Like most professional photographers I know, I have several photo bags. This is because photo bags have different jobs. I use my larger bags to transport my gear to the location. After I arrive at the shoot, it can be inconvenient to carry a large bag full of gear everywhere I go. Enter the belt – mounted systems.

Event shooters, wedding photographers, sports photographers and others who have to “run and gun” are familiar with belt systems. You wear a belt that supports different cameras, lenses and accessories. The problem with most such systems is that once you’ve weighted them down with your gear, they’re either unbalanced – failing to properly distribute the total weight of all the gear across your torso, or they slip. I’ve even had such systems slip right off my hip. (To be fair, as a horizontally challenged photographer, it’s not easy to make a hip-mounted system that will stay on me.)

ThinkTank Photo’s solution to this problem is the Belly Dancer. ($44.95) It is comfortable and reliable. It holds a wide variety of camera, lens and accessory pouches. While I am sure you can get several pouches from different manufacturers to fit on the Belly Dancer, I tried ThinkTank’s Skin Set. ($149)

The Belly Dancer offers plenty of padding, shoulder straps across the back and a harness system that keeps it all in place no matter how much gear you hang from it. At roughly 12 ounces, the Belly Dancer won’t add much weight to your gear-hauling solutions, but does offer plenty of flexible combinations. More importantly, even larger photographers will be able to wear this system. The belt size ranges from 27 to 64″. (Finally something where my size is in the middle of the range!)

I was able to take my 70-200 mm lens, my Speedlight Flash, my Lensbaby 3G, my pack of Compact Flash Cards, my 17-40 mm lens, my 14 mm fisheye lens, and some filters, a dust blower, cleaning cloths, flashlight and other accessories using the basic Skin Set.

The pouches affix to the Belly Dancer very securely and I never had to worry about them being exposed to the elements. Each comes with its own rain cover.

On a recent two-hour photo walk through Venice Beach, California, I was able to work with my gear and transport it in relative comfort. The belt reduced bulk, allowed me to carry only the gear I needed, was very stable and performed excellently. The materials and fasteners are top-notch and I can highly recommend this system to anyone looking for a belt-system to carry their gear with.
This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store

Join the conversation! 36 Comments

  1. How do you like wearing a full rig compared to wearing just the Boda Dry Bag over your shoulder? I guess you can carry more but is it something that you will do all the time?

  2. How do you like wearing a full rig compared to wearing just the Boda Dry Bag over your shoulder? I guess you can carry more but is it something that you will do all the time?

  3. @usrbingeek that’s a great question and thanks for asking it. I like the Boda bag for one lens or one lens with body attached. But when I need to bring lots of stuff, I find myself using the ThinkTank product. Plus, the Boda bag tends to feel like it’s slipping off my hip since it doesn’t have the harness – and that ends up distracting me. Might not be a problem for someone smaller than me – which is just about everyone :)

  4. I think it still looks like a Fanny Pack’s big brother. Why can’t I try to look cool and be a photographer at the same time?

  5. I think it still looks like a Fanny Pack’s big brother. Why can’t I try to look cool and be a photographer at the same time?

  6. yeah I agree very great product but I don’t think I could EVER wear this in public!!! Def. Only caters to pro’s and male pro’s at that

  7. yeah I agree very great product but I don’t think I could EVER wear this in public!!! Def. Only caters to pro’s and male pro’s at that

  8. Has anyone tried the Crumpler Million Dollar bags ? They look more elegant when taking pictures at a wedding and not like a SWAT team member.

  9. Has anyone tried the Crumpler Million Dollar bags ? They look more elegant when taking pictures at a wedding and not like a SWAT team member.

  10. @Ted one of the big advantages of being old and washed up is I no longer have to care what I look like :)

  11. hahaha very nice but u are FAR from washed up!!! Ur avian stock is amazing… To have such a collection most have taken a lifetime to capture! Kudos sir!

  12. hahaha very nice but u are FAR from washed up!!! Ur avian stock is amazing… To have such a collection most have taken a lifetime to capture! Kudos sir!

  13. @William COOL! I’ve always wanted to look like a SWAT team member! But I’m guessing real SWAT team members would take one look at me in this get up and be offended by the characterization :)

  14. @William COOL! I’ve always wanted to look like a SWAT team member! But I’m guessing real SWAT team members would take one look at me in this get up and be offended by the characterization :)

  15. Scott is really hardcore. He looks awesome. He’s my hero. But, don’t you find that a stiff-brimmed hat interferes with an accessory flash? I actually wear a US-Army issue “boonie hat” that my brother-in-law gave to me.

