Shimoda Core Unit Camera Inserts – Which One Is Perfect For You?

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The Shimoda Core Units are designed to be paired with the Shimoda Explore V2 backpack, the Shimoda Action-X backpack or the DV roller. In this post, we’ll take a close look at every size to help you determine which one would be right for you. Of course, being cubic padded camera cases, there is also nothing to stop you from slipping these into other types of bags and backpacks. The photos and dimensions in this guide will also help people with that choice.

Core Unit Construction

Over the years, I have amassed a huge collection of camera inserts from a wide range of manufacturers. The Shimoda Design Core Units stand out from the crowd, not just because of the bright colour, but also the considerably different direction they have taken with the construction.

While most camera inserts from the likes of F-Stop, Lowepro and MindShift Gear are relatively soft and lightweight, Shimoda has gone in the opposite direction. Each Shimoda Core Unit features an internal frame, with the side panels and internal dividers having a good rigidity.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the rigidity of the Shimoda Core Units gives shape and rigidity to the backpacks themselves. Secondly, by using a tougher construction on the Core Unit walls and dividers, those walls and dividers can be much thinner than the padding on most other camera inserts. And they do this while still maintaining plenty of protection for the gear stored within. I would say that the Core Units offer much more protection than most other camera inserts. With a thinner construction, less of the bag’s internal volume is taken up by soft padding, giving you more space for gear. In short, they are tougher and make more efficient use of space.

One thing to be aware of is that you have to take the time to customize the layout of the Core Units to your gear. With camera inserts with thicker, more flexible dividers, each slot you create has a certain amount of “give” to it. You can make a lens slot a little too small and still squeeze a larger lens into it.

Small and Large Mirrorless Core Units.

That’s not the case with the Shimoda Core Units. The dividers are covered in a soft material, but they are not soft in the way you might expect. This means that it’s hard to squeeze a larger lens into a smaller hole. It also means that a lens placed in a too big hole for it will tend to rattle around more than it would in softer camera inserts. The best way to use these units is to take the time to customize them to your kit perfectly.

Core Unit Covers

Every Shimoda Core Unit comes in a lightweight nylon zippered cover. If you use your Unit to store gear in your closet at home, the cover is excellent for keeping the dust off your equipment. Alternatively, you can use the cover as a packing cube while travelling. Either in your checked duffle or your Shimoda bag.

Finally, the cover is also helpful if you have a Core Unit in your bag with a shallower depth than the bag itself. Shimoda’s bags are designed to have a depth to match specific Core Units. But it is still possible to use a shallower Core Unit. When you do this, there will be extra space within the bag, and without the cover over the Core Unit, your cameras and lenses will be able to move around too much and potentially fall out into the bag’s main section.

Core Unit Depths

Shimoda splits up their Core Unit range using both depth and size. While options are always good, I think they confused things when they chose the nomenclature for the Core Unit depths. The available depths are Mirrorless, DSLR and DV. Despite its name, though, the Mirrorless Core Units can still be used with a DSLR. You do not necessarily need to use a DSLR Core Unit if you put a DSLR in it! Like I said. Confusing.

So, the Mirrorless depth Core Units can be used with a mirrorless camera or a DSLR. You only need to step up to the deeper DSLR depth if you are using a gripped mirrorless body, a gripped DSLR or a pro-sized camera like the Nikon D6 or Canon R3, or if you want to carry a lens that is wider than a camera is tall.

For example, you might be using a Sony mirrorless camera with the Sony 200-600mm lens. The body will fit just fine in any mirrorless depth Core Unit, but the lens hood of the 200-600 is too tall. So, in that case, you would need to switch to the DSLR depth to accommodate this. The same is true for users of large super-telephoto lenses such as a 400mm f/2.8 or a 600mm f/4. But you will need to use the deepest DV depth Units to accommodate the large diameter of the telephoto lens hoods.

Core Unit Depth Summary

  • Mirrorless Core Units – Mirrorless cameras or DSLRs
  • DSLR Core Units – Gripped mirrorless cameras, gripped DSLRs or pro-sized DSLRs/Mirrorless (Canon R3 etc)
  • DV Core Units – These do not fit in the Explore backpacks
shimoda core unit
DV, DSLR, Mirrorless.

Core Unit Sizes

Once you have figured out which depth of Shimoda Core Unit you will need, you can pick the size. Not all depths have all sizes available. It would be pointless to have a Small DV, for example. Mirrorless is available in small, medium and large. DSLR is available in small, medium and large. DV is available in large and extra-large.

Make sure you follow the guidelines in the next section about which Core Units fit into which bags. I recommend that you do not buy a larger unit than the amount of camera gear you plan to put in it. That might sound obvious, but sometimes people justify it by saying they can always fill spare space in the Core Unit with non-photographic items.

All the Shimoda bags have excellent organization pockets for your other gear on the top of the pack. The larger the Core Unit you put in the bag, the less you can efficiently use that organization. Trust me on this one. The Shimoda bags work best when you only put camera gear in the Core Unit and all your other equipment in the front pockets or top section.

