Review: Pelican 1510 Carry On Camera Case

Pelican 1510 Camera Case - Review 1

The Pelican 1510 is probably the holy grail of camera cases. Then again, Pelican really is the standard for bomb-proof gear protection, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

Pelican 1510 Carry On Case Stand Up

I wound up pulling the trigger on a Pelican 1510 after the frustration of trying to keep my gear organized among 3 shoulder bags and my LowePro TopLoader finally got to me. The camera bags I was using were a Tamrac and two identical off-brand bags to house extraneous gear like flash brackets, back up speed-lites and charging accessories. The Tamrac is larger than the other two and usually houses most of my lenses, my SB-800 speed light, and field cleaning gear like a Giotto’s Rocket Blaster.

A few problems with this setup is that

  1. You have to manage a bunch of bags.
  2. You have to manage a bunch of bags.
  3. It’s annoying, cumbersome, and risky because you have to manage a bunch of bag – you could accidentally forget gear at home, or worse, at a location.

I’m a big proponent of keeping things in one central location at home, and assembling kits from there. For example, for my tools I keep a 7-drawer tool chest, which I then use to fill up a tool bag or a belt depending on the DIY project. I keep all my archery gear in one sealed plastic toy chest in the off season, or in one backpack during hunting season. I also keep all my firearm accessories and tools in a case, which I pull from on range days. You get the point. Once the project, season, or day is over, they all go back into the storage unit for safe keeping.

Why shouldn’t camera gear be the same?

Initial Impressions

If you understand that our military and other industry pro’s use these cases, you can safely assume the quality level is absurdly high. When I first opened the giant cardboard box it came in (which I didn’t expect at first), I could just tell the case was just solidly built. However, surprisingly, it’s pretty light (for what it is). Opening it up for the first time, you can feel the watertight sealing gasket softly “un-suck” itself, which is another good sign.

Materials & Quality

Hard, rugged, matte plastic exterior. Diesel-could-hold-a-castle-drawbridge-shut hinges. Decent padded velcro adjustable dividers. And rubberized handles. This thing isn’t the Cadillac Deville of gear haulers, it’s the freaking Abrams M1 Tank of gear haulers.

The inner padded divider is Velcro adjustable, so you can change the partitions to hold whatever you want, in whatever lineup. I think the padding side walls are a little thin, especially if you are storing raw lenses in there. I can only imagine they will knock into each other, or up and down. I’d probably fill up each divider cavity with some open cell foam to really stabilize anything that has excess room around it (just while traveling).  Since I like using LowePro bags, I have a lot of the Velcro strap LowePro lens cases, so I’m not overly concerned. I keep my lenses in those and then I adjusted the dividers to fit them somewhat snugly.

It has a side handle, top handle, and a telescoping trolley handle so you can wheel it behind you like the dorky kid in high school. I’m interested to see how this holds up, because I truly think that if I ever lose my product development job in biotech, I’d make the world’s greatest product tester for those wheeled carry ons. I’ve somehow destroyed the pull-out handles of every single one I’ve used when I’ve been forced to use one (re: traveling  for Work or Weddings).  I always try turning the hole bag by that handle, which is usually some cheap aluminium tubing. I also get lazy and lift the whole damn suitcase by it too.



Don’t put them there if you don’t want me to use it for everything. I’m lazy efficient by nature.

I know most luggage companies changed their fixed wheels with 360 pivoting wheels, but I’m too cheap to invest in fancy luggage  just for work (since I usually use my Osprey 65 when traveling for fun. 

The slide out luggage handle on the Pelican 1510 is made of plastic, but is wide and locked in place with a plastic tab. The handle does have some side-to-side play and some flex, which may help keep it from snapping under torsion.

In The Field

I ordered this case just in time for an assignment I was photographing my friends and their newborn up on Lake Winnepesaukee, New Hampshire. Their lake house is on an island, and since I am good friends with the family, I already knew we’d be taking the boat across. I’ve brought my camera gear out there before, but have had the irrational fear of hitting a wake too hard on the boat and my camera bag flying away and drowning in the lake’s murky depths.


Pelican 1510 Carry On Case Interior

In the case, I was able to store the following, which represents the “never leave home without” gear:

  1. Nikon D3 with 35mm 1.4 FX lens attached
  2. Nikon 105mm 2.0DC DX
  3. Nikon 50mm 1.8D DX
  4. Nikon 18-200 VR DX
  5. Nikon SB-800 Speed Lite
  6. Nikon SB-80 Speed Lite
  7. Nikon 24-85mm 3.5-4.5 FX
  8. Giodos Rocket Blaster
  9. Lens Cloth and Cleaning Spray

Along with the Pelican 1510, I also bring my LowePro TopLoader or my LowePro Trail 2 pack, merely to hold lenses while shooting. Depending on if I’m going to need to put the camera down for any length of time or need free hands, I’ll use the TopLoader, which can hold 2 lenses in attached cases and my SB-800. If I only need to keep lenses on me, I’ll use the Trail 2, meant to the fit my D100. I can’t fit the D3 pro body in there, but I can hold two lenses on the outside in cases, and a third lens in the main pocket, or use it to hold the SB-800 and a lens cloth.

I’ve used the Pelican 1510 as a carry on quite a few times now and have never had an issue flying Southwest, American Airlines, or JetBlue. Only once did one of the flunkies who stand outside the TSA security (usually working for the airline) has challenged me on it meeting the size requirements. Even though it did, he still said I had to check it. All I told him is that “I have almost $10,000 of camera equipment in here, if you want me to check it in, you better call your manager.”

He waved me by.

(Just in case you were thinking it, checking your gear is never an option, unless you’ve got disposable income to replace it after it’s stolen.)

Final Impressions

Yeah, I haven’t taken the Pelican 1510 on safari in Kenya, island hopping in Thailand, or to 12,000 feet in Tibet. It hasn’t been chucked on top of a taxi in Delhi. Or thrown in the back of pickup for a NWT elk hunt. But I’ve traveled with it domestically all over the country and driven it hundreds of miles around in the back of my car.  Once I do any of those more awesome things, I’ll update this review. And trust me, I’ll be doing all of those things.

But if you’re still on the fence about getting this case.. let me reiterate:

FAA carry-on size. Looks like it could survive a nuclear blast. Comfortable to transport. No-questions-asked warranty. And organizes your gear.

Worth every penny. Trust the pro’s who swear by it. Trust Pelican.

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