I’ve recently upgraded a load of my work gear, and in the process of doing so noticed just how knackered the old stuff was starting to look. There’s no getting away from the fact that professionally used camera equipment gets bashed and scuffed, it’s part of the territory, but it did make me think that maybe I should try a little harder to look after the new kit. This was around about the same time that the opportunity to review a Peli 1510 Protector Case dropped into my email inbox – the timing couldn’t have been better, so I quickly agreed to the idea.
I’ve actually looked at Peli cases a number of times in the past, I know photographers and video folk who have them, love them, and swear by them, but for one reason or another I’ve never taken the plunge – and this is despite the fact that for a long time I’ve stowed my gear in hard cases. The sorts of hard cases I’ve used in the past are the ones that you used to be able to buy from Jessops – you probably still can. They’re about £30-50, and usually either come with pick-foam inserts or foam-covered slot together boards. Actually, apart from making you feel like a bit of a briefcase-wanker carrying them around, they aren’t too bad, which is essentially why I’ve stuck with them for so long.
So why go Peli?
This is pretty much the question I’ve asked myself any time I’ve been tempted. The cases I have are fine, they are a bit tatty, but they do the job fairly well. It’s this mentality that has put me off forking out the extra cash for a Peli case in the past. But, now I have a Peli case of my own, I can definitely see the attraction! interestingly though, in hindsight, I can see why I’ve never been hooked in…
One of the reasons I titled this post “My Peli Adventure begins” is that handling the thing for the first time immediately gave me the impression of just how long this thing could last me – it took very little time for me to realise that I was going to be permanently replacing at least one of my old tatty briefcases… I’d soon told Peli UK that I’d like to keep it.
The funny thing was, I realised this – not just through inspecting the build of the case in front of me – but though reflecting on another case an old workmate of mine had. Tom – a video guy I used to work with – had a massive Peli case. It was filled with various video gear, and it in itself, filled half of the boot of his car. It went everywhere with him; I must have seen it in his possession a hundred times if not more. But, it’d never really occurred to me until my Peli 1510 Protector Case barged it’s way into my life just how consistent Tom’s Peli case was.
Over the couple of years we worked on shared projects, I can’t remember his looking or feeling any less solid than the day I first saw it. It just did it’s thing, day in, day out; never complaining, never breaking, buckling, creaking, snapping or wavering in any way. So faultless was its existence, that for the most part I just didn’t notice it. That is to say, it functioned so well, it was practically invisible to me.
I say invisible, but actually that’s not entirely true – I remember it being used as a chair on a number of occasions, and at least once as a stool to reach something. On those occasions I noticed it and admired its strength, but the rest of the time it just existed on the periphery of our working days.
This to me is a mark of a quality product. When something does exactly what it’s supposed to, yet in doing so removes itself from your conscious thought, it must be doing it right. After all, for a large part, we only tend to notice the things we use regularly when they go wrong or annoy us.
I hope you can see what I’m getting at here, Tom’s Peli case never sold itself to me because I barely regarded it. It was just a solid and often fairly heavy box he toted from job to job. These cases aren’t particularly attractive, they’re just functional boxes. It’s hard to get gear acquisition syndrome for a black box, even a very high quality black box.
All this formed my view of Peli cases. They make boxes that are solid, durable and high quality, but ultimately they are fairly forgettable black (or sometimes other coloured) boxes. The funny thing is, I sort of hope this opinion doesn’t change – I want mine to work faultlessly and forgettably like Tom’s did. So far so good too – mine has fairly seamlessly entered my life and is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. So much so, I almost feel like I could end this post here! Of course, that wouldn’t make for a very good review, so I suppose I should at least try and reflect a bit more on some of the minutiae of my experiences with it…
Some specs first
The Peli 1510 Protector Case is a wheeled case with two carry handles, one on the side and one on the top. It also has an extending handle that pulls up from the top of the case to allow it to be comfortably pulled with its wheels. It’s size is based around the maximum carry-on size for many airlines. It’s stated as being crushproof, corrosion-proof, dust proof and water proof – these details and more can be found here.
