Matador Camera Base Layer (V2) Review
The new Matador Camera Base Layer is a step up that addresses most shortcomings of the original, though the rear pocket’s short width can make access tricky.
- Versatile carry options
- Has a quick-access pocket for accessories
- Dark interior is hard to see into
- A bit heftier than the previous version
- Rear pocket’s relatively short width can be tricky to access
5.5 oz (155.9 g)
Nylon, DWR Coating, Hypalon®, Polyurethane, YKK Zippers
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A camera is one of the most sensitive pieces of equipment we carry around daily. As such, we’re always on the lookout for ways to bring our trusty companion around that offers good protection. Matador’s original Camera Base Layer ticked these boxes, but we found that it needed a bit more polish in terms of convenience and overall quality.
Matador returns with the new Camera Base Layer, seeking to rectify things. It also ticks the right boxes and has answers to all the cons of the previous version. Device protection is upgraded, as well as having more versatile carrying options. Plus, it even comes with a pocket for other camera accessories. It’s a feel-good redemption story for the original Camera Base Layer, one we’d be more than pleased to tell you all about.
Materials & Aesthetic
The Camera Base Layer comes in a cone-like shape to accommodate various cameras, from compact mirrorless ones and up to bulkier DSLRs. The padding is substantially thicker than what was on the original, giving it a larger look, which we’re totally okay with—we’d rather have better protection for our precious camera than a slimmer profile. Not that the new version is bad looking either. Quite the opposite, as we think this iteration has a much cleaner and slicker look than the old one. Though it only comes in a black colorway at the time of writing, it’s nicely in tune with Matador’s streamlined black aesthetic.
Whereas the original Camera Base Layer used lightweight CORDURA Ripstop Nylon, this new version now sports 420D nylon that’s more weather-resistant. While CORDURA Ripstop is not bad by any stretch of the imagination, this move to more weather-resistant material means that it no longer needs a deployable rainfly. This is a much more integrated solution that pays dividends in terms of convenience, as you’ll find out later.
There’s actually a ton going on with the Camera Base Layer in terms of newcomer materials. The rolltop now has rubbery-feeling Hypalon stitched around the opening, and the top flap features a magnetic Fidlock latch. There’s even a metal gatekeeper clip at the back for more attachment options and a YKK zippered back pocket. Really solid and high-quality stuff that really puts the new Camera Base Layer head and shoulders above the original.
One of the major upgrades on the Camera Base Layer is the expandable bottom. Take a look under, and you’ll find that there’s a pull-string that’s hiding some extra fabric. You can lengthen it to your preference if you use lengthy zoom lenses on your camera. The pull string is a bit long and dangly, so don’t forget to tuck it in after adjusting it. But for us, we typically keep things small and compact with our mirrorless setup, so we didn’t have to use it ourselves. Still, it’s a great feature to have, as you’ll never know when you’re going to itch for a zoom lens upgrade.
The previous Camera Base Layer used a sort of clamshell-rolltop system. That’s been ditched in favor of a rolltop and flap arrangement that uses a Fidlock magnet. You still have to roll up the top fabric, but you no longer have a buckle to secure it. Instead, the flap locks it down once you attach the magnetic Fidlock button. You can also adjust the positioning of the receptacle for a better fit. It’s a better system in practice because it’s more like a small bag for your camera rather than something that wraps around it.
You can still leave your camera’s strap threaded through the rolltop in a similar fashion as before on the old Camera Base Layer. It’s our preferred method of carrying our camera around, but that’s no longer your only option of carrying or attachment. At the back is this not-so-beefy but still really solid feeling metal gatekeeper-style clip. Yes, the new Camera Base Layer can attach to other stuff that has built-in loops. Bags like the Able Carry Max Backpack that have tons of exterior loops are prime candidates. You can even side-mount it holster-style to a waist pack like the EVERGOODS Mountain Hip Pack 3.5L for a cowboy look.
The rear clip also solves one of our gripes about the previous version, where it was always awkward to know where to put it once you’ve taken it off. With the updated Camera Base Layer, you at least have the ability to hang it off a belt loop or carabiner on your backpack once you’re ready to start shooting with your camera.
In addition to the rear gatekeeper clip, Matador has also added a top rear handle so you can carry it by hand as well. The cherry on top is a small loop at the top of this handle in case you needed another attachment point for accessories like keychains or bag tags.
We really dig the versatile carrying options on the new version. Options are always a good thing, especially if you’re the type who loves to take their camera everywhere. Having that extra flexibility to carry it via a strap, a clip, or by hand makes this Camera Base Layer well-suited to most if not all situations.
The convenience and quality-of-life changes don’t stop there either. Last but not least, there is now a rear pocket for your camera accessories. We chucked in a couple of our spare batteries in there for our outdoor photoshoots, and it’s super handy to have. It can be a bit inaccessible if you have it mounted using the rear clip. However, if you have it on a camera strap, it’s a great quick-access pocket for lens caps and spare batteries.
So what’s it like to carry? It mostly carries similarly to the previous Camera Base Layer, only much thicker. You might think that that’s a bad thing and makes the new one unwieldy and bulky to use. But that’s not the case, and it’s not much heftier to use than the old one. If you’re coming from the original Camera Base Layer and looking to upgrade, you’ll find the additional carrying options way more appreciable than any additional thickness it comes with.
More so than the versatile carrying options, the more tightly integrated design and thicker padding make the Camera Base Layer more confidence-inspiring to carry around. We could take our camera anywhere around the city and be reassured that it can take reasonable bumps well. Plus, since the whole body is clad in weather-resistant fabric, we no longer needed to be ready to deploy a rainfly in case it rained.
The new Camera Base Layer is a huge improvement over what came before in terms of quality and convenience. The overall design is much richer and well-executed, in addition to looking that way. It’s much more flexible to carry around and features more robust padding to boot if you’re just looking for an added layer of protection for your camera.
- This new version comes with a pocket! Now your lens cap and memory cards have somewhere to go
- Cleaner aesthetic and form versus the previous version
- Overall craftsmanship appears to have also improved
This is a big improvement on the Camera Base Layer. With the overall thickness of the padding and durable materials, we felt comfortable that our camera was adequately protected when it was hanging on our neck or packed loose in our backpack. We didn’t use the expandable lens sleeve because our camera setup is relatively small but we did like the small pocket on the back for fitting an extra SD card, battery, and an ND filter.