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Choosing Cases and Carts

Abstract: a selection of case recommendations based on whatever lighting gear you need to lug around. (This post was updated on 2/29/20.)

Location Speedlights

Most of you will end up using two small lights with stands and mods and a modest bag of camera gear. Not that there's anything wrong with that. You can do a ton of cool stuff with two speedlights. I have gone far past that level of gear in the past, and often to my regret.

If that's you, grab the shoulder-slung camera bag of your choice. Then augment it with this:

The LumoPro Padded Lighting Case is cheap ($30), lightweight, protective and perfect for a two-speedlight lighting kit. It'll carry two compact stands, speedlights, mods and various doo-dads perfectly.

Note, it might feel a little big if you are using a one-light kit. After all, a one-light, all-compact kit could probably fit in a chess bag. But the various additional "necessaries" all take up space. Or if you want to bring along a full-sized stand, or a larger light mod like a 60" Softlighter, you'll appreciate the extra room.

Camera Systems

For traveling with cameras, for protection and convenience I'd take a serious look at ThinkTank bags.

Basically, you can't go wrong with ThinkTank. They are fantastic: well-researched, well-designed and well-built (and frequently updated by the thinking photographers who design them.) I have several, absolutely love them and I recommend them without reservation. You can get anything from an SD card wallet to a rolling coffin.

For a mirrorless system + laptop backpack (not a roller) I'd strongly recommend ThinkTank's Airport Essentials case, which is pictured just above. As a Fuji shooter, it is my desert island gear carrier. It's by far my most-used travel case.

As a Fuji shooter love that I can shove this bag full of gear and it will still fit under the seat in front of me. That's a godsend as it means that I can travel with carry-on luggage only a large percentage of the time.

Here's another thing I love about it: It's also the perfect size to curl up with on a plane in coach. Just put it on your lap, wrap your arms around it and rest your head atop it on that Toys-R-Us pillow they give you. That's the best way I know to sleep in coach on a plane.

If you are a DSLR shooter, you might want to step up to something a little bigger/deeper. But for those of us who have made the switch to mirrorless, the Airport Essentials is perfect.

Big or small, I could not recommend ThinkTank cases more heartily. They are all solid choices. And again, as far as capacity they go pretty much from "mirrorless cameras" to "I need to move a body."

A Backpack for Studio Lights

As the only soft-side backpack designed expressly for carrying studio lights, the Paul C. Buff backpack deserves a mention. For anyone who shoots PCB lights, the pack is sized to fit a pair of AB's, Einsteins or DigiBees. And like most things Pall Buff, it is refreshingly affordable at $90.

For those using one or two lights against the sun, this presents a very mobile option. (If you shoot other brands, it would be worth a Google to see if anyone has sized or adapted it to fit your lights.)

Studio Invasion

I hesitate to even bring this up. But one day you may find yourself looking at a pile of bags and light stand slings and rollers and you may start thinking, "I need a cart to do all of this in one trip."

Let me first say that I do not envy you. And second, also say that I have been there myself. Not full-blown McNally-ladened, but too much to carry in one trip. By a long shot.

When that day comes, you'll start thinking about a folding cart. And rather than endure all of the mistakes (and wasted money) that I did, I am going to suggest you go straight to a Rock-n-Roller MultiCart.

Why MultiCart? Solid build, folding, expand to a big size if needed, can be a dolly, can hold a board to double as a digital tech's desk on set—you name it. They rock. And roll.

They make several sizes, but I recommend either the R-8 (smaller) or the R-12 (bigger).

If you have not yet heard of them, that is because they were originally designed and marketed for the music industry. (Those guys hump a lot of gear around, too.) But increasingly, they have been adopted by backache-plagued photographers everywhere.

They are highly functional, versatile and built like tanks. Either of these will likely be the last cart you ever buy.

As a bonus, you will likely (and hopefully) use them more around the house than you even do for work. At least I hope so. Because it kinda sucks to travel with that much gear in tow every day.

But if you are gonna, this is your cart.

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