I have a particular interest in finding optimal solutions for storing, carrying and holding my photography and video production gear, so it is rewarding to come across new and unfamiliar product ranges, with the latest being the HPRCbrand, the initials standing for High Performance Resin Cases.
HPRC is a brand of Plaber Srl, an Italian manufacturer based in Bassano del Grappa, a city and commune in Vicenza province in the northern Italian region of Veneto, and the company’s products are distributed in many parts of the world.
Until recently I had not come across HPRC cases, hardly surprising given we no longer have an annual photography trade show in Sydney nor well-stocked photography and video superstores the like of which exist in other world class cities.
Instead my introduction to HPRC came via a Fujifilm X-E3 review loaner camera and Fujinon XF 50mm f/2.0 R WR and 35mm f2.0 R WR “Fujicron” lenses kindly sent over by Fujifilm Australia, all contained in a beautiful little HPRC hard case with internal zippered soft case, illustrated at right.
The padded soft case could be used as a camera case in its right, but in combination with the external hard case is a potent solution for protecting and transporting equipment like the camera and lenses.
It is a much better alternative to the customary way in which review loaners are sent via couriers, inside boxes inside taped-up corrugated cardboard boxes.
I am familiar with several brands of hard cases, most notably the Pelican brand due to relying on several of its memory card cases for some years as well as some mid-sized Pelican cases for storing items of non-photographic equipment.
My history with hard and soft cases of all types and brands for carrying photography and video production equipment of all sorts, sizes and weights is a long and not always a happy one.
Looking back on the myriad of custom-made and off-the-shelf bags, backpacks and cases I have used over the years, most especially during the analog years when I was working in corporate and magazine photography with a sideline in cinematography, I wonder how my equipment managed to get by without too much major damage.
Much of my travel for work involved small hire cars, small airplanes and understaffed regional airports where I often watched luggage handlers hurl my precious gear on and off trailers and carousels with no thought for safety, their own or that of my precious camera gear.
None of those bags and cases could be described as optimal in their design and manufacturing, often failing miserably at keeping the dust, fluids and salt out of the equipment contained within.
Mind you, I did subject them to some harsh conditions in deserts, at the edge of oceans, down mines and in massive open-cuts as well as traipsing up and down stairs and in and out of elevators, not to forget hauling them in and out of taxi cabs’ back seats and boots in the inner city and suburbs near and far.
Nowadays I tend to travel alone and with the more minimalist kits that the digital age permits, but my own safety and that of my equipment remains paramount and the soft shoulder bags and backpacks that I have used so far have acquitted themselves better than any I had in my analog days.
One big difference between then and now though is in the realm of tripods.
Carbon fibre is a relatively recent innovation and currently I have two carbon fibre-legged tripods for location work, one for video and the other for stills.
There is no way I would undertake extensive travel with either in the soft bags that came them, so my chance discovery of the HPRC brand took on a serious note given I am now looking at upgrading both tripods with more recently-made carbon fibre tripods for environmental portraiture and documentary moviemaking.
An enquiry to HPRC received the feedback that the best hard case for the Sachtler tripod kit will be the HPRC 6400W case, and my choice of hard case for a small stills tripod depends on which of the two 3 Legged Thing tripods I choose.
I like the look of the HPRC 6200 hard case for small tripods and other HPRC items look appealing for other reasons.
I have been needing a smaller, safer memory card carrying solution for some time, and the HPRC1100 looks like it could fill the bill.
The HPRC 5400W would have been perfect when I was carrying light stands and lighting and microphone booms all over the planet and I like that it can take two internal soft bags inside to keep items separate.
The HPRC 2550W2017 is worth serious consideration as wheeled carry-on cabin luggage should interstate and foreign travel plans come to fruition.
For more local travel the HPRC GH52460-01 customized case looks great should I choose to upgrade to a Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 or GH5S for video, though Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K aka BMPCC 4K aka P4K looks very attractive right now given its ability to shoot high-quality raw or ProRes video while being portable enough for handholding with the right stabilized lenses or gimbal stabilizer.
Given it will not be released until laster in the year questions remain about the BMPCC 4K but one thing is known for sure right now, that its dimensions are very different to those of any other cinema cameras or camcorders and so we may need to rethink how we are going to transport and store it and its lenses and accessories.
HPRC’s customized hard case for the GH5 and GH5S is also available in a version for Sony’s A7, A7R, A7S, A7II, A7III, A7RII, A7SII and a6300 mirrorless hybrid cameras, the HPRC ALP2460-01 for Sony Alpha 7.
I wonder if the HPRC folks are working on a custom case solution for the BMPCC 4K or the coming DJIRonin-S?
