What’s in my bag? The Peli 1510 and 1560 Cases and Billingham 445

There’s something about us photographers and bags. To put this quite bluntly, we seem to love them. All shapes and sizes are temptingly displayed, with promises of being a bottomless pit despite being about as big as a handbag, to hold more gear than you’d fit in a wheelbarrow.

for the past few years I’ve resisted the temptation to change and have used a Billingham 445. It holds two 1dx bodies, a 70-200 2.8, 24-70 2.8, two ex 600 flashes, filters, charger and the usual spare batteries. The problem is, it weighs a ton fully loaded. And it’s not exactly ergonomic to lob that lot over one shoulder, let alone carry it with one hand. I’m probably sounding like a nine stone weakling here but honestly the last thing you want to do is get a back injury, and I’ve already gone through the pain of having tennis elbow some years back that I really don’t fancy experiencing again. So the bag still continues to hold my gear, but I only use it when I’m photographing events, when I can just lift it out of the car, or when I’m outside photographing something like game shooting.

Last year I decided to invest in s Peli 1510 case, mainly for on site commercial work. It’s got wheels and it does add a bit of weight, but honestly it’s the best thing I ever bought. I usually keep the commercial kit in it so I know exactly where everything is – so my Canon 5d Mk iv and mkiii, a pair of speedlites, wireless trigger, a 24-70mm 2.8, a 100mm 2.8, a 90mm TS-E,  two soft boxes, my MacBook and the usual spare batteries and charger for camera and flash and the things that a photographer (event or commercial) can’t do without – like a bit of velcro, some gaffa tape, a clamp to hold a reflector and a handful of mini clamps to hold backdrops etc. What I can’t get into it is portable light stands but that would be asking a bit too much.

For video work I have a larger Peli 1560. That holds led lights, iPad with a rather clever stand which fits onto a flexible arm so I can set up an autocue at a pinch if needed, Canon C100 mkii, 17-40mm f4, 18-300 stm, 10-18 stm, 70-200mm f4, Zoom h4n for sound, Atomos ninja blade external recorder, spare hard drive, a 7″ field monitor, headphones, a couple of mini ball heads, a ball head with an arca swiss mount, cables, batteries and the usual video bits and pieces like clamps and charger cables. You can get a lot into this one if you pack it carefully. As you can imagine this one weighs quite a bit but because it’s on wheels it makes light work of dragging it around.

All I can say if you’re thinking of investing in one of these is stop thinking about it and buy one. I bought mine with the flexible inserts which are better (I think) than pick and pluck foam because you can easily adapt the case – both of mine are the “studio case” variant and they even double up as overnight cases where you need to take a bit of gear but some clothes as well! One of the best features of both of them is that they’re lockable – I’ve heard too many stories of photographers having their bags stolen and the ability to lock it shut with a little TSA lock and then loop a bike lock around that will certainly discourage an opportunist thief. I modified my Peli 1510 and put smoother wheels on it (about £7 from Amazon, 10 minutes to replace the stock ones) and it certainly rolls a lot more quietly now. Another useful thing if you’re like me and you hate rummaging in a bag is that when it’s opened all of your gear is to hand, and you can just drop things like body caps etc back into the case when you take a lens out to change it – no more hunting for the caps in the overstuffed bag and no more getting home from a job and finding that something has been left behind!

Both of mine are quite battle scarred but honestly for day to day work they’re absolutely brilliant and I wouldn’t be without them 🙂

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