Fstoppers Reviews: The Think Tank Airport Security V3.0

Fstoppers Reviews: The Think Tank Airport Security V3.0

Think Tank has long been regarded as one of the go-to companies for bags for the working photographer, and their line of Airport and Airport Security bags in particular are considered by many to be the gold standard of rolling photo bags. The newly released Think Tank Photo Airport Security V3.0 adds some small improvements to an already fantastic bag, helping ensure its continued reign as the king of this category.

 

Back in August, I reviewed the ORCA Wheeled Suitcase to see if it might replace my old and faithful “Target Special.” I had several complaints about the ORCA that kept me from being able to wholeheartedly recommend it as a great solution for my fellow photographers, and I went back to the actual rolling suitcase I had been using for the past several years. But, about a month later, I got my hands on the new Airport Security V3.0 and haven’t looked back. I’ve been using it as my only rolling bag for the past two months, and while I have a couple of minor quibbles, I can’t imagine that changing.

The only other Think Tank bag I have ever owned is their wonderful Retrospective 30 shoulder bag, a true workhorse that seems like it could hold an entire set of encyclopedias without looking overloaded. I have also heard many glowing reviews from fellow photographers regarding the Airport line of bags over the years, so I had high expectations for the new V3.0. The very first thing you notice about the Airport Security is just how well made it is; every inch of material is of a noticeably high quality, and the stitching, zippers, and other small pieces meet that same standard.

The padded handle on the top of the bag is perfect, it is thick and well-attached and has plenty of room for your hand to get a good grip. This might seem like a silly thing to care about, but if you’ve had a bag with BAD handles, then you know exactly why this is important. Right beneath the handle is a slightly transparent sleeve for business cards or an identification card. I stick several business cards in here so I always have some on me, and while there is a piece of velcro on the sleeve to help keep it shut, I’ve found that it’s just a hair too snug to stay sealed consistently. An extra quarter of an inch of depth (or even a bit less than that) would make this feature perfect. That being said, I’ve yet to have an issue with my cards falling out, but it is something I’m often aware of in the back of my mind.

At the back you’ll find a standard telescoping handle for use while rolling. I would prefer that the handle had a little less movement when extended, but I’ve found this to be true with most rolling suitcases, so I don’t really hold it against the Think Tank. What would be nice is if the handle had the ability to lock at a half extended position as well as full; a pretty standard feature for suitcases these days and I am unsure as why it was excluded on the V3.0.

Also on the top there is a small zippered pouch that opens to reveal the included security cable and TSA-approved 3-digit combo lock. The cable is integrated back into the actual frame of the bag, so some serious effort would have to be exerted in an attempt to rip it free. Most criminals are just looking for an easy way to make off with things, so this simple deterrent goes a long way to lowering the appeal of your gear as a target for would-be thieves.

The first day I had the bag I shot an event where I thought I would have a dedicated locked space for my gear, and I ended up not having the promised space. I was able to simply loop and lock the cable to the metal bleachers in the gym and do my work without worrying that my bag would walk off. I am sure the cable could be cut with some sort of cutter, but that’s not typically something people just carry around with them in the hopes that there will be a camera bag chained up that they can steal.

On the front of the V3.0 there is a nice open sleeve that has a great amount of elasticity, making it perfect for stuffing random crap inside. Examples of random crap: gaff tape, a jacket, MacBook charger, flip flops, etc. I know that owners of the prior generation of Airport Security bags would often slide their laptop in this pouch, which is not ideal. On the V3.0 Think Tank has included a dedicated laptop pouch in the outermost zippered pocket, and I was able to easily store my 15” MacBook Pro inside.

Also inside this zippered pouch is a sleeve for a tablet, business cards, pens, and then an additional small zippered pocket. I do wish that the interior pocket was bigger simply because this is the place I would usually store my wallet and keys in my old bag. Since the interior pouch goes all the way to the bottom of the bag, that is where my keys and wallet end up. Safer for my stuff? Sure, but also a little irritating.

The wheels, skid plates, and bumpers on the exterior of the bag are of a very high quality, I have no concerns about how they will hold up to abuse. Those pieces are also user-replaceable if the need should ever arise, and that’s a nice feature as well. On the back of the bag is the individualized serial number plate for the bag; users can register their bags on Think Tank’s website and enroll in their complimentary Lost and Found service.

One side of the bag has a second well-padded handle that is the twin of the handle on the top of the bag, while the other side has a sort of utility strap running down it that ends in a small pocket at the bottom. Think Tank includes some additional straps that can be used to strap a monopod or tripod to the side of the bag. This feature is nice but poorly implemented in my opinion as it requires me to keep the additional straps either with me all the time or attached to my tripod/monopod all the time if I want to be able to attach it to the bag. The V2.0 of the Airport Security also had an additional zippered pouch on this side that is gone in this generation. Personally, I think I would have preferred to just have the pouch, but that’s just me.

The main cover for the bag connects at the bottom so it opens end-to-end. The zipper for the main enclosure includes a second TSA-approved combo lock that you actually snap each zipper pull into and then scramble the code to lock. Another deterrent that I greatly appreciate and find to be extremely clever.

