Tamrac Evolution 6 Review

Rule number 5: There’s no such thing as a perfect camera bag.
Doesn’t stop me trying though!

I’ve finally got round to reviewing the Tamrac Evolution 6 like I said I would.

Why the Evolution 6? Well, I wanted a bag big enough to carry a camera and two lenses at least, plus a few accessories. I wanted the comfort of a backpack and the ease of access of a shoulder bag, so that limited my choices to Lowepro’s Versapack or Primus, Kata’s 3-N-1 20 and Tamrac’s Evolution 6. The problem with the Primus and the 3-N-1 is that you can only access one side of the bag because of the way the internal dividers attach to the bag. I wanted to access both sides, one to get at my camera, the other to get at lenses. The only option was the Evolution.

Why haven’t I mentioned the Versapack? Well let’s just say that the Versapack is probably the worst camera bag I have ever used. I really don’t know what Lowepro were thinking when they designed that one!! (I can feel a Lowepro rant coming on, but I’ll stop there.)

I actually hesitated on the Tamrac bag for a long time, because I just didn’t like the look of it. The 3-N-1 looks great. The evolution doesn’t look great in the catalogue, but I couldn’t afford the Kata and the Tamrac bag was going for good price, so I bought it. I must say that it does look a lot nicer in the flesh than it does online. It actually didn’t take long for me to really like the bag from an aesthetic point of view. But enough about looks, how does it perform?

Features

The Evolution 6 is a two compartment bag, the bottom compartment holds the camera gear, the top one holds a few extra bits and bobs, though don’t expect it to hold much. The straps can be configured allowing the backpack to be used as a backpack, left sling or right sling bag. Straps can be tucked away when not in use. There are loops for Tamrac’s strap accessory system, which to be honest, I’ve never really seen the point of. It has a front access pocket for each compartment, two side access pockets for the camera compartment and two smaller side pockets for small accessories, one of which holds a rain cover.

Comfort.

The main reason for buying the bag was comfort and after a full day in the blazing sun, it didn’t give me any bother. No aching shoulders, no discomfort, no shifting of the straps. It was just a joy to carry around. The straps are not very wide, but well padded.

There is a sternum strap which helps during long periods of walking. There is also a waist belt which I have to admit, I tucked away and didn’t use. The bag sits quite high on the back which means I can have a waist belt with pouches without them and the bag getting in each other’s way.

Size

The Evolution 6 is a smallish bag actually, but easily fit a Nikon D90 with 18-105, a Nikon 70-300 ED, flash gun, waterproof jacket, battery, cards, lens pens, lens hoods, camera manual, and a few extra bits and bobs. The top compartment isn’t that big, so don’t expect to get a lot in there. It’s padded, so you could happily put an extra camera body or lens in it (which I did for half the day.) I had a small jacket and a couple of snacks in there as well as a lens, but more than that and you’ll struggle. If you need to carry a bit more, the Evolution 6 has a bigger brother – the Evolution 8.

Ease of Use

I used the bag as a back pack and just slid the bag off a shoulder depending on what side of the bag I needed to access. It was easy, fast and a joy to use. I didn’t have to put the bag down to get at the gear I wanted. Perfect.

One thing I was really glad to see was the number of dividers. I hate it when camera companies skimp on the internal dividers, but Tamrac gave more than enough. In fact I had to take one out of the bag for my configuration. Well done Tamrac.

Well done too for actually thinking about dual sided access. The dividers are what make this possible; they don’t attach to the sides, they attach to the edges, leaving all the available hatches available. Genius. Why no-one else has figured that out is beyond me, but kudos to Tamrac for figuring that out.

It comes with Tamrac’s tripod foot pocket and attachment strap for putting a small tripod on the back. The pocket is just about big enough for one tripod foot, so the tripod isn’t very stable – making the pocket big enough to hold two feet would have been better. Having said that, it adds a fair amount to the weight of the bag and makes the bag awkward to use, but it’s nice to have the option.

In Conclusion

Overall, it’s hard to fault the Evolution 6. Sure, the top compartment could be bigger, the tripod system could be improved and the top accessory pockets aren’t really designed to hold much, but I can’t really find much else to pick on.

I set out to find a bag that held a camera, a couple of lenses, flash and extra bits and pieces, was comfortable for a whole day of shooting and a bag that allowed me to get at my gear easily and quickly. The Evolution 6 ticks all those and then some. I give it a nine out of ten. Not perfect, but near enough.

Pics

Easily fits a D90 and the camera comes out of the hatch without a struggle. The top pocket fits a mobile.

The other side showing the 18-105 attached to the D90. On either side is a Nissin Di622 flash and a Nikon 70-300ED and a couple of lens pens.

What I keep in the top compartment: a 1ltr snugpack holding charger, remote release and cables, batteries for camera and flash, lens hoods, quick strap (imitation black rapid) including attachment plate, pen, soft box for the flash, cloth, lens cap and body cap. It’s a tight squeeze, but it all fits.

Advertisements

Waddington Air Show 2011

Much of my teenage years were spent engaged with airplanes, either making models, flying them, or going to air shows, but I was an Air Cadet, so I had an excuse. I haven’t been to many air shows since, in fact, only one a few years ago, and since my Dad and I are both embarking on a photographic journey, it seemed a good challenge to shoot an air show. (As well as being an excuse to enjoy the spectacle again.)

The last time I went to an air show was really the first time I photographed one; armed with a Zenit 11 and a telephoto zoom up to 200mm. The lens wasn’t long enough – got lots of pictures of dots in the sky – and to add insult to injury, the Zenit chose that day to have shutter problems, so all the negatives had dark and light bands across them. For me, this was an opportunity to try again.

