A good camera bag feels like a natural extension of your workflow on the set, and a bad camera bag feels like it will fight you every step of the way and has a price that is not realistic. I am sure most of us have had experience with both sides of this particular coin, and when Shape announced their new, relatively affordable camera bag, I was immediately interested. Could the Shape camera bag be the only camera bag that can handle them all? Let's find out.
Occasionally, I've focused too much on the more eye-catching high-dollar cinema products and less on the things we rely on every day while we're on site when it comes to reviews, and often these things are devices that Really improve your life while filming. Comment below if you disagree, but a solid and a little morbidly named "camera coffin" is hard to find, and my camera teams mostly turn to a simple combination of tub and furniture cushion – which is certainly not a headache when filming. The Shape camera bag is not a mixture of camera coffin and assistant camera bags that are omnipresent on the set, but the quality of which varies greatly.
I spoke to Shape's vice president, Charles Vallieres, before I started this review, and he gave me some interesting details about the design process. Firstly, the last bag is the result of four generations of prototypes and strong feedback from working ACs and DPs on site. During the design, great value was also placed on the usability of AC devices, which extends to some interesting functions (more on that later).
At $ 219.00, the Shape bag is at the lower end of the cost range considering its size, considering the size of the entire bag. I've worked with other bags of similar size from other brands, which can cost up to $ 399 or even $ 499. The inside size of the shape bag is 20.00 x 10.00 x 11.00 inches and after testing fits most medium-sized camera housings in the area of a RED DSMC2 (not a Ranger series), Canon C300 MK II, C100 MK II, C200 and the Sony PSW-FS5M2 or Panasonic AU-EVA1. The size, of course, depends a bit on what types of accessories you add in total, and you may need to peel off a matte box during transportation if you find that you don't fit the shape bag perfectly.
The Shape Camera bag is delivered with the inner compartment folded. This means less shipping costs for the approximately ten pound bag, and can even be useful for checking into an airplane in a difficult case for an international project. I will say that the dimensions are not handy and Charles from Shape mentioned that they are designing a smaller bag that is more for the traveling camera team. Extending the bag into “operating mode” is easy and means that some fenders are placed around the middle exclusion.
The bag contains three removable accessory bags that use the Molle (Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment) system, which was originally developed for the armed forces of NATO, Great Britain and the United States. In practice, the Molle system simply means that adding or removing accessory bags is as easy as one or two snapshots, and that they don't slip or fall off during transport from place to place. So far, so good. I asked Shape if they would provide these nifty accessory bags as separate SKU options, as users may prefer one type of bag over the other and they said this was in the works.
Four zippered accessory pockets in the lid are covered with clear plastic, so you can actually see what's inside before you fish around with your hand. In addition, two small flashlights are attached to two inner zippers to find items on a dark set. It's a bit hidden, but one of those AC-focused features is a removable rain cover behind a small zip pocket on the bottom of the bag, and the rain cover itself is big enough to cover a full camera or 17-inch monitor during a weather emergency Filming.
The exterior of the bag is stylish and looks more expensive than the list price of $ 219 suggests. An outer side pocket is the perfect size for 2nd ACs looking for a place for their dummy or smart slate that they borrowed from the audio department during filming.
Work with the bag
During the few weeks of testing I had with the Shape camera bag, I took three or four shots that were mostly advertising. The large inner pocket fits well with my Canon C300 MK II with Zacuto rigging and has space for an inside-mounted accessory pocket on one side (I put cleaning agents there). I dedicated each of the lid bags to various items such as tools, CFast media case, small BP-955 Canon batteries and additional camera-side accessories such as a small replacement screw bag and wound SDI cable.
In terms of protecting the camera while traveling, the bag is of course not a difficult case, but the sides are hard-padded on the inside and the whole setup is leaps and bounds better than a cheap plastic tub. This isn't a bag you want to sit on (get an apple box for it) or throw around while you work, but it can definitely be hit occasionally without damaging anything inside. That being said, it feels like a bag for owners / operators and not like a bag rental – it just doesn't mean not being thrown on a truck between a couple of hard suitcases, and that's fine!
One of the best features of the bag is the magnetic lid with side zips. If you grab something while recording valuable audio data, this is usually a no for camera bags, and thanks to the magnetic lid, you can grab camera bits out of the inside pocket without generating a sound during recording. This function is clever and I have not seen it in other bags in this category.
Who is this bag for?
Cameramen, 2nd ACs, 1st ACs, DPs and gaffer with a DMX setup in need of transport will find something to love about the Shape camera bag. Crew members with a travel schedule for heavy aircraft may want to wait for the smaller shaped bag that I was told is on the horizon, or check the bag in their suitcase and fill it with rental items when they land.
For those who are not looking for a camera coffin, I would like to see Shape inner divider created as an add-on for optics in cine or DSLR size and other smaller camera accessories. This could lead to more use cases for people who rent their camera housings elsewhere and work in a studio environment where traveling a camera from place to place in a car is not part of their job.
If you are looking for an affordable camera bag that fits easily into a medium-sized camera housing and offers space for all your camera accessories from a single source, the Shape Camera bag is just the thing for you. For users who work with Alexa LF-sized cameras or large RED cinemas, you should look elsewhere for a larger camera coffin. However, if you completely remove the Shape Camera bag's idea as a camera coffin, there is plenty of room for a matte box, a follow focus system, a charger with two batteries, and even one or two premium or small zoom cine lenses. Time will tell if the Shape camera bag can withstand the rigors of production, but I'm impressed with the overall build quality.
What is the most important feature you are looking for in a camera bag? Let us know in the comments below.