A pre-production Ronin-S was being shown off with the BMPCC 4K and non-stabilized Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens attached at the recent NAB 2018 trade show in Los Angeles and it looked like a perfect fit.
All these decisions as to camera, tripods, stabilizers and cases depend on being able to actually see and try these items in order to make well-informed decisions though and that remains the biggest obstacle of all right now.
Lest I forget, another HPRC custom case that has a great deal of appeal is the HPRC MAC4800W-01 for carrying and storing my production iMac 27-incher while away on my travels and needing to store all our non-travelling possessions in lockup while away.
Keeping expensive gear in cardboard boxes or other low-end storage products is not recommended when relying on removalists or storage services especially now that radical climate change has brought the threat of mould and insect infestations to the fore here like never before.
A selection of cases for photography and video production equipment by HPRC | High Performance Resin Cases
HPRC HPRC6200 case for small tripods.
HPRC HPRC6200 case for small tripods, foam interior.
HPRC’s HPRC6400W case, one of a range of hard cases suitable for safely transporting tripods.
“Presenting flowtech™75, a versatile, lightweight tripod that is easier and faster to deploy and adjust than any other tripod….”
This new tripod system from Sachtler, the flowtech 75 fast set-up and fast-strike carbon fibre tripod legs with a choice of fluid heads, has appeared at just the right time.
At present I am re-evaluating all my tripods and camera support options with the goal of slimming my kit down while losing weight and gaining versatility and speed of use with the new generation of rigged and naked cinema and hybrid cameras like Fujifilm’s X-H1, Panasonic’s Lumix DC-GH5, Lumix DC-GH5S and Blackmagic Design’s coming Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.
I currently have two video tripods, a small video travel tripod and a much bigger and heavier Miller video tripod.
I am considering keeping the travel tripod for use when backpacking and selling the Miller tripod in order to buy this exciting new tripod system from Sachtler.
The only question in mind right now is whether the Flowtech 75 can support sliders as well as my Miller currently does.
I have a sentimental attachment to my Miller tripod due to this iconic Australian tripod maker’s Universal wooden-legged fluid head tripod being the very first video tripod I ever used, as a kid shooting my first award-winning short feature film, but emotion must not stand in the way of speed, efficiency and portability.
I have yet to see and try a flowtech 75 out in real life, and am unsure as to which Sachtler tripod head would best suit my needs, whether the Ace XL or the FSB 4, but so far what I have seen and read online is impressive.
Sachter flowtech 75 carbon fibre tripod legs system and related accessories
Sachtler flowtech 75 carbon fibre tripod legs
Sachtler flowtech 75 tripod legs for easy carrying over the shoulder.
“Located at the top of the tripod, the quick release brakes enable the legs to be deployed simultaneously and can quickly adjust to the height that you need and the ground’s surface – eliminating the need to bend over or manually adjust multiple brakes on each leg.”
“flowtech comes with a hinge lock mechanism that gives camera operators ultimate versatility. With the ability to be used with or without a spreader. The hinge lock allows the flowtech 75 to be deployed as low as 26 cm (0.85 ft.) and as high as 153 cm (5.02 ft.) when used without a spreader. This effectively eliminates the need to bring a second set of baby legs to each shoot.”
Sachtler flowtech 75 tripod legs: not one but two sets of spikes.
Rubber feet for Sachtler flowtech 75 carbon fibre tripod legs
Sachtler flowtech 75 carbon fibre tripod legs: goes low or high and can take the place of a hi-hat.
Sachtler ACE XL Tripod System with Slide-In Plate and flowtech 75 Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs
Sachtler Ace XL Fluid Head, 75mm bowl
Sachtler Ace XL Fluid Head, 75mm bowl
Sachtler Ace XL Fluid Head, 75mm bowl
Sachtler Ace XL Fluid Head, 75mm bowl
Sachtler System FSB 4 Fluid Head with Sideload Plate, Flowtech 75 Carbon Fiber Tripod with Mid-Level Spreader and Rubber Feet
Sachtler FSB 4 fluid head
Sachtler Sideload Quck Release (QR) Tripod Plate
Sachtler attachment mount fior Sachtler flowtech 75 carbon fibre tripod
Sachtler Mid-Level Spreader for FlowTech 75
Sachtler Rubber Feet for Flowtech Tripod
Sachtler Dolly for flowtech 75 tripod
Sachtler carry handle for flowtech: “This carry handle is designed as an optional accessory for all available flowtech tripod systems. It allows you to securely carry around your tripod system in one hand and can be easily attached to one of the three flowtech accessory docks”
Sachtler carrying strap for flowtech 75 carbon fibre tripod
“If you have a solid investment in a tripod and travel a lot having a case that is dependable and can take some bumps is important. Not only is protecting your investment important but making it easier to move around is too. Think Tank Photo has you covered with the new Video Tripod Manager 44 Rolling Case.…”
The very first tripod case I have seen that looks like it could be worth investing in!
