Photography equipment is expensive. Because of that, you must keep it safe at all times, especially when moving from one location to the next. If you want to ensure your cameras and lenses remain safe in the most testing conditions, a quality camera hard case is essential.
A hard case differs from your everyday camera bag. Prioritizing function over form may not always look stylish, but it does keep your gear free from harm.
The best camera hard case is the Pelican 1510. It offers plenty of storage options, and its robustness and durability will keep your gear safe in a range of challenging conditions. However, if this camera hard case isn’t right for you, we have plenty of options in the rest of this article.
The best hard cases for cameras and equipment
1 Pelican 1510
The best camera hard case on the market
Weight: 6kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 22″ x 13.81″ x 9″ | Dimensions: (Interior) 19.75″ x 11.00″ x 7.60″ | Lid Depth: 1.7″ | Bottom Depth: 5.7″ | Total Depth: 7.58″ | Interior Cubic Volume: 0.96 cubic feet | Wheels: Yes
The Pelican 1510 offers the best in class protection for your equipment. It’s completely watertight and crushproof, meaning your gear will remain intact should it come into contact with water or if heavy objects drop onto it.
The 1510 will suit photographers who travel with a lot of gear. Inside the hard case has room for multiple camera bodies, lenses, and accessories, ensuring there’s no need to leave anything at home. We would have liked to have seen more customization options with the foam dividers. But the design as it is will suit the needs of most photographers.
It comes with easy-to-open double throw latches, giving you extra security and easy accessibility. And there’s an extendable handle should you wish to pull it rather than carry.
Pelican has made the design so that it can be taken as carry on if you travel by plane. It also weighs six kilograms, so although not light, it shouldn’t be too much trouble moving it around.
It’s the most expensive hard case on this list. But because of the durability and quality in design, Pelican can more than justify the cost. And considering it will protect your kit for years to come, it’s an investment worth making.
Read more: Pelican 1510 camera case review
- Watertight with Automatic Pressure Equalization Valve
- Single-layer padded dividers
- Waterproof, crushproof and dustproof
2 Monoprice Weatherproof
A solid hard case option for those on a tighter budget
Weight: 5kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 21.93″ x 13.70″ x 7.83″ | Dimensions: (Interior) 20.71″ x 10.83″ x 6.67″ | Wheels: No
The Monoprice weatherproof case is a more affordable option, without compromising on quality.
The interior is fully customizable, giving you the option to insert padded protection that suits your needs and gear. And the exterior, that’s made from ultraviolet and impact-resistant material, has a shockproof design, that’s also dust resistant and waterproof in line with IP67 standards. However, be aware that it will only remain waterproof in up to one meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
The standard 20-liter case is for those who travel light. But if you have a considerable amount of gear, we advise getting the larger option.
Although cheaper than some of the more well-known brands in this article, it still kept up the pace of offering a well-built camera hard case that will protect your gear.
- Waterproof up to one meter depth for 30 minutes
- Ultraviolet and impact-resistant material
- Pressure relief valve allows for gradual pressure equalization
- Doesn’t feel quite as premium as other hard cases
3 Nanuk 945
The clear winner in balancing form and function
Weight: 1.5kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 25.1″ x 19.9″ x 8.8″ | Dimensions: (Interior) 22.0″ x 17.0″ x 8.2″ | Internal volume: 0.29 cu.ft (8.2 L) | Wheels: No
Nanuk has built a reputation for creating camera cases that find the perfect balance between form and function.
For those who enjoy a more eye-catching accessory, the Nanuk 945 comes in a range of colors, from solid black to bright orange.
Not only will you look good, but you will also enjoy the full protection of your gear. Nanuk’s patented PowerClaw latching system keeps your equipment firmly locked, even in the most testing conditions. What makes the design stand out from the pack is that it’s super easy to open and access your cameras, which isn’t always the case with different latching mechanisms.
It’s slightly larger than the Pelican 1510, and you won’t be able to take it as carry on when flying to your destination. It’s a small compromise, but if you don’t like paying baggage fees, it’s something to bear in mind.
The case is made from lightweight NK-7 polypropylene and is fully waterproof.
- Waterproof (IP67 rated), dustproof, shockproof
- Made from NK-7 resin
- Two PowerClaw (patented) triple action latches
- Too big to take as airline carry on
4 Vanguard SUPREME 46F Heavy Duty
If you shoot in the most testing conditions, this is for you
Weight: 7kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 20.2″ x 17.1″ x 8.6″| Dimensions: (Interior) 18.8″ x 14.6″ x 7.8″ | Wheels: No
Astrophotographers are known to go into some tough weather conditions to make their photographs. Photographing the Northern Lights, for example, you will find yourself in cold, wet, and potentially challenging environments.
