I Had To Check My Cameras

Pelican 1557 Case
Pelican 1557 Case

I am one of those photographers, most likely like yourself, who never checks in his cameras. I constantly work to make sure I get a good boarding position so I can claim overhead space for my camera backpack. I carry my cameras using either a ThinkTank Airport Security wheeled bag or a Tamrac Anvil 27 backpack. What I take or use depends on what type of trip I am taking. If I am going to rent a car and shoot pretty much from the back of a car, the ThinkTank Roller is my choice. If I am on a ship-based trip or will be doing hikes, the backpack is my choice. But what happens when you can’t take either?

Back in July, I had back surgery for decompression of two vertebrae. The surgery went well and I was amazed at how well I recovered, but I was under strict orders not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for 6-8 weeks. What was I going to do? I had a workshop to run in the Palouse. I couldn’t carry anything on my back and I definitely could not lift a pack or roller case into the overhead, especially using those new overheads that are spring-loaded so you have to pull them down before loading your bags. I wonder which brainiac thought of that stupid design. Even the flight attendants don’t like them.

Images and Story from the Palouse workshop can be found HERE

My Pelican 1557 Case Ready To Go
My Pelican 1557 Case Ready To Go

So, I had only one choice. I would have to check my cameras into baggage. That was a frightening thought. My paranoid brain would spin out of control thinking of sticky-fingered TSA agents, baggage handlers or numerous other possibilities, not to mention baggage getting lost. Oh, and let’s not forget the fear of things breaking from rough handling. I almost considered shooting  just on my iPhone. But I kept thinking and came up with a plan.

Last year, Pelican sent me a camera case to try out and possibly review. It was a model 1575 and while it was a typical Pelican case on the outside, inside it had a lot of foam padding and velcro dividers. I have used this case several times over the last six months and had a review ready to go until this trip came up.

I would typically use this case to send out extra gear to a shoot. I would fill it with chargers, cables, maybe a lens, or video camera and related gear. In typical Pelican style it handled these trips just fine.

This time though, I thought I would risk it and send my camera gear as checked luggage. So I packed up a Sony a7rIII and a Sony a9, along with a 24-105mm, 100-400mm and a 16-35mm lens. Also included were a DJI Osmo Action camera and handle, lens clothes, blowers, chargers, etc. I took extra precautions with the cameras and wrapped them in Lens wraps for extra protection.

Once everything was secure, I closed the lid and used wire ties to secure the cases. I put extra wire ties inside the case right on top, so that if TSA opened the cases they could re-secure them. I also put a wire cutter in my checked duffle so I could cut off the wire ties when I arrived at my destination.

My plan was to lift the cases from a luggage cart at check-in and back onto a luggage cart at the destination airport. I technically would only be dragging the case from the belt to the cart and then back into the rental car. That wouldn’t present any issues with regards to lifting.

The case as it appeared on the baggage claim belt
The case as it appeared on the baggage claim belt

I fly Delta Airlines as much as possible. I am a million plus miler with them and out of all the airlines I fly, they consistently take care of me the best. They also have a great app. I was able to fly a bit better knowing that my bags were on the plane. The app allows notifications on baggage. I was able to see on the first leg of my flight that both of my bags (or bag and case) were loaded onto the plane. I was also able to confirm it on the second leg of the flight.

As soon as I got my rental car and loaded the gear into the car, I got the cutters out and snipped the wire ties. There was nothing out of place or missing. I had a vision of opening the case and finding lens elements all over the place. But there was no damage. I assembled my cameras and lenses, inserted the batteries and everything powered up just fine.

I should point out that you cannot have lithium ion batteries in checked luggage so I removed all my batteries from the cameras and had them with me in my very light backpack. I used a Waterfield design backpack that had my MacBook Pro, 11 inch iPad and headphones. It was light and comfortable enough to be alright for me to carry.

The Pelican 1557 Case

This is what I packed in the case. Two camera bodies (In lens wraps), 100-400mm, 16-35mm and 24-105mm lens. A OSMO Action cam and handle as well as sound gear, lens cloths, blower and a few other little things.
This is what I packed in the case. Two camera bodies (In lens wraps), 100-400mm, 16-35mm and 24-105mm lens. A OSMO Action cam and handle as well as sound gear, lens cloths, blower and a few other little things.

The Pelican 1557 case did what it was supposed to. These cases are built like tanks. There is even a pressure relief valve on them to equalize pressure if the case is too hard to open. The latches are super secure and the lock holes, one on each side, are reinforced with metal. There is a slot for a business card to make sure your ID is in the case. I couldn’t help myself and ended up putting a few PXL stickers on it.

The inside of the case is a bright yellow, which I really like. The yellow makes it easy to see small things in the case, compared to having a grey or black interior like many cases. The velcro dividers are very secure. They can be somewhat of a pain to set up as the velcro wants to stick to the sides when you don’t want it to. I have figured out a simple way to fix this. I use plastic wrap and cover the velcro parts while positioning the dividers. Once a divider is in place, I pull out the plastic wrap and the divider adheres to the side.

The Pelican 1557 case is 20 x 17 x 11 inches and weighs 10 pounds.

The End Result

Top view of my case showing business card holder
Top view of my case showing business card holder

Simply put: Mission Accomplished. I was able to get all my gear to the workshop without violating any of my doctor’s orders. The case made it through in perfect shape. The cameras were well-protected and they all went out and came home just fine. It’s good to know that I can count on this case and method to work if I ever need it again.

You can buy this case, as well as other Pelican case designs, at Amazon and B&H Photo.


Kevin Raber
August 2019
Kevin Raber
Indianapolis, IN

Photography is my passion and has been for 47 plus years. My career in photography has allowed me to travel the world, meet some of the most interesting people on the planet and see things I could never have dreamed of. My goal is to share the passion of pictures taking through photographs and teaching with as many people as I can hoping it brings them as much joy and happiness as it has me. I do this through photoPXL.com, this site as well as Rockhopper Workshops and other projects as well as teaching at my Gallery in Indianapolis.

Article Type: Reviews, Columns, MISC

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