Magazine Article


Case Study: Bags & Cases
Case Study: rolling carts, backpacks, camera holders, even business-card holsters-manufacturers ensure that today's newest carrying cases are keeping up with professional photographers' demands on the go

When it comes to transporting valuable photographic gear, making the journey from Point A to Point B can be as complicated as setting up a shoot. You need to worry about how to get your equipment through airport security in the face of increasingly stringent travel regulations, making your photographic arsenal inconspicuous to avoid theft, and keeping your gear safe from the elements once you actually arrive on location.

This is where a trusted bag or case can prove invaluable-and once a photographer finds a carrying vessel he or she trusts, it's hard to instigate brand defection. So what should you be looking for?

Of course, the basics rank high on every photographer's wish list, including portability, durability, and innovation, all backed by a manufacturer's promise that the bag will deliver on its carrying claims. "There's no perfect bag-guess that's why there are so many case makers!" comments Gary Pond, president of Porter Case. "No perfect case-and you must work within a given volume of space. Because our cases are a working tool for the professional, our trend [therefore] has been aimed at giving the best quality and warranty support possible."

Its ultimate purpose of getting your gear from one place to the other is probably the most important factor-which means the bag or case should be easy to handle. "The trend I see (it's always been around, but it's becoming more and more important) is the desire to have wheels on the case," says Donald Cronkite, sales manager for Seahorse Protective Equipment Cases.

Pond concurs regarding transport. "Our Porter Case and new PCX cases have a patented built-in CART (trolley) system," he explains. "Our cases help [photographers] to protect, carry, and organize their most expensive and delicate items. The airline carry-on allows them to roll their best on board...and check the rest."

Another trend that photographers may be seeing more of in the bag and case marketplace is actually an estrogen-driven one. "The biggest trend that Delsey has seen are more women coming into pro photography," says Aaron Altman, director of sales and marketing for Delsey Camera Bags. "These women are talented, with great photographic feel, [and they] want equipment that they feel comfortable with-especially bags and cases. The Delsey design works very well for them, especially our new Corium and Cortex collections."

What the cases are made of is also important. "Our growth over the last five years shows us that hard-sided cases are gaining [in popularity]," says Seahorse's Cronkite. Porter Case has also been analyzing their materials usage and bag construction. "Our newest material change has been to go from ABS plastic shells to a tougher Mil-Spec HDPE high-impact plastic," says Pond. "[And] the cut-and-sew bags are trending toward more pouches, pockets, and zippered areas."

Keeping up aesthetically appealing appearances has impacted Delsey's manufacturing mission. "The Corium line, for example, is made in a soft-pebble leather that's buttery soft and holds pro gear, with a subtle design that's similar to a designer bag or case," explains Altman.

Safety First

Even if your bag is the envy of the every fashionista photographer, however, a careless baggage handler can wreak havoc on your traveling studio, while a larcenous looter can pilfer your gear in the blink of an eye. This is why manufacturers have implemented tough security features into their products to help you keep your equipment safe.

"Pros who travel frequently are constantly having to open their bags and cases to go through security, and then close their cases properly so that they are securing their gear," says Altman. "Delsey cases are designed for easy open and close, with built-in magnetic strips to keep them secure."

"Probably the biggest buzzword in cases and luggage over the last few years has been TSA locks-which in my opinion are kind of a joke," adds Pond. "I've heard too many stories about equipment being stolen after checking. We offer a TSA padlock for our Stowaway shipping cases, and several companies like Master Lock offer a web belt with TSA combination that can go around a case and though the strap handle. There is no good solution for personal property protection when many people have access to the special TSA ‘Pass Keys.' The locks may help airline security, but they sure don't do anything positive to protect the traveler's personal property. Our hard-side carry-on cases come with a combination lock that's useful for gate-checking or working on-site. We're thinking of offering a bicycle-style wire or chain with a combination lock to help secure the case to a pole or other structure. Locking a soft-sided case is only making the owner feel safe-until someone twists off the zipper lock or they get the case back slashed open. They really offer no protection from theft."

