Think Tank makes some of the best camera bags on the market period. Their bags are so well designed that I've actually become a bit cynical when someone announces the "next breakthrough camera bag" because, well, there isn't really much more I need other than my Think Tank Airport. Today Think Tank has announced a new roller bag for everything that won't fit in your camera bag and it looks awesome! Welcome the Think Tank Production Manager 50.
If you aren't aware of the Think Tank Production Manager line of bags, they essentially feature all of the design elements we have come to love in their camera bags, but they offer a ton more storage. These bags are for everything that won't fit in your camera bag like light stands, tripods, studio strobes, softboxes, and anything else that is larger than 24 inches.
Fstoppers owns the smaller Production Manager 40 and it has been a godsend for traveling and on location photoshoots. Our previous "grip" bag was the Lightware 48" RC1048 roller bag but the problem with this bag is that the internal compartment is long but very narrow. With a single tripod and a few lightstands the Lightware bag was already full. The Production Manager 40, while 8 inches shorter than the RC1048, allowed us to put a lot more equipment into our bag for extended photoshoots. Sure, we could only pack shorter lightstands but the overall internal size difference felt like a luxurious upgrade for a simple grip roller bag. Our Production Manager 40 has traveled throughout the world with us when we produced Elia Locardi's Photographing the World series, and we recently traveled down to Curacao to film Joey Wright's Swimwear Photography tutorial. To say it hasn't been an awesome investment would be an understatement.
This coming May, Think Tank will start shipping their largest roller bag yet, the Production Manager 50. This new grip bag is 11" longer than the 40 version we own which means it will be perfect for those who like to travel with longer lightstands or even C-stands (or our favorite, the Avenger roller stand). Compared to the Production Manager 40 roller which has 5206 cubic inches of storage space, the PM 50 has a whopping 7675 cubic inches of storage. If you compare this total compartment size to the 4,080 cubic inches in the Lightware roller, you can see why we generally reach for the Think Thank bag first when packing gear.
Below are the specs of the new Production Manager 50:
15.6” W x 49.2” H x 10” D (39.5 x 125 x 25 cm)
17.3” W x 53.1” H x 12.6” D (44 x 135 x 32 cm)
20.7–29.8 lbs (9.4–13.5 kg) Depending on accessories used
What it Fits:
3–4 flash heads
2–3 power packs
Large size softboxes or modifiers (collapsed)
Large light stands including C-stands
Things to consider
Of course it is easy to think that bigger is always better but when it comes to packing all your gear and lugging it around, bigger usually comes with a downfall. While the larger size of the Production Manager 50 is a nice welcome for those of us who wish to carry larger lightstands and octaboxes on location, the larger size can potentially cause problems if the bag will not fit in your car. If you have a smaller SUV or 4 door sedan, make sure you measure the interior of your trunk or back seat to make sure that you can accommodate this 54" bag. This bag is actually slightly wider than the bag storage area of my SUV so I would have to put my rear seats down to fit it in my vehicle. Keep in mind, if all of your lightstands are less than 38" when broken down, you might still be better off with the smaller PM 40. Lee and I also use the smaller "Logistics" Manager 30 quite often for weddings too. This even smaller version is great for my photobooth or just to keep a few backup Profoto B1 heads in my car in the event that I need some extra gear during a wedding.
Weight is another thing to consider when deciding on the right grip bag for your needs. Most domestic flights in the US allow up to 50lbs before a bag becomes oversized and has additional fees. The PM 50 weights about 24lbs completely empty while the PM 40 weights about 20lbs empty. That means about 40% of your allowed weight is going towards the weight of the bag. When flying I tend to max out my luggage to 50lbs exactly which might mean I have to pack smaller or lighter lightstands and tripods. If you are going to be packing lighter and shorter stands and tripods to begin with, you could also make the argument that the PM 40 would be a better option altogether. Keep in mind that other airline carriers in other parts of the world have much stricter weight requirements so sometimes paying for extra for an oversized checked bag is something that is unavoidable. Check with your airline carriers before traveling internationally to make sure none of your checked bags go over the maximum weight limit set by the most strict airline you will be using.
If you are a photographer who primarily shoots locally and hates having to make multiple trips to the car for your production gear, I can't recommend having one of Think Tank's Production Manager bags enough. If you travel by air and like a well designed bag that will product your gear, these bags have really been a great for us. They have taken a beating in many different climates and conditions and today all of our Think Tank bags still look nearly brand new. You might have to weigh the benefits and costs of going with a slightly larger bag like the PM 50 over the smaller PM40, but in the end either option will likely take care of your grip and production needs for years and years. I'm excited to compare this new, larger bag with the one we already have once these start shipping. Now if we could persuade Think Tank to start producing normal luggage for clothing and overnight items then maybe I can stop buying a new checked suitcase every two years because they always fall apart!