|Tamrac 600 Pro Series Bags
by Vivid Light Staff
After several recent shoots that involved a lot of equipment swapping between photographers, I noticed that while we had a variety of small shooting bags, we were all using Tamrac 600 Pro series bags as our "working bags". And we had quite a variety - including the 608, 610, 614, and 622 bags.
Photographers tend to experiment with a lot of different bags, and to have strong opinions on what they do and don't need in their bags. So I thought it was pretty odd that not only were there so many of one manufacturers' bag present, but that they were all from the same series within that manufacturers' lineup.
The 600 pro series is what I refer to as a "classic" camera bag and is available for 35mm and medium format systems. Their rectangular shape is a straight forward design. The bags are flexible without being floppy. Their foam sides bend and form themselves to the equipment inside - offering protection without losing their basic shape.
In 35mm format they hold two bodies with lenses mounted or one body with a long telephoto mounted. Tamrac calls their divider system a "lens gate" system. This refers to how the pockets for the camera bodies fold out to form padding for the attached lenses. There's room for anywhere from four to nine lenses stored vertically depending on the model bag you choose. In the photo of the 614 shown above you can see six of the vertical lens compartments. There is room for three more primes under the body mounted lenses. Room for two additional lenses or flash units can be found under the camera bodies themselves.
Medium format bags don't use the lens gate system, using only the reconfigurable dividers of the 35mm bags, but are otherwise identical. One bag, the 623 is referred to by Tamrac as a "Multi-Format Extended Professional" bag. In plain English that means that this bag is designed to work for a photographer who is shooting medium format and backing it up with a 35mm body. This bag features a single lens gate that allows you to pack for both systems.
On the sides of the bag are two generous pockets large enough to hold filters, accessory cables, exposed film, or lens hoods depending on your bag of choice. The front flap folds down to reveal equipment pockets, pen pockets, and a clear zippered pouch for loose odds and ends. One of the features that I really like about this bag (and some of Lowepro's bags) is the clear film pouch(es) on the bag's lid. Putting all of your film in one of these pouches makes it far easier to clear your film through a hand check at airports. As discussed before, it's too dangerous to risk your film in airport x-rays.
The lid on the bag is secured by both a waterproof zipper and four quick release buckles. There's a generous storm flap over the zipper to keep the elements out, and I've watched several photographers hook only the front two snaps while working - zipping and snapping everything up at days end when transporting the bag home. A pair of tripod straps is included under the front flap on some models.
The handles on two largest bags have an internal torsion bar that helps to distribute weight as these bags can swallow a lot of equipment. The exterior of the bag is made from waterproofed Dupont Cordura except for the back which is covered in nylon pack cloth to keep the bag from abrading your clothes. A new feature added to the back is what Tamrac calls a piggyback pocket. This pocket is basically a slot cut into the back padding that allows you to slide your bag down over the handle of a rolling case or rolling carry-on bag - eliminating the need for those creative bungee cord combinations.
But why are so many photographers in our group using this bag? One reason is that it works. The organization makes sense, things are easy to find, and the individually padded lens slots and lens gates give you the feeling that all of your equipment is well protected. The bags are also roomy. You can pack a lot of stuff into one of them.
Longevity also has something to do with it. In a market that produces dozens of new bags every year, Tamrac's 600 Pro Series bags are a familiar old face having been around virtually unchanged for the last 15 years. These bags are also widely available through a number of retailers and photo specialty stores in this area. Retailers stock these bags because they sell.
Another reason for their popularity is the 600 Series Pro bags hold up extremely well with hard use. Bottoms don't wear out, seams don't split, and most of all they're weather proof.
Asking around, I came up with numerous stories about how these bags had gotten dunkings and drenchings while keeping the equipment inside dry and safe. The photo here is of a 608 bag that went through a day of shooting in a nor'easter that included numerous dunkings in snow drifts and slush hiding under new snow. Yet the inside of the bag remained dry as a bone. I wouldn't want to try dropping one in the river, but the bag performed admirably.
Like every bag this one is a compromise - which means that not only is it not the perfect bag for every photographer - it's not always the perfect bag for the photographers that own them.
One of the virtues of these bags is that they can swallow so much equipment. This is also their curse. When you have room to pack a ton of equipment you do exactly that. Load one of these up with two bodies, a flash, a bunch of lenses, film, all the little accessories they can swallow, and hang a tripod underneath. Now travel to some distant city and walk for 10 hours with that weight dangling from your shoulder. At the end of the day pain killers will definitely be your friend.
This is why some photographers use them as "working bags". When traveling to a new location they'll pack a large complement of gear into one of the larger 600 Pro Series bags. Then they'll transfer a smaller selection of equipment into a "shooting bag" to walk around with. As they drive to different places they'll work from the trunk of their rental car swapping equipment between bags depending on the situation and location.
Another annoyance is that the front pocket has no retaining strap to keep it from dropping open when unzipped. Unzip the front pocket while working with the bag on your shoulder and it drops straight down and hangs below the bag and woe to you and anything you have dropped into the pocket and not secured. Small retaining straps on either side of the pocket flap would be a God send - allowing you to use it as a small shelf and keeping the pockets contents safe and sound.
More importantly, the shoulder strap has become dated. More modern designs are contoured to the curve of your shoulder and help to distribute the weight. This is especially important if you've got the bag loaded down with gear for a long day of tromping around. Straps from other manufacturers can easily be fitted, but its past time for Tamrac to redesign the strap on these otherwise excellent bags.
Finally, some folks have told us that in older versions of this bag that have received hard use, the dense foam in the sides has lost some of it's stiffness, allowing the bag to flop when you put it down, rather then standing up as straight as it did when new.
There is no perfect camera bag, but rather a collection of bags that fit your shooting style and a given situation. Many photographers have found that this bag does a good job at filling their needs. The Tamrac 600 Pro Series bags are definitely worth a look if you think they'll fit your style - as they do for a surprising number of photographers.
It was odd that there were so many of one type of bag present...
Asking around, I came up with numerous stories about how these bags had gotten dunkings and drenchings
They'll work from the trunk of their rental car swapping equipment between bags
text and photography copyright © 2001 Vivid Light Publishing