Cronkite concurs. "We've just introduced new locking latches being pioneered on our featured aircraft carry-on case," he says. "Because not everyone has or wants to use TSA padlocks, our twist-and-stay-closed latches provide safety, especially during aircraft luggage handling, while allowing access to TSA operators who find the need to open cases for examination."

Of course, bringing your equipment into the passenger cabin is the ultimate way to ensure its safety. "Delsey has been in the luggage business for decades and knows how to make bags and cases geared for travel-our bags and cases are designed to fit in most overhead airline compartments," says Altman.

Cronkite adds, "All of our cases, except our very largest, can be carried aboard aircraft and stowed in the overhead bin of most major airlines. The larger the case that's allowed means carrying more gear that doesn't have to be relegated to baggage handling. Our aircraft carry-on case, for example, provides interior room of over 2,579 cubic inches, yet it fits into these bins. This is the best way to keep equipment where it's the safest-with you."
Read on for some new products...

Adorama has introduced the Reporter Backpack, designed in cooperation with automobile and fashion photographer Joe Farace and his wife, Mary Farace, a portrait and nature photographer. The Reporter is crafted of SOFTEX, a high-tech ballistic-nylon material renowned for its ruggedness and resistance to weather, abrasions, and punctures. It's well padded and has nine dividers that can be repositioned to accommodate various lenses, flashes, and accessories.

Avenues in Leather
The Sherpa camera case from Avenues in Leather is now available in small and medium-plus styles, each with an extra pocket. Crafted from heavy-duty neopro material, the Sherpa line includes new burgundy and blue-trimmed cases. Avenues in Leather also introduced the Anthem and Mythos camera-case lines at PMA, available in red and black.

The Billingham PhotoVest carries enough cameras, lenses, and accessories for both outdoor and on-location situations. The vest features a heavy-duty zipper and exterior pockets for spare camera bodies and lenses up to 18-inches. Horizontal zip compartments store extra gear, and a flap pocket holds press credentials. 

BODA Lens Bag
BODA Lens Bag has launched its second product line. BODA DRY is a fully weatherproof line of bags, available in two sizes: the primary bag holds up to five lenses, batteries, and all the necessary accessories. BODA Junior is a smaller version and will hold two to three primary lenses.

The Python backpack is a hybrid laptop backpack/camera bag that boasts a dedicated, fully padded laptop compartment; a removable camera bag for your DSLR and accessories; Terralinq service, which can help you find your lost bag; and a ballistic nylon exterior with water-repellant coating and oversized YKK high-performance zippers.

Case Logic
The SLR (SLR-66) backpack features an ultra-protective SLR suspension hammock in the upper compartment, which securely suspends the SLR body with a zoom lens attached. Other features include an exterior water-bottle pocket; adjustable tripod lashing straps; and padded, adjustable shoulder straps.

The Cork & Fork trolley bag features a "snake" adjustable wall, which can bend in between hardware. Used in conjunction with rigid spine walls and Velcro capping straps, all equipment is secure. The removable insert doubles as a backpack and features padded shoulder straps and an adjustable waist strap.

Delsey's line of Cortex shoulder bags are manufactured with a water-resistant ballistic nylon, over a PVC sponge backing with thickly padded sides. The interior lining provides extra scratch protection.

Denny Manufacturing
Protect your canvas or muslin backgrounds with Denny's portable canvas carrying cases, durable, padded units that will hold up to two backgrounds each. The front of the case features a zippered pocket. They are available for 5', 6', 7', and 8' backgrounds. A vinyl carrying case is available for widths from 9' to 12'.

The bottom of Domke's F-3 backpack is configured exactly like the F-3X super-compact bag, with extra room at the top for accessories. The bag features cotton canvas and webbing, large pockets, YKK zippers, and metal hardware. A foam-padded harness with waist and sternum strap helps distribute weight.

