Gear isn't everything - Bags & Cases

Bags & cases are up there with important elements in a kit. They are the basis of getting your gear to where you need it safely. Keeping the pieces together in an organized fashion or for some just a tote to throw everything in. No matter how you use the bag/case, they keep you on the move. My personal criteria for a bag to wear is it needs to fit what I use, and it has to be comfortable when fully loaded (usually around 35lbs of equipment).

Over the years, I’ve found most camera bags are made for storage function first and comfort second… few bag manufacturers have been able to marry the two. I will say I know of two options first hand - ThinkTank and Evoc are the two companies that put comfort, quality and function in all forms. Neither are cost effective bags, but when you buy you don’t typically need to replace them very often. I’m sure there are others like Dakine that make an awesome bag from various reviews but I don’t have first hand knowledge of these bags.

EVOC - Now I like this brand so much I have two of them. The CP-35L (the big momma) and the more nimble - CP-26L. They are a brand that makes bags first, and fits in camera gear second. Build quality, options, fit, etc. They’re perfect for me.

The only downside of these bags is trying to find them. I ordered these through GEARS Bike Shops and the price point is up there in the camera bag world - several hundred dollars per bag.

thinkTANK - probably #1 for many many professionals but #2 for me. The build quality is awesome, with the capacity to hold whatever is needed for the job. I use the Streetwalker HD and a couple shoulder bags for travel but I’m going to focus on the Streetwalker HD. The SWHD is truly a great bag, but the fit just doesn’t compare to the EVOC line. It is blocky and with the opening opposite the harness whenever you put it down, you need to find a dry clean spot. EVOC opens on the harness side which makes it easier to stay clean.

Price point on thinkTANK gear is also on the high side (several hundred for this bag as well), but it is well worth the money spent to keep your gear organized, safe, and dry.

Pelican - Pelican Air 1615 - the grand momma case

Ok, this case for me has a very specific purpose, it is my main light case and it holds almost everything I need. I was having a strong debate around this bag and a thinkTANK Production Manager 50, budget and logic won the day and I went for the Pelican. Now the Pelican pricing is no joke at about $600 taxes in with the padded dividers (purchased at VISTEK) but the thinkTANK Production Manager 50 would run almost $1,000 at the time and would take more time to get in (and I had a photoshoot I needed to fly with my gear a week later). If you need lots of storage or organization, this is a great case. I’ve used pluck-foam for some video equipment and I can’t stand it personally, so my recommendation: get the padded dividers for a bit more and save some swearing later on.

Travelling and what the F to bring...

The self-edit of gear is always tough with travel… but, with the new Profoto B10 arrival brings bluetooth triggering along with a capture trigger options from phones… WOW! FINALLY, professional lighting options with a phone. This could eventually be my go-to set up for travel (for mostly personal work since I would bring more than a phone to a paid gig… maybe). It isn’t the perfect set up and I doubt I’ll ever find that…

Sitting in Mexico, I think I’d love to just have my big hulking 5Diii with both my 14mm and my 100mm… I’d be fine with lugging that sucker around because I know it’d do what I need and I’m only a few days travel mostly at a resort… Then think back to various European treks and see I could get by with my phone, a gimbal and a battery pack… there are always options and choices made need to be embraced.

So, instead of regretting or thinking if I only had this, or if I only had that… I’m embracing my choices of what to bring wit me, I’m going to observe more than capture and make the best of it. The sun is up, and the waves are crashing, so I’m taking my coffee and going for a little bumble to see what I can see.

Cheers!

Gear Isn't Everything - Boom Stands

My second instalment for "Gear Isn't Everything" is around boom stands. I'll keep it pretty brief and to the point but a boom stand is simple a light stand with a boom arm to help get the light, camera or mic (or whatever you want to hook onto it) in a spot you'd otherwise have a stand in the way.

Mantis Telescoping Boom Stand with Rotating Head, Cine Stand with Locking Wheels 
- Cost $590 when not on sale

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  • 27 kg (59 lbs) Load Capacity
  • 152-320 cm (60-126") Height Range
  • 5 kg (11 lbs) Weight
  • Aluminum Material Construction
  • Includes Rotating Head & Cine Stand on Locking Wheels
  • Durable, Affordable & Extremely Reliable

This stand does a great job at putting the light where you want it. It has an adjustable head via a crank and is a telescoping arm. This is great as the Manfrotto version is a fixed length and that causes problems when you drive a Golf GTI.

With the wheels and using a Profoto B2 you can wheel it around care free (if you have the battery hanging from it as well). This is a heavy and large stand, and if you don't have space, it is best to pass on this.