That’s why the Vanguard Supreme will be the difference between keeping your gear safe and having to spend thousands of dollars on replacing it.
Vanguard built the case with a robust design that survives temperatures of -40° to 203° F. This is important because many modern mirrorless cameras can become unresponsive when left in the cold for too long. So if you’re out on a location, you can leave your camera in the case and use it immediately when you need to.
Where the case differs from the Monoprice, for example, is how it survives in water. Again, it’s fully waterproof, but impressively, it can remain intact in up to five meters of water!
The anti-slip rubber feet and reinforced carrying handle ensure you’ll have no frustrations transporting your gear from one place to another.
- Withstands temperatures of -40° to 203° F
- Supports up to 120kg of exterior weight
- Anti-slip rubber feet and reinforced carrying handle
- Survives in water in depths of up to five meters.
- Very bulky
- Quite heavy even without equipment inside
5 Pelican 1550
Made for the minimalist photographer that wants the Pelican brand
Weight: 5kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 22.6″ x 8.1″ x 16.8″| Dimensions: (Interior) 18.6″ x 14.1″ x 7.7″ | Wheels: No
Yes, that’s right, another Pelican case, but it’s totally justified.
The Pelican 1550 comes with foam protection that allows you to store two camera bodies and one telephoto lens. But don’t worry if you need more space, the interior is fully customizable, giving you better storage options.
Pelican has put the 1550 through its paces when testing its durability. They’ve driven cars over it to prove that its Copolymer-Polypropylene shell keeps the case completely crushproof – although we wouldn’t advise testing this yourself!
If you load up your gear on the roof of your car, don’t worry if it falls off. The Pelican 1550 is shockproof and keeps your kit nice and compact, removing the chance of any potential damage occurring.
We struggled to find fault with this camera hard case, and we’re confident it will serve you well for many years to come.
- Stainless steel reinforced padlock protectors
- Equalization Valve to release air pressure
- Watertight and Crushproof
- A little more costly than similar hard cases
6 Condition 1 Camera Hard Case
The camera hard case that allows you access your equipment with minimal effort
Weight: 6kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 24.5″ x 19.4″ x 8.4″| Dimensions: (Interior) 21.9″ X 16.9″ X 7.5″ | Wheels: No
When accessing your gear, you want to be as quick and efficient as possible, especially when you don’t want to miss the perfect photograph! The Condition1 has an easy-to-open spring-loaded latch system, and the upper part of the case stays upright at 90 degrees, allowing you to choose what you need without holding the case open manually.
Condition1 has a patented premium watertight GORE-TEX valve. It will keep your cameras safe from water damage, and due to its pressure equalization valve, it will remain firmly locked when traveling 35,000 miles up in the sky.
Inside you will find what is known as Pick and Pluck foam. This allows you to design your protection in a way that best suits you. Frustratingly the foam wasn’t the easiest to move around and needed a little bit of persistence. That said, it’s still manageable and shouldn’t put you off buying.
- Pluckable foam case
- Made with specially formulated CN-1 resin
- The lid case opens at 90 degrees when you need it to stay open.
- Foam can be difficult to move when customizing
7 HPRC 2550W
For easy transportation, you won’t go wrong with this one
Weight: 5kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 21.4″ x 13.7″ x 9″| Dimensions: (Interior) 20″ x 11.2″ x 7.8″ | Wheels: Yes
The 2550W has smooth-rolling wheels, some of the best we’ve seen, that allow you to move around without unwanted interruptions. The handle has a well-built release clip so you can extend it with ease when pulling it around.
For added protection, the 2550W comes with a two-phase lock system, making the ergonomics some of the most impressive we’ve seen on a case of this type. Yet, despite the extra security, there were no issues opening the case when accessing the interior.
The materials of the case will remain intact in temperatures of – 40 ° F to 80 ° C. It’s less than the Vanguard Supreme in warmer climates, but it’s still impressive and will be more than okay for most photographers.
A nice touch from HPRC is the second skin interior, which adds a further layer of protection. It will make the case a little heavier at around five kilograms without gear. However, it shouldn’t be too tasking to transport, and again, the wheels make it a dream to move around.
- Built-In wheels for easy transport
- Robust and light
- Two-phase lock system
- Foam is a little rugged
8 Monoprice Weatherproof Hard Case
For those that like the Monoprice brand and need more storage space
Weight: 7kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 21.9″ x 13.7″ x 9.7″| Dimensions: (Interior) 20.5″ x 10.9″ x 7.4″ | Internal Volume: 28.6 liters | Wheels: Yes
You could describe the second Monoprice camera hard case as the bigger sibling of the one mentioned above.
