Last year we had a chance to review Mindshift’s exceptional Rotation 180° Panorama travelling camera bag. This year and with almost no media attention Mindshift released a newer, larger member to the Rotation 180° family – the Hortizon. We had a chance test to take it through his paces and see how it performs.
Update September 2015: check out how the MindShift Insert fits into the Horizon and the Panorama in the video below.
The Mindshift Rotation 180° Panorama we reviewed here in 2014, is a great travelling bag – probably the best that we have tested until that time. It is light, comfortable and has the amazing rotation mechanism from Mindshift that is so useful and easy to use and help you take of your camera from the bag and change lenses faster than any other solution around.
The bag does have a few drawbacks as we discovered – it can’t hold a laptop and if you want to carry lots of photography gear (longer lenses etc.) you need to buy a special insert in the top compartment – which is O.K. but basically forces you to loose all the space for personal gear – not ideal and quite a pity as we really love to have this compartment to carry other things as well.
Mindshift Rotation 180° Horizon – the larger brother
Now, the Panorama is a 22L camera bag – this is good if you take a mid size camera and two, not very big lenses, but if you are a pro shooter you need more, and the Horizon with its 34L capacity (7 in the rotation compartment and the rest above) is a huge step up.
We had the Horizon for over 2 months now and we used it for hiking several times as well as for more general purpose stuff (we even used it for an assignment – doing a video at Intel’s factory in Jerusalem and interviewing one of the company’s VPs on the new Thundrbolt 3 technology – which is extremely interesting for photographers as well by the way). This required a huge amount of video and sound gear, and as you can see in the video the bag took everything in, no problem.
The video above is long so here is a table of contents to help you navigate around:
- 0-4:43 – Intro + Panorama vs. Horizon comparison.
- 4:44 – 07:59 – design
- 08:00 -12:57 – filling the bag with gear.
- 12:58-15:28 – fitting a tripod.
- 15:29-16:42 – adding a water pack.
- 16:43-19:14 – conclusion.
Photo gear compartment
The photo gear compartment on the Panorama isn’t very small. However if you are a pro and want to take a pro body and a larger lens – the Panorama isn’t for you. The Horizon is a completely different story.
The photo gear compartment on the Horizon can hold a D810/5D MKIII with ease probably with a 24-70mm (we didn’t test this configuration ourselves as we didn’t have this combination at the time – but this is what Mindshift says and we tend to believe them looking at the space). We did test a few other combinations including D7100+70-300mm and D7100 with a 105mm macro – both worked well (hood reversed). We could of course add 2 other mid size lenses – say 10-20mm Sigma and a 18-105mm. If we wanted we could even add a 4’th small lens like an old 50mm f/1.8 on top of the 10-20mm with a divider (not sure if we really recommend this – but we did it and nothing happened to any of the lenses).
Photo gear compartment – pro body + 2 lenses should fit
Just like the Panorama, the rotation mechanism on the Horizon is truly exceptional – it has a magnetic part which is easy to lock and works great and it goes in and out in less than a second. Just watch the video to see how quick and easy it is every time.
One advantage to being larger is that unlike the Panorama which could not stand upright without falling (the rotation mechanism forces the bag to be round on the bottom), the Horizon has a large enough bottom to hold upright better – not perfect, but much better than the Panorama (we still would like to see a version with 100% upright ability – and this is possible if the bottom will include an extra straight part – but will increase cost and make the bag look a bit bulkier, probably).
Personal gear compartment
Just like the photo gear compartment, the main personal gear chamber is larger on the Horizon – much, much larger. Actually – it is by far the largest of any camera bag we tested (the Mindshift Rotation 180° Pro might be larger – but we didn’t try it…yet). It is really hard to describe in writing just how much stuff you can put inside so you can either take our word, watch the video (there is an entire part where we show this) or just take a look at the image below.
The huge top compartment empty
One of the drawbacks of the Panorama as we mentioned was the fact that it could not carry a laptop. This is resolved with the Horizon – in the top large compartment. Now sadly Mindshift didn’t add a specific laptop compartment (we think they should, and could). We asked Mindshift about that and they suggested that we use the mesh net in the personal gear compartment – we don’t think that it is such a great solution to be honest so we just used a cover for the laptop and put it in the compartment itself – not ideal but it usually worked fine for us.
