I have many different camera bags in my arsenal, the byproduct of being in the photo biz for almost two decades, and I can say that, for the most part, I can use almost any of my camera bags for general use photography or videography. What I mean by general use is that I can load up a body or two, a couple lenses, and go out on a standard photo shoot without missing a beat. The Airport Advantage™ roller by ThinkTank is one of the few bags I now have that are relegated to very specific use case scenarios, but, for the most part, it handles those scenarios very well.
I found the design of the roller to be in line with most everything I’ve tried from ThinkTank, that is, very well designed. This is a quality product that is seriously well crafted and just feels good to touch. The velcro and zippers are all of good material and the overall construction gives me the confidence I need to know that this bag is durable. I found the padding inside to be more than adequate for the adventures I’ll have with this, going through airport metal detectors and shifting around in an overhead bin.
I did find a few design decisions curious, though. For instance, why go with uni-directional wheels instead of omni-directional? I wouldn’t says it’s a deal breaker, but I’d prefer to have a bit more versatility built into a roller bag. Also, while I understand the need for it, the little extra padding in the top, designed to house the handle, is it a bit disappointing. When I’m try to max out every bit of space from a bag it’d be nice to have this space back, unfortunately i don’t see a fix to this unless they want to expand the entire size of the back or add an ugly external handle holding area. Sometimes the give and take between design and engineering is tough, and in this case, this is probably the best compromise.
Using the Bag
I took the bag with me on a few trips and found it to be durable and comfortable to use. As I mentioned in my introduction, though, this bag is designed for very specific use-case scenarios, that is primarily zooming through airport terminals. The good things is that it does its job well. I found myself using the bag primarily as a pack mule, instead of my primary camera bag because I knew when I got to wherever I was going I’d need to use my regular camera bag for doing actually shoots.
Unless you are going to a studio, or set location for a shoot, you’ll need to pack a normal camera bag with you. And even if you’re going to a set or location, know that this bag isn’t designed to go offroad. The wheels are strictly designed for a hard surface. You start going into anything with rocks or dirt and you’re going to be picking up the bag after a while. Thankfully the handle are very well padded and are included in the top and side of the bag, giving you some options as to how to hold it. Unfortunately there are no backpack straps which could have given you a bit more flexibility in how to carry the bag.
As I mentioned, I used the bag primarily as a pack mule, and in that case it worked great. I, as many in my field, are carrying more and more equipment to do photo or video shots. It’s not enough to just bring a camera some lenses and a laptop on the job any more, nowadays I’m hauling portable video lights, multiple camera bodies and flashes, a drone or two, and controllers, not to mention countless cables, chargers and other accessories like hard drives. Also, this bag worked great whether I was going to another location via an airport or just driving somewhere, the bag was just as easy to stoe in a trunk of a car as it was the overhead bin on a plane.
If you haul a large amount of photo/video equipment and you are a globetrotter, you will find this bag indispensable. If you haul gear from one shoot to another locally in your car, you’ll find utility in this bag. If you are a studio photographer, or just plan to shoot at a designated location where you can leave your equipment protected, then this bag is right for you. If you barely have enough gear to fill a regular camera bag, or don’t see yourself traveling too much, then you wouldn’t find much utility in this bag. If you’re a run and gun photojournalist who needs to be out and about covering stories and moving around quickly, this is not the bag for you.
For those looking for this type of camera bag, you won’t find much that are much better. While it doesn’t have some of the features of other rolling camera bags offered by other companies, it is still a very well designed bag that will meet the needs of any gear hoarder who needs to take that gear on the go.