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Welcome to the Pelican 1610 or 1614 review - the latter is the model with dividers rather than foam. You can grab the case from Adorama.
Firstly a little bit of background: I was previously using a couple of very large Domke bags as a garage for all of my camera-related stuff. It eventually became quite clear, however, that the portability of the Domkes which I thought I'd appreciate I never made use of and the bags weren't as useful as a hard case for the kind of travelling I do with a fairly well packed car. And so I turned to a Pelican. I wanted two; one as a garage for everything camera related and a separate, smaller one for all of my lighting gear which may also double as a small-job case as it's not a big effort to rearrange a smaller case.
This led to searching for case sizes; for the smaller one I wanted something which would fit my light stands lengthwise if I wanted to put them in there and for the larger one I wanted basically the biggest one they made that didn't have 2-storey dividers as I wanted everything to be as easily accessible as possible. Also, for ease of use I ended up going for those with wheels and a handle. This led to the selection of the 1510 and 1610, both with padded dividers (1514 and 1614 respectively). I was quite set on picking up the 1510 in orange but they don't make either of those in that colour I opted for the padded dividers over the foam due to the fact that it would be nigh on impossible to get the ideal arrangement first (or second, or third) go, the dividers appear to be able to better cushion the gear as you can wrap items up more tightly and the dividers are easily alterable into different setups depending on what I need the case for.
Onto the 1610 review! Photos of the outside of the case are a dime a dozen so I didn't bother to take any; as you probably already know if you're looking for one of these cases is that they're built of tough plastic and generally look as though they can take a beating. There are some specific photos of the wheels, handle and whatnot below but for me at least the primary interest is the inside so that's coming first! The hood has a removable piece of dimpled foam which fits inside it; this has fallen out once or twice when I've opened the case but nowhere near as often as the 1510's dimpled foam has. I don't see this as being an issue as some sticky velcro or similar attached to the foam/hood would soon solve this.
This is how I've got it packed at the moment with room for expansion:
As you can see in the image there's a 100-300 f/4 underneath the L-plate and empty space on the right; this isn't a lens I use particularly often so it got the position of being stuffed under things. While the case will shut with it vertically it sticks up a couple of inches above the lower rim and the case isn't easy to shut near where it is, which I figure means it's pressing too hard into the top/bottom and any shocks will transfer right through it. The 17-40 hood was a pain as usual and ended up being somewhat inefficiently packed in the middle. All other hoods are on and reversed.
Were I going to be chucking it on a plane or somewhere where there was going to be a good deal of vibration I might take the hoods off and stick them in one of the empty spaces in case a lens vibrated out of the hood and rattled around. Both the 17-40 and 20D are missing from this photo as I needed something to take said photo with! The 1.4xTC and 12mm extension tubes are in the one Sigma TC case; I removed the original padding from the TC bag (and sat it under where the 17-40L sits) and replaced it with some thinner 10mm foam cut from a sleeping mat so that both items fit in the one container.
The Storm jacket is stuffed under the 135L and makes for extra padding. The Kata raincover is in a stuff bag because its velcro sticks to everything and makes getting it in or out a pain. No such issues now! $5 stuff sack from Katmandu (during a sale, of course, those guys are so expensive otherwise). The bag of cords to top right is one of the little Lowepro pouches filled with the USB/TV/etc. cables that I rarely need but can never find when I do want them. Now I know where they're going to be. The CF case is just chucked in the middle for the heck of it. The tilt head is for my monopod - which I haven't actually tried to fit in here, incidentally - and it's stuffed in one of those usually useless little bags that come with L lenses. Also in there is a little padded pouch with an Allen key for the L-plate. The empty space to the right here will happily accomodate the 1.4x TC or similarly sized lens. The BP-511s are in a spare Lee filter case that I had lying around from when I bought a filter and didn't read the fine print to realise that it already came with one. The empty space along the bottom would fit another 1D... or a couple of nice lenses.... mmm... 50mm 1.2... I wish!
A breakout shot of the upper section that has a lot of junk in it:
The Pelican 1060 was $30-40 and for my peace of mind it contains the Eclipse fluid in a waterproof container. My paranoia runs to not wanting any loose liquids in my camera bag and my OCD wants all my camera stuff to be in one spot, see.... This section holds all three chargers and the other miscellaneous stuff that you see there. The 500 business cards are only in there because I didn't have anything else to fill the gap with and figured that until I get more stuff I may as well whack 'em in there. Closeup of 1060:
Since this was having the Eclipse fluid anyway I decided to stuff all of my sensor cleaning stuff in here anyway, as you can see. Nothing overly interesting here - this photo may give you some idea of how large the baby case is, though.