The only real drawback of the huge size of this compartment is that except from the mesh net – you don’t have any other internal pockets/dividers or way of organizing this compartment – this can cause some issues if you have large amount of small items (one mesh net is hardly enough). You can but the extra insert ($50) which is the same one as you can get for the Panorama and still be left with about 10cm/4 inches of space above for other stuff – but again from such a high end bag – we would have liked to see much more pockets and organizational options (interestingly Mindshift knows how to do that – just look at their other newly released line called FirstLight – which has nice looking transparent pockets on the inside).
Updated: This is how the Mindshift insert fits into the Horizon (and the panorama + what you can fit inside)
Besides the main photo gear and personal gear compartments you also have a small top compartment for your wallet, smartphone (which we think should have had a special pocket on the top right side above the rotation mechanism) and other relatively small items.
You also have a front pocket (which the Panorama didn’t have), it isn’t small but you can’t put thick stuff in there as it is quite narrow. We used it for cables and it was great.
Tripod carrying / water compartment
Just like the Panorama, you have two ways of carrying a tripod – on the front or one the side (you can see this in the video). We prefer the side as it doesn’t pull us back and with a heavy bag you don’t feel the side pulling too much.
As for water – you can carry a pretty large water pack in a special side pocket (larger than that of the Panorama which was a bit too small), or you can put a water bottle there (1.5 liter fits great), you can of course use the external pocket for that as well (we even tested one 1.5 liter bottle inside and one on the outside pocket and it worked great – but your bag will be very side heavy, so keep that in mind).
Up to 2 1.5L water bottles
We tested the Horizon several times for hiking and for the Intel shoot we mentioned before (with well over 15kg of gear). Walking a full day with the bag didn’t cause us backache and the bag felt very secure. We will mention that like most camera backpacks – this bag wasn’t designed for women (especially not ones with above average chest, as the top strap doesn’t sit well in this case – the F-Stop Kashmir was designed for women if you are looking for a travelling women backpack).
The bottom compartment out – great bag but probably not for women
Just like the Panorama, the zippers has large holders and are really comfortable even when wearing thick gloves. The general ergonomics of the bag seem to superb with lots of options for changing the fit for different heights.
Build quality is very high – the only thing missing really are more internal mesh nets as we mentioned before and pockets which you can find in other high end camera bags. This is especially important in the top personal gear compartment as it is so huge and has only one large mesh net (things can easily disperser there and be hard to find if you put too much stuff there). We would even consider adding optional dividers in this compartment by adding Velcro if you want to make this huge compartment more organized but we highly recommend that Mindshift will add internal pockets and maybe another mesh net or two for small items such as memory cards, filters, cables etc.
The best quick draw mechanism
If the Panorama was as close to a travel bag perfection as we got in 2014, the Horizon is able to take the basic design a step further (definitely not a small feat). It has lots more space which solves the problem for most pro photographers and the top compartment now allows for carrying a full size 13″ laptop as well which was one of the only drawbacks of the Panorama.
You also gain a new front compartment, more space for the water pack, plus a bag which can stand better upright.
Horizon – our top choice for pro travel photographers
We see almost nothing that Mindshift could do to improve this bag further (and if you read our reviews you know that we always have quite a few suggestions for improvements). The only two minor things are a dedicated laptop compartment and more organizational options in the main personal gear compartment.
As for pricing – the Horizon isn’t cheap – it will cost you about $260 and you might also need to spend an extra $50 on an insert if you have more photo gear you want to carry protected in the top compartment, and a rain cover (which for some strange reason doesn’t come with the bag. For this price it should and we actually got one for the review but from what we understand it is an separately sold extra).
Other than the price (which is mostly justified in our view) and the missing laptop dedicated compartment – if you are a pro travelling photographer, you have lots of equipment to carry for a day or two of hiking, biking , climbing etc. The Mindshift Horizon is the best camera bag that you can find (at least until we see what Mindshift will come up with next…).
What we liked
- Light and comfortable.
- The best camera quick draw mechanism around, period.
- Unbelievable room for personal equipment and / or extra gear in the top compartment (including a laptop).
- Enough room to carry a pro camera and two lenses in the gear compartment (more if the lenses are small).
- Great build quality.
- Great options for carrying water and a tripod.
What we didn’t like so much
- No dedicated compartment for a laptop.
- More internal pockets/dividers and mesh nets are needed especially in the top compartment for better organization.
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