photo credit: Adam Richlin
When you fetch a lens from the lens case, do you use one or two latches?
For whatever reason, this is a question that I see many camera assistants debate.
On one side you have the group who prefers one latch because it’s faster to get into the case and get what you need. On the other side, you have those who use two latches, primarily for safety.
I fall firmly in the latter group and always — seriously, always — use two latches on the lens case.
And here’s why…
1. Ankle Biters
Anyone who has stepped on a set knows things move fast, get chaotic, and can become cramped. In many locations, because of the amount of crew and gear, there are small, one-person walkways.
While storing camera gear in these tight spaces isn’t optimal and undesirable, it happens.
And leaving one latch undone in cramped spaces results in what can only be referred to as “ankle biters” — that is, the latch sticks out and will snag anyone on the ankle who walks too closely to it.
Doing so is akin to stubbing your toe — it’s a minor injury, but it hurts like a b***h.
When two latches are up, they will be flush with the case and this becomes a non-issue.
Even in locations where space is abundant, ankle biters can strike crew if the case is turned the wrong way in the staging area, sitting on the shelf of a camera cart, or on standby near the set.
Bottom line: it only takes one latch to tear up your ankle to learn the value in locking it up.
2. Lens Safety
Well-designed cases can go an entire shoot with one latch up and never bust open or show any sign of weakness.
But part of being a camera assistant means being a little paranoid about your equipment. And this is where the main argument for one latch falls apart: Yes, it saves you time, but it also means putting the lenses at risk.
And what’s worth more: your time or a camera lens?
I promise that no matter what your day rate is, it’s the lens.
When it comes down to it, the time you save is negligable. I’d say it’s 3 seconds (and that’s being very generous). If you’re already squatting down latching up the lens case for one side, you might as well do it for the other.
Still skeptical? Think about this scenario: you latch up one side of the case and leave to deliver the lens to the camera. The setup changes so you go to grab the lens case. You reach down, grab the handle, pick it up and the latch comes undone — in your haste you didn’t actually snag it on the lock, so it was flipped up, but not locked. Lenses come tumbling out and your ass is on the grinder.
If you had used two latches, you would have had the 2nd one as a “backup.”
It’s true most lens cases lock fine with one latch and the example I provided is a matter of human error, but the trade-off between keeping the lens safe against a few extra seconds is totally worth it.
It’s important to be quick and efficient when you’re a camera assistant, but it’s more important to treat the equipment — especially lenses — with care.
Two Latches > One Latch > No Latches
So, to summarize, two latches on a lens case is better than one because…
- It is safer for the lenses
- It won’t snag people on the ankles
- It doesn’t take that much more time to do
Still, one latch is better than no latches: I once trained a novice 2nd AC on a low-key student film and, after giving him a run-down of his duties, reminded him to always make sure the lens case was closed before moving it.
The next day between setups, I heard a banging noise and turned around. Rolling on the ground was a lens and in the hand of the 2nd AC was the lens case flapped open like Pac-Man.
The lenses were OK, but my heart was racing as I’m sure his was too.
He never forgot again to latch the case and learned to prefer two over one as well. Which is good because I would’ve made him do it anyway — that’s the advantage of being the boss!