View Full Version : Packing for international travel help

26-Apr-2009, 11:47
Hi all,

I photograph buildings and interiors and am planning to get a monorail. Later this year, I'm also planning to travel abroad (long haul). So before getting a view camera, I need to think about packing it and the LF lenses into a carry-on case alongside my 5d, lenses (24mm shift, 70-200 f/4, 50mm, 17-40mm) and a 15" laptop. I'm thinking I'll carry on another laptop (backup) as a personal item to create space in a Peli.

I've been thinking that a Peli 1510 might work - Interior Dimensions: 19.75" x 11.00" x 7.60" (50.1 x 27.9 x 19.3 cm) & Exterior Dimensions: 22.00" x 13.81" x 9.00" (55.9 x 35.1 x 22.9 cm)

Film can go in the Peli; non-essential accessories in my large checked-in wheelie travel case.

My heart's set on an Arca-Swiss Discovery, but also thought about a used Toyo 45CX. Want to keep the cost down (tricky, though, as I'm in the UK) and weight down (also tricky, as it'll be a monorail) as much as possible.

Any other suggestions for a suitable inexpensive camera or packing advice would be great.


Frank Petronio
26-Apr-2009, 12:04
I used a 1510 for air travel in the US but it is borderline or too large for smaller commuter planes and maybe European carriers, in which case it is gate-checked and not so bad but you'd want extra padding. If you use it without padding you can get quite a bit in there, but what will really determine the final amount will be whether you bring enough film holders to be effective shooting (or whether you risk checking the holders and your changing tent in the checked luggage.) And also how many and how large your lenses are.

That said, a Discovery is a great camera because you can disassemble it and pack the main body wrapped up in padded wraps with a ground glass protector in place. If I were doing that tour I would get a 90/4.5 and a 210/5.6 and and try to mount them on smaller 110mm or Linhof Technika-sized lensboards used with an adapter. However you are really pressing the limits and you are going to have to check your holders and changing tent with that set-up.

No camera is garbage but the Toyo CX might be close. If you want a compact box then get one of the folding wooden "rich dentist" cameras or a Toyo or Technika, and just be satisfied with less movements than the Arca.

Some of the Think Tank backpacks will hold more with the same or even smaller dimensions because they don't need to contain the roller mechanism, which eats up room. Also the Pelicans are quite heavy unto themselves and you probably will be overweight if they check you.

Think Tank also has a nice system for carrying the laptop separately or contained depending on the airline situation, it can make a difference in clearing the check-in policy or not.

My personal preference? Get a Crown Graphic (light, handholdable) with light, small 90/135/203 lenses, plus a dozen holders, and a light 5D outfit - one super zoom and one fast 50mm -- put it all into the smallest commuter airline sized Think Tank backpack with room to spare and don't worry about so much gear. You'll actually be able to carry it around on your trip without aching and your pictures will probably be better without the theatrical production.

Handheld large format makes sense in good light and in places with time and tripod restrictions.

26-Apr-2009, 14:41
Thanks Frank,

I like the Think Tanks, this one especially -

External dimensions: 14"w x 8"d x 21"h; 35.5 x 20.5 x 53.5 cm. (with laptopcase inserted: 9"d; 22.9cm)

It's a bit bigger than my Tenba 2.0 PG-17C Gemini Laptop/Camera Bag, but, heck, £252 (about $370) is pricey!

In terms of size, it does however, come in under the commonest *current* max size for carry-ons -
55cm x 40cm x 20cm (21" x 16" x 8" in) = 115cm/45" (http://thetravelinsider.info/travelaccessories/internationalcarryonluggageallowances.htm)

Not so sure about the Crown Graphic, though. Price is appealing, but I think the range of movements might be limiting. This from http://www.largeformatphotography.info/cameras/pacemaker/ put me off: "...lack of many front movements customarily used by landscape photographers." I photograph landscape design work as well as buildings... So if it can't cope with landscape, wouldn't fewer movements be a problem with architectural shots?

I was also reading about Sinar F2s today. They look like monsters in the photos of them, but owners say they collapse down... And they're more common on ebay.co.uk than Discoveries, which come up in a blue moon (unlike on ebay.com, I think). But would an F2 and the lenses fit in a Peli, or Think Tank, for that matter? Might have to be checked in.

Steve Barber
26-Apr-2009, 15:13
Be sure you get detailed information on what you can take on board as a carry-on bag for every flight you will be on. If you find you cannot take it as a carry-on, perhaps it will be a flight that allows you to check it at the ramp and pick it up when you de-plane. I like the Pelican 1510 for this, but it is too large for a carry-on on flights with the likes of Ryan Air out of Stansted, for example, and they did not allow checking items on the ramp the last time I flew them. On those, the largest carry-on you will be allowed will have the dimensions of the old, standard Halliburton aluminum case. Do not be surprised if you find that the carry-on will be weighed in the check-in line. If it is overweight, they will require you to check it as baggage to be carried in the hold, never mind it being small.

