Long lens users arguably have an easier time selecting camera bags, simply because there are fewer bags that will fit a long lens in the first place. Today, I will review one such bag, the Think Tank Digital Holster 150. This $110 shoulder bag is capable of holding a camera with an attached lens like a 150-600mm supertelephoto, a 70-200mm f/2.8, or the Nikon 500mm PF. (With the latter two lenses, the camera and lens will fit in the bag with the lens hood in shooting position.) My review is based on approximately two years of fairly heavy use.
Table of Contents
General Information and Specifications
- Weight: 0.8 kg / 1.8 lbs
- Interior dimensions: 18.4 x 39.0 x 18.4 cm (7.2 x 15.4 x 18.4 inches)
- Exterior dimensions: 20.3 x 40.6 x 20.3 cm (8.0 x 16.0 x 8.0 inches)
- Price: $110
- Holds a pro-level DSLR or mirrorless camera with a telephoto lens like a 150-600mm zoom
- Lens hood can remain in shooting position with smaller telephotos like a 70-200mm f/2.8
- Meets carry-on requirements for most airlines (but check to confirm)
- Rain cover in a zippered pocket
- Inside pocket for memory cards
- Outside pocket for lens cap or 95mm filter
- Several attaching options
- Shoulder strap
- Padded and stiff construction
The Think Tank Digital Holster 150 handles well. The shoulder strap, being one of the most crucial parts of a shoulder bag, is very comfortable and nicely padded. The bag is stiff enough so that you won’t feel any sharp parts of your gear.
Providing quick access to your camera and lens is the whole idea of a holster bag, and the Digital Holster 150 does that nicely. Think Tank made an interesting design decision with the main compartment’s access cover. It opens with the flap coming towards your side, rather than going away from your body, as is the case with some holster bags like the smaller Lowepro 75AWII. After using both, I find the Lowepro’s setup a bit easier to use. On the Lowepro, the flap can easily hang down and allow the bag to remain open, whereas that is not practical with the Think Tank. However, it’s not a serious inconvenience.
For photographers who need frequent access to their lens cap, it can be placed in the small pouch on the side of the bag. This pouch can also hold a filter for easy access, although it is almost impossible to squeeze both a lens cap and a 95mm filter in its case in this pouch. Although front filters may not be as common for supertelephoto lenses in photography, they are more important in video applications, so you should take this lack of space into account.
You also do not have to solely rely upon the shoulder strap for support. There are various attachment points and additional straps that could be attached to more complicated support systems such as a backpack or even to a belt.
One noteworthy feature on the Digital Holster 150 is a rain cover. I have a gripe with the fit of most rain covers, and this one is no exception. It attaches fairly easily, but it is difficult to cover the entire bag with it. Sometimes, it has also slipped off in motion. However, is the rain cover useful? Definitely. The bag itself also can repel a fair amount of water, so if you get stuck in a flash downpour, the bag and rain cover should protect your gear while you run to safety. However, I would not rely on it for extended use in the rain, especially in tropical areas during wet seasons. I still recommend bringing a dry bag for such scenarios.
The rain cover is stored in a zippered pocket, and this pocket is segmented into two compartments so that you can store a couple of batteries or another accessories in it. However, when you are actually using the rain cover, the pocket will be exposed to the elements. So, make sure to take take out any other items in the pocket when you actually use the rain cover!
There is also a small envelope-like pocket under the main access flap on the inside of the bag. It is quite flat, so it is only suitable for storing fairly flat objects like memory cards. I would not store anything heavier in it, including a battery, since the compartment is made of thin material. Any sharp edge on the battery could potentially hit the back of your camera if the bag is bumped.
Compatible Lens Configurations
For shooters who use a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens or a relatively compact supertelephoto like the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF, the Digital Holster 150 is convenient because the bag can fit these lenses attached to your camera with the hood in shooting position.
