We all have camera bags. Whether you use a Point-and-Shoot, an SLR, or any other type of camera, you are putting it somewhere eventually that could be defined as a bag. These bags are made in such a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and straps, it’s really amazing sometimes how many options there are for the photographer today. But like it or not, if you have a camera – you are gonna need a bag!
If not for the camera, the accessories almost make bags a requirement, whether it’s media cards, batteries, lens pens, cloths, business cards, lenses, filters, flashes, or whatever – bags are needed no matter how light or heavy you want to go. Just like bags, everyone has preferences too, whether it be for a shoulder bag, a backpack bag, a transport bag, a waterproof bag, or anything else, there are as many preferences as there are bags on the market. In the past I have tried several types, ranging from shoulder-style packs, to backpacks, belt and harness systems, and everything in between. The one style I hadn’t really needed before though, was the suitcase-style bag.
After reviewing the Think Tank Airport International though – not so sure I can live without this one. Let’s take a look at the bag itself. The overall bag itself stands at 14x8x21″. It’s a beast, I tell you and I fit literally every item I own inside this bag (except the tripod). Not only did I pack everything in there, but I also had room to spare. Not too shabby when you consider my gear list:
Canon AS500 IS
Sigma 70mm Macro
550 EX II
580 EX II
Kenko-Tokina 1.4 TC
Gadget Infinity Triggers/Receivers
Remote Shutter Release
Pocket LED Flashlight
While this may be a pittance compared to many ensembles for a professional photographer, I can assure you that it’s quite substantial for the enthusiast. And it all fit inside the bag with room to spare!
While I did have room to spare, it really only is leaving room for more lenses or glass. I wish there was a way to configure the dividers so I could pack something like a change of clothes into one corner. For the recent trips I went on to NY and Anaheim (then NY again), I jerry-rigged it to do so, and stuffed a collapsible duffle in there too. That way in the event of having to gate-check on a smaller flight, I could use the clothes as cushions and quickly switch the most important gear into an acceptable carry-on size for the smaller aircrafts. (And, yes, I had to twice, for those that are going to ask if I needed to…)
Another of the other features that stood out for me was the exterior storage compartment. This is meant for smaller items that you access more frequently like lens pens, CF cards, batteries, quick-release plates, and more. I also managed to fit a lens hood for the 70mm Sigma Macro in there too:
There was even more to love as I was able to slide my Macbook Pro into the exterior sleeve of the bag for easy on-the-go storage and quick access. They do make a little case to put your laptop into before sliding in, but I opted not to get that.
I believe you can insert the Laptop Artificial Intelligence in here, but, as mentioned, I did not opt for the additional bag as this was more than generous enough for Think Tank to send this item out for review. For those that want the additional laptop sleeve, you can find it on Think Tank’s website here. And here’s an additional product shot from the folks at Think Tank so you can get idea of its design:
Some of the other very-much appreciated features that the folks at Think Tank also thought to include were:
1. The Extension Handle – Whoever invented this should be awarded the Nobel Prize or something, because travel has become so much easier with this functionality built into our baggage. Having it for the ever-increasing weight of camera bags is an additional godsend that I don’t think I will ever be able to forgo again!
2. The security lock – If you get to an event want want to lock down your main gear bag in one location then go lightweight while at a shoot, this security lock that is built into the back of the bag is brilliant! The steel cable unlocks, then wraps around some permanent structure (like a bike rack or something) and you can combination lock it down once wrapped for additional peace of mind!
There is an additional lock by the side handle that you can attach the companion Laptop Sleeve to in order to keep everything together. (Again, sheer brilliance of innocation, although I’d advise setting the combination for each of these to something different – makes it even safer and the added peace of mind is worth it!)
Each lock also has a key access for the special TSA agents to use their keys on for security inspections, so it is officially TSA-approved! (Just another of the many well-thought out features!)
3. Serial Number – Think Tank has also thought to include a serial number so you can register the bag for easier recovery in the case of theft. This metal plate is securely attached to the bag with steel grommets, then further secured with a rubberized seal, making it all but impossible to remove for anyone except the most determined thief! (Photo not shown for obvious reasons…)
#4 Wheels – I know it almost goes without saying, but the wheels make this one of the easiest bags to transport, especially when traveling. One would think me to be Captain Obvious given the name of the bag itself as the Airport International which in and of itself indicates the functionality as a travel bag, but without these beautiful little gems, it’s just a camera suitcase!
5. Side Handles – As we often have to shift our bags around to be stored in various positions during travel, Think Tank has gone so far as to have a rugged handle sturdily sewn onto both the horizontal and vertical sides of the case, making it easier to insert “wheels first” (as flight attendendts will command you on their carriers), or as you prepare to lay it down flat to access the gear inside.
Note also that the vertical handle also has yet two more compartments…
A. The clear plastic shield makes a great place to store your name for easier identification when traveling (there are lots of black carry-ons these days!). I would not recommend putting a business card in there as advertising that you are carrying photography gear is not a good idea.
B. A zipper slot makes for the perfect place to store your boarding passes. Easy to stick in and retrieve for when the final call for your flight is announced at the gate and you’ve got to shut off your laptop from charging and dash to the gate!
Here, you can also see the additional security lock as I mentioned earlier. Remember to program this to be different from the one that hides nicely behind the backside in its own zipper pouch and you are all set to travel pretty much anywhere a plane can take you!
Functionality – Bar none, the best bag I’ve had the pleasure of testing thus far. The thought and innovation that went into this design and function is unparalleled. If you travel a lot, this bag is simply a must-have on that basis alone.
Price – Not for the faint of heart, this bag comes in at a shade over $300 at $329, but is really worth its weight in gold. If you want a bag that accomplishes what this one does, and with the design, function, and purpose, no other bag really can compare here.
Weight – As the gear we have is enough weight, adding weight just from the bag itself is something I have become very cognizant of, and when empty this shell is easily less than ten pounds.
Availability – I am a little disappointed that I cannot purchase their items through B&H, but I know there are regional stores and alternatives like Adorama, Mike’s Camera, and such that offer them. I do get free shipping from B&H due to my NAPP membership though, so that’s just a personal preference more than anything else.
Bottom line – would I recommend this bag? For a traveler – yes!
The question is – do you want a traveling bag? Or is a backpack bag your preference. Bags, just like haircuts, are based on personal and subjective choices including - the type of photography, where you are going, how you are getting there, and how much gear you use, as well as your own shooting style. If you travel a lot, this case is definitely for you. For the street-style photographer, perhaps not the best choice. For me, it has become my de facto bag that houses all my gear both when traveling and when storing.
Anyone else taken this bag through its paces? Have additional thoughts on the bag? Feel free to ask questions about other features if you are interested in the bag, I’ll be happy to reply either in the comments or through email! Special thanks to Think Tank Photo for donating the bag for gear review…you can learn more about their entire product line from their website here: www.thinktankphoto.com