When the Peli 1510 Protector Case turned up at my office, I’d forgotten it was coming. It wasn’t necessarily heavy for its size, but when I opened and removed it from the cardboard carton, I did think that it felt quite heavy for what it was. I’ve since looked up the spec – it turns out it’s just over 6kg with the foam inserts. “Good job it has heavy duty wheels”, I remember saying out loud…
At the time, I’d not actually received all of the equipment that was destined to be stowed in it, and since it came with pick foam that I didn’t want to mess with until I’d got all – if not most of the kit – I wanted to put in it I wasn’t able to use it for a few days. That said, in those few days I did idly pop it open a few times to inspect it. I found myself a lot more interested in its build quality, just through the shear extent of it. As mentioned, I told Peli that I’d like to keep it quite soon after it arrived – this was actually before I put anything in it. Spending a bit of time with it, paying close attention to it – I guess knowing I was going to need to write a review – made me realise just how solid the Peli 1510 Protector Case is.
If there’s one thing I have no desire to do it’s smash test this case. If you want to see that sort of thing, get yourself on to YouTube and you’ll find people dropping Peli cases of roofs, hosing them, submerging them, running them over etc. I get it, Peli cases are hard wearing, but for a long time my view has been that all I really need from a day-to-day case is that if I drop it from hand-held-hight, or it gets left in the rain for a few minutes, that it’s going to protect the cameras I put inside. As such, to a point, an argument could be made that the level of protection the Peli 1510 Protector Case offers my gear is almost pointless for me. I don’t really need it, as I’m not taking my stuff into “hostile” places every day.
That being said, there have been a couple of occasions that I’ve had reason to reflect on this perspective, even just in the month or so I’ve owned my Peli 1510. The first was when I recently shot a video on a fishing boat off the coast of Cornwall. I was taken to the big boat on a fairly (very) fast rigid-hulled inflatable boat. In the end, I took a small bag with a limited kit – but the offer to take the Peli case was presented too me. I declined, as I didn’t need all my kit, but joked we could probably tow it behind the RIB and still rely on it to keep the kit safe. Again, I’ve since looked at the specs. The thing is buoyant up to a 29kg load! I was joking at the time – and I certainly wouldn’t recommend trying it – but the mad thing is, I probably could have had it towed by the RIB with little worry for the contents.
When I got to the fishing boat, I sort of regretted not taking the case too. The sea was calm, but the boat wasn’t really geared up for stowing a flimsy bag of expensive gear. Everything was ok in the end, but a waterproof case would have made me feel a little more comfortable leaving my gear where I did.
The second occasion was when I was filming and photographing in a massive wine bottling plant in Bristol. I’d put my Peli 1510 on the floor near one of the bottling lines and as I walked away from it one of the staff told me I probably shouldn’t leave it where I had. He suggested I place it on a pallet to raise it off the ground instead of directly on the floor. When I returned to where I’d left it, the pallet it was on was surrounded by water – not much, admittedly, but it would have been enough to soak into one of my old cases. Of course nothing bad happened, but it did make me think that if I’d been using a bag, or one of my old cheaper cases, and that chap hadn’t have been there to tell me where not to leave it, something could have.
As I say, on neither of these occasions did anything bad happen, but it they have made me reflect on how useful a case like the Peli 1510 Protector Case is, if for nothing else than giving me piece of mind! This sort of shit has not happened to me yet, but it does happen… the Peli 1510 just means it’s less likely to happen to me!
Catches, security, seals and hinges.
This stuff is pretty hard to describe in terms of just how strong they are, but I shall do my best. The catches and hinges were one of the first thing I noticed. The hinges because they were quite stiff – possibly because it’s a new case – and the catches for how tightly and firmly they lock the Peli 1510 Protector Case shut. The fact that this case is made out of some sort of plastic does nothing to describe how solid these components are. They feel thick and hardy to the point that they give zero impression that they will ever wear out, never mind break. They must, eventually, at least loosen up a bit – but for the time being they show little sign of even that happening.
