My first impressions of the Think Tank Airport Acceleration v2 backpack were very good: it’s clearly built to a very high standard with a tough exterior, good quality zips, decent padding and comfortable straps. It looks and feels confident, without ever screaming ‘camera bag’ to passers-by.
I’d carefully researched the dimensions, but was still relieved to find it swallowing all my gear without a problem. I was particularly impressed to find the Canon 500mm f4L IS USM lens squeezing-in when mounted on an EOS 7D body, while still leaving room for two entry-level DSLRs, each with their own zooms alongside. Indeed I also managed to squeeze in two Rode microphones and a small pair of binoculars – see photo below.
Fully loaded with all this kit, the bag weighed just over 20Kg (without a laptop), but felt surprisingly comfortable on my back. I lugged this configuration around for an entire week, never leaving my person, and even managed a short hike from the Golden Gate Bridge up to the Marin Headlands for a view you can see in my Canon EF 500mm f4L IS USM review.
On the Space Shuttle launch day, when additionally accompanied by three tripods and an umbrella chair, I began to struggle, but by itself, the bag was again surprisingly easy to carry considering its contents. I’d recommend it for anyone needing to carry this amount of kit in a fairly discreet fashion. Stood-up, it also served as a handy platform to take some weight from the 500mm for handheld shots.
It’s also smaller than it looks, especially with the laptop sleeve removed, squeezing into overhead domestic airline baggage compartments as advertised, and always shocking passers-by when opened to reveal the monstrous 500mm within. I also enjoyed the speed with which you could remove the laptop sleeve for x-ray inspection, allowing you to breeze through airport security.
Of the few downsides, I’d highlight the basic clip which keeps the front pocket (and access to the laptop sleeve) closed, the surprisingly small stretchy side pocket, and the main compartment opening from the front rather than the back; since the bag needs to be removed for access, there’s no reason for the zipper not to be on the back-side, preventing anyone from opening it while it’s being carried.
If you’re used to traditionally-shaped backpacks, you’ll also find the Acceleration very boxy, but this in turn maximises the internal area and flexibility. Likewise you may miss having rollers as you pass through the airport, but again this maximises capacity – and Think Tank does offer alternative models with rollers if preferred.
Overall I was very impressed by the Airport Acceleration and can highly recommend it as a large, but discreet camera backpack that’s ideal for frequent flyers.