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Think Tank Photo unveils supersized Logistics Manager roller  
Saturday, February 20, 2010 | by Rob Galbraith
Think Tank Photo will soon begin shipping their largest roller to date, the Logistics Manager. At a glance, it might appear to be simply an oversized version of the company's Airport Security V2.0, the next-largest roller in the lineup, but it is in fact the company's first entry into a larger category of gear case.

Though the two bags share similar locking capabilities, a wheel design meant to handle going up and down curbs without risk of damage, top-notch build quality as well as the minimalist appearance that typifies all of Think Tank's lineup, the Logistics Manager is much deeper than an Airport Security V2.0, enough that certain monolights and flash heads can be positioned vertically.

It also provides greater gear protection, owing to noticeably stiffer and thicker shell parts inside its ballistic nylon outer covering (the difference is most noticeable in the lid and other areas are that are usually not so rigid in standard rollers).

Finally, it opens up to the side not the bottom and includes straps that keep the lid from flopping back, more like a traditional large gear case than the rolling backpack style of the rest of Think Tank's rolling bags (even those that aren't for backpack use).

They set out to build a roller for a different purpose than previous offerings, and it shows. Logistics Manager is all about more: more space for more gear with more protection.

Open and Shut Case: The Think Tank Photo Logistics Manager roller. Click photo to enlarge (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)

Here's a brief look at the new gear carrier.

Introducing Logistics Manager

The Logistics Manager is the first product from Think Tank that can serve as a heavy duty case for large and fragile gear, but one that still has the appearance of a suitcase on wheels rather than something that screams out the fact it contains expensive photo equipment. With exterior dimensions of 15.75"W x 30"H x 11.5"D (40 x 76 x 29cm), and internal dimensions of 13.75"W x 27.5"H x 8.25 - 10"D (35 x 70 x 21 - 25.5cm), it will hold considerably more photo gear than any other roller from Think Tank or, for example, Lowepro's Pro Roller X300.

In fact, you'll want to put any comparisons to this size of product aside, since the Logistics Manager is ultimately meant to fulfill a different gear carrying need. For us, that need is to transport studio lighting gear, primarily around town by car but occasionally around the continent by plane.

Cozy: The Think Tank Photo Logistics Manager, right, shares the cargo space in a Honda Fit with an Airport Security, left, Pelican 1600, middle, and Manfrotto lightstand bag, back. Click photo to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

When a prototype arrived this week we immediately merged the contents of two Pelican cases into it, making an all-in-one team photo lighting kit comprised of the following:
The size, and especially the depth, makes it possible for the Logistics Manager to swallow up this much equipment with room to spare. It has a minimum weight of 16lb (7.3kg) when completely empty, which grows to a manageable 41lb (18.6kg) when loaded with the gear above plus dividers.

2560WS: Four Paul C. Buff AlienBees B1600 monolights, power cords, reflectors (underneath the power cords), LPA Design PocketWizards and more fill up the interior. Click photo to enlarge (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

This leads to the only quibble we have with the Logistics Manager so far: it's not tall enough. At 27.5" (70cm) high internally (the official spec matches our own measurement), it will accept umbrellas and lightstands of a certain size, but is several inches too short for the PLM 64" Silver umbrella we use for team photos. This umbrella is tall when collapsed, but not that tall.

It's not reasonable to expect a roller like this to accommodate the Manfrotto 1004BAC, a superb lightstand when lots of height and stability are required. It has a closed length of about 42" (107cm) and so almost always has to ride shotgun. That said, there are very few light stands that have the sturdiness and the height to properly support a studio head and modifiers that will also collapse down to fit inside the Logistics Manager.

For us, that means stands and umbrellas will need to be transported separately in a lightstand bag, as they have been up until now, when our preference would be for at least the umbrellas to go inside the same case as the monolights and accessories. A Logistics Manager XL with a few extra inches of height would solve this, accommodating bigger umbrellas while not sacrificing the roller's maneuverability or, for our complement of stuff anyway, pushing the entire kit over the typical airline 50lb (22.7kg) checked bag limit.

We've mentioned the Logistics Manager as an option for commercial airplane travel a couple of times now. In case it's not obvious, its dimensions mean it won't be going inside the cabin. Underneath will be your only option.

Think Tank Photo President Doug Murdoch stresses, however, that the new roller is not designed to be an airline shipping case. That's not because Logistics Manager lacks a sturdy shell: if you poke and prod it, the ample use of wood as well as stiffened PE board is apparent throughout. Nor is it because it lacks sufficient padding. Rather, it's because of the exterior accessory and tripod attachment features of the roller, ones that are not usually found on equipment cases meant exclusively for shipping and that could, in theory, snag and tear during baggage sorting.

Your level of concern about this will vary. For us, the risk of bag damage would seem to be no greater than a regular suitcase, and so when the time comes we're not likely to hesitate to use the Logistics Manager for travel by air. That said, if the only reason you're thinking of getting a new gear case is to allow for safer airplane shipping of big and fragile gear, then the Logistics Manager may not be for you. You will probably be better served by something like a Lightware or Tenba shipping case, since they are designed with that single purpose in mind.

We've emphasized what we want a roller like Logistics Manager for: lighting gear. Think Tank Photo was seeking to fill that need, but also to ensure that the roller was sufficiently adjustable and versatile that it could transport other kinds of photo equipment too, including a camera outfit comprised of big glass like a 400mm f/2.8 or 600mm f/4 plus several smaller lenses, multiple digital SLR bodies and acccessories.

logistics_manager_interior_01.jpg
Gear Up: A full complement of digital SLR and audio gear inside the Logistics Manager (Photo courtesy Think Tank Photo)

To accommodate different uses, they have included enough dividers to organize the interior of the Logistics Manager and probably most of the other camera bags you own as well (it ships with every square inch of the interior taken up with dividers). It also features an array of both inside and outside pockets, multiple accessory attachment loops, two removable accessory bags, a tripod cup, rain cover, a TSA zipper lock as well as a tether with TSA lock for securing the Logistics Manager to an immovable object.

Price and release date

If you have a need to schlep around several camera bodies and supertelephoto lenses plus accessories or, like us, you've been wanting a better way to carry the core of a studio flash lighting kit in one well-protected case, the Logistics Manager is well worth a look. It's very nearly perfect for our purposes as a lighting gear tote, though we hope that Think Tank Photo is already working on the design for a slightly taller version.

The Think Tank Photo Logistics Manager is expected to ship mid-March 2010 at a price of US$599 in the U.S. when purchased direct. The price at U.S. dealers is expected to be similar.
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