I have travelled with big, heavy but amazingly stable tripods in a range of bags including third party tripod cases and bags provided by the manufacturer but all have proven wanting.
This case ticks all the boxes and would definitely suit my big Miller tripod.
Wildly innovative British tripod and tripod accessories maker 3 Legged Thing has updated its website while launching its new QR11 Universal L-Bracket, with the side benefit of making the entire 3 Legged Thing product range more comprehensible via plenty of product shots and descriptions. An unexpected revelation of the new website is the addition of a second pro tripod colourway alongside established bronze and blue Equinox in the form of the more subdued Eclipse.
3 Legged Thing describes its new Eclipse colourway as “metallic slate with subtle hints of British Racing Green”, appealing perhaps to the patriots and Anglophiles in the photographic community but also useful in potentially drawing less unwanted attention to the presence of a tripod-using photographer in places where tripod laws and regulations still reign.
I rather like 3 Legged Thing’s beautifully anodized blue and bronze Equinox colourway and find mostly-grey Eclipse dull by comparison though the copper orange accents shared by each spice up the Eclipse look as much as it does Equinox.
Although I do not own a 3 Legged Thing tripod yet, I was lucky enough to try one out when I began the Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success project and learned firsthand how innovatively designed and carefully manufactured 3 Legged Thing’s products are.
3 Legged Thing’s 3 Professional tripod range – Leo, Albert and Winston
My experiences with the Equinox Leo Carbon Fibre Tripod System & AirHed Light, now updated in the form of the Equinox Leo Kit that includes the Airhed Switch, were so positive that I added the next model up, the Equinox Albert Kit which includes the Airhed 360, to my stills photography wishlist.
In the course of the tryout I discovered that the jewel-like colours and finish of the Equinox Leo drew in and even fascinated portrait sitters so they focussed more on the experience of being before camera and tripod, taking their minds off innate self-consciousness.
I was reminded how the relatively unusual sheet film and 120 roll film cameras I favoured for portraiture during the analog era created a similar fascination in my sitters and concluded that any hardware with that capability had to be a good thing.
Today’s digital cameras are bland-looking things in comparison to those hand-made marvels of optical and mechanical design and engineering to the point where I often blend into the crowd, or the darkness, even when standing right in front of a subject mere centimetres away from their eyes.
A tripod-shaped place in my heart
After almost a lifetime of being a tripod and monopod user when shooting photography and video, I have owned, sold off or lost through theft a great many of them and none has won a special place in my heart apart from the very first, a black Leitz Tiltall exactly the same as one depicted in the first photography book I bought about the work of two female photographers in the United States.
That first tripod of mine was described by its US makers as “The Leica of Tripods” and its high quality design and engineering prompted me to investigate Leica cameras, after which I quickly sold off my Nikons and invested in Leica M-System rangefinder cameras and lenses.
As the demands of my professional work increased, so did the size and weight of the tripods with which I attempted to replace my lost Tiltall.
Not one could have been considered a “micro-traveler” or even a “travel tripod”, terms 3 Legged Thing rightly uses to describe its Leo and Albert, and were more in the league of 3 Legged Thing’s Winston and beyond.
I owned all those many tripods in the days before carbon fibre and portability were considered common standards to aspire to and one British-made tripod in particular, bought for corporate photography assignments in the deserts of Western Australia, presented a real transportation challenge due to its size and weight.
Despite that, it was a stellar performer in the nastiest of conditions and I miss it still when needing a tripod capable of bizarre angles or positioning, or of carrying the heaviest of heavy loads; pity that particular model was discontinued when the company sold itself and the new owners chose to truncate the product range.
The QR11 Universal L-Bracket
3 Legged Thing’s new universal L-Bracket is available to two versions, the Equinox Copper-coloured QR11-LC and the Eclipse Metallic Slate-coloured QR11-LG. Your choice will hinge on how much attention you want to draw and whether you like 3LT’s Copper colour.
Given I am considering buying an Equinox Albert travel tripod for easy carrying to shoot portrait-orientation head-and-shoulders portraits and landscape-orientation environmental portraits, I may well opt for a QR11-LC.
Being about to dip my toes into the multicoloured Equinox colourway, why not go that little bit further with an orange-ish L-Bracket to match the orangeish accents on the Albert?
Until coming across QR11 online, I had never seriously considered a universal L-bracket of any brand. Despite digital cameras of all formats being more similar in their sizes and designs than analog cameras of all formats could ever be, any “universal” accessory must of necessity be a compromise, neither fish nor fowl, good in parts but not perfect in all of them.
