Choosing the Right f-stop Gear Part 1

Note – We’ve broken this article down into 2 different posts in order to make for lighter reading. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to get through both and doing the effort will arm you with valuable knowledge about the f-stop Gear system so you can make the best possible decision on what to purchase. If you prefer a personal opinion, call Hougaard (076 279 2202) or mail us using the contact page – simply send a list of your gear along with any other questions you might have and we’ll get back to you with a recommendation within 24 hours.

Part 1 – The f-stopgear Solution + ICU’s

Part 2 – The Outer Shells

The f-stop Gear Solution + ICU’s

Choosing a camera backpack can be one of the most difficult decisions a photographer ever has to make. There are an endless number of brands offering a wide variety of products. Most of these brands tend to design something that can hold lots of camera gear and then add some padding and shoulder straps as an afterthought. This back-to-front design philosophy is the reason why countless photographers across the world have tried products in all price ranges from most brands, with no satisfaction. There is however one company that has revolutionised the design of photography backpacks and propelled themselves to the top of their industry in a few short years – f-stop Gear.

The Ajna in special edition Red Bull colours in use in Namibia

The Ajna in special edition Red Bull colours in use in Namibia

Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of the brand before, LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA is proud to be responsible for bringing this amazing product to Africa for the first time. Their product range isn’t better thanks to just a few marginal improvements over the competition. The f-stop system is fundamentally different to anything else on the market.

The f-stop Mountain Series shells we stock.

Conventional Backpack Design

Space for Additional Items – Most photographic backpacks have an internal compartment for camera gear and a few external pockets for items that go along on a shoot like snacks, extra clothing layers, headlamps etc. Even the flagship bags from most manufacturers don’t have enough of that external space for all the additional items, which leaves photographers scratching their heads about how to balance camera gear with the rest.

Space for Camera Gear – The internal compartment of most bags offer a bit of packing flexibility thanks to customisable dividers, but most photographers still aren’t satisfied with their packing arrangement even after reshuffling their camera bag for the tenth time. I’m sure that most photographers who have been shooting for 5+ years and have owned a plethora of different backpacks will share our sentiments.

f-stop Gear was the first company to take a step back and question the unpractical design of camera packs. Their resulting modular ICU concept has revolutionised the industry and other manufacturers are now stumbling in their footsteps.

f-stop Gear’s Modular ICU System

Their concept is simple: split the bag into two – the camera-carrying part (ICU) and the accessories-carrying part (Outer Shell). Furthermore, you’re offered the choice of how large or small each part must be AND the camera carrying components are easily interchangeable between different sized shells. f-stop Gear bags are also designed superiorly and manufactured using better materials than any of their competitors. Thanks to constant communication with a team of ambassadors, comprising some of the world’s best adventure and extreme sport photographers, they are able to continually evolve their products. Their unending commitment to produce the world’s best photo backpacks have resulted in exactly that.

LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA offers 7 different Mountain Series outer shells and the 7 most popular ICU’s (internal camera units) to cater for a wide range of needs.

What is ideal for me?

1. The first step in choosing the ideal combination of shell and ICU is to decide which ICU will best accommodate all the gear you normally take on a shoot.

2. The second step is to see which shell fits that ICU and how much additional space you need in the shell for other items.

Helpful Resources

  • You will find useful bullet point notes on the product page of each shell and ICU advising what is a good pairing.
  • The product page of each ICU has some really helpful images that show how much gear can go into that specific ICU in various arrangements.
  • The product page of all shells and ICU’s have the below chart that shows the compatibility and recommendation of all ICU’s with all shells. 

 

 

Internal Camera Units (ICU’s)

Pro ICU’s

These are the deepest of the standard ranges and can accommodate a pro body or normal body with battery grip across the entire length and width of the ICU. This depth is also ideal for storing most wide or normal lenses (24-70mm) in an upright position.

  • The XL Pro is the largest of the pro range and can easily accommodate half a studio. Make use of the images on the product page to get an idea of how much you can fit in an XL Pro ICU to determine if it’s the right one for you. The XL Pro ICU is best paired with the Tilopa or Sukha or shells, depending on how much extra space you need. It also fits the Ajna shell, but leaves just enough space in the main compartment for a rain jacket.
  • The Large Pro is the median of the pro range and can easily accommodate two bodies, 4 lenses and a few accessories. The largest lens it comfortably accepts is a 300mm f/2.8 or a 400mm f/5.6. The Large Pro ICU can be paired with the AjnaTilopa or Lotus shells, depending on how much extra space you want.
  • The Small Pro is the smallest of the pro range and a bit different from the rest, as it is the go-to ICU when you need more non-photographic stuff than camera gear. This is usually the case when going on an overnight trip or hike that requires either clothing, food, camping gear or whatever you require for your adventure. The Small Pro ICU is just the right size to accommodate the most basic gear like one body, 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses and a useful amount of accessories. This ICU can be paired with any of the shells, depending on how much space you need for other items. Pair with the Ajna to make a great weekend travel bag or day hike backpack, or go to the extreme and pair it with a Sukha for a week long hike in the Drakensberg.
XL Pro ICU with 800mm, 1D4, 7D, 24mm and 24-70mm. My XL ICU fits D810 with 70-200mm mounted, D800e with 14-24mm mounted, 16-35, 24-70mm, Full Lee kit and plenty of space to spare.

