Tamrac Evolution 9 Review


BBA (Bag Buying Addiction) is the lesser known but equally debilitating cousin to LBA (Lens Buying Addiction) that every photographer suffers from at some stage in their life, just as you can always find a reason to buy yet another lens, there is always a reason to buy yet another camera bag, for me the reason that I bought the Tamrac Evolution 9 (Model 5789) was ‘I have too many camera bags!’

The why…


Let me explain!.. Just before I bought this my collection consisted of :-

  • Tamrac Expedition 9X
  • Tamrac Expedition 8X
  • Lowepro Fastpack 350
  • Kata 3in1 30
The Expedition 9x is the main bag that carries the F* 250-600mm lens so it’s purpose is well defined and earns it’s place in the kit list.

The Expedition 8X was already owned before the large lens and was bought to carry as much kit as possible including my 17″ MacBook Pro.

The Fastpack 350 was my everyday bag to take laptop and camera to work and back.

The Kata 3in1 was originally bought for it’s aircraft use to go on honeymoon and also for when only a light kit or sling use was needed.

So, 1 bag to replace 3? Does it make sense? Well it certainly seems to, let me explain! Since the purchase of the F* 250-600mm at the end of 2010 and very recently the addition of an A* 200mm F4 Macro our collection of lenses has dwindled quite dramatically to fund the new arrivals.

A total of 7 lenses have been replaced with just the 2 ! This obviously changed what was needed from the carrying solution and I had always liked the look of the Evolution 8, Tamrac bags just do seem to ooze quality and the brown one had an appeal!

The Evolution 8 was never an option though for one main reason, the laptop didn’t fit! One inch taller and I would have bought one ages ago!

The Evolution 9…


Enter the Evolution 9, exactly the same as it’s smaller family member, just bigger! Laptop fits easily (so does the 250-600 but more of that later) and because of the size, all of our remaining lenses (except the 250-600!) fit along with 2 gripped bodies and flashguns.

So 3 bags replaced, the all in one bag, the laptop bag and the lighter use bag (just remove the laptop!).

Some of the best features of the other bags are there too.

The strap management from the Kata as an example where unused straps can be tucked away, (the waist straps also in these 2 pics) allowing the bag to be set up to sling either to the left or right hand side.


Having the bag setup as a sling bag is an option that I very rarely use and only when I have a very basic kit with me, as an example if I am out on a recce for a location I might only have the camera (gripped) with just the 16-50 & 60-250 with me so having the bag set up as a sling makes for a quick and easy lens change.

Normally though the bag is setup as normal for both shoulders because for everyday use I am carrying the laptop to work as well and this helps to spread the weight.

The waist straps are normally tucked away in day to day use as they are not needed for a very short walk to and from work, this does save for an unsightly mess of unused straps!

When loaded and on a bit of a trek though, they are very easy to pull out to help spread the weight over my ample hips as well!

As you may have seen from the pictures so far, as it is possible to set up the bag for either left or right handed use as a sling bag and as such both sides have both a zipped pocket for easy camera access and a smaller pocket above them.

 

This can work out very useful as the pockets are the same size on both sides of the bag, so where you would access the bag on one side to get to your camera, you can use the other side to easily access other lenses for example.

The smaller pockets that flank both sides at the top of the bag have a netted  section to hold items in such as spare AA batteries or filters as an example.

There is also another zipped storage space on the inside that is more than large enough to take a modern smartphone or alternatively items such as a passport or a press pass could be kept here.

In one of these pockets you will find the rain cover!

This is one of the key reasons in updating my every day bag! A rain cover was to be  found in the Kata 3in1 30 but was sadly lacking from the Fastpack 350 (even though most Lowepro bags have an AW option, this line does not!)

It might not sound like that big a deal,  but I do like a well made, well thought out option like this especially when it has been designed properly for its intended use.

When needed it takes little time to remove the cover and protect the bag. As it is elasticated it completely covers the front and the sides of the bag. Very important when you consider the cost of the laptop and camera kit that I can fit in there!

 

Ideal for a laptop…


As you may have gathered, I do value the ability to carry a laptop with me with my camera gear, not just for going to work, but when I am out in the field as well!

Whether it has been going away for a weekend wedding so I can show the days images on the large screen at the bar in the evening, a nights stay at a hotel so I can review the shoot from during the day or visiting family and showing them my latest images, having a laptop with me has proven to be invaluable.

The Evolution 9 takes my 17″ MacBook Pro with ease but if you only have a 15″ model and not as much kit, the Evolution 8 may be better for you.

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21 comments

  • Jay

    Just a word of thanks, Danny. I have looked high and low for some of the answers you have provided and it was certainly worth the effort. I am in good shape, but at 72, some of my parts (body) don’t hold up as well as they once did. Running around with a heavy shoulder bag, a bag for the I-Book, occassionaly audio gear plus a suitcase during extended travel has lost its charm. In the airport and train station as well as the field, the Evolution 9 appears to be the best possible solution.

    Besides answering questions you gave me excellent ideas on setting up the bag.

    You write very well and the images supported the words perfectly. And speaking of images, I had never seen your work before. It is truly remarkable.

    Again, my sincere thanks.

    Jay.

    • Many thanks for the kind words Jay, they are very warmly received.

