5 Years Later… Think Tank Photo: Be Ready before the Moment

5 Years Later… Think Tank Photo: Be Ready before the Moment


“THINK TANK PRODUCTS ARE BUILT FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO USE THEIR CAMERA BAGS EVERY WEEK, possibly every day,” says Doug Murdoch, bag designer extraordinaire and president of Think Tank Photo. “These are not once-a-month bags.”

Using only the highest quality materials and construction techniques, Think Tank camera bags are designed to last a lifetime and incorporate features that make them as usable as they are durable.

“Our product designers work directly with photographers without filtering,” Murdoch explains. “We have a commitment to photographers, not to profit or price. We listen to what photographers need and want, and build solutions for them. And we have the commitment to make photographers’ wishes and dreams come true.”

Think Tank Photo is a California-based manufacturer that designs and sells camera bags and accessories specifically for use by professional and advanced amateur photographers, especially those who use digital SLR cameras. The company’s products are built purposely with the working photographer in mind. Their company motto, Be ready before “the moment,” underscores their commitment to serving the needs of pros who work hard, travel often and use notebook computers on a daily basis. Many Thin Tank bags are designed to accommodate the frequent air traveler and provide protection and security in addition to travel convenience.

Founded in 2005 in Santa Rosa, California, Think Tank Photo has grown to be one of the largest producers of professional “carrying solutions” serving the photo specialty dealer exclusively. Designers Doug Murdoch and Mike Sturm joined forces with professional photographers Deanne Fitzmaurice and Kurt Rogers to create a company with a single-minded commitment to quality. This melding of experienced designers and veteran photographers has allowed Think Tank to create products that include the features and functions required by heavy-duty photographic use without superfluous features.

The company chose the name Think Tank because they consider themselves primarily an “idea producing” company, focused on solving photographic needs by listening to the suggestions, feedback and complaints from photographers and creating tools to solve their problems.

Before founding Think Tank Photo, company president Doug Murdoch was the vice president of design and production at Lowepro and was part owner of Fluxion, Inc., a company that designed products for Lowepro from 1992 to 2001.

Cofounder Mike Sturm worked with Murdoch at Lowepro and Fluxion. The two often collaborated on photographic bags and accessories, and Sturm was the primary designer and sample maker for Lowepro’s popular DryZone 200 backpack, the first completely waterproof soft-sided camera bag.

Both Murdoch and Sturm realized that the serious amateur and the professional photographer have different equipment and transportation needs than the hobbyist. They felt that many companies were producing bags that failed to meet the needs of the professional photographer. So they collaborated with Pulitzer Prizewinning photographer Deanne Fitzmaurice and Kurt Rogers to create Think Tank Photo.

Fitzmaurice and Rogers embodied the needs of the photographers that Murdoch and Strum wanted to reach. Fitzmaurice spent more than 18 years working as a photojournalist for the San Francisco Chronicle and has traveled the world producing photographic stories for Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, Sports Illustrated, People and ESPN. Rogers is a veteran of the photographic trenches and has spent more than 27 years as a photojournalist with both the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Think Tank’s first product, the Airport Addicted backpack, was an enormous success with photographers. It was the first photo backpack specifically designed for air travel and sized to fit in the overhead compartments of airplanes while still protecting a top-end SLR camera and lenses. The Airport Addicted features lockable zippers and a compartment for a 15-inch laptop; it can hold large lenses like a 500mm f/4.

Since the introduction of the Airport Addicted five years ago, the company’s product line has expanded, often with products that are the first of their kind. The Airport Addicted backpack was followed in 2006 by the Airport Acceleration and Airport Antidote backpacks. The Think Tank line now includes rolling backpacks, modular harness systems, shoulder bags, laptop bags and more. In 2009, the company produced the first bags on the market aimed at the multimedia professional who utilizes digital SLR cameras for video capture.

Although Think Tank products are now available in about 30 countries worldwide, they cannot be found at discounters. The company pursues an aggressive marketing philosophy and offers its profitable line exclusively to photo specialty stores. “We’re not a discount brand,” says Murdoch. “Our dealers make their full margin, and since we typically command a higher price point, we deliver more gross profit dollars, too, not just percentage points.”

Think Tank Photo is introduced a new line of shoulder bags at PMA 2010.