XL Pro ICU with 800mm, 1D4, 7D, 24mm and 24-70mm. An XL Pro ICU comfortably accommodates 2 bodies, 5 lenses and a full 100mm Lee Filters setup.

Large Pro ICU with 1D4, 2x teleconverters, 7D, 24-70mm, 24-105mm, 400mm and a bunch of accessories.

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Small Pro ICU with 5DIII with attached 70-200mm, 24-70mm, 24mm, charger and spare battery

Medium ICU’s

The medium ICU’s fall right between the Large Pro and Small Pro in height, but the shallow and slope models both offer unique features, which the Pro range does not.

  • The Medium Shallow ICU (as it’s name implies) is several centimeters shallower than any of the Pro range ICU’s. This makes it ideal for non-pro setups that don’t require such deep storage. It is perfect for smaller DSLR’s and compact systems like the Sony Alpha, Olympus OMD EM-10 and Fuji XT ranges. This ICU is best paired with the Kashmir UL or Lotus shells for a sleek and lightweight carry solution.
  • The Medium Slope ICU  offers a perfect compromise for shooters who use a pro or battery-gripped body, but want to keep things to a minimum. It features pro depth on the one side, which slopes to shallow depth on the other side. This provides compatibility with pro-size bodies together with more packing space in the shell. This ICU is best paired with the Kashmir UL or Lotus shells for a sleek and lightweight carry solution that can accommodate a pro body.
Sample photo - Medium shallow ICU with Canon 5DIII w/attached 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, Canon 7D, 24-70 f/2.8L II, 35mm f/1.4L, LC-E6 Charger, (2) Spare batteries, caps, and Tripod QR Plate

Medium shallow ICU with 5DIII w/attached 70-200mm , 7D, 24-70mm, 35mm, Charger and 2 Spare batteries

 

Sample photo - Medium Slope ICU with Canon 1DIV, Canon 7D, 24-70mm f/2.8L II, 70-200 f/2.8L IS II, LC-E4 charger and charger cable, LC-E6 charger. 35mm f/1.4L

Medium Slope ICU with 1D4, 7D, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 2x chargers charger and 35mm

Master ICU’s

These two are the big boys of the range, each designed for very specific uses. Their primary distinguishing feature is that these ICU’s offer access through the top, allowing you to remove your camera with the bag in an upright position.

  • Co-developed with the Sukha shell, the Tele Master ICU allows safe, easy and comfortable carrying of super-telephoto setups. It is the 2nd largest in the range and accepts anything up to a 800mm lens mounted on a pro body with enough space for additional bodies, lenses and accessories. It also features top access that allows you to remove or stow your camera and lens in seconds with the bag in an upright position. This combination is the ultimate solution for safely shooting on game-drive vehicles or travelling through airports with telephoto setups. Check out the below chart to see how the XL Pro and Tele Master accommodate various telephoto lenses.
  • Specifically designed to haul big camera setups, the Cine Master ICU is the largest in the F-stop product range. Co-developed with the Shinn, the two combine to make the ultimate super sized camera bag for serious shooters hauling large video rigs or elaborate gear setups. Designed with cinematographers in mind, it can accommodate the most popular cinematography rigs like the Red Dragon, Canon C300, Sony F5, Blackmagic Ursa and Arri Alexa. It accepts most of these bodies with a rigged and rodded lens – just pull it out and you’re ready to shoot in seconds.

Note – The Master ICU’s occupy the entire main compartment of their corresponding shell.

The Tele Master ICU - capable of carrying an 800mm with body attached

The Tele Master ICU – capable of carrying an 800mm with body attached

This chart shows how various telephoto setups fit into the Tele Master ICU

The Cine Master ICU, specially designed for cinematographers

The Cine Master ICU, specially designed for cinematographers

If at this stage you would like to look at the ICU product pages, click here.

If you would like to continue reading about the f-stop Gear outer shells, click here.

4 Responses to Choosing the Right f-stop Gear Part 1

  1. Just received the Tele Master ICU with gratitude. Thanks Hougaard.
    As the descriptions say, it can take aboard a serious amount of gear. It also comes with a dust-carry cover , which is useful and not apparent on the website.
    I’ve done a packing few trials…. In total, it fits 2 Nikon bodies and 11 lenses. The one a 300 2.8 with TC2 attached to my D500. I store each of my smallest primes and Teleconverters in retro 1970s era leather cases. These protect them in general use etc; here it allows 2 lenses in 1 ICU pocket. But this best with a 20 f4AI and similar dinky optics.

    I would say that fStop can improve the zip layout on this big ICU – having 2 zips that meet mid-bottom. Then, either side can be opened (as a flap) without unzipping the very long traverse of the bag’s perimeter for 270 or even 360 degrees = nearly 150cm in total. And the whole panel can still be removed if one wants.

    Equally, carrying this big ICU full of gear on and off aircraft requires 2 side & a top handle, plus a sling! And shift the existing D-ring to the top side with added reinforcing; add at least 1 more D-ring on the opposite side. So I will seek out a tame tailor to modify accordingly – adding nylon webbing for strategic handles.

  2. Thank you very much for this review. I am looking at picking up the Small Pro ICU. The gear I plan to carry in it are a 5D MK III body, EF 135mm f2 lens, EF 24-105mm f4 lens, Godox AD200 flash, Godox X1-C trigger and spare batteries for the camera and flash. Would the Small Pro ICU suffice for these? Or would i need a bigger ICU? Looking forward to your views. Thanks.

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