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Monday, January 21, 2019

Hands-on with the Think Tank Photo Airport Navigator

A Different Kind of Rolling Camera Case
Think Tank Photo has been a consistent innovator in their approach to camera bag designs. Their extensive bag line offers a solution to nearly every photography gear carrying problem imaginable. The Think Tank Photo Airport Navigator is no exception. This is a roller bag with a twist. That twist makes it an extraordinarily convenient and versatile way to transport and use gear. The difference is in the lid. Instead of only opening in the front like a traditional suitcase, as does the majority of roller bags, the Airport Navigator opens from the top as well. This feature makes it by far the most indispensable roller bag used.

This bag was field tested for three months, hauling back and forth to shooting situations, several of which took place in theatre environments, utilizing theatre seats, shooting rehearsals and live performances.

The top opening serves a variety of uses, both obvious and incidental, making it easy to transport and shoot out of. The wider shape and external handle style of the bag and its top opening create a space that can accommodate two bodies with long lenses attached. Additionally, the upright access means you do not need to lie it down to access gear, making it usable in a wide variety of settings.

The second entry point for this bag allows it to be opened in the more traditional, suitcase style. This lid also serves as a laptop or tablet compartment. There are detachable stays to prevent the lid from dropping all the way down when using it for that purpose. Alternatively, it can be opened completely when using it to access the camera equipment stored inside.
Left: The front entry lid/laptop holder with detachable stays
Right: The extendable handle's housing outside the main body of the bag
In order to maximize the space inside the Airport Navigator, the compartment holding the retractable pull handle is housed in a sleeve that sits outside the main bag instead of inside. All space inside the Navigator can be used for the purpose of storing and transporting equipment, allow it to hold more than would seem possible for a bag of this size.

This bag has proven to be especially useful in a shooting situation that does not lend itself well to laying the back down and opening it fully. It can sit up right, out of the way, with everything needed close at hand for an easy grab when needing a different lens or body. The bag, with the top lid open, has also functioned as a spontaneous laptop holder in theatre seats during a show performance.

Left: Airport Navigator as a shoot-out-of bag in theatre seats
Right: Airport Navigator in theatre seats holding a laptop in use

The space inside, as stated above, is versatile enough to hold two bodies with long lenses attached. Alternatively, it has also been able to accommodate three bodies, two with lenses (one long, one short) and a body without a lens, as well as a couple more lenses/flashes to boot. With the laptop compartment, there is rarely a need for an additional bag.

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