Avenger Mini Boom & Kupo Turtle Base C-Stand
- Combined cost approx $500

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Avenger D600 Mini Boom

  • Steel Construction
  • 83" Maximum Extension
  • Rubber Handle
  • Counterweight Hook
  • 5/8" Stud and Receiver

Kupo CT-40M 40" Master C Stand with Turtle Base

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  • 10 kg (22 lbs) Max. Load Capacity
  • 134-295 cm (52.8-116.1") Height Range
  • 7.5 kg (16.5 lbs) Weight
  • Steel Material Construction
  • 100 cm (39.4") Footprint Diameter
  • Knob Leg Lock Type

This is a very stable and secure combination but you should have some counterweight for the back hook. I've had numerous lights and modifiers on this set up and as long as you have it weighted on the boom and the base, you're golden. It is heavy and stable and well worth the cost. Why put an expensive light, on a cheap stand? If you're just starting, hold off on these options and go for option 3.

Manfrotto 420B Combi Boom Stand with Sandbag
Cost - $329.99

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  • 9 kg (19.84 lbs) Max. Load Capacity
  • 104.5-243.8 cm (41.1-96") Height Range
  • 19-191 cm (7.5-75.2") Boom Extension Range
  • 3 kg (6.6 lbs) Weight
  • Aluminum Material Construction
  • 16 mm (5/8") Socket, 1/4" Screw & 3/8" ScrewConnection
  • Includes Sandbag

I think they may be exaggerating on this stand a bit for the load capacity, or that could be in its vertical position. It is a great stand, but with any weight you'll see the boom bowing. I've used this stand with a variety of lights and it has been quite stable, but obviously the weakest of the three boom arms. However, it is also the lightest and easiest to maneuver, so it is still a go-to for quick trips using smaller lights and modifiers. In truth, I use it mostly as an audio boom for interviews but have no problem putting a B2 with barn doors and using a bit of hard light for portraits. If you're looking for a more stable stand, with a bit of versatility this could be the stand for you.

GEAR isn't everything, until you don't have access to it

Online shopping is often the way to go, and sometimes it is the only option. The downfall of the online shopping for specialized equipment is not being able to see the quality, test it to see whether it meets your needs and whether it is really worth the cost. Often times, the cheaper solutions seem to be the right option, but if you end up replacing it several times compared to the more expensive piece built to last a lifetime... online... you just don't know.

So, do you roll the dice?

Living in NB between 2015 & 2017 and expanding my network of hobby & professional photographers it quickly became apparent - THERE IS NO PLACE TO SEE THE EQUIPMENT BEFORE BUYING. Sure, there are a handful of shops serving 3 provinces (I have access to that many on one corner now I'm back in Toronto). In order to get specialty equipment in the shops, you need to buy it and bring it in, no different than online shopping.

So, I'm going to help my friends on the east coast out a bit - provide some first hand feedback and opinions of gear I have or they ask me to check out on their behalf.

First up - Articulating Arms & Clamps

The arms and clamps are great for putting cameras, light, microphones or anything else that needs a mount in odd spots or use instead of a stand. They're small(ish) and versatile pieces of gear that let you travel a bit easier (especially as a one light image maker).

Manfrotto 244 Variable Friction Magicarm & Super Clamp ($234.99 arm & $56.99 clamp - Henry's Camera)
Specs can be found anywhere, but what I want to say about the arm is that is a great arm and awesome clamp for lighter equipment. I use it mostly for my Profoto B2 & have even put on a 90cm speedbox and it held up fine. The weight ratings on the arm is only 3kg, so not the best options for bigger gear. The clamp itself is rated to 15kg an clamps tightly on lots of surfaces.

 

 

Pros:

  • Bendy - 3 pivot points controlled by one lever
  • Includes quick release & plate
  • Build it decent
 

Cons:

  • Knob makes it bulky
  • one knob makes it a bit of a pain to get set in the right spot
  • weight capacity - best for smaller applications

9.Solutions Double El-Bo Arm & Barracuda Clamp ($199.99 arm & $54.99 clamp - Vistek)
Specs can be found anywhere, but what I want to say about the arm is WOW. It is perfect for a bit heavier applications with weight rating on the arm at 6kg and the clamp at 20kg. I still use it mostly for my Profoto B2 & have even put on a 90cm speedbox and it held up fine. I like it is all metal with each lever controlling the articulation of the arm. The downside of the arm is the articulation is only in 2 spots.

Pros:

  • Sleek and tucks in the speedbox bag easily
  • weight capacity is double that of the Manfrotto on the arm
  • levers control each section allowing a bit easier control of where the light is
  • Built like a small narrow tube tank
  • Cost is a bit better than Manfrotto
 

Cons:

  • only 2 articulating points
  • availability - only found this at one retailer in the area
  • no camera plate - everything sold separately