  16. Actually Kent the hat is very flexible and sits well on my head even if I have to push it back. I have other hats that I wear sometimes, but I thought I’d try to look “beach-ready.”

  17. Well, I’m glad to see your keeping yourhead out of the sun. You have to take care of your skin.

  18. Well, I’m glad to see your keeping yourhead out of the sun. You have to take care of your skin.

  19. Hi Scott: Im curious as to what’s INSIDE your gear bag. Brinkman’s bag was a great episode as it gave some insight as to how a pro plans his photo day. Thanks for sharing
    Randy

  20. Hi Scott: Im curious as to what’s INSIDE your gear bag. Brinkman’s bag was a great episode as it gave some insight as to how a pro plans his photo day. Thanks for sharing
    Randy

  21. @Randal we’ll eventually do a WHAT’S IN THE BAG for each of the TWIP hosts and regulars.

  22. @Randal we’ll eventually do a WHAT’S IN THE BAG for each of the TWIP hosts and regulars.

  23. Scott,

    How much are you a creature of habit when you pack you bags for walks like this. Do you have well established patterns for where you keep your stuff or does the packing relly largely on what you’re taking that day.

    With all the glass, cards and filters, I have found micro-time management is critical when there is alot of action going on around you.

  24. Scott,

    How much are you a creature of habit when you pack you bags for walks like this. Do you have well established patterns for where you keep your stuff or does the packing relly largely on what you’re taking that day.

    With all the glass, cards and filters, I have found micro-time management is critical when there is alot of action going on around you.

  25. @John as I have gotten older and everything I carry has gotten heavier, I tend to be really careful about what goes into the bag when I am actually shooting. The bare minimum is my first rule. But the subject dictates the specific gear I bring. So there’s no permanent solution – although that would be much easier for me:)

  26. @Scott and @Ted, do they make any hookups on the SWAT look setup for my SigSauer? That could be helpful when out in the wilderness.

    Scott, have you ever tried the Lowepro DryZone 100? It can hold a ton of gear very compactly and is completely waterproof so it can be submerged if that ever happens by mistake out in the bush.

  27. @Scott and @Ted, do they make any hookups on the SWAT look setup for my SigSauer? That could be helpful when out in the wilderness.

    Scott, have you ever tried the Lowepro DryZone 100? It can hold a ton of gear very compactly and is completely waterproof so it can be submerged if that ever happens by mistake out in the bush.

  28. We’re all getting older, Scott, but after following your Podcast career for several years, you are anythiing but washed up. Thanks for this review…Think Tank has some great stuff.

  29. We’re all getting older, Scott, but after following your Podcast career for several years, you are anythiing but washed up. Thanks for this review…Think Tank has some great stuff.

  30. I’m likin that Pro Speed Belt they have. I’ve always used a custom hand strap on my cameras (because neck straps drive me crazy), and use a camera bag at waist level that I can quickly and cleanly store/access the camera and lenses when I out shooting. The palm strap keeps the camera in my hand without having to grip it, and similarly stays on my hand when I’m when I’m walking about in the weeds.
    Of course you wouldn’t catch me whining about neck straps or belly dancer rigs if they were supporting the load of a couple D3′s or MkIII’s and their glass… Oh please let me know that sweet burden some day. :-)

  31. I’m likin that Pro Speed Belt they have. I’ve always used a custom hand strap on my cameras (because neck straps drive me crazy), and use a camera bag at waist level that I can quickly and cleanly store/access the camera and lenses when I out shooting. The palm strap keeps the camera in my hand without having to grip it, and similarly stays on my hand when I’m when I’m walking about in the weeds.
    Of course you wouldn’t catch me whining about neck straps or belly dancer rigs if they were supporting the load of a couple D3′s or MkIII’s and their glass… Oh please let me know that sweet burden some day. :-)

  32. Wow how heavy is your total gear that you carry?

    So in my photrade account i have no pictures…

  33. Wow how heavy is your total gear that you carry?

    So in my photrade account i have no pictures…

  34. Little tip: I use the ThinkTank bags on a padded work belt that I got at Home Depot for $20. It saved me a bit o’ change.

  35. scott, have you thought about the think tank camera straps for your cameras to put the camera weight on harness instead of your neck?
    has anyone tried the think tank camera straps on the belly dancer belt? does it feel secure/comfortable?

  36. scott, have you thought about the think tank camera straps for your cameras to put the camera weight on harness instead of your neck?
    has anyone tried the think tank camera straps on the belly dancer belt? does it feel secure/comfortable?

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