I had been leaning towards custom L-Brackets for all my cameras for the obvious reason that each is designed to fit its intended cameras perfectly, allowing full access to the camera’s functions and especially its battery and card compartments.
Then the downside of relying on a range of third party custom accessories marks became apparent, with sudden discontinuation of L-Brackets for still-current cameras, as well as the many variations between third party brands, and their design and manufacturing quality.
Strike that particular accessories maker off the wishlist for L-Brackets and perhaps everything else they make. Unreliability is the last thing one needs in a supplier and makes one wonder whether that particular company is flakey in other ways as well. Their recommended substitute for their now-dead GX8 L-Bracket is pathetic, a simple square Arca-Swiss plate, hardly inspiring confidence.
From what I can tell by looking at 3 Legged Things’ product shots, the QR11 is one of the better-designed universal L-Brackets. I love its two camera strap attachment bars given I have standardized on a Peak Design Clutch and Cuff for every camera I own, only attaching conventional neck or shoulder camera straps when doing the two-camera documentary thing.
Another potentially useful element in the QR11’s design is its 1/4″-20 threaded hole for attaching accessories, making the QR11 a little more like a cage and less of a conventional L-Bracket.
Given the nature of compromise, the QR11 does not work perfectly with every camera in common use nowadays, but the 3LT team has tried out and documented its usability with a range of cameras from makers including Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon and Sony and I hope that they will soon add the results of their tests with current Panasonic cameras like the GX8, GH4 and GH5.
Other essential accessories for your 3 Legged Thing tripod
The 3 Legged Thing product world is built upon the Arca-Swiss quick release system and benefits from a working relationship with Peak Design, as proven by 3LT’s adoption of Peak Design’s square Arca-Swiss camera plate.
3LT makes quick release camera plates other than its square QR4, such as the rectangular QR6 and QR7. I am considering the QR7 with its strap connector and 62mm length as compared to the 38mm of the QR4 that comes with every 3LT tripod.
Many is the time I have put a camera equipped with QR4 or its Peak Design equivalent Standard Plate down upon a flat surface to watch it suddenly tilt over, with dismay at possible dire consequences to camera and lens. Will a longer quick release plate like the QR7 prevent this?
I am planning on converting all my tripods and tripod plates over to the Arca-Swiss system whether they are designed for stills photography or video and have been researching custom and third-party Arca-Swiss clamps. I have yet to make my final decision but 3LT’s two current clamps, the lever-operated Switch Clamp and panoramic 360-Clamp, are possible candidates.
Likewise I like the look of 3LT’s Stilettoz, Heelz and Clawz Footwear solutions for replacing the Bootz rubber feet that come with each 3LT tripod as standard.
I have photography and video tripods and monopods that come equipped with soft rubber or hard plastic feet that can be screwed upwards to reveal short metal spikes. Again, a neither fish nor fowl solution that could be bettered with exchangeable feet designed for each specific surface in varieties of hard or soft as 3 Legged Thing’s Footz have been.
Mould, the ever-present danger
At a certain point in this ongoing global warming aka climate change that out political overlords insist does not exist, mould suddenly appeared throughout apartments and houses in suburbs that had never experienced it before.
Mould infestations were formerly only the thing of inner city terrace houses with poor ventilation, tiny windows, no insulation, and little to no heating or cooling.
Cameras and lenses hate mould and so do I. Certain plastics and almost all leathers attract mould which embeds its spores into them then sprouts pale grey powder onto the outer surfaces. It is the simplest thing to accidentally transfer the powder onto your equipment then watch in horror as mould invades its insides and outsides.
I implore the 3 Legged Thing team to look into their plastics for process to mould infestation and replace them with anti-mould alternatives.
Future 3 Legged Thing products
The updated 3 Legged Thing website has helped me better understand their product range and many items in it go together. It has boosted my interest in them as a brand and, from my time with an Equinox Pro Leo & Airhed Light Kit, one clearly capable of coming with uniquely creative and innovative hardware.
The folks at 3LT have hinted that more products are on the horizon and have not denied one persistent rumour, that a video tripod may be one of them.
I have two very good video tripods at the moment, one large and one small that is designed for travel. Both are far from what I really need, so I am looking forward to seeing what 3 Legged Thing comes up with.
Opening hours are Tuesday 18 to Thursday 20 from 10am to 6pm, and between 10am and 3pm on Friday 21.
SMPTE Australia has been advertising that registration to attend will be open from today, 1st May. So far that has not occurred so I am hoping that the organization gets its registration mechanism up and running soon. Better to register early than put it off then forget.