Monday, August 04, 2008

GEAR REVIEW: Think Tank Airport Security Vs Pelican Case 1510

I’ve been meaning to do a review of the Think Tank Photo Airport Security and the Pelican Case 1510 for a while. As photography carry bags go they are both towards the top end of the scale in terms of price therefore it’s wise to hear a bit about them before you chose to invest…rather than doing what I did which was to buy one and then decide that actually the other was more suited to my needs.

I imagine most photographers like me get pretty varied jobs, that often require different bits of equipment, and also plenty of jobs where we’re just not sure what to expect at all. Therefore it pays to have a bag that can not only carry all the equipment that we might need, but that will also protect and allow the transport to be as painless as possible (and I mean that literally when it comes to our backs). For most of my jobs I generally like to have the option to use my own lighting, therefore I often take Manfrotto Nano stands along with a brolly, home made snoots, gobos, flashes, pocket wizards, battery packs etc. Of course this all adds a lot to my kit and therefore having a rolling case makes moving it all a lot easier.

Pelican Case 1510
I first looked at the Peli Case 1510 with internal dividers and lid organiser. These things really are tough, practically bomb proof, certainly waterproof and can easily take my weight should I want to stand or sit on it for a shoot. It’s the correct size for carry-on luggage and yet at the same time it’s hard exterior provides confidence should it need to be checked luggage (although that won't help if the airline manage to send it to Kathmandu). It also has a pressure relief valve for if it's in the hold of the plane.

The lid organiser works pretty well as does the divider set (both are optional extras when buying the case). My Nano stands fit in perfectly and with a Westcott folding umbrella (imported from the US), a couple of flashes and mounts, I have a fairly decent lighting set up contained all in one case. You can see from the photos included my basic set up. I can even, with a squeeze, fit my macbook into the lid compartment with the help of simple mod using thick Velcro straps. The only thing I found I couldn’t fit were the extra bags and pouches I usually take to wear around my waist and help me to carry equipment. This array of Think Tank, Newswear and other miscellaneous pouches along with a belt can’t fit in the Peli case along with my other gear. Often I don’t want to turn up wearing them so that causes a bit of a problem. Of course being a hard case it also doesn’t have any easily accessible areas for keeping magazines or a bottle of water for example – small details I know, but when you’re paying the money you want it to be perfect for your needs.
Another drawback for me is that although the hard case adds some form of security it also means the case is pretty heavy and the look of the thing can also attract attention – tough case = something expensive inside. Its rigid nature also means that its wheels, although tough feel like they have no give in them whatsoever – thus the ride is not as smooth as it could be.

Think Tank Airport Security
The Think Tank ‘Airport Security’ it also supposed to be able to comply with most carry-on legal requirements, although my experience is that its size causes it attention and thus its carry on capabilities can sometimes get questioned (even once on the plane having passed all security). This always makes me quite nervous to use it for international travel. It is also more expensive than the Peli 1510. However I ended up going for it because in the end it was more suited to my needs.

The Airport Security looks like a normal rolling luggage case and thus is brilliant in that draws very little attention. It works very well in terms of rolling – the wheels and handle are really well made. It has outside pockets (great for a wallet or diary etc), is capable of holding a magazine or laptop in it’s front pouch and even has a side pouch for a water bottle (I have to say however it doesn’t work great for this as the angle and proximity to the wheels means you quite often loose your water bottle en-route and gets squeezed out of the pouch).

Think Tank have thought of most things with this bag. In the back, hidden away, is a wire locking mechanism, whilst the zip themselves lock into a combination lock. It even has shoulder straps hidden in the back in case you’re working somewhere that’s not roller friendly (a beach for example…)

All in all the quality of the bag and the thought that has gone into it is up there with the best of the Think Tank products. Plus if you feel like you need a normal rolling case for your luggage you can always just lose the inside dividers and it makes a pretty good sized suitcase…

To summarize then...

Pelic Case 1510
Pros - hard case, well built, secure, nice size, good for flying
Cons - Heavy, not always big enough

Think Tank Airport Security
Pros - Discreet, well designed, good size, great quality
Cons - Expensive, Size can be a problem for flying

I hope this is of some use to somebody out there. Please check out the websites linked in the above text for further information and more detailed imagery.


Mary said...

This is a great comparison between the two cases. Thank you for all the great photos and for sharing your experiences. It has really helped me to make an informed decision on how to spend my hard earned money. Thanks for taking the time! Mary -

Anonymous said...

Much appreciated! I've been going through exactly the same dilemma myself and it's great you've taken the time to do this. Thanks!
Best wishes, Jon.

Teresa K photography said...

Thanks for posting this review. I am debating between the Airport Security and the Airport International right now. Your post was helpful!

Anonymous said...

Thank You. I was down to these two bags myself in my selection.

Very Helpful

John Parish Photography said...

Thanks for your great review, I am also a freelance photographer and I have been looking for a travel case for some time. I have decided to go for the Peli 1510 as it offers more protection for my gear.

Many thanks

Scott said...

Scott Cook Photography

Scott said...

The 1510 is good, but if you are shooting anywhere off the beaten path, you must have a base camp to leave it while shooting. Forget carrying it with you on a long hike.
Scott Cook Photography

Fenix Fotography said...

I really like the ThinkTank Airport, but the feet wore out in just a little over a year of use, which causes it to lean forward and the bottom from to drag on the ground, which caused it to rip.

ThinkTank customer service was no help at all. They felt that the feet wearing down was normal wear and tear and refused to help. They wouldn't even provide or sell me a set of replacement feet. I was very disapointed.

I just got the Pelican 1510. I don't like it quite as much--doesn't hold as much gear for sure. But I do feel like its a bit safer and I can count on it being unbreakable or replaceable.