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The choice of camera bags continues to grow at a rapid pace with new styles, new methods of storage, new materials, new designs and new names. Tamrac may not be a new name, the American brand has been around for over 30 years, but they certainly are setting the pace with style and function.
The Evolution 8 - 5788 is one of their latest photo/laptop products offering photographers a choice of 3 ways to carry an SLR camera kit with three access points along with a 15in laptop pocket. Best of all it's under £100.
Tamrac Evolution 8: Features
The Evolution 8 is a camera holdall shaped like a rucksack, with a main central base compartment split up with padded dividers while an upper compartment provides space for sandwiches, rain coat or accessories. There are several pockets around the outside and on inner flaps to store other bits and bobs, and a large back pocket holds a modern laptop with 15in monitor. All areas are foam padded so camera gear can even sit in the top section if you need extra space.
The camera compartment will hold a DSLR with 70-210mm zoom attached. It held my medium-sized Nikon D700 and bulky 80-400mm with ease. Dividers provide room for another three lenses and a flash gun. You can access the main compartment from the front or either side - the reasons will become apparent when we get to handling. All the access points have zips that appear neatly hidden when closed. Each zipper has a plastic pull tab to make opening and closing easier.
A small tripod strap and foot pocket are provided on the front to carry a compact tripod, and the base has a couple of raised plastic pads.
One of the outer pockets is labelled Rain Cover and holds a lightweight wrap to protect the bag in bad weather.
A carrying handle is stitched into the top and the strap system offers a choice of carrying the Evolution 8 as a backpack or left or right hand sling pack. The straps are padded and so is the back plate.
|The top compartment is ideal for food and spares.|
|The main compartment is well padded.|
|The laptop pocket will hold a large 15in
model with room to spare.
|The side pocket will hold a Blackberry, but not a passport or Nintendo DS sized item.|
Tamrac Evolution 8: Handling
Handling is a key test aspects of a bag – it's all about easy access of kit and comfort of carrying it around. The straps are well padded so when the bag is full and heavy it sits on your shoulders and absorbs the weight well. As a back pack it swivels around either to the left or right, depending on your preference, so you can access gear from the side flaps. I found the way the partitions had been inserted meant that you could only access the camera if you swung over from the left. I tend to use the right side so a quick rearrangement of partitions (secured tightly with Velcro) rectified this, but it would not be good if you were sharing the bag with an opposite swinger. That's true of any swing bag though.
I don't have broad shoulders so I found the bag slipping off and uncomfortable to use in this fashion so I tried the proper sling pack method. You unclip the straps and take the left strap over to the bottom right or right strap to bottom left and create a sling style using one strap. The unused strap can be neatly stashed behind the back padding.
In this mode the bag swings around and stays firmly in place, even with my weedy shoulders. And better still you can use the bag as an arm support while taking photos for sturdier shots at low shutter speeds.
The lenses I use are quite bulky fixed aperture zooms and while the bag can accommodate with a snug and highly protected fit it did mean accessing lenses while the camera was stored is quite a challenge as the main compartment lid is smaller than the compartment, so the outer divided compartments are partially covered. This is a bit of a hindrance if you're in a hurry, but the kit won't rattle around and it won't be an issue for those who use smaller outfits with variable aperture lenses.
|The raincover offers extra protection and
is stored in its own side pocket.
|The Evolution 8 can be used as a left or right handed Sling Pack.|
|The base has two plastic strap loops which could be used to add an extra item (large rain coat, tripod) otherwise there's not much protection for it when placed on the ground.||The unused strap can be hidden behind the
padding when the bag is used as a sling pack.
Both straps could be stashed away for
less clutter when storing the bag.
Tamrac Evolution 8: Performance
With my bag full of kit, comprising Nikon D700, Nikon 105mm Macro, 80-400mm, and 14-24mm lenses, a Sunpak flash and Apple Powerbook, the bag weighed just over 10kg. Filling the top compartment with filters, phone, Nintendo DS etc and it shot up to 12kg. This becomes quite a handful by your side, but once on your back it's surprisingly comfortable.
I feel confident that the gear is protected well and the bag doesn't sit too proud from my back so doesn't look too conspicuous. I got caught out with the rain while cycling home and was able to wrap the rain cover over with ease. 3 miles later and a huge amount of rain and the bag was dry, shame the rest of me wasn't.
I found the grip material used on the rear of the strap pads too lose. I tend to grip that with my thumbs behind to take some strain when carrying a large amount of kit over a long distance. The material, while none-slip on the clothing, did move too much when trying to position thumbs.
Tamrac Evolution 8: Verdict
The bag looks attractive, sits comfortably on my back, has a choice of access points and holds everything I need to take out on a day's shoot so it gets my thumbs up. Look at the list of kit I stashed in the bag and I think you'll be impressed at what it can hold, and that's before we start on the top compartment. I can even see this being used as a holiday day pack as it fits well within the regulations for airport hand luggage. Shame the outer pockets aren't quite big enough to hold my passport, Nintendo DS or Nokia E90 phone, as quick access to these can be handy on such journeys.
Tamrac Evolution 8: Pros
Versatile gear access
Looks and feels great
Versatile carrying options
Tamrac Evolution 8: Cons
Strap pad grip too soft
Side pockets too small
Not enough base protection
Tamrac Evolution 8 - Model 5788: Specification
|External zipped pockets||Two|
|Internal dimensions top (wxhxd)||25 x 19 x 15cm|
|Internal dimensions bottom (wxhxd)||28 x 25 x 15cm|
|External dimensions (wxhxd)||32 x 48 x 22cm|