The SLR Lounge team have spoken the praise of the line of HEX camera bags for a while now. In fact, a few of the team have been running with the Hex sling bags and have had nothing but praise to say about them. So when we got our hands on the new Cinema Backpack, given the praise, I had some high expectations.
Indeed, the expectations were definitely met! The Cinema Backpack is a part of the “Glacier” collection of bags including the Back Loader DSLR backpack and the Camo DSLR Sling. All three of which are made from premium water-resistant Cordura & 900D Poly materials designed to keep whatever you’re carrying safe from the elements.
In this review, we’ll go through our experience with this 27.6L backpack and discuss what types of photography it’s best suited for, plus, its functionality and ease of use, and most importantly, how it feels when you’re walking around all day with it!
To spoil the surprise, it actually was one of the most comfortable bags I ever wore for a day of wandering around with a full backpack of gear!
HEX Cinema Backpack Specifications
- BAG TYPE: Backpack
- GEAR ACCESS TYPE: Top, Inside, Exterior Pockets
- CAPACITY: 7.29 gal / 27.6 L
- MATERIALS & CONSTRUCTION: Cordura, EVA, Fabric, Tricot
- COLORS: Black, Camo, Glacier Camo
- WEATHER PROOFING: Water-resistant Premium 900D poly exterior, Custom YKK® HEX zipper pulls
- DIMENSIONS – EXTERIOR: 20 x 12.5 x 6.75″ / 50.8 x 31.75 x 17.14 cm
- CARRY-ON COMPATIBLE: Yes
- WEIGHT: 4.6 lb / 2.09 kg
- PRICE: $239 – HEX | B&H | Amazon
Hex Cinema Backpack Review | How Much Can It Fit?
The clear question for every bag review is, “how much can I fit in it, and how comfortable is it to wear when fully loaded?” So let’s dive into the first question. In this backpack, I was able to fit my 15″ Macbook Pro, a notepad with lots of pens/business cards, plus memory cards, spare batteries, tripod plates, and more in the various internal and external accessory pockets.
Inside the main compartment, we had 2 DSLR/Mirrorless Bodies (my D800 and Z6), with the FTZ adapter, Profoto Air Remote, as well as my 17-35mm F/2.8. 35mm F1.4, 50mm F/1.4, 85mm F/1.4, and 70-200mm F/2.8 lenses. I also had room for several filters, my Datacolor Spyder Cube and ColorCheckr24 Card, battery chargers for both cameras as well as few other odds and ends.
Basically, everything that I had crammed into my Airport roller bag, plus a few more goodies, which is more than enough to get you through an entire day of shooting! There was still room for more, too, like the water bottle slot on the outside, the memory card pockets on the waist straps, and the tripod attachments on the bottom of the bag.
Compared to many other bags I’ve used over the years, the big difference with this bag is its depth. As the brand name implies, this backpack is designed with cinema gear in mind. Where I only have DSLR/Mirrorless gear, we tested this in studio and were able to fit some Canon Cinema cameras in there quite comfortably, as well as testing with the Canon 1DX (one of the largest DSLR’s on the market).
Even if you don’t own one of these “massive” camera bodies, you’ll still be able to enjoy the bag’s depth if you like to store certain lenses “on end”, such as certain 24-70mm lenses that are getting a bit long, and might have poked your spine on some other backpacks.
Or, if you still have a little more space left, you can always arrange the dividers so that you have a little extra wiggle room in certain compartments where you might want to be able to drop a medium-sized lens in without having to reverse the hood first. For really active situations, this can be a huge plus!
HEX Cinema Backpack Review | Who Should Buy It?
Before we talk about actual types of photography, we need to talk about HOW you’ll be traveling with your camera gear. Because traveling by air, land, or sea could make a big difference in which camera bag you choose, regardless of what photography genres you’re into!
As I show in a photo a few sections below, the HEX cinema backpack is sized so that it can travel with you as a carry-on on most major airlines. (Again, always check before you fly since these regulations can change at a moments notice). If you’ve packed the external accessory compartments too full and the backpack isn’t fitting into the “size regulation tester”, just remember that you can always take out one large item and hand-carry it onto the plane, or around your neck…
Everyday Local Professional Photography
Even if you’re not traveling by plane for your photography, some professional work still requires carrying your gear on your back, instead of rolling around with a hard, wheeled case. A lot of backpacks are not very stylish, or are downright ugly, though, so it’s a breath of fresh air to see the subtle statement of stylized Patterns on the HEX, whether you’re a professional wedding photographer who is showing up to classy events, or a family etc. portrait photographer who is just meeting clients on the beach or at the park, you’ll probably have more than enough room for all your gear, including a normal-sized hotshoe flash or three.
