Fstoppers Reviews the Professional-Grade Tamrac G-Elite G26 Photo Backpack

Fstoppers Reviews the Professional-Grade Tamrac G-Elite G26 Photo Backpack

When Gura Gear was absorbed into the Tamrac brand in late 2015, the beloved Bataflae photo backpack was left without a home. Without hesitation, Tamrac introduced the G-Elite line that improved upon the genius butterfly-opening backpack design of the original Bataflae and was launched in two sizes: the G32 and the G26. Over the past few months I’ve been running around with the G26 version and it is without a doubt the best backpack I’ve ever used.

Even though the Tamrac G26 is the smaller of the two current G-Elite offerings, this thing has no trouble swallowing gear. It’s deep enough to take on any DSLR or medium format camera, battery grips and L-brackets included. It also has ample room to take on some serious lens, flash, and accessory collections. I’m able to fit in two mirrorless bodies, five lenses, a flash and transmitter, and typical photography accessories comfortably within the divider panels of the main compartment. According to Tamrac, the bag will fit in up to a 500mm lens which I can easily believe. Having traveled with the G26, I can say that the bag does fit into overhead compartments, however if you are flying an aircraft with more limited space up top I learned that you don’t want too much bulge outside the bag’s unloaded dimensions (it fit with some decent lumps, a light coat, and a fat old MacBook in the accessory pocket, but just barely).

The main equipment compartment has a sturdy removable divider that runs down the center of the pack enabling the butterfly system. Since it is removable, you have the option of foregoing two whole two-sided pack idea and operate everything in the conventional way. The G26 comes with several shorter rigid dividers for compartmentalization and several more basic dividers to pad between gear. The dividers in this pack are pretty easy to adjust since the velcro flaps fold all the way back, and they hold great once in place. The entire rim of the interior is Velcro-friendly fabric which helps with fine-tuned customization. The wall protecting your gear from the outside is stiff and offers firm padding without being overly bulky. It keeps its shape whether loaded or unloaded and won’t slouch or tip when you set it upright.

The butterfly multi-access design adds a new dimension to pack organization. Being able to unzip one side of the pack for quicker, less cluttered access to what you need to grab is something I came to appreciate. Since the butterfly flap opens inwards towards the bag, it’s also nice to have in cramped areas. Of course you can still fully open the main compartment up in the traditional fashion by undoing a simple buckle. As a photography gear writer, at one point I had three different camera systems in the bag but the butterfly system helped me stay sane and I always had fast access to everything I needed even with a mix of mismatching equipment. The topside of the main compartment has a total of four large separate mesh zippered pockets, two to each side of the butterfly. The zippers to the main compartment can come together to set a lock on it, however they don’t fit over the butterfly buckle strap so you need to pick one side or the other if you want a 100 percent closed bag. I do wonder if this could have been avoided by using some other material for the buckle strap that had more flexibility.

One level out from the main compartment is a zippered accessory compartment. This area will house a laptop up to 15-inches behind a padded sleeve, as well as plenty of other miscellaneous belongings. There are four flat storage sleeves and a key fob in front of the laptop sleeve. On the flat of this area are two more large mesh zippered pockets and two mesh sleeves that can hold larger, less flat items. At the very front of the G32 there is a small zippered pocket which can hold any of your small quick-access items.

The G32 and G26 come in two color options, charcoal and dark olive. Combined with the weave grid pattern, it does a good job of staying presentable and hides any dirty spots well which will be valued a few years down the road. As most people would likely prefer, there is minimal branding on the bag. The exterior zippers that seal your equipment all have full material coverage for added weather resistance. They were also semi difficult to pull when I received the bag, but after use I found they broke in nicely. I suppose that’s better than going from moderately easy to pull to way too easy to pull open.

The carrying strap system of the G-Elite bags is very cool. The shoulder and waist straps can be disconnected and stored within an exterior zippered pouch on the backside fully converting it into a snag-free carry bag. The G26 utilizes load lifters, a sternum strap, and removable waist strap to make carrying all that gear not an issue. I was truly amazed at how well it handled heavy loads. It is more comfortable, even after longer day hikes with a full load, than all other photography bags I’ve used.

Lastly I want to mention the little details that refine the overall bag experience. The riveted carry-friendly handles, the M.O.L.L.E. attachments points for accessory expansion, the weather-resistant zippers with comfortable finger loops and zipper garages, the strap keepers all around the bag on anything adjustable to keep things tidy, it’s all here. Everything just seems to have its place on the bag with every detail thought out. It even comes with a rain fly for harsh weather and a large dust bag for storage.

