I can now tick item #1 off my wishlist: I have a new camera bag! Hooray! As a woman, of course I am very excited about getting another bag :) The bag I chose in the end was the Tamrac Express 7.
My Tamrac Express 7. My Canon 1000D and other camera gear are all in here for the photos, so all pictures in this post were taken with my old Canon Ixus 40. Note the minimalist brand logo on the front (the only indication of the brand, aside from a tiny hidden "Tamrac" embroidered on one side).
You can see from my photos that it is a slim-profile khaki-coloured shoulder bag with a suede desert-coloured feature panel on the flap. It sits well on my shoulder, is padded on the inside and sturdy (but still light), and not too bulky. The shoulder strap is padded and curved so it is comfy on my shoulder, and the strap can be made long enough to sling the bag across my body.
One side of the Tamrac with the shoulder strap draped across. You can see that the shoulder piece is curved and padded, and the black stuff gives the strap extra grip on your shoulder. The strap links to the bag with plastic attachments.
What I love most (and why I chose this bag), is that I can walk around with it on my shoulder and it doesn’t advertise that it is a camera bag. In fact the only noticeable brand advertising is the stitched logo on the front of the bag (and the tamrac logo is a subtle design). The design and colours of it just make it seem like any old shoulder bag, and the added bonus is that the neutral natural colours also match well with my everyday clothes . The black version would of course “match” with more clothes, but I just thought the black looked a bit too blah and like a camera bag to me.
Front "speedflap" pocket open. Good for holding some flat papers or lens cap. You wouldn't want anything big in this pocket or it will look too bulky.
The design of the bag is basically just a flap (the “speed-flap”) that covers the main compartment and front zippered pocket and seals in front with velcro and buckle. The advantage of not having a zippered main compartment is that when it is over your shoulder you can just quickly unclip, flip up the flap, and easily grab your camera out. The disadvantage is that I suppose thieves could easily get in too – but if a thief is going to nick your stuff while you are carrying it an extra zipper won’t stop them getting in or grabbing it off you!
The unusual buckle design on the front of the Tamrac. The photo is showing it unbuckled and in the exact position you need it to be in to clip it shut.
The velcro is really good, so you don’t have to clip the buckle back in if you are going in and out of your bag a lot. The buckle is an unusual design and you have to make sure it is lined up well for it to click in, so it can be a bit of a pain to clip back up if you are in a hurry. I have seen someone else add an extra square of velcro either side of the main one for added strength (so they don’t have to use the clip when going in and out of their bag) which I think that is a great idea so I am going to do the same.
The front of the Tamrac with the flap open. You can see the square velcro and the front zippered compartment.
The interior of the main body of the bag is foam padded and separated into 3 compartments with vertical padded dividers that can be adjusted using the velcro (this can be fiddly – the velcro sticks well!). Three additional horizontal dividers can be placed within these compartments to allow for a total of six separate compartments within the bag.
The main compartment inside the Tamrac. I have pulled out one of the horizontal dividers so you can see what they look like. The velcro on the horizontal dividers sticks to the velcro you can see on the vertical dividers (which can also be repositioned).
There is plenty of room in this bag to fit my Canon 1000D with the 18-55mm lens attached and my 55-250mm lens. My camera is stored lens-side down in the centre partition of the bag (which I widened to allow the body to sit deeper), and the other lens is stored in another partition to the side. The third partition is empty so far – I need to buy more gear to fill it up!
What is currently in my Tamrac: my Canon EF-S 55-250mm IS lens and my Canon 1000D (Canon Rebel XS or Canon Kiss F) with 18-55mm lens. You can see I have a whole section spare!
There is plenty of room to add new gear in this bag. My camera can be raised back up and a divider made below it for a small lens (like a nifty fifty). A narrow lens can be placed in each partition either side of the main camera, or a lens and a speedlite flash. If the lenses aren’t long, you could fit two on one side and separate the levels with padded dividers. My camera body is not very big, but if your camera does have a larger body you might only manage with just a small flash – camera body with attached lens – narrow lens arrangement, or camera body with attached lens – lens arrangement.
How my camera and spare lens fit into the bag. You can see I have plenty of room for extra items, and how there is room to raise up my camera so there is a compartment underneath (I also have the spare horizontal dividers under it boosting it up more).
There is also a roomy zippered pocket on the front of the bag which will hold most of your “bitsy” photography gear. Inside are two pouches, a zippered pocket, two pen holders, and the the main pocket itself. It’s quite roomy – you can really shove a fair bit of stuff in here and still buckle up your bag!
Inside the front zippered pocket: there are two open compartments which will fit cleaning gear, filters, etc, another zippered pocket to store other bits, and then the main compartment itself which can store whatever else you need!
Another nifty feature is the “piggy-back” airline pocket on the back that allows you to slip your bag over the handles of those wheeled carryon bags (demonstrated in the photo with my clipboard!). There is also another zippered pocket on the back, but again I would just put thin items in there to stop it looking bulky.
The back zippered pocket, which would be handy for storing thin papers (so you don't bulk it out), and the airline "piggy-back pocket" which can slip over your wheeled carry-on luggage.
Finally, there is a cellphone pocket on one side which my Blackberry Bold actually fits into really well. My phone is just snug enough so it doesn’t feel like it will fall out, but not so snug it is a drama to get it in and out.
The side mobile phone/ mp3 player pocket. My Blackberry Bold fits in here really well, as does my iPod Classic (an iPhone would fit well too).
Overall I am very pleased with this bag! I purchased it online without ever looking at it in person, and had to rely on the very few reviews I could find. I am very relieved that it is just right for me! It is perfect for someone who doesn’t have a lot of photography gear (like me) and/or doesn’t want to carry around a bunch of gear when out and about with their camera. As the strap attachments and buckle are plastic, you wouldn’t want to test them by loading up this bag with a pile of heavy gear – but then that would defeat the purpose of having a slim-profile walk-around bag! The bag would stand up to some light spotty rain, but it is not waterproof so don’t go out in a heavy downpour (I am not going to go out in weather that would damage my camera when taking photos, so no problems for me there). This is a fantastic bag, but if you don’t quite like the exterior design, check out the Tamrac Adventure Messenger 4 which seems to have a similar build but different colours. The bag feels strong, well made, and nicely padded, and is an ease to carry around.
If there is anything else you want to know about this bag, feel free to ask questions in the comments below.
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