Fstoppers Reviews the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21

Fstoppers Reviews the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21

Tenba has been creating some very stylish and excellently designed camera bags recently and the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is the pinnacle of these new offerings. With a semi rigid hard shell case surrounded by a 1680 denier ballistic nylon shell, the roadie air case is not only an inconspicuous and highly stylized camera bag, but it's also an incredibly protective roller case that’s great for domestic and international travel.

At first glance of the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 you would not think that this would be anything but a high-level luxury travel carry-on bag made for quick jaunts around the globe. I personally want all my gear bags to have a certain level of camouflage that doesn’t scream photographer and relegates the contents incognito throughout a trip. With a sleek outer shell and exterior dimensions of 21” x 14” x 9” this bag is ready to head out with you around the world without any hiccup as a carry-on. With the Roadie Air Case being the only shippable and fully-airport checkable case of it's kind that is not a plastic hard case, if you just so happen to be required to gate check the Tenba, then there’s really very little to worry about with the name sake of this bag's stand out design in its air case designation. 

Tenba’s air case designed bags are mostly a nondescript set of airline checkable and shippable bags that handle everything from all of your grip gear to your full camera kit. Not only that but the air case bags are made for traveling with you or shipping your full sized strobes and any other lighting gear, modifiers, and the backups on backups you may need, just in case, for those once in a lifetime commercial jobs. These air case designs are also the type of bags used to ship iMacs and Eizo monitors to locations around the globe for on-location shoots where you need your kit to show up perfectly in one piece.
Interior of the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 JT Blenker
Interior of the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21
Tenba’s Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is a singular bag unto itself in this instance. There is no other bag in Tenba’s line up that looks this good while providing this level of protection for your gear. In respect to the other 20 or so air case bags in Tenba’s arsenal, their overall looks are very utilitarian in their design and for some that may be a boon and for others, like myself, want a bag that looks good while giving me options. The Roadie Air Case fit’s the bill here with it’s tripod carrying system on the side of the bag and the extra “passport” zippered pocket located on the top by the retracting handle. This is also where an expanding strap is able to be un-clipped and attached to another rolling bag if you having multiple bags worth of kit to take with you through the airports and out of town. 
The exterior pockets are scarce and this is where the design cues may have missed its mark with me. There is no laptop sleeve compartment for the Roadie Air Case. Now I understand why they couldn’t add one on the outside. This bag is bomb proof with me putting over 350 pounds of weight on the bag when I first received it. There would be no way to make such a high quality and excellent camera bag and leave a way for your computer to be packed on the outside of the design where it would broken if it was ever checked under the plane. There is a way around this and that is if Tenba ever re-designs the bag by making a compartment on the underside of the lid. All the other styles of the Tenba Roadie rolling cases have a laptop compartment, but with the Roadie Air Case being the only Roadie that can be airline checked or shipped, the compartment was removed. With an interior depth of 6 inches, and an exterior depth of 9 inches, the roller bag overall has most large telephoto lenses lay on their side as well as flashes and some strobes doing the same and are not filling up that interior space into the lid which means there should be enough room to add a compartment like this into the Roadie Air Case. This is only a minor gripe as I usually have a personal item I bring with me that holds my laptop as I pull my carry-on throughout the airport. 
When you’ve had the chance to work with and live with several high quality camera bags over the course of some years, you start to understand obvious realities when working in fast paced environments. One thing I love about the Tenba in this regard is it having a lid that attaches on the long side of the bag with hook and loop tabs that hold the top open for you. When you have a lid with zippered compartments filled with the weight of 50 plus camera and AA batteries, then that lid is a holding a huge amount of weight that you also need to open and close, and you will quickly understand how poor of a design choice it is when a rolling bag's lid attaches on the short side of the bag. As far as I can see, all roller bags should open like the Tenba, from the long side and stay up without falling all the way open, like other camera brands allow their bags to do. It’s not novel, it’s just common sense and Tenba's design here is perfect.
Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 JT Blenker Sides View
Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 Sides View
Pulling the Tenba around was great and gave me little pause to worry as I used what felt like a better made extending handle than their competitors. Also having easy to hold top, bottom, and side handles makes putting this bag into and pulling out of overhead compartments very easy. Finishing up on the outside of the Tenba, the YKK zippers look super rugged and should deal well with being beat up for years to come while the wheels are quiet and roll well. You also have the option to lock up your bag with an included TSA zipper lock, combination lock, and lockable cable. When shooting large events or weddings, this makes it much less worrisome to leave your kit unattended for a few minutes so that you don’t miss a thing during a wedding.
The construction of the Roadie Air Case reminds me of a rigid hard case design without the plastic shell and with less weight. With anyone traveling internationally, weight always matters and this is another area where the Tenba shines. When comparing several other bags in the same range, the Tenba was about 20 percent lighter. Depending on how many dividers you keep in the bag could also save even more weight. The lid of the bag features four zippered compartments that have sleeves for the zippers to slide into when closed so those metal zippers don’t scratch up your lenses and camera bodies inside the case. It’s great to see these little attentions to detail in a camera bag.
Getting down into the bag itself, I found the dividers look to be a middle of the road design where they aren’t too thick but still very sturdy for all your cameras, lenses, and lighting. The dividers and bag size allow for two gripped DSLR camera bodies to stay attached to their lenses while in the bag with lens supporting dividers, or keep the lenses and cameras separated to allow space for up to nine L, G, or gold ring lenses of your choice to be stored at the same time. There is also enough room to place a 400mm f/2.8 lens in the bag with room to spare if larger telephoto lenses are your preference.
One neat aspect to the Roadie Air Case is the removable insert that allows you to create your own separate shoulder bag with a Tenba Tools Packlite Travel Bag for BYOB 10 A quick and easy way to add a second bag that allows you to take a small subset of equipment with you without having to pack a whole other bag that would be empty and would just take up space otherwise. If you don’t need the insert and would just like to capitalize on the space, remove the insert and place the two additional dividers that come with the Tenba and maximize the internal volume available.
Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 Removable Insert JT Blenker
Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 Removable Insert
Looking over the Tenba, I see a lot of opportunity to use the case for on location and for my travel. If need be I can fit four 400 watt strobes in this bag without breaking a sweat. If using smaller on location lighting this would be the perfect roller bag for photographers who specialize in headshots or weddings that are traveling for their work. You have a fantastic amount of options with this size bag and the strength of the air case design.

