I fully recommend the PhotoCross 13 Backpack.

 

If you prefer reading, here are my thoughts and observations about this bag after using it. Enjoy!

ThinkTank PhotoCross 13 Backpack, Loaded

 

ThinkTank PhotoCross 13 Backpack, Unloaded

Know Your Bag’s Mission

I do not believe there is “one bag to rule them all”. A photo bag serves a purpose. My mission with the PhotoCross 13 Backpack is a smaller daypack to carry a camera or two and my laptop. I prefer a backpack style bag so weight is evenly distributed across my shoulders. Sling bags tend to throw me off kilter after a few hours of using them. The PhotoCross 13 fits my mission nicely.

Capacity

ThinkTank PhotoCross 13 Backpack, Loaded

The PhotoCross 13 is a side-access style bag. For a slim bag, the PhotoCross 13 can hold a lot of gear. Here is what I fit into this bag without overstuffing it:

  • Sony A7Rii w/ 24-70mm lens (mounted)

  • Sony 70-200mm lens (unmounted)

  • Sony A6400 w/ 16-50mm lens(mounted)

  • Rode Wireless Go system & lav mic

  • Sony RX0

  • Platypod Ultra w/ Benro ballhead

  • Haida M10 Filter Holder w/ polarizer and 4-stop ND

  • 13” MacBook Pro

  • Batteries, memory cards, cleaning cloths, and business cards

ThinkTank PhotoCross 13 Backback, Empty

I configured the interior into four chambers. One chamber is for a full frame body and lens (mounted), another for my vlogging camera & lens, and a third for a long lens. Depending on the nature of a given outing, the long lens can be swapped with a wide angle.

The fourth chamber is for “extra stuff”. By “extra stuff” is the bulkier items such as a Platypod Ultra, a small ballhead, and so on. The zipper pouches on the inside of the side flap carry the batteries and memory cards. The outer pouch is where I stow my filters.

The PhotoCross 13 Backpack also comes with tripod straps. You can side mount the tripod by sticking one of the tripod legs in the side water pouch. You can also strap the tripod down the center of the bag for a more balanced carrying method. Because the bag is slim, adding a tripod into the mix is a little awkward. In practice, I bring the Platypod along for situations I can’t handhold and leave the tripod behind when using this back. (Again, know your bag’s mission!)

Build Quality & Comfort

I expect great build quality from ThinkTank and the PhotoCross 13 meets those expectations. The outer materials are sturdy, scuff proof, and water proof. The backpack comes with a rain cover. Note the rain cover won’t work well with a tripod - it’s going to cover the shell of the backpack only.

The stitching is very strong. I pulled on the bag handles with a lot of force to test the stitching. We pick up bags by a single handle or strap and for those moments all of the bag weight is concentrated. Stitch quality is important and this bag delivers.

The PhotoCross 13 is also very comfortable to wear. The shoulder straps are well padded and sufficiently wide, distributing the bag’s weight evenly across the shoulders. The straps are easily adjusted to raise or lower the bag on your back to suit you. The PhotoCross 13 also includes a waist belt. Because the bag is small and (for me) isn’t packed with 40+ pounds of gear, I found the belt to be unnecessary. It’s removable, so I removed it.

The “necklace” approach to gear access is uncomfortable

The “necklace” approach to gear access is uncomfortable

 
All the bag’s weight is focused on your neck. It’s not good.

All the bag’s weight is focused on your neck. It’s not good.

The one facet of the bag I found uncomfortable is its “necklace” method to access gear. The bag instructions show how to drape the PhotoCross 13 around your neck and then unzip the side to get your camera. Doing this puts a lot of weight on a small surface area of your neck. It’s uncomfortable and I wouldn’t do it except in a pinch to quickly grab a photo.

Keeping one shoulder strap on and propping the backpack on your knee to fetch your gear is much more comfortable. Of course, you can also put the bag on the ground and then get your gear.

PhotoCross 13 Backpack Verdict

The ThinkTank PhotoCross 13 Backpack is a great choice for a camera daypack. It’s slim form factor stays out of your way (and others), it’s very comfortable to wear, and it carries a healthy amount of gear for its size. The build quality is excellent. Stitching and zippers are strong and the material is scuff and water resistant.

My primary gripe with the bag is the “necklace” advice to access your gear without putting down the bag. It’s uncomfortable and puts strain on your neck. Yes, it can be done, but it’s not something I’d do for more than a moment or two. Get that shot… and then get the bag back on your shoulders.

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