Product Review: Page (1) of 2 - 03/23/09

Think Tank Airport International V2.0 carry-on case and Urban Disguise 50

If you're a photographer who flies with a lot of gear this new version of the Airport International is worth a serious look

By Robert Jensen

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Much like Percival on his never-ending quest for the Holy Grail most of us search for that perfect tool that will either make our lives better or enhance our photographic skills. Be it the ultimate in cameras or the most exotic optics - we quest for perfection.

But what of the camera bag? That object who's lowly job is to simply carry our camera gear from place to place and, perhaps, save us from straining our shoulders and backs while doing so?

Many of you out there know what I'm talking about. How many of you have come home from shooting, headed straight for the Extra Strength Motrin, a heating pad or a hot shower to sooth those aches and pains? Who among you has been frustrated when a zipper refused to open, or worse, broke open, suddenly dumping your expensive gear on the hard ground?

Just as a carpenter uses a different hammer than would someone doing fine body work on a vintage car, so do camera bag designs differ to match the needs of the user. The photo journalist working the city beat has needs for a bag that differ from those of the photographer trekking around in the Grand Canyon, or the location or travel photographer. Think Tank has a bag/case combo that's just right for the traveler; The recently updated Airport International (V2.0) and their Urban Disguise 50.

Think Tank offers three sizes of carry-on roller cases:

  • Airport AirStream at 14" x 8" x 17.5" (W/H/D) (outside dimensions) - Retails for $289.00
  • Updated Airport International V2.0 at 14" x 8" x 21" (W/D/H) - Retails for $329.00
  • Airport Security V2.0 at 14" x 9" x 22" (W/H/D) - Retails for $369.00

Airport International V2.0
The Airport International V2.0 is the mid-sized carry-on roller case designed for the photographer who travels. It also makes a great location case for around town. You can fit some big glass inside the Airport International V2.0. According to Think Tank it will hold up to a 300mm f2.8, 400mm f2.8, or 500mm f4. I don't own any glass that big, as they aren't really workable inside a studio. However, there was plenty of room for my Nikkor 80-200 f2.8 AFD, two DSLR bodies, a Nikkor 18-105, Tokina 11-16mm f2.8, Nikkor 35-70 f2.8, Nikkor 50 f1.8, 2x Tele-extender, Nikon SB-800 and SB-24, batteries, filters, cable releases, diffusers for the flashes, tons of CF cards, instruction books, and more.

Highlights of the Airport International V2.0:


  • U.S. Department of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) approved combination lock. (Read more here)
  • Front security cable with combination lock for securing your laptop. It is fitted with a snap-lock at the end but I'd find it much handier to have a fitting that went into the security slot found on most notebook computers so I could use my computer at the terminal cafĂ© without worrying that someone will come along and grab it. I'd also like to see this cable more solidly attached to the main part of the case instead of to the corner of a pocket.
  • Back security cable and combination lock lets you secure your bag to a fixed object such as a table at a restaurant or line of chairs at an air terminal. This is solidly attached to the main compartment and does add an extra layer of security but someone could still come along with a knife or razor blade and cut open your bag to get at your gear so don't leave the case unattended. This plastic coated cable is fairly beefy (1/8" thick) but I can't comment on how easily a thief with the right tool might be able to cut through it. The idea of having the cable/lock is to act as a deterrent to make the thief look elsewhere for easier pickings.
  • Security Plate with unique serial number. If your bag is lost this could help you get it back. You can register it at Think Tank's website

  •   Optional AI Low Divider Set lowers the dividers by 2" to let you fit either Think Tank's Artificial Intelligence 15 laptop case Version 2.0, or their Cable Management 50 bag. Both sold separately.
  • Artificial Intelligence 15 - $49.00:  Completely revised thin laptop bag accommodates up to 15 " laptop with a front pocket for cables and accessories. Organizer located inside front pocket. Removable shoulder strap included. Rear pocket with hook & loop closure. Can be carried horizontally or vertically from either side. Can be carried as a backpack with Shoulder Harness.
  • Cable Management 50 - $29.50
  •  Clear organizer with internal dividers for AC adaptors, Fire Wire cables, CF card readers, batteries, and all other photography essentials.
  • Inside lid covered in pockets:  On the inside lid of the case is a see-through organizer with pockets to store items like press passes, pens, pencils, tickets, etc. A nice touch to protect the metal zipper pull from scratching your gear are these little elastic ports " you slip the pulls into.

  •  Replaceable wheels and protective wheel housings

If you wear out the wheels, Think Tank provides a free kit so that you can replace them. The wheels are located on the very outside of the bag making it more stable. Plastic bumpers/sliders also protect the fabric part of the case when going up curbs and stairs. By using the wheels along with front legs the case is free standing (as long as you balance the load inside)

  • Front stretch pocket can hold a laptop case like the AI 15, or a lightweight jacket. Use it for a jacket, not enough protection for a laptop. I'd much rather buy the Low Divider set and put the laptop inside the Airport where its safer. Better yet, keep the laptop in its own well protected case, preferably one that I could slip over the Airport's extended handle.
  • There's a handy front organizer pocket for quickly grabbing a new flash card, filters, pen and paper, your keys, tickets, passport, etc.
  •  Business card holder. Handy for when you run into a prospective client or get your gear returned to you quickly if your bag is misplaced.
  •  Telescoping handle - tall enough for a 6' 3" guy like me to use comfortably.
  •  A grip at the bottom of the bag. I like the idea of the bottom handle to help lift a heavy bag into an overhead compartment but have to wonder with its close proximity to the ground how it would fair after being pulled though a wet puddle or mud? I think by repositioning it to the front face, at the bottom of the bag it would fair much better. Don't lift the Airport case by the telescoping handle when loading, use the bottom strap, that's what its' designed for.
  • Seam-sealed rain cover, protects even in the worst weather conditions. If they'd gone with a white or light grey colored cover it could have acted to keep the bag from heating up while sitting in the sun.

Internal Dimensions:
13 " W x 6.5 " " 7.5 " D x 18.5 " H
(33 x 16.5-19 x 47 cm)
9.5"11.5 lbs; 4.3"5.2 kg (weight varies depending on accessories used) Be aware that some airlines have weight restrictions per bag. Carry a lightweight photo vest and transfer heavy lenses to that to avoid paying extra.

Final Thoughts:
Not all airlines have the same standard for carry-on luggage. A bag that fits within the test frame from one airline might not fit in another airline's frame. Because of that discrepancy Think Tank has done extensive testing to make sure the Airport International V2.0 fits within most major world airlines test frames. One less thing to worry about when you travel.

WARNING from Think Tank: This roller is not designed to be checked luggage when traveling by airline. It is designed to stay with you at all times. If for some reason you are forced to check it, remove the laptop case and your SLR camera bodies and hand carry them onto the plane. Checking your gear with the laptop enclosed may permanently damage your equipment.


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