Manfrotto Pro Light and Tough Series Bags Review (Tough 55 and 83, Backloader and Flexloader) Diferent bags for dfifferent uses

Today we are taking a look at two backpacks and two hard cases from Manfrotto’s Pro Light and Tough series of bags. The Pro-light backpacks have been around for many years and the new bags have a new design and new materials and then there are also the Manfrotto Tough hard cases which come in two sizes and have many useful accessories.

The Manfrotto Pro Light series dates to the days of KATA, way back in the early 2010s. While the KATA brand was integrated into the Manfrotto line you can still see a little bit of the influence of the original design although much had changed as well with both the smaller Backloader and larger Flexloader backpacks. The Tough hard cases are of newer design and were introduced back in 2018.

Build and design

The Backloader has been one of our daily carries for a few months now. It has traveled to a few countries and we carried it on our back extensively while exploring new cities. Both it and the larger Flexloader backpack are sturdy, spacious, and well-designed. They share a similar stylish look and several innovations.

The hard cases offer a minimalist design, but with a few standout features, like red lid clasps and a grey Manfrotto tag on the lid. They serve a very different purpose than the two backpacks and are very practical and spacious. The cases are made of impact-resistant plastic, but are also lightweight and offer a number of interesting accessories that we shall discuss later on.

All four Manfrotto bags (left to right: Backloader, Flexloader, Tough 55, and Tough 83)

Size and weight

The Flexloader is the bigger of the two backpacks at 26.5L (external dimensions 56 x 36 x 35 cm or 22 x 14.2 x 13.8″). It comes with an organizer pouch, a divider for a tablet, and an extra pocket for a gimbal that is tucked into an expandable back section when not in use. It also features a more robust backing and hip support. Of course, this adds an extra kilogram of weight (3kg vs 1.7kg of the smaller Backloader).

The Backloader is only 4cm shorter than the Flexloader (external dimensions 52 x 32.5 x 26 cm or 20.5 x 12.6 x 10.2″). Mind you unlike the Flexloader which has only one version, the Backloader comes in medium and small versions (22.5L or 19L).

Even though both of these backpacks are designed to be cabin luggage, the Flexloader may raise questions when checking in for some shorter flights.  With the Backloader, I had no trouble bringing it onto airplanes and fitting it into overhead compartments, or even under the seat.

Both of the backpacks offer a large front pocket and three small mesh pockets inside the lid.

As for the hard cases, only the Tough 55 is cabin luggage (external dimensions 55 x 35 x 22.5 cm or 21.65 x 13.78 x 8.86″). It weighs 4.5 kg and offers plenty of room for small accessories, lenses, and 2-3 bodies. It comes with both high and low lid options and you can choose the insert as well.

The Tough 83 case offers a whooping 79L of internal space (external dimensions 32.8 x 18.3 x 11″ / 83.2 x 46.6 x 27.9 cm) and it is designed to transport bigger accessories, like lights, tripods, and stands. This case is 7.7kg / 17 lb, which is actually a bit lighter than some of the other similar-sized bags that we’ve worked with.

The Manfrotto Tough 55 with its back system/harness

manfrotto Tough 55 back system harness

Materials

The two backpacks are covered in water-repellent nylon with reinforced stitching. This fabric is easy to clean and doesn’t show signs of wear as easily. The outside walls of the backpacks are lined with memory foam for shock absorption and structural endurance. The bottom of the bags features foam bumpers for extra fall protection.

Inside, Manfrotto furnished the bags with shock-resistant M-guard compartments with extra padding. These feel premium and are a lot easier to reposition than regular padded dividers.

The hard cases are made of a tough plastic compound that may not look very exciting but is made to withstand falls, dust, and water. They are tough enough to be used as a seat or even to stand on (trust us we tried it).

The Manfrotto Flexloader – premium materials 

The Manfrotto Flexloader - premium materials 

Features

The Backloader has the main access panel in the back and features quick top access. To protect the front of the backpack when laying it down on the ground, there are two small rubber bumpers. After months of use, the front of this bag still looks as good as new.

Both of the backpacks feature a reinforced back with a padded surface for comfort and a mesh cover for breathability. There are also alternative side handles for easier carry (the fabric on these handles is the only part of the bag that shows some signs of wear).

The hardware on these bags is extra durable and comes with steel cable zipper pulls. The bag is furnished with 3 tripod straps on the sides and the front. There is an extra bottom strap for bigger tripods on the sides that can be tucked away when not in use as well as a rain cover that goes into the front (from a pocket on the lower part of the bag.

The Manfrotto Flexloader with a side tripod

The Manfrotto Flexloader tripod

The quick strap system includes two front straps that are set up in seconds by mounting the metal ends through the rubberized slits (it’s easy to use but we would still prefer it if there was some quick release option).

Another interesting feature of the Flexloader bag is the removable organizer insert. In order to make room inside the bag, undo the velcro sides of the hard-back organizer, and remove it (making the bag a huge open backpack for anything you might want to carry).

The hard cases are very similar in their features. They are both shock-proof and IP67 rated for water and dust protection. Both cases come equipped with fail-proof safety latches (these are very strong but also a little hard to open and close), two reinforced padlock eyelets, user-replaceable wheels, and a special valve to regulate air pressure inside the case while in flight.

Manfrotto Tough cases come with a telescoping handle. While it looks very durable, the deployment mechanism isn’t the easiest to activate. It’s a two-handed maneuver and it just feels a bit unsophisticated. But then again, it’s part of a rugged minimalist design, so it’ll just take a little getting used.

Internal dividers inside the Manfrotto Flexloader

The Manfrotto Flexloader - internal

The Tough 83 also has an extra label holder, two extra handles, and features 5 latches instead of the 2 on the Tough 55. There are a few external accessories sold separately for the Tough 55 (some might work with the 83 as well) that can carry a laptop or a tripod or add a harness to carry the case as a backpack which we actually really like (it would be even better if there was a quick release for the harness for flights if there is no room for the thickness of the bag with the harness in the overhead bin).

The Tough 55 has an option for 4 pre-cut layers of foam, so you can customize the layout of the gear you carry. Alternatively, Manfrotto also sells a compartment system with dividers that we found to be pretty useful. The bigger case doesn’t come with either foam or any kind of organizer insert.

Tough 55 with tripod holder

Tough 55 with ripod holder

We would love for Manfrotto to come up with some system for the Tough 83 case as well. We understand that this is more designed for large accessories that don’t require any compartments, but adding at least a soft protection to all sides and a lid organizer would make this case a lot more useful.

The padded insert of the Tough 55 

Conclusion

In conclusion, after using the different bags from Manfrotto’s Pro Light and Tough series, we are impressed with their quality and design. The backpacks come with standard features, like a safety lock and rain covers, but also offer innovations in their materials and structure. The hard cases are lightweight, spacious, and durable. With a few extra organizer accessories, these will be very practical in any size production.

The locks on the Tough case

Pricing

As for pricing here are the current prices for all the different bags mentioned in this review and some of the accessories:

  • Manfrotto Flexloader – $350.
  • Manfrotto Small Backloader – $200.
  • Manfrotto Medium Backloader – $215.
  • Manfrotto Tough 55 case with foam – $280.
  • Manfrotto Tough 55 case with the divider insert – $330.
  • Manfrotto Harness for the Tough 55 – $100.
  • Manfrotto Tough 83 – $340.

You can check out more LensVid exclusive articles and reviews on the following link.

Art Podolski is a photographer and video editor with an interest in marketing, technology and all things cinema. After shooting wedding photography for 5 years, he transitioned into creating video content for online projects and collaborating with various production companies.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.