Shimoda Core Unit Dimensions

Below is a list of dimensions and specifications for all current models of the Shimoda Core Unit.

Shimoda Core UnitWidth InternalWidth ExternalHeight InternalHeight ExternalDepth InternalDepth ExternalWeight
Small Mirrorless8.7in / 22cm9.4in / 24cm10.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm4.7in / 12cm5.1in / 13cm1lbs / 0.49kg
Medium Mirrorless10.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm10.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm4.7in / 12cm5.1in / 13cm1.1lbs / 0.5kg
Large Mirrorless10.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm14.6in / 37cm15.4in / 39cm4.7in / 12cm5.1in / 13cm1.7lbs / 0.77kg
Small DSLR10.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm4.1in / 10.5cm4.7in / 12cm6.3in / 16cm6.7in / 17cm0.58lb / 0.29kg
Medium DSLR V210.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm10.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm6.7in / 17cm7in / 18cm1.3lbs / 0.6kg
Large DSLR V210.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm14.6in / 37cm15.4in / 39cm6.7in / 17cm7in / 18cm1.8lbs / 0.8kg
Large DV10.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm14.6in / 37cm15.4in / 39cm7.9in / 20cm8.2in / 21cm1.9lbs / 0.9kg
Extra-Large DV10.6in / 27cm11.4in / 29cm18.1in / 46cm18.9in / 48cm7.9in / 20cm8.2in / 21cm2.6lbs / 1.2kg

Which Core Unit For The Sony 200-600mm Lens?

This is a popular question, so I’m answering it with its own sub-heading to make it easier to find. Users of the Sony 200-600mm lens will need to use either a Large Mirrorless Core Unit, a Large DSLR Core Unit, a Large DV Core Unit or the XL DV Core Unit. To be very clear, the Sony 200-600mm lens does not fit in any of the medium-sized Core Units, even if you remove the camera body.

I suspect the choice will always be between the large Mirrorless and DSLR Core Units. Although the lens does fit in the DV units, that would limit the pack choice to the Action X bags as DV units don’t fit in the Explore backpacks. Also, the Sony 200-600mm lens is swimming in the DV units, so there is no real need to use that combination unless you have another larger piece of gear that does need the DV depth.

As you can see from the photos, placing this lens in the Large Mirrorless Core Unit does leave a small amount of the lens hood protruding above the edge of the unit. In my testing, I determined that it was impossible to feel this protrusion on your back because the thickly padded laptop sleeve in the Explore and Action X packs easily absorbs that slight bulge. This leaves you free to choose either Unit based on the depth of pack you are using.

Which Core Units Fit Which Shimoda Bags?

Action X70 (left) and Explore 35 (right).

Shimoda’s backpacks and roller bags are all compatible with the Core Unit system. Below you will find a list of all the bags and which Core Units will fit within them.

Explore Series

Small Mirrorless Core Unit in an Explore 25.

Before choosing a Core Unit for your Explore backpack, I recommend you take a read through our in-depth Shimoda Design Explore backpack review. There is a lot of helpful advice that might influence your decision.

Explore Original

  • Explore 30 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR
  • Explore 40 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR
  • Explore 60 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR

Explore v2

  • Explore 25 – Small Mirrorless
  • Explore 30 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless
  • Explore 35 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Small DSLR / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR

Action X Series

  • Action X30 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless
  • Action X50 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR
  • Action X70 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR / Large DV / Extra Large DV

Roller Bags

  • Carry-On Roller v1 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR
  • Carry-On Roller v2 – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR
  • DV Roller – Small Mirrorless / Medium Mirrorless / Large Mirrorless / Medium DSLR / Large DSLR / Large DV / Extra Large DV

Can You Use Third-Party Camera Inserts in Shimoda Bags?

You could easily use third-party camera inserts in Shimoda bags from a sizing standpoint. In particular, there is a close correlation between the sizing of the Shimoda Core Units and the F-Stop ICUs. First, you would have to determine which Core Unit would be ideal and then compare the measurements with the F-Stop ICUs.

This might be useful if you come from using an F-Stop Bag to a Shimoda bag and are looking to save some money. In that case, you can buy the Shimoda backpack shell and use the F-Stop camera insert. The main problem is the lack of side zippers on the F-Stop ICUs and most camera inserts from other manufacturers. If you want to use the side access hatch on your Shimoda backpack, you will need to stick to using Shimoda Core Units.

Where to Buy

If at all possible, I always recommend buying directly from Shimoda Designs. For one thing, you’ll be able to get a 10% discount (detailed below). For another, it’ll be far easier to deal directly with them should you ever have any problems with your gear.

Deal – Save 10%

Shimoda Designs has offered Shutter Muse readers a 10% discount on anything purchased in their online store. Simply use the discount code ShutterMuse10 after clicking here to access the store.

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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