Street, Vacation, & Travel Photography
Given the bags breathable materials, size, weight, and absolute comfort, it’s an ideal bag for longer days of travel, and vacations where photography is just one of many activities. Much like those planning on doing some hiking and backpacking, you can fit a TON of gear in this bag comfortably, along with space for a bevy of extras like snacks, water, a warmer/lighter layer or rain shell, and anything else besides your camera gear that you think you might need on your adventure. (There is a dedicated slot for ID Cards/important documents!)
If you’re a photographer who finds themself walking around a lot with a ton of gear, even to activities that aren’t photography-centered, this would be a great choice of bag for you since you can fit enough to cover all of your random needs and still have space for more, all while carrying it comfortably, and having a gear bag that is also a fashionable conversation piece!
HEX Cinema Backpack Review | Pros
The premium weatherproof materials used to design the bag make it stand out from the rest with it’s modern “camo” design. Most bags and backpacks are pretty standard, so it’s nice to see something that’s as durable and functional as it is fashionable Based on our experience, we have every reason to believe that the HEX would serve you well for many years without failure.
Design & Features
The Hex Cinema Backpack, while not huge, can comfortably carry a 17″ laptop AND a tablet along with all the camera gear you can think of. The interior is deep, and fully customizable thanks to the soft velcro lined dividers.
There are a plethora of additional pockets for ID/cards/phones and any other accessories you can think of, including a business card holder! With its combination of unique camo design and functional zippers, clips, and mesh pockets, the Hex Cinema Backpack adds functionality to fashion–this was one of the things we enjoyed the most because, unfortunately, there are a lot of camera bags out there that are all style and no function.
While the bag itself isn’t water/weatherproof, it is weather-resistant with a Premium 900D exterior and YKK Zippers. If you happen to get caught in the rain you’ll be safe for a bit at least and that should provide some peace of mind. Unless we missed a secret compartment somewhere, there is no additional fully waterproof rain cover, though, so once the downpour gets truly torrential, hopefully, you’re making your way indoors at that point.
Comfort & Ergonomics
I loaded this bag up with as much camera gear as I could fit in there, spare batteries, my 15″ MacBook pro, power cable, headphones, and a full water bottle, and headed out for a nice long walk with my dog to test this out, and to my surprise, (I rarely ever carry so much gear on my back, I’ve usually preferred rolling cases for such excessive gear loads) …it was one of the most comfortable bags I’ve used to date!
The padded waist belt, thick padded shoulder straps, and very breathable back liner made the experience in the California sun a pleasant outing. Normally there are a lot of adjustments I’d need to make to have a bag fit right, let alone feel comfortable before heading out, but this bag just fits right! (Maybe this is my Goldilocks moment for camera backpacks?)
Add that to the fact that the bag itself is very lightweight for its size, it’s arguably one of the most comfortable ones I’ve used to date.
The capacity is definitely a pro, though you could say it’s all relative. While this bag isn’t the largest I’ve ever reviewed, it can still hold nearly everything you’d need on an average photoshoot! The 26.7L fully customizable interior allows you to make adjustments to carry any random piece of gear you can think of and provides a deep enough interior usually giving you space to spare! With my testing, I carried 2 cameras, 6 lenses, several adapters & filters, and a plethora of batteries and accessories in each and every pocket.
Given the bag only opens from the top or rear/back panels, there’s little chance you’ll drop something out of the bag at any given time, unless you are air-headed enough to try to put the backpack on without zipping it shut.
True story! Not with this bag, but long ago with another, I learned never to set down a backpack in such a position that it visibly appears fully closed…and then pay attention to something else for a few minutes. If you’re hyper-focused on other things, you’ll glance down at your backpack which again appears to be closed, and you might just try to hastily pick it up without zipping it closed first.
The interior padding is incredibly soft and customizable to accommodate any gear you may have with you, and the interior is surprisingly deep, giving you the freedom to pack along some of your bigger or oddly shaped gear. We would never suggest that you could “just drop your backpack on the pavement” and be fine, but suffice it to say, the HEX will do its best to save your gear if you do have a critical accident.