RAF Waddington is not far from where both of us live, so it was a good location. It’s also one of the biggest RAF shows still running. Added to which, not only were the Red Arrows flying, but the Battle of Britain Memorial flight, the Sally B B-17, the last flying Vulcan bomber and the USAF Thunderbirds. What’s not to like about that line up.

The sky was pretty good. Clear blue with gathering cloud, so there was potential for some nice backgrounds to the flying display. The biggest challenge though was that we were shooting directly into the sun. Another challenge was the fence. Rather than take our chances with finding a good spot, we opted for an enclosure where we could come and go. Only some bright spark sat the enclosure about ten feet away from the fence, so any take off and landing shots were going to have that at the bottom of the pic. The last challenge were people moving to and fro between displays, so often, I’d line the camera up, follow the plane, and someone would be standing right where I wanted the shot. Oh well. It was a lot of fun, and the problems became part of the fun.

I set +1.5 exposure compensation to cope with shooting into the sun and slapped it on shutter priority and high continuous shooting. I took about 500 shots and still missed most of the crossovers from the Red Arrows and the Thunderbirds. You really do need fast reflexes, even with a high burst rate.

Highlight of the day was, without doubt, the Red Arrows. I’ve seen them several times and they never fail to impress. My favourite shot of the day was an unusual one, of a lone Hawk hidden partially by smoke trails. I like it because it’s different, and it somehow evokes the grace and the excitement of their display.Lone Red Arrow Hawk

Another Red Arrows pic I liked was of the Apollo formation sweeping around. My only regret with this one was just clipping the bottom wing of the formation. I still like it though.Red Arrows in Apollo Formation

The Thunderbirds were a massive contrast to the Red Arrows, fast and brash, yet lacking the finesse and grace of the Arrows. They were certainly harder to photograph. I got some good formation shots, but the cloud cover was getting thicker, so the backgrounds are just blah, but the shot of a single F16 climbing is my favourite. It is in just the right position to make the picture.Lone Thunderbird F-16 Climbing

Sadly, in an attempt to capture prop blur, the Battle of Britain Memorial flight ended up blurred themselves, but I managed several of the Sally B, the photo uploaded here is of her masquerading as the Memphis Belle – she has Sally B on one side, and Memphis Belle on the other – coming home with a stricken engine.Memphis Belle Coming Home

The last photo I’m posting from the day was one I grabbed quickly as we walked past, but seeing a British Airborne trooper chatting away to the Luftwaffe just seemed funny. I’ve de-saturated the pic and added some noise to try and re-create the era. Certainly a change of pace here.Got any Secret Plans Mate?

The air show was a great day, but as a photographic excursion, was a lot of fun. I learned a lot from the day and I aim to go back next year and try to get the shots I missed this year.

Good News for Pentax?

It is quite ironic how things turn out sometimes.

It was announced today that Ricoh have bought the Pentax camera business from Hoya, specifically the interchangeable lens part of the business. Other aspects will be retained by Hoya.

I have to say, my gut feeling is that this is probably the best news Pentax fans could have hoped for. I’m a big fan of the Pentax brand, and the company. The company were approachable and I could purchase all sorts of bits and bobs for legacy camera models from them, plus they had almost all (if not all) of their camera manuals available online in PDF format long before Nikon and Canon, both of which could learn from Pentax’s approach to customer service.

Not only that, but I learned more about photography from Pentax User groups than I did from photography magazines. They are a good bunch of photographers.

Pentax’s future was a bit ropey before they were bought by Hoya, even more so afterwards. Yes, Pentax have continued to improve their SLR’s and delivered the long promised 645D since the buy-out, but how much of that was already in place, and how much can be ascribed to Hoya’s management is up for debate. (I would say Hoya had little influence over those.) That said, the purchase seems to show that somewhere in Hoya’s management circles, they either didn’t have a long term plan for Pentax, or they didn’t really know what to do with it.

For me, Pentax couldn’t have found a better suitor than Ricoh. There is a history there, and it’s a good one. Ricoh’s line of SLR cameras used the Pentax K mount and some of them were better than those made by Pentax. Yes, both companies have made some dodgy decisions over the years, (Mirai anyone? SF-Series?), but Ricoh seem to have settled into the digital era nicely, carving themselves out a happy little niche. Ok, Pentax came late to the party and have struggled to find a seat ever since, but with the 645D, they’re carving their own little niche.

The fact that Ricoh now want to break out of their niche market spot is a good sign for the company, and if Pentax can be a part of that, then it’s a good sign for the future of Pentax too. Today’s news should certainly bolster both brands, if only to get people talking about them in a positive way again.

Interestingly, Hoya’s statement also indicated two further aspects of their roadmap, the second of which does look interesting. What Ricoh’s ‘value-added services’ will look like is anyone’s guess, but it will be probably be something cloudy. Personally, I’d like Ricoh to just concentrate on shoring up it’s line of camera’s, improve it’s channels and cement the roadmap for both brands. I’m not sure the value-added stuff will be that value-added, though I hope I’m wrong. I hope it is something a little different, that will actually wow everyone and draw more customers to the brands. I’m skeptical, but Ricoh are photographer oriented, so it could be something worthwhile.

But that’s all in the future. For now, that future looks pretty good.

Hoya’s statement can be found here…

 http://www.hoya.co.jp/english/news/latest/d0h4dj0000001fv8-att/d0h4dj0000001fwi.pdf