GoBEE Bags
Designed by photographers Lauren Hillary and Sara France, GoBEE bags offer a modern take on camera gear. The company's first two product lines (the hip clutch for women, and the card holster for men) launched at this year's WPPI. The hip clutch organizes CF cards and has a separate compartment to hold lip gloss, a cell phone, and business cards. The card holster was designed by women "who know what looks good on a man, as well as what a pro photographer needs functionally to keep images safe and secure."

Hardigg Storm
Constructed of Hardigg's HPX resin, the iM2875 ensures that photography gear, laptops, monitors, and printers survive any transport situation undamaged. Multilayered cubed foam holds case contents firmly in place and can be easily modified to fit specific pieces. Like the rest of the Storm Case line, the iM2875 features Hardigg's unique Press & Pull latches, which open easily when you want, yet hold fast when you need them to. The case's Vortex valve automatically adjusts air pressure without letting in water or dust.

Kata's new Digital Photo Series (DPS) line features protective technologies, including Thermo Shield Technology (TST) and Yelloop (which provides scratch and static protection). Kata's new DPS Digital Rucksacks, the DR-467 and DR-465, feature TST structural protection and an ergonomic harness. The Rucksacks' bottom camera compartments allows users to store a DSLR with mounted lens, additional lenses, flash, and other essentials.

Lightware has introduced two new cases specifically designed for the Apple G5 tower and either the Eizo 23-inch or the Apple 20- or 23-inch widescreen displays. The monitor case uses a unique divider system that keeps it firmly in place. There's plenty of room for a keyboard, accessories, and even a Mac mini.

The Fastpack backpack's triple-compartment design provides a durable, lightweight carrying solution for a DSLR, extra lenses or flashes, a notebook computer, and accessories. A 180-degree access panel makes loading and retrieving equipment easy. The backpacks are available in black, arctic blue, and red.

Mountainsmith has introduced four lens cases, one pouch, two lumbar packs, and a backpack, plus four cases made from 100% recycled PET polyester with recycled zippers. Many of the bags and cases feature 420-denier velocity nylon and padded, fleece-lined interiors.

The Zion 523 and McKinley 524 come with a single front-access flap and can hold an SLR body with a battery pack and up to an 8-inch lens attached. There's also room for four to six additional lenses or accessories. The Zion 523 features a hydration system, a neoprene waist belt with compression straps, and a front tripod bungee-strap carrying system with platform pocket. The McKinley 524 features a telescoping handle, 17-inch laptop compartment, and large rear belt loop that can accommodate M-Rock's Modular Belt.

Naneu Pro
The K4L was designed to function as a laptop backpack, camera bag, and travel backpack. The main compartment has a top section suitable for day gear, and a bottom section houses a padded insert for a camera system. The well-padded lower camera compartment houses a pro DSLR body with up to a 4-1/2-inch lens attached, plus up to four additional lenses and a flash. A heavily padded lateral compartment fits most 17-inch laptops.

Neil Enterprises
The SnapLab Bag features easy-glide wheels, an extendable handle, and numerous compartments, with a large storage area for the Sony SnapLab photo printer, media, and more. Qualifying buyers receive the bag free with the Neil SnapLab Value Package.

Norris Clipper Carts
With a load capacity of 300 pounds, the Camargo Wagon can fold flat for space-saving storage. With 5-inch wheels and a wheel base of 19.5-inches, the wagon can move even a
large stack of cases.

The Computer Sleeve protects computer gear and stretches to fit cables and power supplies, protecting against dust, moisture, and impact. The slim design fits easily in a briefcase or messenger bag. The flap features a leather tab that secures with Velcro.

The 1936 case protects the new BlackBerry Pearl 8120 and BlackBerry Pearl 8130 smartphones, allowing access to the trackball, sync/charge USB port, camera, and self-portrait mirror. Cases include a holster-style, swivel belt clip for carrying.

