Lowepro Pro Roller 3 suitcase review

The quest for the ultimate underwater photography travel case is one that will probably never end. I have used Pelican cases, Storm cases, Lightware cases, Samsonite luggage with Pelican dividers, coolers, and more. I’m always in the market for photography bags.

I was over at Backscatter the other day and ended up coming home with a brand-new Lowepro Pro Roller 3 rolling suitcase. Aside from the name of the brand (which thieves probably associate with camera gear), this suitcase, from the outside, is like any other semi-rigid suitcase. But inside, it’s a serious photography case; it is heavily padded, and its padded dividers are sturdy and high in quality. I packed the thing up with a Seacam 1Ds Mark III setup, and here’s what it looks like:

A full Seacam 1Ds Mark III rig fits in the Lowepro Pro Roller 3

Here’s a partial list of what packed into it:

Fully packed with a full Seacam 1Ds Mark III underwater photography rig with spare strobe and spare dive light, the Lowepro weighs 56 lbs. I normally also travel with a Thinktank backpack, which is perfect for lugging around housings, ports and accessories. With the housing itself removed from this suitcase, I’ll bet it would be easy to get the bag to weigh less than 50 lbs – the magic number, these days. But knowing that the entire rig fits in here is insurance. I can carry as much as possible with me onto the plane on the way to shoots and pack it up in check-in on the way home.

Sometimes, I need bigger luggage or waterproof luggage, but I suspect that this will be the perfect suitcase for most of my trips. Regarding durability, Berkley White has taken his suitcase on a dozen trips, and it is still going strong.

Packed up and ready to roll!

If you want this suitcase, you should buy one soon. Rumor has it that it’s going away.

UPDATE, August 13, 2009

Here’s a photo of a Samsonite F’Lite 31 suitcase packed up for travel:

Samsonite F’Lite 31 with Pelican 1655 dividers, ready for travel

Here’s what I stuffed into it:

The entire case weighs 56.4 lbs. If I remove the 5D Mark II and all lenses, it weighs 49.5 lbs – perfect! Of course, there is no spare strobe in this setup, and the 5D2 housing is lighter than is the 1Ds3 housing. I like that the Samsonite is a hard case that doesn’t scream “PHOTO GEAR!!”, but I don’t like that the padded dividers don’t quite go all the way to the top of the case when it’s closed. Although it has been rare in practice, this means that loose items can move from compartment to compartment during transit.

Next, I’ll weigh the cases empty and report back…


Empty, the Samsonite F’Lite 31 case with the Pelican padded dividers weighs 18.0 lbs. The Lowepro Pro Roller 3 weighs 18.4 lbs with my embroidered “Eric Cheng” tag attached (but without the included tripod adapter). They are effectively the same weight when the Samsonite is fitted with dividers.

Samsonite F’Lite 31 and Lowepro Pro Roller 3

The Samsonite is a much larger case than is the Lowepro. As some of our readers have noted, you can stuff clothing and all sorts of other things in the nooks and crannies that Samsonite case provides. The Lowepro has no extra room when loaded with a full rig plus spares. Also, it’s worth noting that the Lowepro padded dividers are much more rigid and padded than are the Pelican dividers. You can probably install beefier dividers into the Samsonite, but it would increase case weight.

Lowepro Pro Roller 3, empty = 18.4 lbs

Samsonite F’Lite 31 plus Pelican 1655 padded dividers, empty = 18.0 lbs