Photo accessory belt systems have become increasingly popular over the past few years as enthusiast and professional photographers have switched from more cumbersome and less accessible options in preference of the convenience and versatility that a belt with various component pouches provides.
Wedding and event photographers are particularly enamored with the belt systems as they are as functional as the often-used photographers vests but look a lot more stylish.
One of the most prominent manufacturers of camera bags, backpacks and accessory carrying is Tamrac. Producing camera-carrying systems since 1977, Tamrac has established a reputation as being functional and affordable throughout its’ product range.
I recently had the opportunity to test the Tamrac M.A.S. The Tamrac Modular Accessory System is exactly that; a camera accessory carrying system that is comprised of several constituent parts dependent upon the needs of the photographer. The M.A.S. line consists of 21 different pieces including six different sized pouches for lenses, two different flash pouches, a filters pouch and several other multi-purpose pouches and three different sized belts.
The belt is the heart of the Tamrac M.A.S. system. Any belt accessory carrying system needs to have a solid belt that instills confidence that precious lenses are not going to end up crashing to the ground.
Tamrac’s belt does exactly that! It is heavy duty and yet is surprisingly comfortable. Even when fully laden the belt is sufficiently wide (almost four inches at the back) and padded so as to distribute the weight across a broad area as the belt sits on your hips.
Not only is the belt comfortable, its fastening is very secure ensuring that once its on your hips it will not move.
The belt is comprised of two pieces; the inner padded belt that rests against the body and a broad two-inch wide outer strap to which the pouches attach via Velcro-backed flaps. The belt provides room for five separate component pouches each defined by stitched separators.
The component pouches vary in size and design dependent upon need. There is a pouch sufficiently large for a 70-200MM lens and other smaller pouches for smaller zooms or fixed focal length lenses.
All the lens pouches have a similar design; semi-rigid padded circular walls and base that accommodate the lens perfectly. The pouch lid is made of similar material and is zipped up by a single zipper. The pouches are designed such that the attachment mechanism is a large Velcro-backed flap that loops through the belt and attaches to itself. The Vecro flap is supplemented by two pop clasps. The pouches are very securely attached to the belt.
The pouches accommodate the lenses perfectly and a photographer can be confident that a precious piece of equipment is going to be well protected once it’s in its’ pouch.
The only problem I had with the lens pouches in action was that I found it difficult to close the zip on the pouches lid one-handed. Even with two hands it was problematic to the point of becoming frustrating. This is not such as issue for wedding or indoor event photographers but shooting an event outdoors and sometimes moving over rough terrain the convenience of the M.A.S. system was dramatically reduced because of the necessity of closing the lid and the frustration in doing so.
The flash pouches don’t have the same issue as their lid is a much more accessible, usable Velcro flap.
The only other thing I would suggest would be a general accessory pouch that could attach to the front of the belt. Event photographers are constantly in need of lens cleaning cloths, batteries, cell-phone, memory cards etc. and Tamrac should create a pouch for those items too.
As functional as it is, the belt, when fully loaded, can become heavy and as such I would recommend to anyone that intends on using the belt fully loaded for any appreciable period of time that they purchase the M.A.S. Belt Harness, an attachment that carries the weight of the belt over your shoulders.
The belt is of such design that, while it is not advertised as compatible with other manufacturers component pouches, it might well accommodate others’ products. I have used the Tamrac belt for Tamrac pouches and those of two other manufacturers quite readily. So if you’re in the market for a new belt but have some accessory pouches that you don’t want to give up, the Tamrac belt might be an option for you.
Overall the Tamrac M.A.S. belt and pouch system is a useful addition to any photographer’s equipment; it provides carrying options that will protect any equipment not in use but that could be needed. The zipper issue only becomes problematic in situations where you need to either open or close the lid very quickly. Truly a minor issue in most situations!