At $239 for this backpack, it comes in at, or below, the average price for a bag of its size and capacity. The HEX Cinema backpack may not be cheap, but it is definitely worth the price when you factor in the design, safety, capacity, and comfort. Especially since you’ll be spending $50-$200 more on most other bags of equal size and features.
HEX Cinema Backpack Review | Cons
As I mentioned above, while yes, it’s great to have a tripod clip/mount on your bag, it is also kind of frustrating that the only place for it on this bag is via the straps on the very bottom of the bag, and not on the side where you’d find the mount on most others. It’s a minor grievance, but still, if we’re nitpicking, then we’re going to nitpick!
Long story short, you’re not going to be able to set the backpack down without it tipping over, and even if you rest the backpack on the ground while holding it up, you’ll be dragging your tripod against whatever dirt, rocks, or other surface is there.
Gear Protection – Is The Soft Interior/Exterior “Too” Soft?
We found that while the bag was incredibly comfortable and customizable, and the interior materials were very soft and safe for preventing scratches on our gear, the padding itself was almost _too_ soft. Meaning, if you put any real amount of pressure or weight on the exterior of the bag, it wouldn’t hold its shape, and would bend/collapse a little.
A lot of other bags out there will have some sort of stiffer foam, plastic, or metal materials in the exterior lining to help prevent this sort of thing, but the HEX Cinema backpack does not feel the same. So, while the bag provides allows you to easily carry your larger cinema cameras and lenses, if you think you might have a bumpy ride, you may want to keep using your other less comfortable or travel-friendly bags.
Design & Ergonomics – Lack of Quick Access Points
The HEX Cinema Backpack has Rear/Back and Top access to get to your gear. While this is great for preventing anything from accidentally falling out of your bag while walking, it also means you have to take the bag off completely to gain access to your additional lenses/accessories, let alone the camera itself, should you happen to come across something unplanned and last minute worth capturing. This is why having at least one side-access pocket, and an accessory pocket on the side, is a helpful thing to have for “run-and-gun” photographers.
HEX Cinema Backpack Review | Compared To Alternatives
For my purposes, I compared this bag to the ThinkTank Aiport Roller v2 since it was the bag I had closest in size and capacity. These bags offer a very different experience so keep that in mind, the ThinkTank is a roller bag AND backpack, where the HEX Cinema bag is a backpack only. While both bags can carry roughly the same amount of gear and accessories, where they differ wildly is their price points and comfort/functionality, and fashion!
The ThinkTank bag will run you an average of 150-250$ more for the additional roller feature so keep that in mind upfront. Additionally, the ThinkTank, while specifically designed for travel, is nowhere near as comfortable as the HEX Cinema backpack, nor is it as “stylish.” (If anything, the “style” of the ThinkTank shouts a message to potential thieves: “This bag is full of expensive stuff!”)
So, not only is the HEX more stylish and less conspicuous at the same time, the ThinkTank is also not as deep as the HEX bag since it needs that space for the roller/grip components and rigid exterior case.
Both have their bonuses, so it’s up to you to decide what’s the most important feature. Do you plan on traveling/moving a lot with the bag on? Will you need your hands free to carry or operate other things? The HEX bag is likely the better choice then, also keep in mind, again, the HEX bag is astronomically more comfortable when fully loaded with gear. Even for short distances. The ThinkTank bag is function, whereas the HEX bag is Fashion AND Function.
HEX Cinema Backpack Review | Conclusion
The HEX Cinema Backpack may not be the perfect bag for everyone, but it definitely makes the list of my top five favorites I’ve ever used, owned, or reviewed! While it’s not as tough/rigid as other bags out there with hard shells or tougher inserts, it’s incredibly soft and the padding is thick to make up for the lack of hardness, and it’s seriously one of the most comfortable and breathable bags I’ve ever spent a few days with trekking around in the sun.
The space provided by the interior and exterior pockets allowed me to be set up for multiple different uses, such as a day of just general hiking with one lens and a bunch of camping/personal (and dog) supplies, or a day of heavy on-set photo work with every lens I own and a bevy of accessories.
In every scenario, I didn’t have to worry about what I might have to leave behind. Given its size, capacity, comfort, and quite honestly, a cool and unique fashionable design, I’d say it’s worth every penny of it’s $239 price point! We put this bag through some heavy loads over the course of a month and still looked stylish and new after all that time.