At A Glance: Petrol Cambio

Have you ever dreamed of lighter travel and a quicker setup? In an industry first, the new airline carry-on-approved Petrol Cambio offers a unique solution, combining a solid camera/equipment bag and capable tripod. Travel with the essentials securely tucked away in the overhead luggage compartment and avoid baggage claim delays.

Imagine this: Arrive at your location rolling an inconspicuous luggage bag, extend and lock the patented heavy-duty wheels, which now become two tripod "legs," extend the self-locking aluminum "third leg," attach the head (the integrated camera support doubles as a trolley handle so it’s already partially extended), unzip only the U-shaped top of the bag, pull out your camera, pop it on the head, and you’re shooting. Total elapsed time: 45 seconds. Leave the head attached, and press record within 30 seconds.

The Bag. The freestanding bag is solidly constructed outside and well-padded inside, with six removable dividers for custom configuration. On the outside, front and side pockets offer additional storage, including one for a water bottle. Twin straps can anchor the bag’s front flap open, allowing quick access while preventing your gear from tumbling out, without the need to zipper it closed. Stubby legs keep it off the ground, away from water and dirt. Four large, metal D-rings offer attachment points for the carry strap or other gear.

Tripod/Camera Support. A telescoping trolley handle/camera platform, with a 75mm ballhead mount, extends to 56 inches, allowing cameras up to 9.9 pounds. The steel support column and cast magnesium levers offer strength and durability. A patent-pending frame and axle support trolley provide a solid base, so when the heavy-duty wheels and aluminum double-bar tube leg are extended, surprising stability is achieved.

The CA002 model adds a lightweight conventional pan-and-tilt CMH micro-fluid head to the CA001, which is otherwise the same. I tried both the CA002 CMH head and the still small, but terrific Sachtler FSB 4 head to support my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. While the CMH head is nothing extraor-dinary, it gets the job done, keeping the package small and light. And it uses the same tool-less plate found in some Manfrotto monopods, which makes for a smooth, quick transition to another lightweight, portable shooting option.

Does 1+1=3? Can so many needs be satisfied by one gadget? Yes, with a few caveats. With the tripod fully extended, there’s some wobble if you’re not careful, especially while panning or camera handling, with a lock-off the reliable choice. While the system is great to get impressive height, keep in mind that the higher you go, the more limited your shots become. I found shooting with the third leg forward was a solution, which not only applies slight pressure forward, keeping the third leg in place and further stabilizing the system, but also affords more room to maneuver behind the camera. The oversized tripod handle provides added support, allowing one to brace an arm on it while shooting.

There are a few things I wish for, such as simple backpack straps when going off-pavement, plus more space—one can carry the basics, but not much more because the rugged frame support system and tripod head eat valuable space, which is no surprise.

The bottom line: If you need to move fast with a light, portable, airline-ready rig, the Cambio is your friend. The Cambio website has an informational video that gives a good virtual tour of features. The CA001 retails for $699; the CA002 retails for $799.

Contact: Petrol Bags, (845) 268-0100, www.petrolbags.com.

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