Review: Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 (Perfect for Frequent Flyers)

If you’re looking for something to keep your expensive camera gear safe while traveling, Tenba’s Roadie Air Case Roller 21 may be what you’re after.

For photographers who fly to different locations for assignments on a regular basis, the last thing any of us would want is to have to check the bag that’s carrying our expensive camera gear prior to boarding. While you can always use a hard case to transport your equipment, they stick out like a sore thumb to opportunists with sticky fingers amongst a sea of traditional luggage. You may as well launch a signal flare advertising that you’re carrying a lot of valuables. Enter the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 which aims to quell our equipment transportation woes. We’ve been putting the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 to the test for the last few months, head on after the jump to see how it fared.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Holds a ton of gear
  • Sturdy construction
  • “Uncrushable”
  • Looks more like traditional carry on luggage rather than a dedicated camera bag or hard case
  • Removable padded camera insert
  • TSA lock integrated into the side of the main compartment
  • Additional TSA padlock is included with the integrated, braided steel cable and works like a bike chain to keep the case from growing legs when out of sight
  • Meets most US domestic and international carry on regulations

Cons

  • No room for a laptop or tablet

 

Gear Used

We tested the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 with a variety of different camera setups during our field tests. Below is an example of everything we managed to fit into the case at one time without anything getting crushed or damaged:

  • Sony A7R III with vertical grip, plus a few spare batteries
  • Sony FE 35mm f1.4 Zeiss
  • Sony FE 85mm f1.4 G Master
  • Sony FE 90mm f2.8 G Macro
  • Vintage Zenitar-МЕ1 50mm f1.7 adapted to Sony E Mount via Techart LM-EA7 adapter
  • Minolta a7 (Maxxum 7) SLR
  • Sony 35mm f1.4 G (Sony/Minolta A Mount)
  • Minolta AF 50mm f1.4 (Sony/Minolta A Mount)
  • Minolta AF 85mm f1.4 G RS (Sony/Minolta A Mount)
  • Flashpoint R2 Pro remote
  • 2x Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Pocket Flashes (including Fresnel Heads and Bare Bulb Heads for both)
  • rocket blower
  • a few rolls of 35mm film
  • a dozen AA batteries
  • Pelican 0915 SD card case
  • X-Rite ColorChecker Passport Photo 2
  • a small notebook, a few lens cloths, pen, plus miscellaneous cables

Needless to say, you can cram a ton of gear into the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21.

 

Tech Specs

Tech specs taken from Tenba’s official product page

  • ballistic nylon exteriors
  • durable YKK® zippers
  • stress point reinforcements
  • infinitely-configurable interiors
  • Catalog #: 638-715
  • Weight: 8.90 lbs ( 4-4.7 kg )
  • Exterior Dimensions: 14 in. W x 21 in. H x 9 in.D ( 36 X 53 X 23 cm )
  • Interior Dimensions: 12 in. W x 18 in. H x 6 in. D ( 30 X 46 X 15 cm )
  • Sleek, discrete case for photographers and filmmakers: Clean lines and a high-end luggage aesthetic with minimal branding ensure a professional look without drawing unwanted attention to the gear inside
  • Checkable, Shippable, Uncrushable: Tenba’s patented Air Case layered wall construction gives the protection of a hard shell case at a fraction of the weight. The Roadie Air Case can be checked as luggage, shipped, stepped on, kicked and dropped and still ensure the safety of everything inside
  • Removable Padded Camera Insert: Allows a camera and 2-3 lenses to be carried independently inside any bag of your choosing. Insert can be paired with Tenba’s Packlite 10 travel bag (636-228) to create a portable camera bag solution.

 

Ergonomics

The Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 looks more akin to a standard suitcase as opposed to hard cases that you would find from Pelican or SKB. This works to help keep a low profile when you’re getting around: it doesn’t advertise the fact that you’ve got valuable camera gear stored within. The Air Case Roller 21 features the same design language found in the rest of Tenba’s Roadie series of cases, but sets itself apart with subtle cerulean colored accents like the CNC machined badging on the front along with some of the stitching found on the exterior of the case.

The pull handle on the Roadie Air Case Roller 21 absolutely blows away those you will find on conventional hard cases, extending and retracting smoothly with barely any effort.

The Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 features a pair of wheels that glide smoothly even when rolling along less than ideal terrains thanks to its internal carbon steel bearings. This is one of the smoothest camera cases I’ve ever used, besting even the already excellent wheels from the SKB iSeries 2011-7 Waterproof Utility Case we have previously reviewed.

