Last year, i posted a review for the Tamrac Pro 8 camera bag that i purchased as a smaller, more portable equivalent to my Billingham 445. At the time, i also decided to buy the larger brother of the Pro 8 camera bag, mainly due to the great design and layout of the bags. This is the review of that larger bag - the Tamrac Pro 12.
The first thing you notice about the Pro 12 is the vast amount of storage space - there are places and pockets for virtually everything. This makes it far easy to find those small items of photography kit that otherwise might become lodged at the bottom of a camera bag. It was this 'organised' look of the bag, that made me want to buy it; someone had obviously thought about how to layout the bag for maximum efficiency. Compared with the Billingham 445, the Pro 12 offers a far easier storage option for items like memory cards, batteries and filters. Finding items like these quickly can often mean the difference between capturing an image or missing it. Locating items is easy and made all the more straight forward by the clear windowpane-mesh pockets. Tamrac have even included some red flaps that can be pulled out to help a busy photographer identify full and empty memory cards at just a glance. If extra room is required, Tamrac offer the Strap Accessory System (SAS) which adds more storage space via pouches on the strap. Film and memory card pouches are just some of the accessories available.
For camera equipment storage, the bag is very similar to the Pro 8. A series of flexible dividers make up the bag's compartment, so that a vast range of equipment can be stored safely. The Tamrac Pro 12 is specifically designed for use with digital or 35mm camera systems but you could, with a little work, use it for medium format. The bag has plenty of depth which is ideal for those with big pro camera systems who find other bags lacking when it comes to storage space. There is plenty of depth for large camera like the Canon EOS-1D mkIII or Nikon D3. Owners of smaller cameras like the Nikon D300 or Canon 5D will find that they have plenty of room. The bag can easily carry two SLR bodies with plenty of room for lenses and a flashgun; I carry five lenses in the bag but there is room for at least another two or three lenses if necessary. Does the bag interior offer the same level of protection as a Billingham bag would? Well no, but the dividers do provide a good level of protection from everyday wear and tear without the weight of the Billingham system. Access to the camera equipment is fast and secure, with two fast release clips for the top and two for the side. A zip fastener, with a storm flap, makes sure that the rain cannot get through to any equipment. During my trip to Norfolk, i was caught in a downpour of heavy rain which tested the bag's waterproof capabilities to the maximum. I was soaked through to the skin, and the bag had water literally pouring off it, but the equipment remained dry inside. Personally, i would rate the Tamrac Pro 12 alongside the Billingham bags for repelling water and keeping gear dry.
Overall i would recommend the Pro 12 if you are looking for a lightweight, modern camera bag that can protect your equipment thoroughly. I would say that Billingham's do offer a higher degree of protection, but that is reflected in the higher weight and price of the Billingham. In an unloaded state, i would estimate that the Tamrac Pro 12 would weigh around a third less than a Billingham 445. This is down to the Ballistic Nylon and Polytek material used in the bag's construction; the metal rings used on the bag are constructed to tight military specifications. This is one TOUGH bag considering the light weight! For a working photographer the Tamrac Pro 12 is ideal. Durability, great design and light weight are just some of the benefits to using this bag. Add the fact that it can hold its own against heavy rain and is easy to carry - i would say it was must have - especially if you already own a Billingham and need a lighter bag for those long distance photographic treks. I purchased my Pro 12 for £90 but i have seen them online for under £80 so it is worth shopping around. For the money, I don't think you can buy a better bag.