It's been a couple months now since I purchased the Rotation 180 Professional backpack from the folks over at Mindshift Gear (sister company of ThinkTank Photo). I was hoping to get this review done a while back, but shortly after it arrived, my camera and such got destroyed by a wave and I was without for quite a while. Didn't have much of a chance to use it! Now that I have had ample time to use it and run it through the paces, here's my review. There are a lot of pictures to go along with this.
If you don't want to read the full review here's the short version. This is a fantastic backpack that is super comfortable both loaded and empty and get's a highly recommended vote from me. You can tell there was a lot of research and thought put into this bag in every aspect. The only caveat I can think of is that it's a little large for an every day bag, but that is not why I bought this one.
When I went looking for another backpack, I was after just couple specific capabilities.
- Needed to allow quick access to my camera and an additional lens
- Have enough room inside and attachment options for overnight camping gear
When I first heard about the Rotation 180, I was quite intrigued. It had this very cool sounding rotation piece that rotates from within the backpack to the front giving you access to whatever is in there without the need to remove the backpack. Living on the coast and frequently shooting in knee high water, this sounded great. The rotation part is the key feature of this bag, but it is chock-full of subtle features that make a huge difference.
When you put the bag on your back, buckle the waist strap, you are now able to rotate this pack around. There is this neat magnetic clip that holds the flap of the bag securely. It's surprisingly easy to use and can be done without looking almost immediately. There's even a picture right on the strap for the clip to show you how to slide it out. When closing it again, you just have to get it close and it snaps right back into place. The rotating pack can be completely removed and worn by itself if you're one that doesn't mind getting the fanny pack jokes from your friends. There is also a tether on the pack that keeps it clipped to the main bag so you don't accidentally drop it or something, and it's very easy to unclip for removal.
On the outside of the rotating pack, you'll find a small pouch attached to t he strap that's large enough to hold some smaller items like a flashlight, batteries, memory cards, or anything else you can think of. On the front of the pack, you'll find a pocket and inside is a rain cover specifically for the rotating piece. Don't worry, there is also one for the main backpack as well on one of the side pockets. It even allows for use of the rotating pack while being covered. This part was a wonderful surprise. I fully expect a quality bag to have a rain cover, but to include one for the smaller pack, and still allow full use of the rotation aspect was beyond what I expected.
Inside the pouch you'll find a few removable dividers and a couple smaller more sleeve style pockets. This pack holds my Canon 6D with 24-105 attached, a 16-35 lens and still has enough room for some smaller items like a spare battery, filters, and things of that nature. There is also a mesh pocket on the lid/flap of the pack. In the picture below you'll see my 6D with 24-105, a 40mm 2.8 pancake, Yongnuo 560II flash and a few filters. Since the dividers can be rearranged or removed, it's easy to fit a larger lens in there as well if required.
There are pockets and attachment loops everywhere on this bag. There is also a handful of accessories you can purchase separately to go with the Rotation 180. One such extra is the Tripod Suspension Kit. This suspension kit is a real easy and secure way to carry your tripod while still having quick access to using it. In fact, you can still leave the clips attached to the tripod and use it if you wanted to! You attach a strap with a loop to your tripod, then the straps themselves to the backpack, attach the clips to the loop, and place 1 or 2 tripod legs through the elastic loop on the side of the backpack. This allows the tripod to be suspended in a comfortable way with very quick access.
There are two other ways you're able to attach a tripod or anything of that nature to this bag. You can use the side pouch on the bag and secure it up higher with strap. I personally don't use it this way since the weight makes it feel lopsided, but it is there if one were to require that. The third way is with the removable tripod cup/sling on the front center of the bag. You can slide anywhere from 1-3 legs into the sling and secure it up higher with another strap. My tripod legs don't have the rotating locks, so it only fits one leg comfortably into the sling, then you can either do as I did and leave the 2 out front, or flip that and put them between the sling and the bag.
A smaller more travel oriented tripod would be a better fit for traveling distances than the one I'm using here. Even with it's size though, it sits securely and out of the way when I can't use the suspension kit.
Another accessory that I've purchased are the attachment straps for attaching additional items. With these I am able to attach my sleeping bag and tent and other items that typically don't go in the bag. Sure with all of this attached and full the bag weighs a fair bit, but it is still very comfortable thanks to all of the adjustment straps practically everywhere you can think of, and then some.
This bag has so many intricacies I'm going to forget a bunch of them. There are attachment loops on the shoulder straps, on the front of the bag, on the bottom of the bag, and on the waist strap that the rotation pack is a part of. The buckle on the chest strap even has a whistle built into it.
The part of the bag that rests against your back has thick padding that remains comfortable for hours on end and the same goes for the shoulder straps and waist straps. I've worn this bag for several hours and it never became uncomfortable. My body itself was getting worn out before I felt like I needed to adjust the bag or take it off. Comfort will not be an issue for most people with this bag.
The zippers are high quality, large and easy to use with or without gloves thanks to the loops on the end of each and every zipper on the main bag and the rotation part. There's 2 pockets on each side of the bag, on one on the top of the bag. There's also a larger one on the front of the bag that expands quite a bit and can easily fit a lightweight outer shell. One of the side pockets is designed for a hydration pouch with a slot to allow the drinking hose to come out the top. The others are big enough to hold a few hats and gloves of varying warmth depending on the conditions you'll be in.
Inside the main compartment there's a ton of room. There's a padded photo insert you can purchase separately that can house loads of additional camera gear. I do not use this as it holds other items I carry with me all the time. The large Cokin X-Pro filter set, my Neo overshoes, additional layers or clothing, and other items depending on the outing I have planned.
This is easily the best photo backpack I have used. It fits all the needs I was after and the rotation part truly is great. It has been used many times in an environment where I simply could not take the bag off to change lenses or filters. It is a bit large for short every day use, but when I settled on this bag, I had bigger needs in mind and it's perfect for those. The only other downside that I can think of while using this for a couple months is that the rotating pack gets a little harder to rotate back into place when you pack it full/overfill it. However that isn't what I'd consider a true negative since it works just fine if you use it within it's limits and not over stuff it with to many large lenses. It holds my camera and the 2 lenses I use all the time. Any additional lenses I throw into the main compartment.
Almost forgot to mention this aspect about the main compartment as well! You can access the main compartment through the top of the bag like a traditional backpack, or from the back of the bag. This gives you a huge opening to easily get anything in and out and pack accordingly without any trouble. Additionally, you can rotate the entire bag around so it's hanging off the front of you and open it up to access those items without taking the bag off and setting it on the ground.
Here's a few more shots of the various things about the bag.
MIndshift gear has just recently came out with their second bag called the Rotation 180 Panorama. This is a smaller bag that would be much more oriented for day trips and normal every day outings where as I consider the Rotation 180 Professional to be more of a backpacking/longer trip bag. Given what I love about this bag, I may pick up the Panorama and give it a shot as well.
The Rotation 180 Professional isn't cheap, it starts at $389.99 for the bag itself with no accessories and goes up to $499.99 with all of the accessories. However, I do believe it is worth the cost for the features and quality you get.
Click the link above to read about the bag on their main website or to purchase one. If you want to look at some of the accessories and other items they have available, check out the link here.
As I've said before, I love this bag and would recommend it to anyone looking for a top quality and roomy bag that can be used for backpacking with photography equipment. The quick access to everything without needing to take the bag off are the key selling points for me and they work well.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this bag whether you have one or may be interested in one. Have any questions? Leave them below and I'd be more than happy to answer them.