Shooters with a longer zoom like a Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 can store their lens and camera in the bag but only with the hood reversed. You can keep such a camera and lens slightly sticking out of the bag with the hood in shooting position and it will protrude a few centimeters and be quite stable, but you will not be able to close the bag at all. Other zooms such as the Sony 200-600 and Canon 100-500 will also fit but with their hoods reversed. If in doubt, you should measure your setup first and compare it to the internal dimensions. I actually measured my bag, and I feel aiming for a length of 38 cm would be safer as opposed to aiming for the stated length of 39 cm.
For smaller lenses, the inside of the bag can be shortened with the included additional inserts, which attach to the interior of the bag with Velcro.
The Digital Holster 150 feels sturdy. The sides of the bag are also stiff, providing a bit of added protection for your camera and lens. The bottom is especially stiff, and it should provide some shock protection if the bag is dropped.
One thing I watch out for on bags in general are the friction points where different parts can rub against each other. When I first held the Digital Holster 150, I was happy about these friction points. The metal parts are very thick, and Think Tank attached them to the cloth parts of the bag using many stitches. I’ve never had any worries that some small part will break off.
The YKK zippers have never malfunctioned. Like some other Think Tank bags, the part of the zipper that you hold is a plastic piece attached to a cloth loop about the diameter of a shoelace. Although this has proved sturdy so far, I have noticed that on the main compartment zippers, the cloth loops of the zippers are starting to fray ever so slightly. There are two zippers, so if cloth loop breaks, it’s not a total disaster. Of course, the zipper can still be operated without the loop, just uncomfortably.
The one place where I did notice some more serious wear is on the inside pocket cover, which is fastened with Velcro. Undoing this Velcro puts a lot of tension on the thin cover fabric, and it has caused some fraying and tearing. Think Thank should seriously think about reinforcing this in the next iteration of this bag.
However, overall, I am impressed with the quality of the Digital Holster 150. It has protected my gear numerous times in all sorts of environments.
At the time of this article’s publication, the Think Tank Digital Holster 150 is $109.75 USD. For something that I use for many hours every week, I feel like it’s a pretty good value. I also have used the the Lowepro 75AWII, which is smaller and and which held lighter gear. I used the Lowepro for about the same amount of time as I used the Think Thank, and although it’s still fairly intact, the Lowepro did develop a small tear in the outer fabric due to the way excess tension built up from the tug of the shoulder strap, whereas the Think Tank does not have that problem.
I also expect this bag to last many more years based on its current condition.
Good Use Cases
A holster bag like the Think Thank 150 is designed for quick access. Therefore, it excels in situations where you don’t want to carry your lens in hand at all times, yet you still want to be prepared for the unexpected photo opportunity.
The Think Tank 150 is also very good in situations where you need to use other pieces of equipment such as binoculars, a tripod, or even another camera.
Not So Good Use Cases
There is a reason why holster-style shoulder bags are not universally used by photographers, especially for longer and heavier telephoto lenses. For one, they are not well-balanced. Although the shoulder strap on this bag is fairly comfortable, it cannot compare to a backpack. Speaking of, carrying a holster can be especially uncomfortable if you’re carrying alongside a backpack. It’s better to choose just one if possible.
A holster bag also has a massive disadvantage for wildlife photography: It will make you very sad if you fall while carrying it and crush your precious camera and lens. Therefore, you should be cautious or use a different bag entirely when you traverse uneven or unstable ground such as wet rocks, hilly terrain, frozen lakes, or volcanoes. Such terrain can be quite frequent in wildlife photography, and this style of bag doesn’t handle it well. It’s definitely a good idea to keep the Digital Holster 150 for safer areas, or at least put it in a larger backpack if you come across difficult terrain. I have heard of a few people falling with holster bags, and it didn’t sound pretty.
In situations where a holster bag can be used, the Think Tank Digital Holster 150 is a great bag. It’s solid, durable, and reliable. I’ve used it heavily for roughly two years and always enjoy it. Even though I would have preferred a little more padding and a better-made inside pocket, overall the bag is a great addition to my wildlife kit, and I recommend it.
Where to Buy
This bag can be purchased from B&H Photo for $110 at the time of this review’s publication.
Think Tank Digital Holster 150
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