‘New Gear’ is an ongoing, independent review of our industry’s latest and cutting-edge equipment. Here, we’re looking at bags! – by Clinton Harn
By the time you read this gear report, countless trade show reports and new product releases would have invaded your laptop screens. Let alone all the new cameras everyone is talking about. However, having covered a few of these events recently, the cameras, amongst other things, are becoming less & less important.
A recent dilemma was how was I to organise, store & transport my tools in an orderly & safe manner. It seems like the notion of protecting the cost & investment of gear has become an afterthought. We are more consumed by buying some new fandangle piece of kit, only to skimp on how we store it. This also includes smaller essential items such as laptops, tablets, lenses, tools, etc.
In this instalment, I’ll be looking at several items alongside each other and copping a bagging, literally. Sachtler, Cinebags & Manfrotto have provided bags for me to evaluate, while the wife has been rather perplexed with the appearance of them all (no pun intended). Yes, these will be returned upon the completion of my assessment.
The basis for this review was to find a general bag for miscellaneous items. Like a cinematographers bag, to carry small items such as light meters, viewfinders, hard drives, laptops and other essential items. Fittingly, I started with Cinebags’s CB10. Later, I requested Sachtler’s Dr. Bag 1 & Manfrotto’s Professional shoulder bag 50.
To be fair, both the Manfrotto & Sachtler bag are not purpose designed like the CB10, but I wanted to compare and find a range of bags that could possibly perform similar duties in terms of weight and size. So rather than make direct comparisons, I’m going to discuss function, make & quality.
I field tested all bags by using them on various jobs, and I would like to thank my assistant David Stanley for also putting these bags through their paces and providing additional findings.
Lets the start with the Sachtler Dr. To be transparent, I’m a massive fan of Sachtler in general. I love their tripod systems, and until recently, their Eargonizer SN601 for all my audio essentials.
The Dr. Bag 1 is a compact camera bag. It’s the smallest of all 3 offerings, is made from a neoprene style fabric and designed as a top load tote style bag. This is reminiscent of the Kata & Petrol style bags that have now been acquired by Vitec who now produce Sachtler.
Key features include: Extra wide opening for rapid access, protection your camera with matte-box and microphone attached, compact design suitable for travel, ergonomic carrying handles and padded shoulder strap, removable internal rigid dividers for custom configuration, side pockets for additional storage, exchangeable logo frame for personal branding.
The design is relatively simple & neither is it over complicated. The clasp handle
is a cool feature as I find the Velcro style generally cumbersome. The stitching
and build quality is high quality and the bag feels solid. As for compartments, the bag has a front-pocketed section; card holders and the main section sports a few included, but very small dividers. Along with the bag comes a shoulder strap, and an interior security buckle to secure your precious cargo in place. Overall, this is a no fuss kind of bag, nothing special but totally functional.
In terms of space, I managed to insert a fully kitted GH4 rig consisting of camera in a Viewfactor cage, multi-force clamp adapter with a Letus35 MCS top handle with 15mm iris rod system, a letus35 TAG system bottom baseplate with 15mm rails, an attached Roland R-26 audio field recorder, a Canon pancake lens with a speedbooster, and an Atomos Shogun 4k recorder tucked on the side.
Moving on to Manfrotto’s professional shoulder bag 50, and it’s a little hard
to ascertain what the bag is made for. Manfrotto claims the bag is designed for one or two pro DSLRs with battery grips and 70- 200 F/2.8 lens attached, 6-7 extra lenses, additional camera body, 1-2 flash units, tablet, 15’’ laptop and accessories.
While I have no doubt it would fit all the mentioned items and the bag was large upon initial inspection, I found it somewhat difficult to organize my gear efficiently (as a camera bag).
Compartment wise, the bag is a top load, with padded dividers included, a front- pocketed section, Velcro & zipped side pockets, top flap zipped access, and not much else. The overall quality feels a little on the cheaper side, and the zippers look like they may break after some rough & repeated use.
As a camera or lens bag, the shape strikes me as a rather odd & cumbersome design, and certainly not ergonomic. It’s not really a messenger style shape nor is it a backpack.
On build quality, the Manfrotto material seems well made to me, but as my assistant, David informed me, that through his previous experience & use, a lot of their bags have a tendency to fray at edges and corners over time. Besides the adequate padded shoulder strap, the top handle strap was way too thin for me to trust or even consider carrying my precious gear in that fashion.
Unfortunately, I found nothing much to be desired about this bag, and I would certainly opt for the Sachtler any day over the Manfrotto. If I needed a larger pack, I’d rather buy two of the Sachtlers over the professional 50.
Last on the list is the Cinebag CB10. This was a bag that was unanimously decided between Dave & myself as the most practical & useful out of all three. The manufacturing quality of the CB10 is simply outstanding. These guys have put a lot of thought into this product. The padding & raw material used is robust while the shoulder strap, zips & metal parts are heavy duty, with no expense spared type components.
With more compartments than I could poke a stick at, everything is well organised and purpose designed. Key features include: four removable padded dividers, padded laptop compartment, padded shoulder strap, two zipped side pouches, a zipped front pouch, see through mesh pouches, oversized zipper, waterproof fabric, centre carry strap with neoprene handle, 3D airflow mould on backside, carry-on size for air travel.
The CB10 really is designed to be a utility bag, but also versatile enough for camera use. I’ve been searching for a bag that allows me to carry 2 laptops, often where I use one for editing, and the other for on-site renders.
On a recent trip to Las Vegas for the 2015 NAB trade show, I managed to hand carry this bag loaded with 2 x 15”inch Mac Book Pros, 2 x power supplies, 3 x G-Tech EV Drives, 2 x G-Tech Mini Drives, 2 x G-Tech Rugged Drives, 1 x G-Tech Thunderbolt Mobile, 1 x Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, 2 x Panasonic Lumix lenses, 1 x Sekonic L-758 Cine Light meter, 1 x Imperial & Metric allen key set, 3 x Pelican CF/SD card cases, 1 x small bag of USB 3 & Thunderbolt cables, 1 x Sennheiser HD205 Headphones, Passport & Travel documents, etc. Need I say more?
So, should this bag overview seem partial towards the CB10, well, I can’t help but confess that I get most excited about products that function above & beyond my expectations. Despite me having to return all 3 bags, I’ve already put my money down for a CB10. If that isn’t ‘verdict’ enough, I don’t know what is. You might just want to go check one out for yourself.
Clinton Harn is a cinematographer, filmmaker and producer.