Tamrac Evolution 8 Review
Tamrac Evolution 8
I bought the Tamrac Evolution 8 about a year ago and it’s without a doubt the most useful backpack I’ve ever owned. I call it my Batpack, because it holds my camera, laptop and all my little trinkets with quick access… and it’s black.
As the name implies, the Tamrac Evolution 8 is an evolution in the design of photo bags. There has arrived a popular new genre of backpack: the sling/side access bag. In essence a sling bag is a backpack that you can slide to the side and get access to your stuff/camera without taking the bag off. Brilliant! I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted a bag that could carry more than toploader or satchel, but carry it on my back instead of putting all that weight on one shoulder. The Tamrac Evolution 8 was my answer.
What exactly can it hold?
The Evolution 8 is perfect for a 15 inch laptop (I have actually squeezed in one of the new 17 inch Macbook pros also), a DSLR, 2-4 lenses, a flash, and various small accessories. My standard load out is as follows: 15 inch Macbook Pro, power supply, Canon 5D mkII with 17-40mm f/4L attached, Holga Medium Format camera, Canon 70-300 f4-5.6, Lensbaby Composer, Canon 50mm f1.4, Canon 580 Flash, flash transmitter/receiver, flip-type HD video camera, Leatherman Wave, flashlight, 8-16 double AAs, tissues, pens and pencils, note pad, 2 canon camera batteries and charger. If you want to carry a big lens like the 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS, it works! You can either attach it to your camera and put it in. Or if you clear out one side, you can actually lay it in sideways, and it will fit. As for a holding a camera with a battery grip, the specs say it will fit that and it does, but not comfortably. You gotta kinda jam it in there and it pushes the front out a little. It also has at tripod holder on the front. Now the bag is 19 inches tall… so do the math: If your tripod is longer than 19 inches, it’s gonna stick over the top. Mine is 32 inches… so It’s a no go. But probably if you had a 23-27 inch tripod it might work. Otherwise you can use it to hold your umbrella. Which is about the only thing I use it for.
This bag can be worn as a regular backpack or as a sling pack that is slung across your chest, over your left shoulder or right shoulder. When in backpack mode, there are padded shoulder straps with a waist strap and chest strap to properly distribute the load. This is absolutely necessary on any backpack. Half of the weight, if not more, should rest on your hips. The sternum strap is also a necessity for me, as I am a 6 foot man with moderately wide shoulders.
Tamrac makes switching modes foolproof. When you want to put it into sling mode, cross-connect the straps with blue to blue or the red to red and tuck the unused shoulder strap in! Personally, I leave it in backpack mode, and just throw the shoulder strap off when I want to get to one side or the other.
Unlike the other competitors for this bag, the gear in the Evolution 8 can be accessed from either side and the top/front. You can put your DSLR in either of the side compartments and sling it up and get access to it without taking off the pack. Also, as I do, you can put a second camera of smaller size (like a Holga film camera) on the other side and sling that up to get access to it. This is a huge advantage as compared to the Lowepro Fastpack or Kata which only has one side access.
Padded Laptop Compartment
A padded laptop compartment that rests against your back when in use holds, according to the manufacturer, up to a 15.6” laptop. However in my use, I have actually stuffed in a new unibody 17 inch Macbook Pro. It barely zipped up but it did indeed hold it. Be careful though, if you forget to zip up the laptop compartment, your bag will flop backwards when you put it on!
Padded Top Compartment
Top compartment holds miscellaneous items or accessories, like a sweater or lunch. It has a mesh organizer and zippered pocket on the flap, for holding accessories. I use this compartment to hold my flashlight, laptop power supply, Leatherman, Headphones, batteries in the outer flap (not really the best use), pills, protein bars, pretty much anything that is less than 8×8 inches I will throw in there… it gets messy.
Also to note you can remove the camera dividers and the bottom panel of this top compartment and use the bag as a regular backpack! I haven’t had the need to do this yet but I’m stoked to know it’s possible.
Rain Cover and Side Pockets
There are two pockets on either side above the camera compartment entry panels that can hold accessories. One holds the rain cover by default, and I keep my HD video camera in the other. The flaps on either entry panel holds various accessories like flash cards and filters. Though I’ve found them to spit out my stuff if I don’t pack it carefully.
The rain cover is a wonderful addition. The bag itself is water-resistant, but if you find yourself stuck in a sudden shower, slap on the rain cover and your gear is safe from the elements.
While this bag is a compromise, it’s still one of the most unique and useful bags I’ve ever owned. I don’t consider it a carry all bag; rather I look at it as a bag that carries a little bit of everything. If you’re a professional photographer looking for a location bag this is not it. I’m telling you from experience it just doesn’t hold enough of the type of gear you need and you can’t get at it quickly enough. This bag is great for things like street photography, especially if it’s raining. The Evolution 8 is also great for daily, multipurpose use. If you’re looking for a travel bag, something to hold your laptop and camera and fit in the overhead bin, you might have just found your One Bag to rule them all! If you really need to use it with a DSLR with a battery grip, you can actually shove it in there, but it’s really tight. I like to travel with my camera and laptop all in one bag, and that’s exactly what this bag does best. It holds a myriad of gear in a small package. After a year with this bag I can say that I’m definitely impressed with what Tamrac has come up with. I highly recommend ordering one today!