Large enough to hold many of the DSLRs or medium format cameras, plus lenses and accessories, the PCS283 wheeled camera/computer case is carry-on-compatible and features full-grain leather trim on 1680 ballistic-nylon with molded corners. The padded computer case holds a 17-inch-screen laptop. The main case has large Hersun wheels with corner protectors and a recessed telescoping handle.

The OB42 accessories case is designed for eight light stands, eight umbrellas, or any combination. The OB42 can also be used to carry soft boxes, collapsible background holders, muslin backgrounds, and fold-up reflectors. Two zippered pockets on the outside of the case store diffusers and gels. Also available: the Smith-Victor monolight case, holding three monolights and accessories, and the TB990 case, for both carbon-fiber and aluminum tripods.

Photographer's Warehouse
The Fit-A-Kit case is made of Cordura nylon with polyurethane padding. The zippered case offers two sides of storage: One side has three padded dividers to sort lights and accessories horizontally; the other, two vertical moveable dividers to protect tripods and light stands.

Porter Case
PCX Lite cases feature a patented Case-to-Cart conversion feature that carries more than 100 pounds. The cases come with a standard interior for clothes, with adjustable dividers and foam for cameras and other accessories. Features include high-flotation ball-bearing wheels and a 38-inch extension handle system.

The SE920 Hurricane, the largest-capacity, wheeled, hard-sided case that fits into the overhead bins of most airlines, is equipped with safety latches that will keep the latches closed even during the roughest handling. The SE920 has automatic pressure equalization and noncorrosive, unbreakable hinge and latch pins.

Each shoulder bag or laptop sleeve in the Ballistix Pro series is built with 1680D ballistic nylon. The shoulder bags include 1500 cubic inches of storage and a retractable carry handle. The laptop sleeves are available in 15.4- and 17-inch versions, with a quilted twill-nylon inner lining and rear storage compartments.

The Big Wheels Rolling StrongBox LP2 has a new integrated handle-and-wheel system to maximize storage capacity, yet still be airline carry-on-compatible. The internal dividers accommodate two SLRs with lenses attached, as well as other accessories. The foam-padded front pocket accommodates up to 17-inch-screen laptop computers. 

Roadie rolling cases come in various sizes and configurations, from a compact photo/laptop bag to a 48-inch long tripod/grip case. The Small and Large Photo/Laptop rolling cases hold medium to large professional DSLRs or medium format camera systems, as well as a laptop.

Think Tank Photo
Three new and upgraded rolling bags (Airport Airsteam, Airport Security V2.0, and Airport International V2.0) feature front and back cable locks, a TSA lock, and the Security Plate "Lost and Found" service, which allows photographers to register the roller's serial number at the Lost and Found website.

Camera On Wheels is a four-wheel rolling case made of ballistic nylon and honeycomb board with a fiberglass frame. It features a four-wheel base (making it light and easy to pull); adjustable padded dividers that house cameras and lenses; mesh pockets that accommodate memory cards, batteries, and film; and built-in straps to secure a tripod.

Underwater Kinetics
Each case in the UltraCase collection can be purchased with or without foam inserts. The line features an auto-venting latch, which automatically equalizes the pressure inside the case when opened, and seals the case against gas exchange when closed. Other features include a reinforced full-width hinge and an oversized rubber-padded folding handle.