Also of note, I think - this case came with a divider which didn't come with the 1510 or 1620 (which a friend ordered at the same time):
It has a Velcro tab at the bottom for holding onto the case floor and elastic bands around each of it's two sections so that it can be adjusted in terms of width. The elastic band wrapped around each divider is sewn onto the other divider so that you can slide them back and forth to make them one short fat divider or a longer normal width divider. There are little velcro tabs on the bottom to stick them to the floor of the case and these give the dividers much more strength.
Of note! The 1610's divider's floor is covered in velcro. The 1620's has strips of soft velcro on the floor and the 1510 has a strip down the middle. The 1610 allows the greatest degree of customization because of this. Not that the others are all that lacking there but you can't move the long dividers all that far without having the soft velcro on the bottom to attach them to. Food for thought.....
OK, back to the outside - I personally don't really get the whole double-latch thing - is it just to hold the latch away once you pop it up? Anyway, the case will un-latch at the first click.
In this photo you can also see (outside of the depth of field, whoops) the metal surrounds of the padlock holes. The latches are chunky and feel like they're going to latch and relatch more times than I'm ever going to put them through before breaking.
Also of note - the handle release mechanism is different between the 1510 and 1610. In the 1610 it's this labelled bit to one side;
...whereas on the 1510 it's a latch at the base of the hole in the handle. I prefer the 1510 design as it's easier to get to and you can easily get to it with one hand. Not that you can't with the 1610 but it's easier.
Again, pretty chunky. They haven't made much noise rolling around the house so far - seems quieter than the 1510 when going over tiles.
Fully loaded it is heavy - I'm fit and can lift it without issue but I care about my back and have no intention of lifting it fully laden on a regular basis as it's not going to do my back any favours. The handle and wheels help a lot here.
Fully laden at an angle you're likely to carry it at shows basically no flex in the handle;
Even lowering it closer to the ground it doesn't flex a great deal. I'm quite confident in the strength of the handle. Also...
It doesn't care if you stand on it. Or jump on it. I only weigh ~60kg but even so, me jumping up and down on the top doesn't do a darn thing. Barely deforms. I also turned mine upside down for the wheel and handle photos with all my gear inside, turned it back up the right way and the gear looked as though it had never moved. I did make sure to leave as little headroom for everything as possible, mind. I do want to find something to stuff under the 24-70 to bring it a bit higher up in the case but I haven't got anything at the moment which would fit... means I have to buy more gear!
Also, thanks to my lovely girlfriend (girlfriend on original writing, now wife of close to ten years) for being the model in the above!
Oh, and also also... the ridges on the top mean that you can stack cases of similar size. The 1510 and 1610 don't match here but the 1610 and 1620 do. In case, you know, you have enough gear to fill a couple of 16xx cases and feel the need to stack them and show off.
In conclusion.... this is much more functional to me as a garage and on-the-job grab-it-and-go case than the bags ever were to me. The case has an additional advantage of giving me an extra foot-odd of height when I need that slightly higher angle; the ability to chuck it in the car and just go is also a boon as the Domke bags I was using occasionally fell over with sudden changes of direction in the car if you didn't pack them between things. This isn't a bag I would ever take travelling as it's just too large and weighty; the 1510 would be much more useful for that. To me it's nice to have all of my gear in the one place; when everything is there it's easy for me to grab both cases after a quick check inside and head out to a location shoot knowing that everything's going to be in place and that I haven't left something in that other bag somewhere in my room...
For most jobs this case is going to stay at home as a garage, though - for most of the work I do I can get away with the 1510 full of lighting kit and either my small Domke F-3x or Boda bag to work out of with the camera and a couple of lenses. For those times when I want to bring everything and for the convenience of having everything fitting in one very solid case, though, this case is perfect. Well worth the money, imho.
Grab your own copy of the case at Adorama.
An update about a decade on (first published online 02 Feb 2009 - updated Jan 2018 - this case was sold a couple of years ago when I reduced my gear collection to that which would fit in a shoulder bag + a Pelican 1514. As far as I know it's still in use as a lighting rig case!
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