Friday, December 26, 2014

Pelican 1520 Case Review

Pelican 1520 Case

Transporting expensive photography equipment safely can be a challenge, particularly since many photographers keep said gear in soft shelled camera bags. While padded camera bags are practical for keeping gear safe while on a walk, they might not be ideal for long term storage, vehicle transport or when flying. That is where hard cases, such as the Pelican 1520 can become useful. Many of the higher end hard cases are water proof and shock proof, which are features that most standard camera bags simply cannot achieve.

The 15xx series of cases are some of the larger sized hard cases available from Pelican, but are not so bulky or heavy that they are awkward to walk around with for short periods of time. The larger 16xx series can hold more gear, but the cases themselves weigh over 4 pounds and are extremely bulky. While the 15xx series is fine to walk around with for a while, the 16xx series are best suited for moving short distances between a storage location to a vehicle and then to a near by shooting location. The smaller 12xx, 13xx and 14xx series cases would be ideal for users who want to transport small kits, or individual lenses or cameras securely.

Pressure Valve

Feature wise the Pelican 1520 is standard for a Pelican case, having waterproof seals (can be submerged at depths of 1m /3.2ft for up to 30 minutes), will float on water if the total case weight is under 28.5kg / 63lbs, has a pressure valve (to compensate for elevation changes), a hard plastic cover (ABS plastic) that can protect the content from shock, and metal rings for two standard airport security locks.

For full product specifications visit Pelican's website

Double hinged latches

The latches that close the case are stiff, but are designed this way so that the watertight seal can be maintained. When closing the case a fair amount of effort is required, and the latches lock in with a loud and reassuring snap. Thankfully opening the case is not as noisy.

Large rubberized handle

The large rubberized handle on the case makes transporting the fully loaded case reasonably comfortable. At least the case does not dig into your hands, with the average load of 5-8KG of gear (on top of the cases own weight). That said, I've never loaded the case up to it's maximum buoyancy weight limit, so I'm not sure how it would handle under heavier loads. All the hinges and the handle are attached to the case with stainless steal pins, so it is unlikely that they will fail.

With the basics of the case out of the way, lets move onto storing gear in the case. All larger Pelican cases are available in several configurations, case only, with foam, or padded dividers. I opted for the case with the padded dividers, since I realized dividers would be more efficient in terms of internal space. The dividers themselves are reasonably well made, at least as good as the padded dividers found in Lowepro, or similar, camera bags in the middle to upper range ($100+). While the dividers seem to be a little stiffer than the perviously mentioned dividers, I have a strong feeling that the velcro could rip off if the configuration is changed often.

In terms of the dividers that come with the case, there are two large straight sections, two large sections that can be made into an "L" shape and a lot of small dividers. Sadly there are no middle sized dividers, making anything other than basic configurations difficult.

In terms of usable space the Pelican 1520 has enough for all but the most demanding user. There is space for at least one or two semi-pro DSLR's (without the battery grip, since the case is not tall enough), several larger pro F2.8, zooms, or a large set of short primes, a flash or other accessories. If the lens hood for any given lens is much larger than the lens body, such as the one that comes with the Nikon AF-S 24-70mm F2.8G, the hood may need it's own section for storage. As can be see in the image above, the lens hood for the Nikon AF-S 16-35mm F4G VR is in a separate pocket, because there simply is not enough room for it in the same pocket as the lens itself. Of course this all comes down to how you configure the dividers. I want to cram in as much gear as possible so the dividers are setup to fit the lens/camera body only.

If you are looking for a hard case to transport standard tripods (picture above is the case next to the Gitzo GT3531s) or light stands then the Pelican 1520 is likely not the right case for you. For such uses, a 16xx series case might be required. Just keep in mind that any cases larger than the 1500 will not be allowed as carry on with most airlines. I believe that 1520 is also too large to qualify for carry on with most airlines, so that is something to keep in mind when purchasing a case if you want to travel by air.

The foam in the lid of the case insures that gear does not move around inside while being transported. This helps to insure that the equipment is protected from impacts, such as if the case was dropped a short distance. Just keep in mind that the amount of padding on the bottom of the case is rather limited when using the padded divider configuration. While I suspect that the case would offer greater protection that a soft sided camera bag, I have no intention of testing it just to find out.


The Pelican 1520 case offers the user a hard case for transporting equipment safely. While that might sound too good to be true, the case is water and shock proof. In addition the case can carry a decent amount of gear, and easily enough to make your arm tired after carrying it around for a while. The included padded dividers (or foam in other configurations) are strong enough to keep stored equipment from moving around or hitting each other. While the robustness, and flexibility of the included dividers leave something to be desired they do the job well enough.

The cases are available in several colours, in addition to the orange shown in the review, such as black, steel gray, and yellow.

A word of warning to be be mindful when using a hard case from Pelican, because thieves are aware that these cases are often used to transport expensive gear. Try to be discrete as possible and use high quality locks when transporting equipment by air.

  • Padded dividers allow for efficient storage of cameras and lenses
  • External ABS plastics can take a beating (but will show it)
  • Handles, hinges are very well made and attached with steel rods
  • Waterproof (up to 1m submerged for 30 minutes), and shockproof
  • Reinforced metal plates for security locks

  • Can get heavy when fully loaded, but that depends on what you put in it!
  • Thieves know that these cases are used to transport expensive equipment
  • Padded dividers could be better and more variance in sizes would be preferable
  • Expensive, pick the right case the first time because these cases are not cheap!

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