Product Reviews » Airport Airstream: The Ultimate Carry-on Camera Case
When I first saw some of the camera cases and accessories offered by Think Tank Photo last year at the PDN PhotoPlus Conference in NYC, I was impressed by the creativity and innovation of their designs. What I was not expecting was the high quality of the materials and construction, which came as a very pleasant surprise.
For background, I have always used an aluminum hard case when traveling by air with my camera equipment. My case holds two bodies, 4 lenses, and a few other accessories. In addition to this, I also bring a large laptop case. The two cases are heavy, kill my shoulders, and require two-shouldered balance, which I do not have. So I have been looking for a case that has wheels, carries both a laptop and cameras, and fits as carry-on luggage in the overhead compartment. For the last few weeks I have been testing Think Tank Photo's Airport Airstream case. Eureka, this just may be my dream camera case!
|The modest exterior of the Airport Airstream encases a solid, well-designed carry-on for your most delicate equipment.|
Let’s start with the external design. The Airstream is made of heavy ripstop nylon—sturdier than I would have expected. The zippers are large and robust. The external dimensions are the same width as my aluminum case, a couple of inches shorter and a couple inches deeper—the depth is what allows me to fit a second level of accessories or a laptop. The click-lock handle to pull the case is waist high for me, and I am tall—no more stooping! The handle zips into a small compartment to protect it, while in an overhead compartment, for instance. The identification tag is a convenient place to carry business cards. This is all great stuff, but here is the kicker—the Airstream comes with a built-in cable and lock to secure the case to an immovable object! Additionally, the case has a unique serial number welded to the exterior, and Think Tank Photo will assist in finding the owner should it become lost.
At the business end, or bottom, of the case, the wheels are solid, with a skid plate and firm plastic corners. There are three carrying handles, on the top, side and bottom, for two-handed lifting. The main handles are nicely padded to reduce stress on the carrier. But my favorite part? The two bilateral zippers are designed as part of a lock-in design. The zipper pulls are metal, and fit into an airport-security-approved lock. This way, your zippers are protected, the top of the case is locked, and the Transportation Safety Administration has keys if they need to access your case. Magnificent design!
The outside of the well-padded case has stretchable side pockets for water bottles, keys, etc., plus extra loops to secure a tripod or other objects with carabiner clips. Ready again for a surprise? I use the small, top outside pocket to carry the raincoat for the case. Yes, that is right, you get a waterproof cover to protect the entire rolling case—brilliant! Finally, the zippered external pockets have a series of clear, but screened, internal storage compartments, where items are both visible and protected.
|The Cable Management system of pouches fit right into the Airstream case and can accommodate a wide variety of accessories.|
Now let’s talk about the interior design. It comes pre-set, with moveable Velcro separators. The standard size of these dividers is approximately 8”, which fit snugly in the full depth of the case. Extra dividers are provided, allowing a large degree of flexibility and customization for these compartments, so that they can fit one or two bodies, long or short lenses, flashes or hard drives, etc. The dividers are amazingly robust in thickness and strength, and the Velcro is hardy as well. Once locked in to the arrangement you want, nothing will move these Velcro’ed dividers out of place!
I chose to go with the Low Divider Set, which is approximately 6” deep. This allows me the same design functionality as the full height dividers, but also provides a second level of storage, about 2” high. I can use the Think Tank Cable Management system, which is an organizer pouch the entire size of the case, but shallow. It fits perfectly into the case and has three transparent pockets, which allow me to store battery chargers, cable release, battery packs, etc.
|Think Tank's thin laptop bags can be secured to the Airstream case with a built-in cable and lock.|
Your laptop can fit into the 2”of space above the low dividers, but the Airstream also has a stretchable external pocket designed to fit a 15” laptop in a padded case.The Think Tank Artificial Intelligence laptop bag has three zippered, clear-plastic, divided pockets inside the top cover, allowing you to see what is stored, and where. Let me mention this material; it is clear, but has a screen built in and substantial thickness, so that it would be very difficult to rip or even cut. Ready again? There is a second built-in cable and lock attached to the laptop bag, allowing you to secure the locked laptop bag to your Airstream case!
There are three different cases in the Airport series, so you have a choice of sizes. They fit up to a 400mm f2.8 lens. All cases are International and Domestic carry-on size, TSA lock-approved and weigh in at about 9 lbs. The Airstream model that I am currently using is 14” W x 17.5” L x 8” H.
I am very impressed with the design and functionality of the Airstream case. I am also testing Think Tank Photo's over-the-shoulder Urban Disguise case, and a small holster design built to carry a camera with a lens attached. Stay tuned for reviews of them soon.
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