Things I Liked

  • The styling is top notch
  • The air case design makes this a hard case without the plastic look
  • Great telescoping handle
  • Very good dividers provide a ton of options
  • Tenba’s BYOB shoulder bag availability

Things I Didn’t Like

  • No computer sleeve or compartment
  • Few external zippered pockets
Overall, the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is a fantastic bag that fits perfectly with photographers that travel with their gear and want the best protection without the weight of a traditional hard case. If you own the Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 what do you think of the roller case? Are people surprised when you let them know it’s your camera bag and not a regular carry on?
If you want to purchase the Roadie Air Case Roller 21, head on over to B&H Photo.
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Jeff McCollough's picture

This bag looked interesting and then I saw the price and that's a big fat nope from me. I'd rather get a hard Pelican case or something similar for less money.

JT Blenker's picture

The Pelican case is a great hard case but it is heavier and larger and at 22” on the long side it will always need to be checked under the plane for international flights. The Tenba is really for international flights as a carry on while it still has the ability to be checked if required for the flight. Price wise it’s on par with Think Tank and Tamrac options but I feel it’s better constructed. I would NEVER have my Think Tank Airport Security checked on any flight. It’s not made to go under a plane. The cost of any of these options is well worth it depending on the intent as they are, in many cases, holding tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. Breaking a lens in these circumstances is worth more with the cost of a lens repair than the cost of one bag.

Jeff McCollough's picture

22 is the limit for carry on so a Pelican case would work. Depends on the airline.

Also there are a ton of cheaper options than the case in your article for a fraction of the price. None of what the article stated nor your comment said help justify the price.

JT Blenker's picture

Hi Jeff, 22” is for carry on USA flights but 21” is for international flights. I mentioned the value of the bag and my reasons behind them. I also added my personal experience with some other top-of-the-line bags that I use and are built very well in the price point, but I wouldn’t check under a plane for travel. Can you provide some feedback that would justify the price point of a bag, in your opinion, that is international carry-on sized AND protective enough to be check-able under the plane? I’d like to check out the kit that works for you.

Jeff McCollough's picture

The airlines I fly with let me take have a carry on bag up to 22". Cheers.

Marcel Bakker's picture

It's worth it. Great bag!

Leo Lesage's picture

Please be aware that not everyone in the world is using the US measurements. It would be handy if the metric values were mentioned.

JT Blenker's picture

Hi Leo, the metric measurements are 22.9 x 35.6 x 53.3 cm; with a weight of 4.67 kg. I should have listed that in the article.

Roberto Adrian Sanchez's picture

My little secret bag is the TRAVELPRO MAXLITE® 5 CARRY-ON ROLLING TOTE / flight attendant style carry on (you may think they know a thing or two about travel), is not even a photo bag, but i have travel around the world with it - last time i was on a small propeller plane (those with individual seat lines) i even got on ebay an internal orange divider that will work if one day i'm made to suRrender the bag - this thing is super discrete, strong and .. 109.00 bucks.

i can carry 2 canon 5d4, 70-200 2.8, sony a7r3, other lenses, another cool thing, handle structure creates some internal spaces that could be use for harddisk or small containers for batteries and cables.

i dont use my pelicans or think tank anymore for flying, no more stress about getting the bag with me.

Genaro Gomez's picture

It looks perfect and what i was looking for, but not at that high price! Thank you, but no thank you! However, it looks to be quality!

Marcos Villaroman's picture

Thanks for the review. Just to confirm: would you check in this bag full of camera bodies and lenses? If the bag was that protective, it would be an awesome option.

JT Blenker's picture

Hi Marcos, I would check this bag with a full kit inside. It's honestly built like a tank and should deal with all the expectations (good and bad) of airline travel under the plane. I always prefer to have my main camera kit as my carry on, but if you're running late to a flight or where they require gate checking carry on bags as well, I believe the Tenba will keep your kit safe. Also, it doesn't look like a bag carrying expensive electronics like the hardshell bags do, which is nice as most people won't look twice at it or you if traveling into areas with higher amounts of theft.