Flipping the bag open reveals what you would expect from a photo bag, namely, velcro-able soft wall partitions that can be moved around to fit your needs. Think Tank’s Airport bags are the choice of many professional sports shooters because of how well they hold multiple large telephoto lenses, and the V3.0 certainly maintains that capacity. The bag is also quite deep and I have yet to put gear inside that ended up poking out over the top of the walls. The telescoping handle does collapse into a compartment at the back of the bag, and because of this there is a raised portion in the center of the interior that runs about two-thirds of the way down the main compartment, but I haven’t found that this affects usability at all.

The inside of main flap features multiple zippered pouches made of a nice thick plastic for the stowing of various cables and accessories. Standard fare for a rolling camera bag, but again made with high quality materials that feel substantial and like they will last a long time.

The Think Tank Airport Security V3.0 really is an excellent bag, so excellent that it will allow me to finally retire my “Target Special” to live out the rest of it’s days as a plain old suitcase. Any issues I have with the V3.0 are exceptionally minor and are far outweighed by the quality and utility the bag offers. While no one would accuse it of being cheap with a $430 price tag, at no point have I felt like the value of the bag falls short of the price. This is the rolling bag that will do a top-notch job of protecting and transporting your gear for years to come and is worth the investment.
 

What I liked:

  • Fantastic quality and construction.

  • New dedicated laptop sleeve.

  • Handles that my hands easily fit around, and are nice and padded.

  • Massive amount of storage.

  • Integrated security cable and TSA-approved locks.

 

What could be improved:

  • Would have liked a more contained zippered pouch for stuffing random things in.

  • Tripod mount seems like it could have been better executed.

  • Telescoping handle only locks at full extension, not half extension.

 

The Think Tank Airport Security V3.0 is available now for $430.

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14 Comments

John Skinner's picture

A couple of considerations you may not know about.

For more organizational type room, Think Tank offers options like a 'Second Brain 15' bag, which by the way, has a built in sleeve to slip over that extended handle and sit atop the roller whilst you're rolling along.

The second item you may not be aware of is -- Think Tank offers you a warranty and people behind that warranty like no other in the business. I don't say this without experience with it, nor, lightly. Your replacement part / bag / item is merely just a phone call and photo away from arriving at your door. Over 37 years of using and buying bags. I tell you without reservation -- it's like no other in the industry today.

You'll find over time, that when you are using this bag for travel, that half-way extension is a non-issue. You're either rolling with it, or, your not.

Again, the tripod mount, although different.. it really works. It had to be designed this way to accommodate all the different sizes and make ups of what people can...and do carry.

This is without a doubt the very best rolling bag you'll ever own and will grow to appreciate the build quality and it's well thought out design in the years to come I'm quite sure. And to that end.. I congratulate you on your new ownership of a really well made industry setting product, and hope you get all the years out of yours... as I've had with all of my Think Tank products.

Amber Goetz's picture

I have the V2.0 and haven't regretted the purchase not once! The quality is fantastic and no matter how many shoots, planes and roads I've dragged it along with, it's still in great shape and does the job! This one looks even better!

Ross Floyd's picture

Does it have backpack straps? That was super nice in the V2 version

Andrew Richardson's picture

No it does not, it appears they did away with those in the latest version.

Ross Floyd's picture

Bummer. I love those! Oh well. Thanks for the reply!

Ansel Spear's picture

There were two versions of the Airport V2. From memory they were the Security and the Take-off. The Security did not have the back-back straps, and the V3 appears to be a direct replacement for this version.

I think I'm the only one who has had two coast to coast flights where the Airport Security's 22 inch length would not fit in the overhead. It kills me because it was the PERFECT BAG and I use it when not flying. I kept it but moved to the 20" long Airport International which always fits, and also use the fantastic Think Tank smaller Airport Advantage which is great. I may stick with the Airport Advantage all the time. It always fits under my seat in the event the overheads are full. But I can dream of the wonderful space of the Airport Security 3.0.

Andrew Richardson's picture

This is a great point, I've read a few different accounts of people having trouble with international flights.

Dallas Dahms's picture

The Security is too big for even domestic travel on large planes here in South Africa. On a flight to Cape Town in 2013 I really battled with this case as a carry on. It made it on, but fitting it in the overhead wasn't easy. I do love it for use on shoots locally though. For travel I now use their Airport Advantage. Great roller, perfect for travel. http://www.photographers.travel/review-the-perfect-travel-camera-case/

Me too, I've moved to the Airport Advantage. Literally fits anywhere. And when the overheads are filled it fits under the seat.

Brian Dowling's picture

I wish the zippers were meta or more securel. They're the plastic ones that can be opened easily with a pen/pencil. Loved my v2, but that was one upgrade I was hoping for.

Would love to get this new one but I have a feeling the Airport Security I got in October 2009 will outlive me. I've taken it on dozens of plane rides over the years as well as other modes of transportation. Finally wore out the wheels and Think Tank sent me new ones. A big reason why TT is the choice of many professionals is their impeccable service. They stand behind their products. Pre-2009 I used lowepro but promised never to buy another Lowepro product due to awful customer "service" for a warranty issue. I love the AS and hope to get the Production Manager 40 for my lighting gear.

Ansel Spear's picture

I'm with you on that. I switched from Lowepro to TT for very much the same reasons. I am extremely happy with my hard-working Security V2 and Retrospective.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That's a very helpful review. Thanks Andrew!