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Just bought the bag today, and already LOVE IT!!Easy to carry, rests on my hip, and holds my camera + cards + extra battery + phone, maps, etc.Would have liked a divided mesh pocket for cards, but since this bag had 98% of what I wanted--almost perfect!Does not look like a camera bag, and is unisex. $45 sale at Black's.
I always used to be an SLR camera user and I was one of the old dinosaurs who fought digital for a long time before giving in to the inevitable. My poor old SLR got consigned to a cupboard and I moved on to compact digital cameras. Then just under 3 years ago my lovely husband bought me a digital SLR and I was back in love with 'proper' cameras again. I was however still lugging my brand spanking new DSLR around in my old camera bag; a case of one foot in the present and the other in the past.
My old Antler camera bag had annoyed me for a long time. It had lots of little pockets which seemed to be designed to ensure that what I wanted was always in the last place that I looked, had a strap that could only be worn on the shoulder or round my neck (making me look seriously nerdy) and most limiting of all it had just a single, undivided central compartment. When I realised that I really did need to carry a spare lens to ensure I could cover most situations, I smelt a fine opportunity to make a good excuse to buy a new camera bag so that I wasn't trotting round with a camera bag on my shoulder and a spare lens wrapped in a bag in my handbag. Time to move on, time to join the 21st century with regards to camera bags.
I did what I do with most things photographic - something for which camera shops probably hate us - and went to the camera shop in the town where my mother lives to get an idea of what was available and what I might need. Whilst browsing I came across the company 'Tamrac' amongst the more familiar names, scribbled down their name and headed home to check out their range online. It's hard for shops to compete when they have limited display space but by going to the Tamrac website I could check out the whole range and in the process I found what I hadn't been looking for but instantly realised was what I wanted, the Tamrac Aria series.
It's important to know what you want from a bag or most likely you'll blunder around and buy something that's not quite right. My wish list was not too complicated but I wasn't willing to compromise on the few important points. Firstly I wanted a bag I could wear across my body - a so-called 'messenger' bag - and ideally one that wouldn't make me look like a Second World War kid carrying their gas mask. Secondly I wanted a bag that was 'big enough but not too big' and could carry my DSLR plus a spare lens with space for a few spare batteries and such like. I didn't want something so big that I'd be tempted to stuff it full of stupid, weighty things. Thirdly I wanted a bag that didn't look TOO much like a camera bag. The Tamrac Aria series ticked all the boxes and the Aria 3 was the smallest in the range and seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. It was available in three colours - a muddy brown, a black and a khaki green.
Tamrac have an amazing range of camera bags for amateur enthusiasts as well as the pros who want to carry thousands of pounds of gear around with them. They have shoulder bats, messenger bags, back packs, small bags and even weird bags that look a bit like gun holsters. If there's a way to strap a camera to a human, Tamrac seem to have got it sussed. The Aria bags are some of the simplest in the range and for me, simple is a good thing. I don't want to be fussing around unzipping 20 pockets every time I need to change my battery.
~Order and delivery~
I shopped around and ordered my Tamrac Aria 3 from Wexphotographic.com who beat the Amazon price by enough to make me part with real money rather than my stash of Amazon credits. I paid a few pence less than £45 which was about £7 less than Amazon's price at the time and I ordered the green bag. Delivery was included in the price and the bag arrived a few days later. I've used it all through the summer and just returned from a two week holiday where I used it every day and I now feel I've had enough exposure to the bag to be ready to review it.
The Aria 3 is about the size of a mid-sized handbag. I took the measurements off the Tamrac website which tells me that the internal dimensions of the bag are 23 x 11 x 19cm, whilst the external dimensions are slightly bigger at 24 x 14 x 20cm. The bag weighs just 340g. For me this is smaller than most of my handbags and a size that can comfortably bounce around on my hip without any discomfort. The strap is easily long enough for me to wear it across my body with the bag sitting at a non-nerdy position, thank goodness. The strap is made of tough, lightweight black nylon with a padded section that can be positioned at your neck to stop the strap digging into you. It doesn't look terribly much like a camera bag and unlike those bags with easily recognisable camera brands on them, the tiny little 'Tamrac' logo on the flap is not something that will draw the eye of an opportunistic thief.
The bag has a main compartment with moveable dividers which break it up into 3 sections. My camera and whichever lens is attached goes in the centre, the other lens in one side section and the third is left for whatever else I want to stuff in there such as my compact camera, my wallet or my sunglasses. I could get the camera in with two additional lenses but at the moment I'm just sticking to the main lens and one extra. This compartment has a zip across the top and then the flap closes over the front of the bag. I can leave the flap undone and the zip done up for quick access or leave the zip undone and the flap over and clipped in place. If my husband is around when I'm changing lenses he knows his job is to hold the lens when I'm moving things around but if I'm on my own, having access to the compartment gives me effectively an extra 'hand' to hold things. The main compartment also has a zipped pocket on the inside where I keep my circular polariser and carry my credit card and any cash I need with me. Any pick pocket would have to get through a clip and two zips to get my dosh.
All the other pockets are outside the main compartment. The largest is a long zipped pocket on the front of the bag but under the cover flap. This pocket has a 'bellows' type structure that means you can get quite a lot into it. I use it for my spare batteries, memory card, lens wipes and things like that. There are narrow, deep pockets, one on each end of the bag and my mobile phone fits perfectly into either of these but on holiday I use them to keep my 'Buff' hats or a packet of emergency tissues (always carry tissues in India - you never know when you'll need a pee). My bottle of hand sanitizer or a small bottle of sun block would also fit in these. The final pocket is on the back of the bag, lying next to your body, and is open at the top so you can just slide your hand in for anything you need quickly. I use this for my notebook.
The bag is made from water-resistant nylon which the manufacturers claim feels 'like silk' which is a bit of an exaggeration, but it's a pleasant enough texture. The colour is a rather military khaki and I have seen reviews in which people have asked why we can't have some 'pretty' colours. Now I personally am perfectly happy with sludgy green and don't feel the urge to draw attention to myself with a lavender or duck-egg blue camera bag although I can understand that some 'ladies' might find the choice of '3 shades of sludge' to be a little unexciting. On the plus side, when I'm messing about, rolling on the floor playing with my gorilla pod or generally behaving in an unladylike manner, my husband is quite happy to walk around carrying my Tamrac bag. I'm not SO sure he'd do that if it was pink.
~Does it work?~
If you are the type of person who's likely to drop your camera bag out of a helicopter or off a bridge then your camera is going to hate you, pretty much regardless of what bag you buy. The padding on this bag is quite light but keeping in mind that you can wear it across your body, I think it's a design that's intrinsically unlikely to get dropped. It's not going to appeal to a professional who wants a bomb-proof case, but for me it offers a great combination of lightweight protection, lots of handy and well-thought out pockets, just the right size for my specific needs, and a bag that's both comfortable to wear and doesn't scream 'Expensive camera here, come and steal me'. At £45 I consider this to be one of my 2012 'Best Buys' and I recommend it highly if you have similar needs to mine.