Recently, F-Stop Gear released a new line of their Mountain Series packs, including a new 80 liter pack called the Shinn. I had been using one of their older series packs called the Satori for several years with both my digital setup, my 4x5 setup, and my 6x17 setup. It was honestly the best camera pack I had ever owned. The internal frame and the option to open the back of the pack to gain access to the camera compartment was a huge leap forward in my workflow in the field. The only drawbacks I had were on long hikes, the suspension system was lacking enough that I would definitely feel the heavy load after a few miles.
Their revolutionary ICU (internal camera unit) system was also a huge step forward in my workflow. These removable compartments allow the pack to be completely modular and customizable. Essentially, I had an ICU for every setup I could possibly imagine.
When I bought my 8x10, my only hesitation with the Arca Swiss was how I was going to carry it in the field. My current Satori fit the camera, but was tight enough that I could not use an ICU and there was always a risk of damaging the bellows. With a few pieces of foam and by strategically positioning film holders around the camera, I could at least carefully carry the camera in the field, but it wasn't the perfect solution.
Early this past summer, F-Stop announced the Shinn - an 80 liter pack that was 14 inches wide. While the extra space wasn't entirely necessary for me, the extra width was important. Within the first few hours of the announcement, I preordered the pack along with a special ICU designed for the additional width. This pack was designed with the outdoor cinema shooter in mind, but this pack has changed the way I carry my 8x10 into the wilderness.
In the picture above, you can see a pretty basic outline of everything that it can hold. I'll list the gear I carry on a regular basis:
- Arca Swiss 8x10 F-Line Metric with Micrometric Orbix
- 6 8x10 Fidelity Elite film holders
- Really Right Stuff TVC-44 w/ Arca Swiss C1 Cube
- Schneider Super Symmar XL 150mm f/5.6
- Schneider Apo Symmar 240mm f/5.6
- Nikkor W 300mm f/5.6
- Sekonic L-558 Light Meter
- 7X Loupe
- Lee Push-On Filter Holder / Wide Angle Hood
- Mind Shift Filter Hive Case
- Full Hard / Soft Graduated ND Filter kit
- Full black and white contrast filter kit
- Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Ultraslim Polariser
- Blackjacket 8x10 Darkcloth
On top of all this gear, there is plenty of room for jackets, food, and even some camping gear (if weight wasn't ever an issue).
Before I get into explaining how I fit all this gear into my pack, let me explain how I actually carry my film holders. If you've ever shot large format, you'll understand that these holders aren't exactly a work of art. They're plastic with cheap hardware and can prove to be pretty breakable if not handled with care. Along with that, they also carry the most important part of the kit - the film. I can't explain how frustrating it is to accidentally pull a dark slide partially out in full daylight, ruining a perfectly good $20. Because of that, I decided to use a well constructed, water resistant laptop case to hold two holders. This was a suggestion from a fellow 8x10 shooter and friend, Ben Horne. (If you haven't checked out his work or his YouTube videos, be sure to check them out!) These didn't exactly come cheap at $50 a pop, but I can trust that they will keep the holders dry and protected in the field.
The ICU that is designed to fit this pack is called the Master Cine ICU. It's essentially designed for the depth of a RED Epic or equivalent cinema-quality brain, with plenty of room for lenses and accessories. The ICU came with a ton of partitions, which I immediately took out. Almost the entirety of the ICU is filled with the camera and film holders alone. To pack the camera safely, I place two of the film holder cases (laptop cases) into the back of the ICU before the camera. Since the camera lives on a 6" rail, if I didn't put something behind the camera, it would sit at an angle and possibly damage the bellows in transport. After the camera is in the ICU, I put the 3rd case on top of it (optional), so when I zip everything up, it's tight enough to keep things from shifting during a hike. The nice thing about the new ICU's is you can actually zip off the flap if you'd like, but I've kept it on for a bit more additional padding and protection.
Another nice feature of the Master Cine ICU is there is an optional compartment that can separate the ICU into two compartments, which zips open from the top of the pack. I use this area to store up to three large lenses.
After closing up the ICU, there is an additional top compartment of the pack where I keep my headlamp, any additional snacks, batteries, my light meter, my focusing loupe and my filter holder.
The pack also has a large front compartment, where I keep my longer rail for the camera and my two filter kits. There's still enough space in this compartment when zipped up for additional layers of clothing or other accessories if needed when out in the field.
The pack also has two large expandable side pockets, where I keep my dark cloth. Most of this space goes unused unless I need to carry any additional camping equipment, but the ability to expand the pockets with a Velcro strip on the outside of the pack is a nice additional feature.
The fabric of the pack is well improved over my older Satori, with a much tougher water resistant finish and a satin black finish. The zippers are very high quality and all of the tensional adjusting clasps on the outside of the pack allow for multiple options for attaching a tripod and distributing weight evenly across the pack.
Overall, I am incredibly happy with the functionality, performance and aesthetics of the pack. Having two packs from F-Stop really makes packing options endless for anything I need to carry into the backcountry and makes carrying my large format setup an absolute breeze. The only drawback I can see is the amount of gear I can actually carry with me, making the minimum weight with the 8x10 being about 50 pounds.
Way to go F-Stop! Keep up the killer work.
If you like seeing this content, help me out! Film is expensive and all of your continued support helps keep me out in the field shooting.