      Sometimes I feel that I may have made this review too long but like yourself couldn’t find a thorough review of the 9 as the 8 had been out for a while and it felt like the 9 had been overlooked, so thought that needed rectifying! Glad it has been of help to you, good to know it’s worth the effort.

      Just hope I can be in as good shape as yourself if I make 72!

      Take care

      Danny.

  • Charles

    Danny,

    Thank you very much for taking the time to write this review, it was incredibly helpful in making my decision to buy this bag.

    Cheers,

    Charles

  • You’re welcome!

  • Denis BOSQUET

    Hi Danny,
    Thank you for this very informative review. It comes very handy as I am in the process of replacing my 2 year old Lowepro Slingshot 202AW bag which has become to small and does not accommodate my laptop.
    After much research I have retained the Tamrack Evolution bag as being the most suitable for my application.
    I am still however hesitating between Evolution 8 and 9.
    My laptop is 14″ Toshiba which is obviously much smaller than your 17″ and does not require such a large compartment.
    I have tested Evolution 8 and been able to fit all my current kit with a limited spare space.
    I am tempted by Evolution 9 as it provides spare capacity for my ever expending lens kit. unfortunately it is not available in photo shops near me. (I live in Australia).
    My main concern is that Evolution 9 may not be accepted as carry on baggage by certain airlines as it is 50 mm thicker than Evolution8.
    From my calculations it would appear that on Evolution 9 bottom section is 20mm deeper internally which would make laptop section 40 mm thicker.
    Have you tried flying with your Evolution 9 as carry on luggage?
    Thank you for your advice.
    Denis

    • Hi Denis

      Have only been on one flight with this bag, from UK to Barcelona with Easyjet and had no problems using it as my only carry on luggage. Obviously this is airline dependant and when I travelled my bag wasn’t weighed so YMMV as they say!

      Regards

      Danny.

  • zoe

    excellent review. I have a question though. I’m gonna get a gaming notebook soon in a 17 inch form factor, probably an alienware m17x r4. can it fit in this bag? if it can’t, what bag can you suggest?

    • Hi Zoe

      Have an Alienware 17″ laptop here and can confirm that it is way too thick to fit!

      Regards

      Danny.

  • Nirmal

    Hello Danny,

    Great article! I was confused between the expedition 8x and the evolution 9. I had my DSLR, 3 lenses and my 17″ MBP to carry and was searching for the right bag. Your review found me the answer and I ordered this bag right after I finished reading. Thanks for taking the time. Much appreciated!

    Take care.

    Cheers,
    nirmal

  • Hey Danny! Thanks for the writeup. *VERY* useful. I need a new camera/laptop bag for air travel. Specifically, something that I know will fit under the seat in front of me.

    I am considering the Evolution 9 and the Fastpack 350. I know the E9 will hold more gear. Any feedback on how well it fits under an airline seat? Any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Hi Patrick, sorry haven’t tried it under a seat, but had no problems taking it on an Easyjet flight and putting in the overhead locker.

      Danny.

  • Kenyatta Gibbs

    Hi Danny. This is an excellent review, and I wish there were more of this calibre around. You have answered all my questions and some I did not know I had, like removing the middle panel to make a single compartment rucksack. Thanks

  • Bill Martheleur

    Thanks for the great review of the tamarac evolution 9. I have a d7000 nikon plus the mbd11 grip. I usually use the 18-105 zoom, however i have a 35 mm prime, a 11-16 Tokina, and a Nikon 105 micro. Also like to carry my ipad. I like to leave the grip on most of the time and am wondering if the 8 or 9 is best for me? Thanks

    • Hi Bill

      The straight answer is, I’m not sure! When trying out the 6, it definately would not take a gripped body I remember that but cannot remember if the 8 was ok or not! Off the top of my head, I think it was a tight fit, so best try before you buy if you can.

      One thing I can confirm if it helps is that an iPad does fit under the large front access panel which is good if you want to carry both a laptop and an iPad.

  • Stephanie

    Hi, I have a question.
    The waist strap that we see in your pictures are included with the bag, right? It would be my first time getting a Tamrac bag, and I want to make it does have a waist belt, as I will be walking long distances with it.
    Thank you very much,
    Stephanie

    • Hi Stephanie

      Just had to get the bag and check as I forgot all about them!

      Yes, I can confirm they are definately there and attached to the bag, can also confirm that when you don’t want to use them, they are very easily hidden away!

      Danny.

  • Hi Danny,

    I am late on considering this to buy, but better late than never. I was wondering if you could answer few questions to help me make up my mind:
    1. Can I access my Pentax k-5 IIs with Pentax 300 mm lens on from side portal?
    2. Since I will carry the above plus a Pentax K-50, a Pentax medium range zoom and 1.4xTC (no laptop), can I tuck in a light rain jacket and a rain pant somewhere? I am thinking perhaps jacket or a pant only, but am not sure.

    Best regards,

    Suhail

    • Hi Suhail

      1. Yes! There’s plenty of room with the DA*60-250mm attached on a K-3 from the side.
      2. The K-50, zoom & extender should also fit in the main camera compartment (I get in a K-5 gripped, K-3 Gripped, 60-250, 16-50, 12-24, 100mm WR Macro in there!) so you should be able to easily fit light rain cover clothing in too, possibly both in the laptop slot, leaving the top for lunch!

      Regards

      Danny

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