Do not think, because you are scheduled on a major airline, that you are going to be on a full size aircraft that will allow a standard carry-on. With today’s use of “partners” your ticket on U S Air, for example, may find you going cross country on “Dogpatch Air” in a very small and cramped aircraft. Just about every airline, now, allows you to see on-line what equipment is scheduled for your flight and if it is not a Boeing or an Airbus, it is probably something you need to get specific information for. As for Ryan Air, and others like them; even if it is a Boeing or Airbus, you will be restricted to the smaller carry-on.

As to film, I strongly suggest that you buy it when you get there or have it drop shipped to your hotel. Don’t carry any more than you absolutely have to and have it processed or ship it home for processing before your next flight after it is exposed. In any event, never put it in your checked baggage and do not use the lead lined bags that some recommend. If you can pack it so it goes through the machine with the edges up, that might help. You do not say where you are going and it makes a big difference. In the US, there are rules that you can look up regarding hand inspection of film. Mostly, they won’t help, because the ASA rating has to be 800 IIRC or better before you can require it. It does not hurt to ask, and, if you choose a good time when they are not too busy, they will usually accede to your request. The problem is that, while it is true that only one trip through the x-ray will not hurt slower film, the damage is cumulative. At least, there are rules that you can find and they are held to them and will not bite your head off if you ask for an exception. In other places, the UK, for example, you should do what you are told and keep your mouth shut.

Last, the airlines that I am familiar with will not cover loss or damage to camera equipment and require that computer equipment be carried with you and not in your checked baggage. Since you cannot lock your generic luggage, this is another plus for the Pelican; because they sell locks that can be used that allow inspection by the security people, but still provide some protection and will definitely prevent inadvertent opening when yours is thrown down on the ramp from some height greater than you might think it would be subjected to. For this reason, if I cannot lock a bag, I make sure that it has a Velcro strap wrapped around it. I don’t remember a trip I have been on, lately, without having one or more bags damaged and latches popped.

Personally, I have had it with the airlines. They are my last choice for going somewhere and about the only time I will bother with them, now, is for an inter-continental flight where I have no choice. I regret that this ended up so long, but what you ask can only be answered in a general way because there are way too many variables to be specific.

Frank Petronio
26-Apr-2009, 15:53
Yes a Crown has very limited movements but the choice of a camera is the topic of numerous other threads. You can fit almost any 4x5 into a carry-on, but getting a DSLR outfit in as well is the hard part. I only mention the Crown because you can handhold it and it is lightweight and compact, which is a big advantage for travel IMHO. I fix perspective in Photoshop when I need to - movements are more fun though.

You also have to anticipate how you will move your gear around when you actually shoot. Wheeling a Pelican case around town is awkward and carrying a full 4x5 and DSLR outfit is pretty heavy....

27-Apr-2009, 11:45
I recently decided that I was tired of having to leave my film gear behind while traveling incessantly on business. I strongly agree with Frank's advice (as well as Steve's film input and opinion of air travel these days :mad: ).

I am very fond of the ThinkTank gear and since I end up on regional flights with some frequency, I purchased the Airport Antidote 2.0 . It *easily* fit my Super Graphic + 135/203 lenses (haven't picked up a 90 yet..), 20 Quickloads + holder, loupe, meter, etc + my Mamiya 7II + 80mm with room to spare. The computer case held my MacBook + papers for working during the flight, so the bag with gear went in the overhead and the laptop with me. The arrangement in the Antidote whereby you see everything laid out cleanly is a huge bonus -- for once I didn't forget something important. And it carries well through the airport. While I haven't tried it, I think there is a fair chance my 5x7 Anba Ikeda or Chamonix 4x5 would fir, though it might be tough. I must say that the Super Graphic, even with limited movements is an exceptional camera for pick-up and go air travel. I got mine largely for hand-held, but it's going with me on my short trips lately. Fun to take along my Fuji holder and some instant film for wandering around after working all day.

Good luck with your choices,


28-Apr-2009, 13:25
Thanks all. I think it's either try and get the 5d+lens and LF+lenses into a carry-on Peli, or continue taking the 5d+lenses in the Tenba onto the plane, and check in a separate case with LF equipment.

With the first option, if I'm told the Peli's too heavy to carry on, even though it's size is okay, at least it could get checked in and be safe, as long as some thrower doesn't take a liking to it...which would mean claiming on my pro photo insurance, which includes theft and damage on foreign trips.

13-Jun-2009, 15:03
I like the Pelican 1510 for this, but it is too large for a carry-on on flights with the likes of Ryan Air out of Stansted, for example,

Thank you Steve for this advice. I have to travel with Ryan Air, especially in Stansted and as NoBob,I am looking for a F1 or F2 and I am starting to find a bag or case suitable for this camera.

I was ready to buy a Peli Case 1510 but after what I read, I don't want to live a nightmare at the airport !
So my choice in more on a back pack Think Tank.
The 3 models look Airport (Addicted v2, Acceleration v2, Antidote v2) look fits all carry on requirement : 55cmx 40cm x 20cm but do you think a F1 or F2 fit in this bags.

I am waiting any suggestion of Sinar or Think Tank users ... by advance, thank you !