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    • By Dallas
      MindShiftGear is the sister company to ThinkTankPhoto, a company I have come to admire and respect over the past couple of years, not only for the personal support they give me, but because they produce really good products for us photographers.
      Recently they asked me if I would like to receive an early sample of their Sister company’s new FirstLight range of backpacks. These are designed to accommodate large lenses for various camera systems and come in three sizes, namely the 20L, 30L and 40L. Each size is designed to allow you to use it within the airline carry on dimension restrictions, as well as to keep your biggest glass safe, with or without a camera body attached.
      A Very Comfortable Backpack
      I opted to receive the 20L version of the bag for my mirrorless system. When it arrived I was immediately impressed with the design and also the attention to detail in the finishes. This somewhat slender pack is made out of very nice materials. The next thing that impressed me is the comfort when wearing it. I’ve used many backpacks in the past from a number of makers and they all had the same thing in common: they were uncomfortable to walk around with for long periods of time. This one from MindShift I can see myself being able to wear on long walks and hikes into the bush/mountains without much bother. It really is comfortable.

      What Can You Put In It?
      The main purpose of the design of this bag is to accommodate your biggest telephoto lenses with some smaller lenses or other items on the sides. Currently my biggest lens is my recently acquired Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0. This lens is a bit of a monster weighing close to 2kg mainly because of its super fast constant aperture (a whole stop faster than the typical 70-200mm f/2.8 form other makers). In the image below you will see that it is attached to an E-M1 with an MMF-2 adapter and the massive hood is not reversed. Also in the bag are numerous other lenses, including the new 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO. The literature for the bag states that you can fit a 200-400mm f/4 lens in this space without a body attached, or a 300mm f/2.8 with one attached. I think you definitely can, plus you could also fit in a few other lenses too.

      Included in the bag shot above are:
      Olympus E-M1 (sans grip)
      Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0
      Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO
      Olympus 1.4x teleconverter
      Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye
      Olympus 75mm f/1.8
      Olympus FL-600R flash (in its bag)
      Panasonic/Leica 45mm f/2.8 Macro-Elmarit
      Panasonic 14-45mm f/3.5-4.5 (normally my 12-40mm 2.8 PRO would go in there but I was using it for these product shots)
      Olympus 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 (upright)
      For mirrorless users like myself it means I can take a variety of lenses from my system at any time and comfortably carry them in this bag. The first time I took it out with me I had 2 E-M1 bodies, one with this beast of a 35-100mm attached and the other without a lens attached. I had the 75-300mm II standing upright in one of the smaller compartments as shown and space/weight wasn’t an issue. I could have put a lot more in, but in the wisdom of my years these days I only take what I know I am going to use on a shoot.
      Other Features
      The bag comes with a few additional features that adventure photographers will find useful. If you’re planning on taking a tripod with you on your hike (which you should definitely do if you’re hiking for landscape reasons) you can attach it to the backpack with supplied straps that neatly tuck away in the top and bottom of the bag. At the bottom they have put a pocket that you can rest your tripod feet in so that it doesn’t slip off while you are walking.


      Above: this adjustable strap tucks away neatly into a slip pouch on top of the pack.
      Built into the main flap are 2 large external pockets, the larger of which is able to accommodate a laptop and the smaller of which can be used to put other smaller personal items into. There’s also a small pocket just below the handle at the top of the bag.

      You will also see that the various strap lugs have hinged locks on them which when clamped down stop any creep that you would experience with the usual folding type strap lug.

      At the bottom of the pack there are some elasticated lugs that are useful to attach other items you might be hiking with.
      Travelling With The FirstLight
      An interesting feature with the Firstlight backpacks is that you can fold the waist harness flaps around and secure them with the buckle across the main flap of the case. This is quite handy for travelling and also if like me you will be using the bag on lesser walks where they will just get in the way. In my assessment of areas where I think the FirstLight can be improved I mentioned to them that something I would really like to see in a future backpack is the ability to completely remove the harness by zipper and possibly replace it with a sling. That would increase the utility of this range to cover not only outdoor photography that involves hiking, but also make the bag totally urban too.

      Final Assessment
      This is a super pack for photographers with smaller kits who are looking for both utility and style in their camera transportation. One slight downside I have discovered with the 20L is that if you pack a camera with a grip attached it sits a little proud of the dividers. The flap will still close around the camera, but this doesn’t leave much space for you to fit your laptop into the front pocket. Granted I am using a slightly thicker 13” MacBook Pro (2012 non-retina version) which I always keep in a Thule protection shell, so for safari purposes this version of the bag might not be ideal for me. A slightly bigger 30L is currently on its way to me and will most definitely be my choice of bag for when I fly off to Botswana in September to join the Wild Waterways Safari.
      If you have any questions about the FirstLight 20L please pop them in the comments below and if you are looking to buy one directly from MindShift using the link provided below you will be helping to support Fotozones. You'll also find all the technical details about the pack on that page.
      Buy your FirstLight 20L using this link and Fotozones will get a percentage of the proceeds, which I will give back to the community in rewards for content contributors or prizes.
      More photos:

      Adjustable harness height for the taller hikers.

      Side view showing pockets on the side that can be used to store water bottles and other items. I have the supplied rain cover in this pouch.


      I love these zipper tags. They make it really easy to open and close the pack. the handle on the top is also very comfortable to hold.

      Top quality nylon material is used on the pack.

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