A dedicated pocket for tripods or lightstands is located on the exterior of the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 and can accommodate most travel tripods and lightstands with smaller footprints.

A braided steel cable and TSA approved padlock is located in a small pocket on the opposite side of the case, and works like a bike lock for when you want to keep the case chained to a stationary object so people can’t walk off with your case while you’re not looking.

Tenba’s also integrated an additional TSA lock into the side of the Roadie Air Case Roller 21 to keep the main compartment securely locked when traveling.

Here’s a look at the interior of the Roadie Air Case Roller 21. As you can see, you can fit a significant amount of gear into the case. In the above photo, I’ve managed to fit two separate camera systems with three lenses each into the case, along with a pair of strobes, strobe trigger, and a number of additional camera accessories. The Tenba WeatherWrap that’s in the center of the photo is a rain cover that is included with the Roadie Air Case Roller 21, which will come in handy should you find yourself caught in the elements while traveling with the case.

The padded camera insert is removable and can be adapted to Tenba’s Packlite 10 travel bag to work as a smaller travel kit. Perfect for when you just need to get around with a minimal camera setup once you’ve arrived at your destination. The cover for the case’s main compartment features a number of zipper pockets that can accommodate smaller items like notebooks, pens, lens cloths, etc. I would have liked to be able to fit a laptop or a tablet into the case as well, but that’s far from a deal breaker since I usually keep those in my backpack or messenger bag anyway.

Tenba’s also included a set of longer padded dividers with the Tenba’s Roadie Air Case Roller 21 for photographers who use longer zooms as opposed to shorter prime lenses.

 

Build Quality

Looks can be deceiving, and that’s certainly one of the Roadie Air Case Roller 21’s major selling points. While Tenba designed it to mimic the look of a modern suitcase that looks equally at home being dragged around town as well as being placed into overhead bins onboard an airplane, the Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is significantly sturdier and functions like a hard case from Pelican or SKB. The interior of the Roadie Air Case Roller 21 and the removable camera insert and customizable dividers are all nicely padded, particularly around the exterior of the case. The case survived the abuses of being bumped into and dragged around the less than perfect streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as a trip to Washington D.C., with everything stored inside receiving nary a scratch. Tenba claims the Roadie Air Case Roller 21 was designed to withstand the abuses that checked luggage gets subjected to, and I’ve personally witnessed one of Tenba’s own reps standing on top of one like a model would atop an apple box in a photography studio. Short of getting run over by a tank or being hurled off the roof of a 10 story building, I’m confident that the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 will keep its contents safe and sound.

August 2019 Update

We’ve been using the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 as our primary travel case for the better part of the past six months. Throughout this period, we’ve used the case to transport numerous different camera systems (typically consisting of a pair of camera bodies accompanied by three or more lenses), strobes and speedlites, along with a variety of other commonly used photography accessories. Unfortunately, the Roadie Air Case Roller 21’s pull handled broke while in transit during our most recent trip flying across the United States to that point that it’s jammed and unable to be fully extended, making it basically impossible to pull the case along while you’re walking around. Given the fact that the case is less than a year old and already suffered such debilitating damage, we’ve had to rescind the Editor’s Choice Award that we had originally given it.

 

Ease of Use

The Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is a joy to use and is pretty self-explanatory to operate. Simply arrange your camera gear into the main compartment of the case, adjusting the padded divider as needed, and you’re good to go. The included TSA locks give the case added security measures and are welcomed additions to frequent flyers. The wheels on the Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is by far the best I’ve ever used on any type of roller camera case, and is on par with those that you would find on high-end luggage. All in all, Tenba knocked it out of the park with the Roadie Air Case Roller 21.

 

Conclusions

With a modern design that won’t draw much attention to itself along with a well-padded and organized interior that helps ensure that no harm will come to your precious camera gear, the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is the perfect case for photographers traveling regularly. To say that I’m impressed with this case is an understatement; I’ve actually phased out my trusty SKB hard case and transitioned into using the Tenba as my go-to case to house my camera kit when traveling to and from assignments. If you find yourself traveling with a full camera kit often, the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 will make sure your gear will arrive intact.

The Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 receives five out of five stars, earning it The Phoblographer’s Editor’s Choice Award. You can pick one up for yourself from Amazon