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Review: Think Tank Photo Airport TakeOff Roller Bag

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I like to travel light, but let’s face it, sometimes you really need to pack a good sized kit. Whether it be for a job or a photo focused trip or vacation, the right bag can be the difference between chaos or stress free travel. Think Tank Photo has come up with an innovative solution for photographers that need to travel with a decent amount of gear but still move quickly while traveling. This bag has been dubbed the Airport TakeOff.

Technical Specifications

  • ID: 13”W x 18.5”H x 5.25 – 6.75”D (33 x 47 x 13 – 17cm)
    ED: 14”W x 21”H x 8”D (35.5 x 53 x 22cm)
  • Weight: 8.6 – 10.3 lbs (3.9 – 4.7 kg) (depending on accessories used)
  • Lifetime Warranty

 Gear Profile

  • Holds up to 400 f/2.8 (tight with lens cap) and other assorted lenses
  • Holds up to two pro or regular size DSLR bodies with or without lenses attached
  • Holds 15” laptops and some 17″ laptops
  • Front cable & lock to secure laptops

My Gear

Features

Backpack Straps The backpack straps can be tucked away yet remain exposed while the Airport TakeOff™ rolls along.
Converts to a backpack When you are ready to use it as a backpack, simply collapse the extendable handle and pull out the backpack straps.
What fits The TakeOff™ can carry regular size DSLRs across the top of the bag and/or pro size DSLRs along the sides. A Nikon D90 and D3 are shown above.
Rear Panel Cover The rear panel covering can be easily zipped open or shut to hide or expose the backpack straps.
Tripod and Monopod Cup A tripod or monopod can be carried on the side of the Airport TakeOff by using the straps and tripod cup included with the bag.
Stretchable Side Pocket A monopod can be carried in the stretchable side pocket and stabilized near the top of the bag with the included monopod strap.
Front Flap The cable and lock are inside the clear pocket andunderneath the front flap on the Airport TakeOff. The Artificial Intelligence 15 fits in the front pocket.
Extandable Handle Open the zipper flap on top of the Airport TakeOff to reveal the extendable handle.

Summary

The Think Tank Airport TakeOff is a small roller bag that can safely hold quite a bit of gear while still meeting U.S. and international carry on requirements. This is key because I simply refuse to check my camera gear. I don’t have a ton of expensive gear, but I really don’t trust anyone at the airlines with thousands of dollars worth of ANYTHING I own.

While it looks like an ordinary roller bag, it does have a few tricks up its sleeve. The Airport TakeOff can be carried by one of two large handles, it can be rolled like a typical piece of luggage or it can be carried like a backpack. I particularly like the backpack option. I’m 6’4″ and roller bags are not a tall persons best friend. I usually end up running over heal with roller bags which, as you would image, gets annoying fast. Also, I often find myself running to gates which can be a bit challenging with a roller bag. Having the option to strap the bag to your bag so you can move quickly (in my case, run) when needed is a great feature. Check out the video for an in-depth look at the Airport TakeOff.

Video

Sorry for the AF issues in the first part of the video, my GF-1 didn’t like me spinning the bag around. I locked focus in the second part of the video to resolve the issue.

Likes

  • Quality: Like all Think Tank Photo bags, this thing is built like a tank. The bag is made of high quality canvas and ripstop canvas. The handles are big and very well padded which makes carrying this bag much easier when it’s fully loaded up. And if my word isn’t good enough for you, Thank Tank Photo backs up all of their products with a true, no rhetoric lifetime warranty.
  • Size: The Airport TakeOff is a great size. It can handle a pretty decent sized kit, including a laptop, while still meeting U.S. and international carry on requirements.
  • Flexibility:  With all of the included dividers, the Airport TakeOff can be configured to fit most photographer’s needs. Also, with the two beefy handles, collapsible pull out handle, and backpack straps, the Airport TakeOff can keep up with you no matter what the pace.
  • Laptop Friendly: I really hate carrying a camera bag and a separate laptop bag. Thankfully the Airport TakeOff‘s front compartment can take up to a 17″ laptop. I highly recommend putting your laptop into some sort of protective sleeve as there isn’t a ton of padding in this pocket. If you don’t already have a small laptop bag or sleeve I would consider checking out the Think Tank Photo Artificial Intelligence bags because the front pocket of the Airport TakeOff is designed to work with Think Tank Photo’s Artificial Intelligence line of laptop bags. I know what I’ll be purchasing next. This means you can put your camera in the Artificial Intelligence case and slide it into the pocket on the front of the Airport TakeOff. If that wasn’t enough, the Airport TakeOff has a lockable cable that you can attach to you laptop case to ensure things don’t get separated. While this is a good idea, I’d probably use the cable to lock the bag to a pipe or something while shooting a wedding or some other function.

Dislikes

  • Weight: This really isn’t a dislike, it’s more of a heads up to potential buyers. There’s no way around it, at 8.6lbs. the Airport TakeOff is kind of a fatty. Yes, there are heavier roller bags out there, but a bag that weighs almost 9lbs. completely empty is still a heavy bag. Remember, this is a roller bag so it’s not like lugging this bag around on your back all day is your only option.
  • Price: You usually get what you pay for and this holds true with the Airport TakeOff. The bag is more expensive than a few of it’s competitors, but the quality is outstanding and you have to love the lifetime warranty. If you are tough on your bags it’s definitely worth the investment.
  • Bottom of the Bag: This may be a strange complaint, just hear me out. Due to the backpack straps and  the compartment for the pull out handle, the bottom of the camera compartment is not flat. This may not sound like a big deal, but it can make fitting larger objects in the back a bit of a challenge. Luckily, the bag is very deep to begin with (I can almost fit my Canon 70-200mm standing up) so it doesn’t affect storage space much but it can make things sit a bit funny in the bag. Not a show stopper for me, just more of an annoyance.

Another Thought…

I never really thought of this until I received the bag, but having a large bag that can hold most or all of your gear is really a great thing to have. Not only because you can travel with everything, but it also can help you stay organized. As I’ve said before, I own a bunch of camera bags and I use they them all as each serves a specific purpose. The problem is, I usually leave items in a bag after I’m done shooting because I don’t have a centralized location to store all of my gear. So what ends up happening is I leave a few things in each bag which means I can never find what I’m looking for. Now that I have the Airport TakeOff, I simply store everything in this bag, it’s my camera file cabinet. When I go out to shoot, I simply get what I need from the Airport TakeOff and when I return, everything goes back in the bag. I threw a few silica packets in there to keep everything moisture free and now I have a nice dry place to keep all of my gear. Yes, it’s probably not worth the money if you are only going to use it as a gear file cabinet, but it just goes to show you that your large roller bag doesn’t need to sit in the closet waiting for your next shoot or vacation, it can be used every day! It’s good to be organized.

Conclusion

If you travel with a decent sized kit and you move quickly when traveling, the Airport TakeOff should be on your short list. While it cannot hold a massive kit or a truly gigantic telephoto lenses, it can hold everything you should need for travel photography and it can adapt to your travel needs. You can pull out the collapsible handle and walk with the bag or you can bust out the shoulder straps and use the bag as a backpack. Also, knowing that you can carry this bag on to any domestic or international jet is going to be comforting for many photographers.

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