Part 1: Intro & Bag Lust
I'd like to throw my initial review into the ring while the Camera I/O is still brand spanking new and while people may be deciding if it's the right fit for them. I hope I can help someone make an informed decision.
Much like fellow forum member misterN, I'm very thankful to have been able to get my hands on the Camera I/O and Tripod Quiver a little early. I also enjoyed his outline format, so I hope he doesn't mind if I borrow it.
Many thanks to Darcy for her help and many thanks to the Tom Bihn crew and company for their incredible work. You all take care of me more than I think you realize. Thank you.
I'll be honest, I first discovered Tom Bihn bags about 3-4 years ago because I was looking for a padded camera solution to fit inside of a backpack or carry on bag. Back then I had a $30 backpack and wheeled luggage (that I checked! HA!) from Target. I'm SO glad I waited all of this time for the right fit. I've ended up a lifetime Tom Bihn convert with quite a sizable collection and a snobbiness for travel gear. I do my best to convert fellow friends and travelers. I think they may think I'm crazy.
I spent much of last week fawning over the bag and taking it on a few photo adventures. What I love about all of the Tom Bihn products is their versatility. All of the bags and accessories are adaptable to not only various uses and environments, but one another. The camera insert shines, and has even earned it's namesake, because of it's ability to be used as a stand alone product and as an accessory to your existing bag setup.
Part 2: My bags work harder than I do: Camera I/O + Brain Bag
My work has very particular needs and quirks. I travel with bands selling merchandise and taking photos - meaning I'm gone for weeks at a time (often 2-3 or more). I live out of two bags: my Brain Bag and my Aeronaut. The Brain Bag is my "mobile office". The only time I'm not carrying it and working directly out of it, is when I'm asleep. For shorter trips (7-10 days), I use my Tri-Star. I never get to unpack during that time. I travel by plane, tour bus, van, cab and more. Everything needs to be as condensed and organized as possible, and all of my gear needs to be secure and within reach at all times. Up until now, when I went on tour, my camera body was wrapped in a t-shirt or hoodie,my two main lenses were wrapped in boot socks, and all three were stuffed into the main front pocket of my Brain Bag. Secure! Now I have built in padding, a built in carrying option, and a rigid structure for my bag and camera. Let's have a look:
Here I am with my Brain Bag. Maybe you saw these photos on the blog last week? For these shots I weighed it down with nearly everything I would normally carry in it:
- 13" Macbook Pro inside of a Vertical Brain Cell
- iPad inside of a Vertical Cache
- Camera I/O containing Canon 7D body and 2 lenses
- Snake Charmer full of various cables and accessories
I only omitted my Vertical Freudian Slip, because it's currently stuffed full of invoices, packing slips, and magazines from the tour I just wrapped up. Everything fits in the bag comfortably. The Camera I/O provides beautiful, rigid structure to my bag. Seriously, look at the bottom line of the bag - smooth and straight. I'm no longer afraid to set my bag down like it has a heartbeat. And my bag won't tip over on itself anymore either. Everything is safe behind layers of thick padding. The Camera I/O bring peace of mind to a guy who's tough on his gear.
Part 3: Insert / Outsert
Like most camera bags, the Camera I/O provides custom compartmentalization via velcro lined padded walls. These are easily rearranged to suit your needs and provide close fitting nests for your gear to rest in, minimizing movement and potential damage. Padded flaps attached to the height-wise dividers cover your lenses or accessories, protecting them while the I/O is open. Velcro closures keep the opening securely closed - it's heavy duty stuff, you won't be losing your gear anytime soon. Thick clips, identical to those found on the Aeronaut, help attach the Absolute Strap to the outsides of the bag. The padding used on the outer walls is thick and rigid. And the profile of the I/O is tall and thin, creating a small footprint. As long as you don't make the I/O top heavy, you'll have no problems resting it where you please. And yes, the Tom Bihn logo is beautifully stitched into both sides, so everyone can know who takes care of your gear. The Camera I/O is the result of years of fine tuning and it's immediately apparent.
I'm not sure how often I'll use the Camera I/O as an "Outsert" or stand alone carrying bag, but I'm very happy to have the option.. I walked a couple miles through the woods near my apartment with it, with no discomfort or annoyance. Largely in part to the Absolute Strap. Often on tour, especially on days off, I find myself wandering around new cities and seeing fun things. I like knowing that I now have the option to just slide all of my gear out of my bag, hook on a strap, and head out. I don't have to worry about exposing my camera to the elements or wearing it like a badge that says "mug me!" The Outsert function will allow me some freedom. I no longer will ask myself "Should I deal with lugging my gear with me on our outing today?" I'll bring it regardless. The Camera I/O provides me with new shooting opportunity.
Part 4: Tripod Quiver
I only recently began experimenting with bringing my tripod on tour. I can't afford a super expensive, super collapsible, travel-ready tripod. It's a bit bulky and not travel friendly, but fits just fine under the handles of my Aeronaut, hasn't been questioned by airport security, and has provided me the benefit of shooting HD video with my Canon 7D. My tripod fits smoothly into the larger of the two Quivers. And the Quiver straps onto loops on the side of the Camera I/O securely with the Annex clips that you may be familiar with if you own a Brain Cell. I used the I/O + Quiver combination on a shoot at a recording studio earlier this week. The larger Tripod Quiver IS taller than the height of the Camera I/O, so setting it down on it's bottom with the Quiver attached isn't really an option. Resting on either of the sides works, but kind of negates beauty of the small footprint of the I/O. But I don't anticipate using this configuration often.
The quiver is thick, with layers of ballistic nylon and ripstop Dyneema fabrics, your tripod won't have problems with bumps, scrapes, or even drops. It's a heavy, well made product. I plan on using it mostly as a standalone accessory. At least until I figure out a way to strap it onto the front of my Brain Bag. Or until I get a smaller tripod.
I also love that the product page for the Tripod Quiver says:
Because my wife likes to Tweet embarrassing things that I say during fits of excitement:We call them "Quivers" because Tom's brother Dan, who helped develop the Camera I-O, works out of the bags as he shoots, pulling out his lighting gear or tripod as if they were arrows and he was Robin Hood or Katniss.
I must be a prophet.
Part 5: Final statement + Product Photos
Tom Bihn's Camera I/O is yet another perfect example of what Tom and company does best - versatility and durability contained within a well planned, executed, clean, and minimally designed product. The Camera I/O functions as its own camera bag as well as a padded insert for my Brain Bag. My job and travel schedule requires rugged, durable gear that doesn't mind being picked up, set down, swung around, walking, running, being shoved under airplane seats, and stuffed in whatever open corners I can find. The Camera I/O is padded insurance for my gear. Prior to this, I wrapped my Canon 7D body in a spare hoodie and stuffed my lenses in winter boot socks when I traveled. Sure, I probably could have found another insert or padded case, but why sell myself short of what my bag set up actually needed? Something designed specifically for it, designed specifically for me.
Here's some photos I took of the Camera I/O:
Again, thank you again to Tom, Darcy, and everyone else at Tom Bihn.
And thank you to my wife for taking the photos of me above and for dealing with a guy who treats receiving luggage in the mail like it's Christmas morning.