Rollers vs. Everything Else
I like to be flexible, and I prefer my portage gear to bend to the occasion. When I moved from New York to Chicagoland, roller cases saved the day. When I later moved again, from burb to burb, I used my rollers to move glassware (a padded case is better than those boxes movers sell you). I brought the gear over to the new digs in my photo packs, then transferred the gear to the rollers for storage. Rollers let you see everything when you open the lid. That’s the beauty of a roller. They’re also ideal for lighting equipment.
Of course you could choose a shoulder bag. However, I’ve stopped using large shoulder bags a long time ago, finding them too unwieldy and uncomfortable. They cause some photographers to become stoop-shouldered after years of use. And I don’t see shoulder bags as being an easy fit on an airplane. That said, a shoulder bag is the easiest means of carrying and accessing gear on the fly, especially if you’re hesitant to set a bag down someplace, or need to work quickly. And, yes, Think Tank has lots of shoulder bags as well. But we’re getting off track.
Once you step out of the vehicle with your luggage at the airport, a roller affords you the comfort of making your way from the front door of the terminal all the way to the gate without feeling any strain. But, sadly, many rollers are not very quiet or designed with travel in mind. Enter the latest iteration of Think Tank Photo’s definitive airline-friendly roller: Airport Security V3.0. Airport Security was designed primarily for domestic air travel. For international travel, Think Tank also introduced the smaller Airport International V3.0. And if you’re thinking commuter jets and regional airlines, Think Tank also debuted the more modestly sized Airport Advantage.
Any way you slice it – but please don’t slice it; it’s luggage, not pizza, the Airport Security V3.0 was designed with the photographer in mind. It’s fully modular and fully padded on the inside. In fact, Think Tank throws in a number of extra dividers so you have total flexibility in how you configure the interior.
As it comes to you, the bag is divided into three long channels, with numerous dividers running up and down each lane of camera traffic. In fact, you can stow two DSLR bodies with attached lenses, and, provided these lenses are not overly huge, you’ll have plenty of room for the rest of your camera gear. On a whim, I decided to see if my compact Photogenic monolight, standard reflector, and ION inverter would fit, along with cables and cords, a flash meter, plus some extras—and it all fit comfortably.
Then I switched it back to a camera configuration. Let me tell you, it takes a lot longer to restore an original configuration (or something approaching the original) than to reconfigure it.
There are also several see-through pockets inside the lid. And unlike a hardshell case, which provides eggcrate foam inside the lid, soft cases don’t have that luxury. So securing loose items is that much more important. That said, I haven’t found or heard anything bouncing around inside. More to the point, the many flexible dividers ensure a snug fit for everything inside this case.
Speaking of the lid. Frankly, this is the only feature I’m not thrilled with. It opens lengthwise, vertically – not like a typical suitcase. That’s a bit cumbersome, seeming to require more ground space when fully opened. Unless you lean the lid against something conveniently nearby, such as a chair or bench.
Technically, this is a hybrid design, neither hard-shell nor soft-sided. The walls are fairly rigid, reinforced, protected by a durable, water-resistant nylon shell on the outside. The handles are secure, but again nylon and heavily padded, and very comfy. There’s one handle on top, another on the front. There are also two grab straps (opposite the handles) to help you maneuver the case in the overhead, or retrieve it. Never carry the case by these grab straps – that’s not their purpose.
There’s a small stretch pocket on the side. That’s not really designed for a water bottle, though it could hold a small one. The real purpose for this pocket is to secure a tripod, using the included straps.
There’s also a large stretch pocket on the front, where you could keep that water bottle. More importantly, behind this stretch pocket is a large pocket. Here you’ll find organizer pockets, a padded tablet sleeve, and a much larger padded sleeve for a laptop.
There’s one more little pocket on top, leading to a pleasant surprise.
Security Is a Top Priority
That little pocket? It holds a reinforced cable tether with TSA-compliant combination lock, so you can secure the case to any immovable object in your hotel room or wherever you happen to be. (Always exercise caution before leaving gear unattended. Better yet, don’t leave it unattended.)
But what’s to stop someone from simply opening the case? To show you how well conceived this case is, just look at the two main zippers. They’re each tucked into a TSA-approved locking mechanism, which is governed by a combination lock. I don’t know who came up with this idea originally, but it’s ingenious! Even the laptop pocket uses interlocking zipper pulls. You’ll have to buy a separate lock for this, and make sure it fits the tiny aperture.
One more nice security feature: each case comes with a serial number. Take a picture of it with your phone and keep it handy for a worst-case scenario – one you never hope to encounter.
What’s a roller without a good set of wheels? First, the wheels and related components are all user-replaceable.
Now, the wheels themselves are quiet as the proverbial mouse. I wheeled this baby over carpeting, tile, cracked and bumpy pavement, cracked asphalt, and grass. It was quieter than speaking in hushed tones at the library. And it handled all impediments with aplomb. Yes, grass did slow it down a bit, but not by much.
The telescoping handle was comfy enough and remained extended despite leaning down on it. I didn’t find the case straining to twist and turn at every opportunity when using the handle fully extended. I should also add that the handle reached a comfortable height. (Advisory: never drag the case up stairs or lift it by the telescoping handle. Always hand-carry it in such instances.)
Who Should Use This?
Commercial and editorial photographers; travel photographers; nature and wildlife photographers (provided you’re switching out your gear to a photo backpack when you reach your destination, or carry the gear in the backpack, inside the case).
Thoughtfully designed; durable; quiet; holds one or two pro-grip DSLRs with attached lenses plus numerous additional lenses, shoe-mounts, accessories; also holds a 17” laptop, 10” tablet, and tripod; airline-friendly - obviously.
This is the best photo roller to come my way. Everything about it spells quality workmanship. The design is pragmatic. There are no cute touches that have no practical value. You have only to look at the security locks alone to realize what a great value this is. The wheels provide effortless and quiet transport; the interior keeps gear snug enough so it doesn’t rattle around, and well-cushioned against bumps in the road. Simply stated, the Airport Security V3.0 is made to last. All in all, this is one sweet ride and clearly made with your gear’s security in mind!
Materials (per Think Tank Photo)
Exterior: For superior water-resistance, all exterior fabric has a durable water repellent (DWR) coating, plus underside of fabric has a polyurethane coating. The roller bags are also constructed with 1680D ballistic nylon, YKK RC Fuse (abrasion-resistant) zippers, custom designed extra tall skid plates, high performance 80mm super quiet wheels with sealed bearings, SpanKodra front pocket, rubberized laminate reinforcement, nylon webbing, and 3-ply bonded nylon thread.
Interior: 210D silver-toned nylon, polyurethane backed Velex liner and dividers, 2x polyurethane coated nylon 210T seam-sealed rain cover, closed-cell foam and reinforced
Specifications/Airport Security V3.0 (per Think Tank Photo)
Where can I get more info/order this product?
Think Tank Photo (order direct).
Think Tank Photo
Key Features (per Think Tank Photo*)
How much is it?