Priced at $359.95 for the G26 model, it is a serious amount of cash, but it is also a serious photography backpack that went all out with materials and construction. There is a lot going on with this bag that tells me it’s made to adapt and it’s made to last. Both the Tamrac G26 and G32 ($399.95) are available now from B&H Photo.

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15 Comments

I just bought his bag at a trade show and I like a lot about it; I was hoping to make it my main travel bag. Unfortunately, the first time I loaded it with gear and went to put the pack on to adjust the fitment, the stitching on the bottom strap on one side of the harness pulled apart altogether leaving the strap hanging with no attachment hardware. I inspected the opposite side and the single strand of stitching was loose and it pulled out with no effort. Now I'm trying to decide whether or not to return the bag or have it repaired locally at my expense. If you're considering this bag, inspect the stitching, particularly on the harness.

Ryan Mense's picture

Hey Mike, that's sounds pretty unfortunate. I'm double-checking my own bag now, and I did so when writing this review up, and all I see is solid stitching all around. Is your loose stitching on the triangular piece that connects to the female end of the buckle? I'd at least reach out to Tamrac to see what they will do for you before spending anything more. They emphasized their new lifetime guarantee on the new packs, so you could test those waters.

Ryan, it's the main shoulder harness strap and the connections were for the male end of the buckle that attaches to the female end at the very bottom of the bag. So not on the triangular flap that I think you are asking about but the part that connects to the female connector there. I did check all the other stitching and didn't find any issues, just those two connectors. And where most stitching was double stitched, these were single stitched. I may reach out to them, seeing what is less hassle for me. Thanks for the follow-up, I do think the bag is worth keeping.

Mike, definitely give Tamrac a call. Gura Gear's customer service was incredible and I'm pretty sure they've carried that over. Test it and let us know.

Hey Mike
I apologize for the stitching on the bag, we would love to take care of that for you. Shoot me an email at info@tamrac.com or give me us a call at 385-405-2700. We have a solution to keep you in the game so you don't lose any time without your bag.

After their reply to my above post I did contact Tamrac. Tamrac replied to my email almost immediately with an offer to make good on my issue with the bag. Looks like that incredible customer service lives on.

Jeff McCollough's picture

I'm looking for a backpack that I can use for 1 DSLR, 3 lenses, 1 flash and put about a week's worth of clothes into it. Maybe backpacker style.

Ryan Mense's picture

That might be more realistic with the bigger G32. I've fit four days worth of rolled clothes in this bag while flying and it left me with the bottom 4-5 inches left to play with for other items.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Well for sure. This bag is too small for my needs but I thought that since your review was so great you probably have reviewed some other bags as well.

Jeff, have you ever looked at the fstopgear.com line of packs? They're nice—great harness system and very flexible in terms of what can be carried. Like you, I'm never just packing around photo gear.

Jeff McCollough's picture

I was looking at them the other day. There aren't too many decent reviews on them though.

Rob Watts's picture

I went through this about a month ago. I have been using the LowePro DSLR Video Pack 250 AW for several years, and love it. I love the sling it to your side and grab the camera out, the rainfly off the bottom, weight when empty and overall construction. Except, it can't hold much for a day hike. So my search began.

I spent probably 2hrs on 2 separate days at the local camera store trying on and stuffing my gear into every bag I thought would work. I spent way too many hours online reading reviews, watching YouTube videos on bags. I considered the fstopgear line of packs, but they're never in stock and nobody had any locally to try out. I finally settled on the Mindshift Dual 36L, which I picked up on a nice sale for $175 out the door.

Its all about compromise. There isn't (maybe fstopgear is, but as I said I couldn't try one out) a perfect pack. My only complaint about this bag, is the lower camera compartment re-arrangeable walls aren't near as solid as the ones in LowePro bags. This bag is the only one that fit my 5D3 w/ 100-400 II attached, and other stuff off to the side AND had room up top for day hike stuff.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Neat I'll have to check it out. I really want to fit a weeks worth of clothes in it though. I am outside of the US and when I go to the US there are never any decent camera stores near me.

How does the butterfly feature work when the forward compartment has a laptop? I must be missing something...

Steve VanSickle's picture

I had the same thought, myself. It could still be a great bag if I weren't carrying a laptop, but with one? Not so much, I think.