Photographer Testimonials


"I've vowed never to use shoulder bags anymore; I can't get everything for my shoot into a fanny pack, and I don't want to schlep around a wheeled duffel, either. But now I use a Joe Farace Reporter backpack. After reconfiguring the inner, movable dividers, I packed my spare camera (Canon EOS 5D), two Canon Speedlite 580EX [units], two Canon battery packs, a variety of clamps, gaffer tape, reflectors, an umbrella bracket, an umbrella, and one light stand, and I slung that puppy onto my shoulder. It worked like a charm. I may even buy another one from Adorama."-Barry Staver,

Hardigg Storm

"The versatility and protection I get with my Storm Case makes it a winner for me. As a location shooter, I need to be agile and self-contained. We move around a lot and often wind up in some harsh environments. I use several different strobe systems, and the adjustable dividers make it easy for me to adapt the fit. One compact case holds an entire lighting kit, along with accessories like grids and speed rings. I feel confident that my gear is secure."-Dave White,


"Working with Lowepro gives me the assurance I need for every type of job. Last year on assignment in Bangkok, shooting Muay Thai kickboxing, I worked effortlessly and efficiently out of the Commercial AW. This year, traveling very light through Cambodia and Vietnam, I worked out of the Fastpack 350 and was able to carry all I needed for my digital captures and computer downloads. The versatility and design of their bags definitely make them my first choice."-Greg Gorman,

Naneu Pro

"As a photographer I specialize in adventure travel, but I also shoot all aspects of destination travel and often must shoot both on the same trip. This always means packing a wide range of lenses and being able to carry them easily and comfortably for long distances. I've owned and tested many camera bags and packs, and my search has led me to the K4L from Naneu Pro.

This photo backpack hits the right-size sweet spot by holding two Pentax DSLRs, six lenses from 10mm to 300mm, a big flash, filters, plus clothes, food, water, and my 15-inch MacBook Pro. I actually carried this gear set on a multiday hike into the Grand Canyon, staying at Phantom Ranch. The K4L's superbly padded back pads, shoulder straps, and hip straps made carrying this weight as comfortable as one can be on 20-plus miles of rough vertical hiking trails. It was the best my shoulders have felt after a trip like this that I can ever remember! Add in a fitted rain cover and being able to carry a complete travel photo gear set that fits in airline overhead, and you've got a pack you'll take on most every trip, as I am.

Simply put, the K4L's intelligent design lets me carry the gear I need into rough places, and to do so in comfort. All the right features, well made for the long haul, a great-looking design-these make the K4L a delight to use. This year, I'll be in Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, Costa Rica, Panama, wherever the stories lead me."-Kerrick James,


"I have been a commercial photographer for 20 years and have logged many airline miles carrying my equipment to various locations. In the past, I've always had to carry on two cases for all of my equipment, but with new laws prohibiting two carry-ons, traveling became a challenge: Which camera do you sacrifice to the baggage handlers, your $10,000 or $30,000 camera?  

With the new Pelican PCS283 RSV case, I can carry all my equipment in just one compact bag. In addition to its ample main storage area, the case has a removable computer compartment that holds my 17-inch laptop.

There are many other features I appreciate about the Pelican RSV Series case. The look of the bag is appealing. It looks like a suitcase and, therefore, does not 'advertise' photo equipment. The extra-large wheels make this case easy to maneuver because it rides smoothly on all surfaces. The leather handles are sturdy and reliable for carrying when necessary.

All-in-all, I'm pleased with my Pelican PCS283 RSV case. It has become a standard piece of equipment for my work."-Charlie Mayer,


"Tamrac's Big Wheels Rolling StrongBox LP2 is nothing short of spectacular. Of course, this should come as no surprise, as Tamrac bags have kept my cameras safe and secure since way back in the Dark Ages before digital. Since I'm on the road more than a third of the year, nothing is more important to me than keeping every piece of my equipment safe and easy to access. Nothing, that is, except making it easy to move. Tamrac cases are by far the easiest to maneuver!"-Doug Gordon,

Think Tank Photo

"My Think Tank Photo bags have seen more countries than a lot of people will ever see. Everyone knows there's no such thing as one perfect bag, but my combination of Airport Security, and Digital Holsters is as close to ideal as it comes. These bags have carried, stored, protected, and organized my gear from Mongolia to the Sahara. Brilliantly built and without gimmicks, my gear is always right where I need it, when I need it."-David duChemin,