Friday, November 12, 2010

Tamrac Rally 5 Camera Bag - iPad Users Take Note!

By Chip Lenkiewicz, Penn Camera Tysons Corner
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When our local Tamrac rep showed me the Tamrac Rally 5, and mentioned that it could handle an Apple iPad or a netbook - I immediately got my iPad in the Apple case out to try if for fit. And it was perfect!

I have tried to find the perfect camera bag for lugging my Olympus E-PL1 kit around with my iPad in tow. Yet most bags I came across were for 13" laptops and much too big for my E-PL1 gear.

My list of everyday gear is below, and I can fit all of it (relatively comfortably) in the Rally 5.

  • E-PL1 with the Olympus Zuiko m43 14-150 (hood reversed) and the VF-2 EVF finder attached with a couple spare batteries
  • Olympus Zuiko m43 9-18 (hood attached)
  • Olympus Zuiko 43 50mm/2.0 Macro with the MMF-1 adapter attached and the hood reversed (on loan for testing - thinking I want to add this as my macro and fast portrait lens as well as macro work)
  • Panasonic 20mm/1.7 (my low light "normal" lens)
  • Lensbaby Composer in Nikon mount (hold over from my Nikon kit) with the Promaster m43 to Nikon adapter in a Lensbaby Composer case
  • Lensbaby pouch containing the Lensbaby .6 wide angle/macro converter with the Lensbaby apertures and aperture installer
  • Olympus FL-36R flash with spare batteries with a Stofen Dome attached (sometimes I like to have a less harsh flash than the pop-up gives - and the EP-L1 allows for the pop-up to be used as a wireless flash as well)
  • Circular Polarizing filters for the 14-150 and 9-18 lens
  • Apple iPad with the camera connection kit

All the above fits well with space to spare for small things like my iPhone earbuds, cleaning cloth, and such. And it all comes in at just over 6 pounds! Add my favorite travel tripod - Tamrac Zipshot - to the handle at the top of the bag; and I am still under 7 pounds. So as one can see the Rally 5 has space to spare.

Overall, this is a good-looking bag, and is a messenger bag style - it doesn't scream camera bag. And at its price point, it is very well built. The wide strap is comfortable on long days out. Side expandable pockets work well for the small things that you might need ready access to instead of opening the main bag. Sometimes camera bags offer too many pockets and pouches. In the end this one had just the right amount.

Some may read the above gear and wonder how it all works in the end... sounds kinda of cramped for the above gear. And yes it can be for my regular kit; but not for the way I work. I want a bag that I can travel with (read: get on an airplane) in minimal space, yet offer me the ability to have what I think I might need once I get there.

The way I work is that once I get to where I am going, the camera and my lens choice of the moment is around my neck. That is when the camera bag becomes my staging area. And that is where the Rally 5 bag stood out on a recent outing. It was small enough to handle what I wanted to use; but big enough once I got the E-PL1 out of the way to get access to my lenses and gear that I needed. It also had the pockets I needed to stuff things away when going in and out of museums here in DC.

Others may wonder why carry an iPad along. With the Apple Camera Connection Kit I am able to download my images on the go. With some of the apps I can do some basic edits (and more) and share them instantly. A few months back, I did a day trip to the National Arboretum in the morning; and later in the day over brunch with friends I was able to share pics from that day over brunch! There are times also that I do solo travel.

About 4 years ago or so - did a trip to SF by myself. Five days on my own. A total photography trip! Wish I had the iPad back then. The ability to stop and have a meal and review my images would have been nice. As well as being able to do searches that can be painful even on the likes of an iPhone. Sometimes it is nice to break out from the photographer mode and just catch up on news or a good book as well.

Things that I would have liked to have seen are maybe are a small zipper pocket on the main flap. Would be a great place to stow a P&S camera. And would have been nice to have seen an attachment loop at the base or side of the bag for ZipShot tripod or a water bottle with a hook.

In the end the Rally 5 and the rest of the Tamrac Rally series bags are well worth a look. Do want folks to know that (sort of required under new laws about blogging and such), that I bought this bag for review. And it is a keeper for me.... may end up replacing my other favorite bags - the Crumpler Million Dollar Home bags....