Recently I stumbled across a product by accident when I was actually attempting to purchase a Cinesaddle. The only reason I found this product is because I ordered a Cinesaddle from a company that sells them here in Japan only to find out that they hadn’t updated their webpage and they actually didn’t have any in stock. This led me to cancel that order and look to see what other solutions were available.
This led me to a new bespoke company in Japan called Mast Studio who not only makes unique custom dollies and rails but also a product called the Cine Makura. Makura in Japanese means pillow. The Cine Makura essentially does the same as a Cinesaddle. The whole reason that the Cine Makura came into existence is that the owner of Mast Studio wanted to see if he could create an alternative that didn’t cost as much money as a Cinesaddle.
The Cinesaddle is an iconic product and it was invented by cameraman Mike Young many decades ago. At the time it was a revolutionary product, despite its simplicity. It was quickly adopted by the TV and Film industry and large-sized custom-made Cinesaddles were even made for use with large Imax cameras. Like many great products, it was invented out of a need, and despite the advent of camera stabilizers and gimbals, they are still being used today.
As the saying goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. The fact that the original Cinesaddle design hasn’t changed in decades and that most alternative products still use the same fundamental design shows just how well thought out the original was. Over the years there have been countless products that are very similar to the Cinesaddle appear, some better than others. That leads me to the Cine Makura.
So how is it different from a Cinesaddle? Well, I am glad you asked. Fundamentally it is designed to do the exact same thing and that is to provide support for your camera when you need to place it on the ground or any other object for that matter. Any traveling news, documentary, or wildlife cameraman, or camerawoman will know the benefits of a Cinesaddle and how it makes for a great makeshift seat or pillow when one isn’t available!
The biggest difference between a Cinesaddle and the Cine Makura is the material that they are made out of. A Cinesaddle is made out of canvas, while the Cine Makura is made out of ballistic nylon which is the same type of material Think Tank uses for a lot of its cases. This material is super strong and durable.
The biggest benefit of ballistic nylon is that it is easily washable. Mast Studio chose ballistic nylon for this very reason so that users could open the Cine Makura up, remove the beads that are in separate bags, and then wash the bag. You can put the Cine Makura in the washing machine and clean it after it gets dirty. Cinesaddle’s or other similar products are always sitting on the ground, being checked in on planes, or being placed on surfaces that are rarely that clean, so being able to clean one easily is a big deal.
That’s not to say you can’t clean or wash a Cinesaddle, because you can. However, at least in my experience, ballistic nylon is easier to clean than canvas.
Overall Build Quality
The Cine Makura is very well made and solidly constructed. Not only is the bag made out of ballistic nylon, but it also uses YKK zippers.
If you are not familiar with YKK zippers, these are Japanese-made zippers that are used on all of Think Tank’s bags and cases. They are renowned for being the most robust and best-performing zippers there are. I have never had a single YKK zipper break.
I also like that the color of the Cine Makura is dark grey. It means that it doesn’t stand out, nor draw attention to itself.
The Cine Makura has a fully detachable adjustable shoulder strap. On a Cinesaddle the shoulder strap can only be detached from one side of the bag. What is nice about the Cine Makura is that there are 6 mounting points with steel rings that allow you to place the shoulder strap in a variety of ways.
These mounting points also allow you to tie down the Cine Makura if need be. My only small complaint is that I feel like the steel rings on these attachment points could perhaps have been made to be a little bigger. For certain tie-down straps, it can be hard to thread them through.
The Cine Makura also features a small pocket on one side of the bag, although this is not zippered. This pocket isn’t overly deep, however, you could place a camera battery or something similar inside them. I personally wouldn’t recommend doing this because I feel like the pocket isn’t deep enough to do this securely.
If I was to be picky I would have liked to have seen the pocket have its own zippers or at least velcro. I say that because I don’t like putting objects in open pockets.
Just like some of the Cinesaddle models, you can open the Cine Makura up and place objects such as a smaller sized camera inside if need be.
The added benefit the Cine Makura has over a Cinesaddle is that the zippered section can be opened up on three sides. With the Cinesaddle you can only open up the front side. This makes it easier to take the beads out and it also allows you to just use the bottom section if you need to get your camera closer to the ground.
Inside of the Cine Makura, the beads are behind another layer of ballistic nylon. While they are reasonably well protected I would have liked to have seen another additional set of zippers so that they aren’t exposed even when you open the Cine Makura up completely and lay it flat. Again, this is a minor complaint, but just something I hope to see improved on future versions.
With products like this, it all comes down to usability. If a product is well made it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work well for its intended purpose.
The Mast Studio Cine Makura does its job and it does it well. As a camera support platform, it is easy to use and provides solid results.
I have been using the Cine Makura on a variety of different shoots and I have been very happy with it.
It also works well if you want to place your camera on the Cine Makura and use the camera strap for certain types of handheld work.
The shoulder strap does have a good range of adjustability so you can position the Cine Makura at a height that best works for you.
My only real complaint and I have found this to be the case with the Cine Saddle as well, is that the shoulder straps always dig into your shoulder. This is especially true if you are using a fairly heavy camera package. I would have liked to have seen a more comfortable shoulder strap, even if it was an optional accessory.
In saying that you could easily buy something like the PortaBrace Heavy-Duty Suede Shoulder Strap with Camera Clips and attach it.
As far as durability is concerned, it looks like it will easily stand up to the rigors of field use, however, I haven’t had this product for that long so I can’t offer a realistic long-term assessment.
Overall, I am very happy with the purchase and it is good to see a slightly more modern take on an iconic product.
Price & Availability
The Mast Studio Cine Makura is available in four different versions. Below are the prices:
Just for your reference, ¥39,800 equates to about $343 USD. As a comparison. the Cinesaddle Marsupial Cinesaddle Camera Mount retails for $395 USD.
Mast Studio doesn’t have any English contact information. If you are interested in anything they sell let me know and I will do my best to pass on your request.