Quick trip to Florida with the ThinkTank Airport Takeoff bag

This weekend was my first cross-country trip for a photoshoot and it went very well.  I've done long trips with photography before but this was the first trip where the whole point was to fly cross-country just to shoot an event and then turn around and come back home.   It was also my first event with a Canon 5-D mkII, and my second event with the Think Tank Airport Takeoff combination roller/backpack.   I want to pass on my thoughts on the trip as well as review the Think Tank roller/backpack. They say to never do a job with new equipment but in this case it was unavoidable.   Due to the last minute booking of my services for the event, the new camera was shipped to Florida to meet me there.  I unboxed the camera for the first time when I checked into my hotel room at 2:00 am Friday night.  (For a Saturday night event.)

Everything with the camera went flawlessly.  It works almost identically to the 40-D so there was zero learning curve.   While editing the shoot at the airport, I could tell that everything looked pretty good.   The depth of field on the full-frame camera is a lot narrower than I'm used to and it's a whole new creative element that I look forward to exploring.

There's a big travel component this trip since Orlando, Florida is a long way away from Santa Clara and there aren't any direct flights out of SJC.  That means a plane change in Denver or LA and it all adds up to a day spent in each direction.  My return flight gets in at midnight so tomorrow might be a bit rough.  I was starting to adjust to Florida time which makes Sunday's arrival feel more like 3:00 am. Monday morning.

The upside to the travel is how well my new Think Tank Airport Takeoff bag is working out.   The size is pretty much perfect - it's international carry-on size which really means that it's a good size for domestic carry-on.  Any larger than this and the flight attendants are liable to make you gate-check the bag through to your final destination and that's not something I want to do with this much valuable equipment.

There are only three downsides I've found to this bag: First, the four-section telescoping handle you use when you roll the bag seems loose and a little flimsy.   This is the only "delicate" thing about the bag.  As soon as you extend the handles you realize there's a lot of play in the sections and a lot of flex.  It seems a little sloppy compared to the precision and durability in every other aspect of the Think Tank products I have.   After loading the bag to capacity and then putting the straps of my other carry-on over the handle (the way the smart travelers make their roller do double-duty by carrying their small duffel) the strain started to worry me.   Time will tell if it can handle to strain or not.

Secondly, the straps are really padded and comfortable which means they kill almost an inch of depth that could otherwise be dedicated to gear.   I don't plan to use the straps very often so they're more of an emergency-use thing for me.  (There was that hotel room in Vietnam that was 7 stories up with no elevator…)  I actually wish the straps were thinner so they would take less space.

Finally, I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to use the rain cover for the bag.  All Think Tank products come with a great custom-fit rain cover and I've had to use them in the past.  This bag comes with a cover but I can't quite tell how it's supposed to go on.   I'm not sure if it's supposed to cover it while it's lying down or standing up but either way it seems to be cut a little too short.

Regardless of those downsides, this bag is carrying a lot.  Two camera bodies, five lenses, a flash, two lens hoods, a laptop, 4 chargers (laptop, new camera, old camera, AA), a card reader, USB cables, ethernet cable, Garmin GPS, and other assorted supplies.   It's a mobile office that let me touch down, arrive on scene, and set up a small office, offloading and processing images throughout the evening.  It even had a space between the dividers that seemed custom-made for a PB&J sandwich The Wife made for me before heading out.

Even with all of that there are a few things that were left behind on this trip so I could get by without checking any bags.   I would have preferred to bring my Think Tank belt system to carry more on my person, and if I had been here any more than two nights I would need to bring more clothes.   The goal of this trip was to be light and quick though, and it worked out OK.

The home computer is cranking away on hundreds of huge files from this weekend and doing a backup run, and I've gotta run myself.  The trip was a huge success and I'll be doing a small review of the 5-D mkII at some point in the future.