- Buyer's Guide
I was heading off overseas and I was looking for a pack that combined both space for a camera (plus extra lens) and room to carry my day trip essentials. A simple proposition but a lot of the bags I looked at missed the mark, either focusing too much on camera space (and skimping on general multiuse space), lacking enough protection and structure for my camera, or going the other way and being just too big to be practical. The MindShift Gear rotation180° Panorama seemed to tick most of the boxes I was after so I was more than happy to make it my travel pack and put it through the wringer.
The rotation180° Panorama comes in two colourways, Charcoal and Tahoe Blue. I was running the Charcoal, as the Tahoe Blue was a little loud for my taste, plus I was traveling and wanted my camera gear to remain inconspicuous whilst in transit. The touches of green throughout the bag are used like a navigation system around the pack, highlighting things that are adjustable like zip pull-tabs, tripod supports and other adjustable straps. It’s a clever touch that whilst subtle, stands out from the monochromatic backpack itself. I think it’s a good-looking backpack. It has an outdoor feel but didn’t look out of place when I was in a more urban environment. It doesn’t project that it’s a ‘camera’ backpack, which I think is a good thing. And while it’s got many features, pockets, sections etc, you wouldn’t really know from looking at the outside; again a good thing in my mind.
What’s Special About It
The main point of difference with this camera pack is its rotating beltpack that lets you gain access to your camera gear without having to take your pack off. Having never run this sort of system I was really keen to give it a go. My concern prior to testing was whether the system was going to operate smoothly – unlatching something that you can’t really see that’s located behind your hip seemed like it might be hit and miss. But within one minute of putting on the pack I was really comfortable with the system; after a day it was second nature.
There’s a magnetized latch that you slide down with your thumb to unlock (it can’t just be pulled directly out, so accidentally undoing it is unlikely). But the great thing about it is you don’t need to line up the latch to get it back in because it’s magnetized, so once it’s within an inch of the device it automatically clicks in. Once I was used to the system I could have my camera in hand and be shooting with 10 seconds, even quicker if I needed. And although I’d rarely rushed my camera out it was just nice to be able to gain access that easily and I think it probably made me shoot more because I didn’t need to take my pack off each time.
Who It Suits
The traveller: Fitting comfortably within carry-on restrictions, the rotation180° Panorama is a great fit for a jetsetter with a DSLR. Chiefly because there’s room for camera gear and also sufficient room for a Lonely Planet, packed lunch, water bottle and a light jacket.
The outdoor photographer (amateur or pro): From MindShift’s catch line “Engage with Nature”, I think this is the market that they’re aiming for, and in my opinion they’ve nailed it. Although MindShift Gear offers a rotation180° Professional model, I think the Panorama is up to the rigours of professional use, just in a smaller package. For me it hits a nice sweet spot before it gets too cumbersome. The pack is really well-prepared for the outdoors. All exterior materials are water resistant and the underside of the fabric has a polyurethane coating. There’s also a rain cover that still allows the rotating belt to fully operate.
People who need quick access: Journalist, sports or wildlife photographer.
Who It Doesn’t Suit
There are limitations with what you can fit in the pack. Outdoor or sport photographers with larger telephoto lenses will struggle to fit what they need.
It is probably overkill if you’ve just got a DSLR with a single lens. There are better, more compact options out there.
The rotation system: I’ve already covered this but it really is its best point.
The fit: Fully adjustable shoulder straps and waist straps along with an internal aluminum frame make this pack really customizable. After I adjusted the length of the shoulder straps it was comfortable and good to go. The back panel is a memory foam back panel with air mesh channels. I travelled during a Japanese Winter so keeping my back cool wasn’t really a concern.
Pockets: You’ve got a top pocket for quick access to small items. I thought this pocket could have opened wider so that I could get a better view of everything that was in there. But saying that, there’s no rigid structure in this part of the pack so items could start falling out.
The upper section of the pack can be accessed from the top. As stated before it’s good for extra clothes, lunch etc. And there’s an elastic divider against the back wall which I used for a passport, cash, itinerary, etc.
Flexibility: There is the option to expand your camera carrying ability through an insert that fits into the upper section, the r180º Panorama Photo Insert.
Hydration reservoir: There’s a side pocket for a hydration reservoir. This space expands when the hydration reservoir is inserted. So when it’s empty (like mine was most of the time) you hardly notice it’s there. When I was travelling I sometimes used this space to store a water bottle – it kept it separate from all other items and ensured it wouldn’t fall out.
Rain protection: I had a chance to test the pack in rain and snow and water never got into the internals of the pack. Admittedly it wasn’t monsoonal but even without the rain cover the pack offers solid water protection.
Protection and durability: There’s good padding in and around your camera gear. And with five months of use the pack still remains true to its original shape.
The Not So Good
Zip pull-tab broke: Unfortunately a zip pull-tab broke on my first day of testing the pack – the hardened plastic loop came off on one side. I don’t know if this was a true reflection of the product because after that I made a conscious effort to use the remaining pull-tabs with purpose and five months later every one of them is still intact. Possibly just bad luck with the pack I got.
Don’t forget to buckle up your waist strap! A couple of times I forgot to buckle up my waist strap and went to take out the rotator belt and ended up with my rotator pack on the ground. This isn’t really a niggle, I just need to pay more attention!
Other Bags To Consider
There are some other bags photographers may be interested in too such as the Timbuk2 Espionage Camera Backpack, the Crumpler Karachi Outpost and the Kata 3N1-10 DL.
I am a convert. I’d played around with comparable systems in sling-style camera backpacks in the past but they’d always seemed a little precarious when you were getting out your valuable camera gear. The rotation180° Panorama system feels really safe when you’re getting your camera out. I also think the size was spot on for my purposes – small enough for a daypack you can carry all day, but still enough capacity to carry what I needed. I’m not sure I’d use it when I need to carry a lot of gear but for getting into the great outdoors or travel it’s become my pack of choice. Highly recommended.
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