Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer

Cinematic Excellence at 24 Frames a Second

New Camera Bags For A New Generation Of Filmmakers

One of the least sexy, but most important camera accessories is the camera case. If your camera is not well protected and it isn't easy or convenient to transport, then it really doesn't matter what you are shooting on. Over the years I have used a wide range of camera cases and bags, some of which have been more successful than others. Most recently I have been putting the Tenba Roadie II HDSLR/Video Shoulder Bag through the ringer to see how it holds up. Here is what I have found...

First I need to make a recommendation in regards to the choice between a hard case and a soft case. If you are going to be stacking heavy gear and cases on top of one another, or you are going to be checking equipment at the airport, or shipping it, then I HIGHLY suggest that you invest in hard cases. These cases will outlast any camera system you have and they will protect your equipment in just about any situation. Personally, I have found Innerspace Cases to offer some of the best, and fully customizable hard cases around. If on the other hand, you are looking for a case that will hold your camera, all of your accessories, and protect it as it rides along in your car or as you carry it with you on location, then a soft case would be the better fit for you. And this is where Tenba comes into play.

Tenba makes bags geared toward the film/video and photography market. With a wide range of offerings, they have a case to fit just about anything from your laptop up to your lighting kit. If the rest of their line is like the Roadie II bag I have been using (and I have no reason to doubt that), then you can rest assured that your gear will be well protected and easy to transport. I have taken this bag with me all over the Northwest, and back and forth to the east coast, and it continues to hold up well despite the rough treatment I have been putting it through.

Nic Rios & I recently went out shooting for fun in the greater Portland area. For this adventure, I wanted to keep everything small, accessible, and light, while at the same time, making sure we had everything we needed at our finger tips. Even though we had my van to drive in-between locations, the majority of the day was spent on foot walking around the city. Forgetting a needed accessory would mean lost time and a lot of additional walking.
Shoulder bag packed to the gills
After we met up in the morning, we proceeded to condense everything we would need for the days shoot into our one bag. When we started, I was skeptical that everything we needed would fit. But to my surprise, when all was said and done we were able to fit two camera systems, a laptop, and a myriad of accessories in the bag with room to spare. I couldn't believe it. I don't think I've ever fit two camera systems in one shoulder bag. Packing the bag was a similar experience to what Harry & Ron experienced with Hermione's "purse" in the last Harry Potter movie. The bag just seems to keep on going and going. Here is how we packed it:
Center Compartment
In the main body of the bag we put a 5D MKIII and 7D complete with cages, top handles & rails, follow focus, monitor, Canon 16-35mm, & Canon 135mm. The main body of this bag features a number of velcro inserts that can be arranged in any configuration that you need to protect all of your gear. I took a number of the inserts out, so you only see a few of them pictured above. If you look at the wide shot, you can also see that we put a couple of cables in the two pockets that are above the main body.
End Pocket 01 with Media Case
Media Case with CF Cards
In one of the end pockets we put all of our batteries (4 spare Canon batteries, and 2 spare Sony batteries for the monitor). The Roadie II also includes a media case that will comfortably hold your CF or SD cards. As you can see here, we did not even come close to filling it.
End Pocket 02 with spare case
The second end pocket is feeling rather lonely, as we ran out of accessories to put in it. There is a small zipper case that has netting inside of it to hold loose odds and ends, but as we did not have any odds and ends, that was left empty as well.
Front Large Pocket
The front large pocket held the included rain cover as well as space for additional accessories. We put the hood for the TV logic in this pocket. We could have added one or two more items, but we didn't have anything to add. On the front of this pocket is yet another smaller pocket to fill. (See, I told you this bag just keeps on going and going...)
Back Pocket
In the back pocket we put the 15" laptop just in case we needed to do any data management in the field. While I would not go around swinging this bag against any hard objects, I did feel like the laptop was reasonable protected against most bumps and hits (save a direct hit from a hard object).
Removable Gear Tray (As we packed it)
Removable Gear Tray (Before we packed it)
With room to spare we took out the inserts in the removable gear tray and loaded in the matte box. Just like the main body of the bag, this gear tray can be configured with a number of inserts to hold any number of accessories. (However, it was originally intended to hold audio equipment).
Having Lunch At A Local Pub
For lunch we walked over to a local pub and our fully packed Roadie II sat nicely in the chair next to me. What I really appreciate about this bag in this kind of situation is that it is designed for photo and video people, but it doesn't scream photo or video. It sat very comfortably next to me without drawing any unwanted attention from other people or the staff. No one was any wiser that there was over $10,000 of equipment in the bag.

A lot of thought and care has gone in to the design and build quality of this bag. Some additional features that are not clear from my pictures, but that stand out to me are: a) the waterproof bottom that allows me to take this bag out into the wilderness without having to worry about setting it down, b) the heavy duty shoulder strap - which is actually robust enough to support the weight of a full bag without breaking a sweat, c) the rear trolly strap which allows me to attach it to my roll aboard luggage for easy transport, d) the airline carry-on compatibility, which means I do not have to worry about having to check my cameras when I travel, and most importantly to me, e) the SUPER heavy duty zippers. The zippers on this bag are far better than anything else I have encountered so far in a soft case. Usually this is the first thing to go, especially when a bag is packed like this. But throughout the entire day of shooting they showed no sign of stress. While it has only been put through a couple months of use, the build quality continues to hold up, and it is hard to tell that I have not been treating it with kid gloves. I think that is a good sign that it will last a lot longer than other bags I've used in the past.

Now I need to look into their other offerings...

[UPDATE 03/11/2013 - Readers of my blog can now get 10% off their purchase by using this link, or by using the coupon code: Story First.]

What do you think? Have you found any soft cases or hard cases that you can recommend? Do you prefer one style of case over the other?

Until Next Time - Get Out There And Shoot!
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