For the vast majority of modern filmmaking tasks, the soft case is really taking over. Lighter weight and less likely to ding your knee, a properly packed soft camera case can keep your kit protected and is also easy to use.
However, there are still times when nothing but a hard case will do. If you have a lot of gear, very delicate gear, or are going to rough-and-tumble places (especially by airplane), you want a hard case to ensure your gear will be in good condition to shoot when you arrive.
Manfrotto has just rolled out two Tough cases with a host of small details to make sure you not only get there, but your gear does too.
The Tough Line
When working in independent productions, our longstanding habit has been to keep the lenses with us up in the cabin, since they are the most delicate item and often the hardest to replace. Having the roomy 55 serve as a hard case we could fill with lenses, and maybe even a camera body or two, and bring with us on a flight would be tremendously comforting on a variety of productions.
The bigger 83 is definitely not going to fit in an overhead bin but should be able to be checked without an extra charge unless you go over an airline's weight limit. The differing restrictions of various airlines are frustrating for manufacturers, which frequently leaves them guessing on precisely what will make it through without a charge, but these sizes seem like they'll work on the vast majority of carriers we've worked with.
One of our favorite features is the "flexible" design of the tripod holder.
Frequently in hard cases, we end up laying our tripod over the top of the bag, but it leaves the whole assembly wider, making going through doors trickier. The upright mounting position of the tripod here makes it easier when rushing through a location, or an airport. But even better than being vertical, it's not restricted to working with only a single tripod; it's a fast, efficient system for bringing along your tripod, or frankly any long piece of kit too big to stash in the case.
One detail that doesn't get enough attention is that there are two separate "label" windows on the case.
Frankly, a single label slot doesn't really feel like enough on a modern case, and having two places on separate sides to slide in our business card for an extra bit of branding and to make it faster to identify our case is a nice design detail.
The padlock holes are reinforced to prevent tampering.
While it's not common, it does happen that folks try to break into your case, and it's far more likely for them to break the plastic flaps of your case than to break the lock itself. By locking through metal-reinforced tabs, you get an added layer of security to slow thieves down.
Our positively favorite design detail might seem small, but it's vital. Replaceable sealed bearings in the wheels.
If you use cases enough, you are going to wear out a wheel. Even if not with mileage, but simply with the wheels being exposed to the elements and getting filled up with gunk or knocked around in an airplane hold, the wheels take a lot of abuse. In some cases, that requires replacing the whole wheel, or even a whole corner assembly, when you have an issue with the bearings (the seal-up unit in the middle there that allows rotation).
With the design of the Manfrotto Tough, you can use a normal old wrench to get the wheel off and should be able to replace the bearing if you need to. Even if you are swapping out the whole wheel, you can do it with normal tools without disassembling the whole unit. Very clutch.
Manfrotto is on fire with cases lately, and if you've got a need for truly tough gear protection, the Tough cases are well worth the look.