With internal dimensions of 20.5″ x 10.9″ x 7.4″, you can carry quite a bit of kit around with you. Don’t be put off by the weight either. Although seven kilograms, its robust three-inch wheels make transporting the case feels like a walk in the park.
The materials used to create the case offer the same dust resistant and waterproof exterior as its smaller sibling, and you’ll have no problems should you drop the case when shooting on location.
The handle can be slightly temperamental. Although it works well, you may need to use two hands (and some extra force) when you want to extend it. The handle extends up to 15 inches, making the case a total of 36 inches from top to bottom.
- Plenty of space for your gear
- Strong, reliable wheels when pulling
- The handle can be difficult to extend
9 Pelican Air 1535
Weight: 4kg | Dimensions: (Exterior) 22” x 14” x 9” | Dimensions: (Interior) 20.4″ × 11.2″ × 7.2″ | Wheels: Yes
An ideal hard card for those needing a lightweight option.
The Pelican Air 1535 is your best bet, if you’re looking for an extremely lightweight option.
Weighing just 4 kilograms, the 1535 is 40% lighter than other polymer hard cases, making it a breeze to carry around. But don’t be concerned by the words “air” and “lightweight,” this hard case is still built like a tank, and will keep everything you store inside it safe and secure.
The interior comes with two dividers and offers plenty of customization options. You can customize the interior even further by buying specifically designed dividers. However, they can be rather expensive which is off putting, especially if you’re working with a tight budget.
A nice touch, at least for the networking photographer, is the dedicated space to store business cards. So, if you’re ever on the road shooting astrophotography and want to pass someone your details, you can just pop out your card, and look cool and professional at the same time!
- Extremely lightweight
- Plenty of storage customization options
- Robust build will survive most situations
- Extra padding and dividers can be expensive
Hard Camera Case Buying Guide
What to look for In A hard camera case?
When you decide to purchase a new camera hard case, whether it’s one of the more established brands like Pelican or Nanuk, or one of the other quality brands we have listed, there are some essential features that you need to look out for.
Dividers vs. Foam
Both padded dividers and foam offer great protection for your gear – but there are some differences.
Padded dividers tend to be less compact. Those small pockets of space mean that your gear can sometimes dislodge and move around – however, this would only happen in extreme traveling conditions (driving on extremely rough terrain) and would seldom result in damage.
On the flipside, foam is far more compact and won’t allow for your gear to knock against each other. Over time, however, the foam begins to crumble and can get lodged into your gear, making it a nuisance to clean.
There’s no clear winner here, but for peace of mind that your gear won’t have minor scuffs and scrapes, foam will be your best choice.
While all foam may look the same, the range in quality is different. To fall in line with a durable hard case, manufacturers should provide high-quality materials that offer 2.5 to 3.5 density foam. Typically, foam of this quality lasts much longer and can absorb more pressure over time.
The term waterproof can be confusing, and it’s important to understand it. All of the cases in this list have water protection, but that doesn’t mean they’ll remain safe in all conditions.
Most camera cases have an IP67 rating, which is the industry standard for this kind of product. So, if you drop your case in the bottom of the ocean, don’t expect your cameras and lenses to remain free from damage. However, if dropped in rivers and other water sources, your gear will be safe in depths up to five feet for up to 30 minutes.
Having an impact-resistant case is an absolute must. Any hard case that doesn’t offer impact resistance is not worth the money and may result in thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Like the ones featured above, market leaders use a range of special materials to ensure their cases’ can withstand strong impact with other elements. This is important when your case can potentially fall from great heights or have heavy-duty materials fall on it.
Along with a hard case’s build and storage options, the lock mechanisms are a vital part of keeping your cameras and lenses protected. Strong latches like the Power Claw on the Nanuk 945 means they will keep a firm grip when closed and won’t open easily when you pack your case away.
How safe is my camera equipment in a camera hard case?
A camera hard case is made with military-grade materials and built in a way that makes it waterproof, shockproof, and crushproof.
So, while we can’t guarantee 100% safety, you would have to go above and beyond to try to cause damage to your gear. In almost all situations, a hard case will withstand testing conditions and situations.
Quick Recap Of The Best 9 Camera Hard Cases For 2020
- Pelican 1510
- Nanuk 945
- Vanguard Supreme 46F
- Pelican 1550
- Condition 1
- HPRC 2550W
- Monoprice Hard Case
- Pelican Air 1535
A camera case worth your cash has to tick all of the above boxes. You should never give way to a reduction in build quality, the strength of protection, and transportability when considering how to store your equipment.
The Pelican 1510 meets all the essential criteria for making a quality camera case and will be a worthy investment for anyone who buys it.