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Review: Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic 10

by Mike Pouliot on 10/06/2012

Sling bags have become increasingly popular and most of the major camera bag manufacturers are making some variation of a sling bag. The problem is, most of these bags are pretty much the same; one strap goes across your chest and most provide quick/easy access to your gear. There may be one or two small features or styling queues that set them apart, but the core features of the bags are very similar. Thankfully, Think Tank Photo decided to try something different when they released their first set of sling bags, the Sling-O-Matic series.

What Makes the Sling-O-Matic Different

Think Tank has really thought outside of the box with the Sling-O-Matic. For many sling bag users, the most frustrating/annoying part of the sling bag is the single strap (kind of ironic). With most sling bags, you can only use the sling over one shoulder. Carrying several pounds of gear on one shoulder for even a few hours can be too much for many people. Think Tank to the rescue! Instead of creating another sling bag where you are confined to using one shoulder, the Sling-O-Matic series of bags allows you to swap the strap from one side to the other. Pretty slick! The best part is, you don’t have to spend five minutes ripping the bag appart to switch straps and buckles. Instead, you simply slide the strap down a series of “rails”, turn the bag around and you’re done. That was easy.

First Impressions

When I first laid eyes upon the Sling-O-Matic 10, I immediatly had the following thoughts:

  1. This bag is going to be too small for a basic kit. The storage portion of this bag looks to be slightly smaller than my Retrospective 10 which is probably the smallest shoulder bag I would recommend for a small kit, say body and 2-3 lenses plus accessories. Also, I didn’t think I would be able to fit my Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS into the bag with my other lesnes. This is a decent sized lens but it is by no means a monster.
  2. This bag is not exactly “good looking”; it’s a black box with a strap. Form/style matters to some than others. For me, I’d usually side on function over form but I’d prefer if style wasn’t completely thrown out the window.
  3. There is no way this is going to be comfortable…it’s basically a box with a strap on it.
  4. Build quality is outstanding. Like all Think Tank bags that I’ve used/owned, this bag is bombproof. All zippers, seams, straps and straps are all extremely well made. Durability will not be an issue here.
  5. There is little space for accessories. I usually like to carry light but I always bring at least a few accessories. This bag has limited space for accessories and you’ll see why once you watch the video. Basically, you can’t store anything on the front or back side of the bag other than papers as this side could be against your back.
Once I filled up the bag with my gear and started using the bag, many of my initial concerns were immediately dispelled. Check out the video for my full review.

Specifications

1 The photo industry’s first sling bag that can be easily switched back and forth to either shoulder.  Sling-O-Matic’s adjustable, fully padded shoulder strap “automatically” slides along a set of rails to change which shoulder the bag can be worn on.  With one smooth motion, the Sling-O-Matic can be quickly switched to the opposite shoulder without losing the characteristics that have made sling bags popular among photographers.
2 Gear access always stays on top, when the Sling-O-Matic is in front, no matter which shoulder the bag is carried over.  Part of the challenge of creating a “reversible” sling bag is to make sure that the access door to the photo equipment faces up when the bag swings forward.  No complex reconfiguration of the Sling-O-Matic is required.  Simply flip the bag over, open it up and start taking great photos!
gear spill Nikon 24 – 70 f/2.8, Nikon D700 mounted to a 105 f/2.8 Macro and a Nikon 14 – 24 f/2.8.
3 Fits a regular size DSLR with up to a 70 – 200 f/2.8 attached and the lens hood in shooting position with additional room for a flash or other slim accessories.
4 Discreetly stylized to avoid obviously appearing like a camera bag.  Going incognito is important when carrying expensive photo equipment.  Like other Think Tank bags, the Sling-O-Matic is all black on the outside so it won’t attract too much attention when the equipment is stowed away.
6 Up to a medium sized tripod can be carried on one side using the included tripod straps.  Each Sling-O-Matic includes two fully adjustable straps that attach to small, but secure, fabric loops on either side of the long pocket.  Depending on the size of the tripod legs, one or two of the legs can be inserted into the long pocket for additional stability.
7 Some small tripods can simply be carried in the long pocket, without using the tripod straps.
5 Long side pocket for carrying a large water bottle or other bulky accessories.
8 Large handles on three sides help to swing the bag around or just carry it in hand.
9 Wide zippered pockets on front, back, and side for carrying a newspaper, airline boarding passes, or other items.
10 Business card pocket on the top for carrying a short stack of business cards.
11 Attach the included “chest strap” for additional stability while walking around.
12 The adjustable side of the chest strap can be used as a waist strap, if preferred.
13 A small pocket on the bottom of the Sling-O-Matic is available for storing any of the removable straps.
14 A selection of padded dividers are included to partition the Sling-O-Matic’s interior for different types of gear.
15 A seam-sealed rain cover is included for protecting the Sling-O-Matic and its contents from heavy rain, dust or snow.

