I tend to be somewhat on the better-safe-than-sorry side when it comes to shooting and traveling. Aside from the obvious camera and lenses, I usually bring quite a few accessories and other production gear. (You can never have too many SSD’s audio options, cables, and power). The last camera bag I reviewed, the Orca OR-516 was spacious enough to fit all my gear, but sadly, it was too big to fit in most planes. I was constantly negotiating with the airplane personnel to let me put it in the cabin, but sometimes, the overhead storage was just not big enough, and I had to farewell with my precious gear for the flight. (i;ve seen how they handle the bags in general storage, it’s scary). That’s when I decided to test the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Spin 55, which was the perfect size for air travel.
The bag has 360-degree (dual) rotating wheels, which are great for light traveling and smooth sidewalks. This makes the case a good candidate for city travel. It also features customizable dividers, which make organizing gear easy. Lastly, the Spin-55 boasts a water-resistant exterior, which should do with light rain.
Manfrotto is known for making high-quality products that last for years, and its Pro Light Reloader Spin 55 camera bag is no exception. It is a semi-hard case in a clamshell configuration. Considering the amount of padding and the fact that it’s hard-shell, it is quite light at 3.66 kg.
If you fancy a slick design, you’ll love the shiny black exterior with red highlights.
The bag has four double wheels that make it easy to move around, even when it’s fully loaded. No matter how much gear and weight I placed inside, it stayed smooth. The handle is adjustable to two different heights and feels very sturdy. There is also a small handle for when you go up a flight of stairs. Lastly, the spin 55 comes with a TSA lock, but every airline where I had this bag asked to keep it open, so I am not sure if TSA locks are as big of a feature as they used to be for traveling. they do still allow you to lock the case against prying eyes and to prevent accidental opening.
The Bottom shell and general storage
One nice thing that Manfrotto did here is that the lower part of the shell does not go all the way up to meet the dividers. Instead, it cuts halfway and leaves the dividers semi-exposed. Instead, Manfrotto added a zipped mesh that “seals” the entire bag to keep the gear from falling. I like this configuration far better than the usual cases. The mesh is secure, but the bag feels slicker and lighter. Actually, the entire interior can be removed from the case and swapped out. The more I used the bag, the more I liked this interior design.
In terms of space, using a semi-hard (or semi-soft) shell allows for thinner walls, which in turn equals more storage, more about this in a bit.
The top shell and accessibility
The top shell here is not flat. It is symmetrical to the bottom shell, and when it closes down, it covers the dividers completely. As I mentioned, it felt kinda weird in the beginning that the zipper was not on the top of the bag, but after a very short time, it became very natural.
In terms of storage, the top shell has a mid-sized pocket and medium-small-sized mesh storage. The kind of pockets you would use for batteries, cables, or other small accessories. Manfrotto says that you can place a small tablet in the bottom pouch, but I did not test this myself. But if I did, I would love the fact that the gear on the bottom is protected by that zipped mesh.
Lastly, there is also a laptop pouch that you can access from the outside of the case. According to Manfrotto, it fits a 15-incher, and I definitely did not have any issues with my Asus as it’s only 14″. I love the fact that you can access the laptop from the outside without needing to open the entire bag. This access point has two additional small meshed pockets in the right size for memory cards or more small cables.
There are two small velcros that hold that access point from opening all the way through, which is a nice touch.
This is how much “Case” you get
So, here is what I am able to fit into the case. Obviously, I am way over my eight-kilos limit, but the bag is so inconspicuous that I was never once asked to weigh it. I just stroll along the check-in stands.
- 1x Sony FX-3 (in a Tilta cage)
- 1x backup Sony A73
- 1x Sony FX-3 Audio handle (this one is a hard mistress to fit – Sony! make a nicer handle, please)
- 1x Sigma 50mm F1.4 + Sigma MC-11
- 1x Nisi 15mm F4
- 1x Zeiss 24-70mm F4
- 1x Sony 70-200mm GM F2.8 II
- A small Zhiyun pouch full of cables
- 1x Tether Tools ONsite 26,800 mAh 100 watts PD Battery
- A 14 ” Asus Vivobook pro Laptop
- A Rode Wireless GO II set in a soft shell case
- 1x KZ ZSN PRO In-Ear headphones
- 1x Sennheiser MKE400 microphone
- 1x Samsung T3 (or T5, or T7) drive
- A bunch of Prograde memory cards (mostly 256GB V90) in a plastic case
- A Prograde dual SD-card reader
- 5x Sony NP-FZ100 and Nitecore UFZ100 batteries
That makes the bag a worthy candidate to carry all you need for a two-person interview (sans lights and tripods). Actually, It does have a pouch and straps on the side for one small tripod.
The only downside I found is that the bag is not tall enough to fit a Sony FX3 kitted with the audio handle. You will have to break it down when you put the kit in the bag.
The wheels on the case are pretty smooth, and they use variety where each wheel is doubled, so the weight is well distributed. On the other hand, those are small wheels and do not fit rough terrains.
The Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Spin 55 case is a great option for carrying a lot of gear. Either in the photo or video realms. It is even more so if you need to get your gear on a plane. The case is selling for $399.95 over at B&H, making it a no-brainer if you are looking for a new bag or an upgrade.