Review: Nearly a year of torture later, my SKB/Think Tank case still looks like new
posted Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 2:00 PM EDT
Reviews are so often a challenge in this industry, as most require us to be as fast as we can possibly be with our opinions so as to not get lost in the rapidly changing news landscape. With some products, this isn't a big problem since we can be very efficient in how we check something like a camera for its technical capability. But some products can only be really reviewed when put up against the long test of time.
Nearly a year ago I agreed to review an SKB case and have since used it more times than I can count. I've thrown it in the back of my truck, prayed to the aviation gods as I gave it up as checked luggage, and even sat on it hundreds of times when I lacked a "legitimate" seat. Essentially, I actually used this SKB case. It wouldn't be particularly fair to judge this case up front without really testing it in a real-world situation, and it being a hard case, that real world situation equates to hundreds of hours of torture.
Well, it would be torture if it was any other case, but the SKB doesn't look like it cares. After all this time, there is nary a scratch on it.
This SKB iSeries case with a Think Tank-designed interior is one of the most reliable products I've ever tested, and to this day continues to be an outstanding partner for me as a traveling photographer. When I chose this case, I opted for the Think Tank interior rather than the customizable foam because the gear I bring on each trip I take varies wildly. Some days I may need three cameras and a host of lenses, others I may need only two cameras and a couple lenses, but also external recorders, audio cases and an intervelometer. I didn't want to feel like I could only use the SKB for specific gear, and wanted something that could be more adaptive to my constantly changing needs. I also was curious to see the melding of SKB's hard case exterior with Think Tank's well-known bag design, and this felt like the best decision to see how cooperation between the two would end up.
I am happy to say that this appears to be a match made in heaven. While the exterior of the SKB case is rigid and extremely robust, the interior is pleasant and pliable, which means my gear feels softly nestled even when I'm schlepping the case haphazardly into the back of my truck because I'm running late (sound specific? That's because it is). There isn't a lot to unpack about the design (ha, unpack), but I will say that Think Tank didn't fuss with a proven winning design.
The interior dividers are one of two styles:
- There are the longer dividers that span the long side width of the case, and these are very rigid. They feel like they are foam-filled and are the same material as the entire bottom half of the tub insert that fits inside the plastic SKB exterior. The design makes for a sturdy yet plush interior, so even heavy cameras don't budge inside the case but yet are kept well-padded.
- There are a set of smaller dividers that then break up the interior into usable cubbies, and these are much more pliable and at least half as thick as the main divider units. The design is tried-and-true, with a nylon-like exterior and Velcro "wings" that keep them affixed to the sides of the dividers and edges of the case. I've seen better designs for these in the past, but there is nothing inherently wrong with this particular iteration.
On the lid of the case lives my favorite section of this case: the zippered pockets. This case fits three zippered, see-through pockets and one folio-style pouch that can be held closed with a Velcro latch. The pockets feel great, with overall high quality design. I have stored a vast range of accessories in these pouches and I really like how they were designed to be accessed from the correct angle. I've had a few bags where despite opening length-wise, the pocket openings face the wrong direction, and so anything you put in the pockets slides down to one side. It's better explained in the below photo.
See how on the other bag, the zipper sections don't open facing right-side up? It's always annoying to try and pull something out of those pockets because I am never accessing them from the angle where the zipper portion would be opening left to right. It's always up and down, which means all the internal accessories fall and slide down on top of each other. Hopefully I'm being clear how much better it is to have the zippers facing up, rather than to the left or right.
The SKB case is also wonderfully weatherproof. Wind, snow, rain, sand... none of it matters once that latch is down. I have no qualms at all about keeping my equipment in this case in any environment because I know that moisture and dust stands no chance of creeping into the interior of the case. The rubber gasket around the entire lip of the case is thick and tough, and has not deteriorated in the least over the last year.
When the lid is closed, the design of the interior holds every item very snug in its position, so there is minimal rattling around that could cause damage. This is really nice, as I feel like my equipment is secure, but it does pose a problem with larger pieces of gear.
For example, my Canon 1DX II mostly fits in this case, but it's not quite deep enough to accommodate the height of this DSLR. Though the lid can close, it means that I can't put anything in the pocket right above the 1DX II without either crushing it, or the lid refusing to close. You will likely run into this issue with slightly taller lenses, and in that case you will have to lay them on their sides which reduces the storage space of the whole case.
So while this particular size is generally perfect for my needs, and probably yours, it does have its limitations.
All in all, this is probably the best hard case I've ever owned, mostly because the interior is to darn good. I have several Pelican cases and a few LowePro hard cases and the exterior of those compared to the SKB feels pretty much the same. I trust them all equally, but the SKB has the benefit of being more useful thanks to thoughtful design by Think Tank. Pelican's Velcro divider interior feels ridiculously cheap, and LowePro's always felt like a bit of an afterthought. Somehow, this case feels like it was engineered with thought and care, and that translates to an overall better user experience.
The SKB iSeries 2011-7DL is available for just under $250 USD when in stock, and that's a very good deal especially considering its Unconditional Lifetime Warranty. It's carry-on airplane friendly, takes punishment without blinking, and is overall a very good choice for just about any kind of photographer or videographer who needs a case of this size.