 

Video Tour

Conclusion

When this bag first arrived, I thought it was going to be too small and uncomfortable to use for most people’s needs. But after using the bag for several weeks, I have to admit that this bag surpassed my expectations. Below are my thoughts after putting the bags through it’s paces:

  1. It’s not too small! It holds a decent sized kit (see my kit below) with no problems
  2. I found this bag to be more comfortable to use than my Think Thank Photo Retrospective 10 (my daily use shoulder bag). I no longer get sore shoulders when carrying the my kit for several hours which means more shooting!
  3. The quality of the materials and construction is second to none.
  4. It comes with a rain cover. This is a little thing, but I like that Think Tank includes with most of their bags.
  5. The looks of the bag have grown on me, but I still don’t think it’s a very pretty bag. I think it looks better on than it does just sitting on the ground. But after you use the bag and it saves your shoulder from carrying the load of your camera all day, you will quickly forgive this bag for its looks.
  6. Space for accessories is pretty limited and that is the price you pay for having a strap that can swap shoulders. This is a major concern for me as I was able to take the accessories I have listed below but this may not be enough space for others. If you shoot video or you carry a ton of filters and other goodies, you may want to look at one of the larger Sling-O-Matic bags as the 10 has limited space for accessories.
  7. Plenty of handles in the right places. This one may seem kind of strange, but having handles in the right places makes a huge difference. You can quickly and easily grab this bag when needed regardless of its position.

If you’re in the market for a sling bag, you seriously need to take a look at the Sling-O-Matic series. I’ve tested several sling bags and you’ll be hard pressed to find a bag that is as well thought-out and engineered as the Sling-O-Matic series. They come in three sizes (10, 20 & 30) with the largest of the bunch having the capacity for a 15.4″ laptop.

Kit Used for Testing:

Personal Thoughts

I do my best to stay objective when writing reviews but readers often ask for my personal input on the items I review which is why I’vd add the “Personal Thoughts” section. So, what are my thoughts on the Sling-O-Matic 10? Well, besides its awesome name, I personally think this is one of, if not the best sling bag on the market. I used to own one of the Kata’s 3N1 bags which are awesome as they can transform from a backpack to a sling bag, but the construction and materials used are not in the same ballpark as the Sling-O-Matic. So, at this point, it’s pretty obvious that I like this bag. I can really sum up my feelings for this bag in saying that this is now only one of two bags that I use for my DSLR kit. I’ve had quite the problem in the past with collecting camera bags. Recently, I decided to move to the “less is more” mantra as I promised my wife I would cut down on the clutter around the house. I decided to start with camera bags. I went from roughly 7 bags to two. So for a bag to survive to the final two, it has to be really, really good.  The two surviving bags are the Think Tank Photo Shapeshifter and the Think Tank Photo Sling-O-Matic 10. For me, these bags fit my needs perfectly and they are an essential part of my photography arsenal.

Additional Images

 

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