I’ve not taken advantage of the fact that the Peli 1510 can be padlocked shut yet, but it can be. Just in case this ridiculously hard plastic isn’t strong enough, the holes that you attach a padlock to have metal guards. I’m sure, given the right tools, this case could still be broken into if stolen, but this extra level of security is certainly not to be sniffed at.
The rubber o-ring that seals the case from water and dust ingress is pretty substantial too. I don’t know much about this sort of thing, but it’s apparently IP67 certified. The Peli 1510 Protector Case also has an “automatic pressure equalisation valve” which I guess allows the case to be closed tight shut easier…?
The current layout of my gear doesn’t feel quite right. I’m not taking advantage of the depth of the case in the way I could with the lenses if I stowed them vertically, and as such I’m not fitting as much in to the case as I could with a better lay out.
This doesn’t worry me particularly though, as I know the accessories are readily available. This has not been the case with the hard cases that I’ve used previously. I bought one from the now-closed Maplin chain once – and after changing my mind about the internal layout – I went back and asked if they could supply me with a new pick-foam insert. The chap that served me said they couldn’t, and actually suggested I could buy a new case and take the foam out of that one. With service of that calibre, it’s possibly no wonder that they went into administration. I digress. The point is, I’ve never found it easy to source inserts for the cases I have previously used, and have often resorted to making do with strong packing foam.
This is very much the opposite situation with Peli. My Peli 1510 Protector Case came with pick foam, but there are other options too. I could get a padded dividers set, a Trekpak set, or even have a custom branded insert made. I don’t need to go as far as the latter, but the fact that the option is there is reassuring given the fact that I’m not entirely happy with how I have currently laid out the kit.
Just a little note on the pick foam inserts. Because of the space the wheels take up on the inside of the case, the foam sticks up in the corners. This doesn’t matter really, but it doesn’t look quite as neat as I’d like.
The lid organiser
After I started using the Peli 1510 Protector Case, I quickly realised that I didn’t have a sensible place to stow my battery chargers, various cables, sensor cleaning kit, memory card pouch, ND filters, white/grey card etc. etc. So I upgraded it with a Lid Organiser.
I must admit, installing the Lid Organiser was not as easy as I’d have liked. It is supposed to screw into little nodules of plastic on the inside of the lid, but there were no pilot holes for the screws. It’s no real issue, I just made some with a bradawl. What was slightly more frustrating was then trying to get the screws in. The top ones were easy enough, but the bottom holes are inside pouches meaning accessing them is very fiddly. I actually gave up on the lower corners in the end, meaning the Lid Organiser is only held in place by 4 of the 6 screws. Again, I can’t imaging this is a real issue – it just seemed a bit of a crappy design not to have the screw holes outside of the pouches.
Regardless, of the frustration fitting it, the Lid Organiser has proved itself indispensable. It’s got enough pockets for all of my junk.
Skip to the end
Prior to owning the Peli 1510 Protector Case I could probably have made a fairly good argument for the idea that it’s overkill for me and my needs. Upward of £200 would have seemed like lot to spend on a plastic box.
Now I have it, this doesn’t seem like much money to give me the piece of mind it does. And actually, with c.£10,000 of kit in it, upon reflection, the idea that spending £200 to keep it all safe doesn’t seem that daft at all – quite the opposite in fact.
That said, there are probably people for whom this case makes a lot less sense, and indeed people who it makes more sense. If I travelled abroad more, for example, I think I would have bought one of these cases a long time ago. It might be an appropriate size to carry on a plane but with a padlock on it, I’d even trust it in the hands of some of the worlds most rogue baggage handlers.
As it is, I don’t travel abroad much as a professional photographer. But, I do get about a lot in the UK, and now realise that I do sometime leave my gear open to the whims of Murphy’s law. As such, a case like this does indeed make sense for me.
The only uncertainty I am left with is how I’ve laid out the case internally. Though as I said at the beginning of this post, the Peli 1510 Protector Case is likely to be following me around for a fair for years to come… so I should I have plenty of time to work out how to get the best out of it!