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.
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.