Photo gear flightcase 1

Photo gear flightcase

Most of my photo shoots take place in a local music venue. I have great fun shooting various metal bands, using two camera bodies, 4 fast lenses and a remote flash gun, with a replacement value of around €3500 nowadays. Carrying all that stuff into a place with no real safe place to put it is a considerable risk. And I'm not even talking about taking everything to the stage; I usually put my stuff in an area that's off limits to visitors, and take only what I need to the stage. Still, putting it in bags, however sturdy they are, might not be safe enough to prevent someone stepping on it when I'm not around - Shrug....!

I used to be a performing musician for twelve years, and I kept my equipment and bass guitar in flightcases I built myself. Those cases have been around the country - even beyond, and held up extremely well. So it's only logical to put my photo equipment in a flightcase as well. Luckily DSLRs, lenses and flashes aren't as big and heavy as bass guitars, amplifiers and speaker cabinets smiley.

This article is just a showcase. Elsewhere on this website I ran a considerably more in-depth article on how to build a flightcase. You'll see this case as an example project with much more technical details about the tools and materials used.

I currently own three camera bodies that I use regularly. A semi-pro DSLR with vertical grip, a smaller entry-level DSLR, and an interchangable-lens compact camera. I own 11 lenses, 8 of which see regular use. Then there's a flash gun and a range of accessories. I want this case to be large enough to fit most of that, but not the larger items like tripods, stands or studio flash heads.

So.. how big does it have to be exactly? I figured a standard hardware store 61 cm wide sheet would be a good case width. The upside of this is that two panel sides are already perfectly perpendicular, making assembly easier. For my largest lenses to fit and still have some shock buffer, the case needs to be 12 cm high on the inside. Unfortunately, cutting this out of a single standard 61 x 122 cm sheet gets me a case depth of only 35 cm, so I'm going use a piece of scrap ply for one of the sides, increasing the depth to a more useful 41 cm. I laid out the stuff I want the case to hold in an area of that size and everything fit by a reasonable margin. The inside case dimensions I settled on, are, thusly 61 x 41 x 12 cm.

Click thumbnails to zoom in. Click again to zoom out, or use cursor keys to walk through all images.

1. First I constructed a closed box out of plywood. I used hardwood ply and polyurethane glue, and if you look closely, you can also see I used tacks to put the box together. I marked the separation line with a pencil.
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1. First I constructed a closed box out of plywood. I used hardwood ply and polyurethane glue, and if you look closely, you can also see I used tacks to put the box together. I marked the separation line with a pencil.

2. Then I separated the top and bottom. I marked the two shells with arrows on the inside, so I'm absolutely sure as to how they fit best.
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2. Then I separated the top and bottom. I marked the two shells with arrows on the inside, so I'm absolutely sure as to how they fit best.

3. The parts were painted with scratch proof black poly-urethane paint. I used half a spray can of primer that I had lying around and applied two coats of black paint. As you can clearly see, I purposely made no effort at all to paint the edges.
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3. The parts were painted with scratch proof black poly-urethane paint. I used half a spray can of primer that I had lying around and applied two coats of black paint. As you can clearly see, I purposely made no effort at all to paint the edges.

4. I fitted miter sawn location extrusions between the two shells.
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4. I fitted miter sawn location extrusions between the two shells.

5. Here you can see how it actually works. The bottom will catch the lid, forcing it into position.
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5. Here you can see how it actually works. The bottom will catch the lid, forcing it into position.

6. L-extrusions are used as edges. For this case I used 20x30 mm L-extrusions.
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6. L-extrusions are used as edges. For this case I used 20x30 mm L-extrusions.

7. The corners look like a hack job, and ideally, you'd miter them, but this will all be covered by metal corners.
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7. The corners look like a hack job, and ideally, you'd miter them, but this will all be covered by metal corners.

8. I covered the corners with ball corners.
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8. I covered the corners with ball corners.

9. Strut hinges on the back side.
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9. Strut hinges on the back side.

10. Draw latches on the front side.
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10. Draw latches on the front side.

11. A stainless steel bar serves as a handle, while an additional strip of aluminium makes it look like the handle isn't on the very edge.
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11. A stainless steel bar serves as a handle, while an additional strip of aluminium makes it look like the handle isn't on the very edge.

12. The end result for the exterior.
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12. The end result for the exterior.

13. The interior. The lid was lined with egg crate foam. Then I put 2 ridges along the width of the case, making two 10.5 cm deep lens storage compartments. Everything was lined with self-adhesive neoprene foam.
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13. The interior. The lid was lined with egg crate foam. Then I put 2 ridges along the width of the case, making two 10.5 cm deep lens storage compartments. Everything was lined with self-adhesive neoprene foam.

14. The finished interior. Plastic panels with neoprene foam on them act as dividers, and a plastic box holds the smaller stuff. The camera used to take this shot fits exactly in the open spot.
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14. The finished interior. Plastic panels with neoprene foam on them act as dividers, and a plastic box holds the smaller stuff. The camera used to take this shot fits exactly in the open spot.

15. As a finishing touch I put an alpha logo on the case.
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15. As a finishing touch I put an alpha logo on the case.


Before you ask: the alpha logo was part of an order for some T-shirts with my website logo and the alpha logos, but the manufacturer couldn't press them onto the sleeves. They supplied a dozen logos separately, so I could put them on myself, but I needed only two. Since I don't like the Sony name logo very much (should've been Minolta), you will never see the Sony name on any of my cases.

The finished case weighs 9 kg (20 lbs). Fully stuffed it's 13.5 kg (30 lbs). Cost for the wood and metal parts (not the padding nor the paint) is around €65

For another flight case example take a look at Photo flightcase 2.

Comments

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