I Got Over Myself: Using the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Spin-55 Carry-On Camera Roller Bag

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I suppose it’s the habits you get into that define you. I was always a bit dismissive of rolling camera cases for photographers, preferring, for some hard to explain reason, to use old-school camera bags that weighed me down significantly. It’s true that access to bags is generally easier and you can move faster with a bag over your shoulder than a rolling case dragging behind you, but for me, the reason runs a bit deeper. I feel that the metaphoric weight of photography—the responsibility and effort—should rest on ourselves, and the same goes for the physical weight of the gear you carry. Pulling things behind me just never worked. Like I said, hard to explain.

But using my first rolling case, the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Spin-55 Carry-On Camera Roller Bag, has certainly had me rethinking that “philosophy.” Obviously, a rolling case is not ideal when in the field or for assignments where you need your gear with you over the course of varied and unforeseen locations. However, I used this case for three jobs over the course of a month and it proved ideal for the tasks. The first two were jobs near my home, in New York, for which I carried the case on the subway and through the streets. When I arrived at the location, I pulled two cameras out of the case and left it safe and secure in an office place, returning the cameras to the case when the job was complete. The third job required a plane trip. The roller bag was perfect, almost rolling itself through the airport with two days’ worth of rolled-up clothing and gear. It slid easily into the plane’s overhead compartment.

The bag’s main attributes—its four spinning wheels—rolled effortlessly through smooth-floored airport terminals and treaded with confidence through the cracked sidewalks and pot-holed streets of New York. It’s lightweight and also rolled well on two wheels, and the telescoping handle was long enough to be comfortable, if not particularly robust. However, its zipper toggles, side and top handle, polycarbonate shell, water-repellent nylon and fold-out rain protector displayed the durability one would expect from a high-end camera bag.

What I liked particularly about the case was its easy-to-open front compartment, which I used for my phone, cables, and other small items, but which also provided a zippered fast-access route to the main compartment, perfect for grabbing the one camera situated in that spot. This eliminated one of my major reluctances to using a case: the inability to get to your gear quickly. The front face also offers a dedicated compartment for a tablet or laptop up to 15" wide.

The interior of the case provides soft, light gray non-abrasive fabric and padded touch-fastening interior dividers, which can be customized to fit your gear. I comfortably fit my two Nikon D750s with a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 24-70mm f/2.8 attached in the center area of the case, and my remaining two small lenses, chargers, and other gear in the interior side compartments. With all my gear contained, I still had enough room for clothes and overnight items or a book and change of shirts when in the city.

The bag is stylish, if not all that different from standard “shelled” rollers, but it’s red trim and red-on-gray interior give it a certain panache. The finely dimpled exterior, the external tripod attachment, and a subtle Manfrotto tag mark it as a camera bag, but simply remove all the interior dividers and you have the perfect short-trip suitcase.

During the month that I’ve had the case, I have shot jobs without it. To me, a shoulder bag or backpack are still indispensable, but for certain locations and jobs and to use occasionally as a suitcase, I will be psyched to use this case, and I’m sure my back and shoulders will thank me when I do. If, like the old me, you just can’t get over yourself and need the option to burden the load, but still have wheels when you need them, check out the Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Switch-55 Backpack/Roller with padded shoulder straps and sternum strap for backpack carry. For photographers who prefer the reassurance of a hard case, the Reloader Tough-55 High Lid Carry-On Camera Rollerbag provides a third option in the series. Pairing a rugged, waterproof exterior with soft padding and dividers inside, this roller can easily take a bruising while keeping your gear safe and sound.

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