Camera Bag Review: Tarion M-02 (The Affordable Backpack for the Roaming Photographer)

The Tarion M-02 is a backpack with a number of quirks, but that overall does a decent job.

I purposely purchased the Tarion M-02 as a counterpoint to a reader’s comment on a previous review of ours claiming that we only review pricey camera bags. The truth that I’ve learned over the years is that that’s simply not true. A lot of work, care and design goes into camera bags with special emphasis on what photographers need like weather protection, quick access, security, etc. And in comparison, most bags don’t really have that. While the comment could surely have come from an ill informed place of internet nerd rage, I often try to do my best to satisfy everyone–and so the Tarion M-02 made me of the belief that I could.

The Tarion M-02 is a backpack designed to look and function like a lot of others on the market. It’s made of buffalo leather, canvas, fair quality zippers and buttons, and gives photographers a lot of great features. But if you’re looking for quick access, you’ll need to look somewhere else. If you want security, then the Tarion M-02 does a great job. And if you want to be able to carry a whole lot of stuff comfortably then it’s a great choice.

Most importantly: if you use tripods then you can put the tripod on the bottom of the bag to ensure that it doesn’t throw your shoulders off.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Security
  • Weather sealing
  • Good quality zippers
  • A fair amount of pockets
  • Holds its shape well
  • Pretty comfortable, but I wish it had straps to go around your waist and not just the top area
  • An INCREDIBLY ATTRACTIVE PRICE POINT!

Cons

  • God, this thing is ugly
  • I wish that it had quick access via a side pocket zipper.

Gear Used

The Tarion M-02 was used with various men’s products, jars of Carolina Reaper honey, a Macbook Pro 13 inch, Leica gear, Canon gear, film, more film, Sony gear, Nikon gear, speedlights, books, keys, eyedrops, etc.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the company’s website

  • Designed by TARION in a classic vintage style, for modern storage practicality and access on the move.
  • Large capacity with two large compartments. Lower compartment composed of compact, padded, hook-and-loop dividers for camera, lenses, and other accessories. Top partition/area for clothes etc. Adjustable strap release for larger capacity.
  • Made of durable, water-repellent, easy-to-clean and stain repellent high-class canvas and quality buffalo leather, padded enough for reasonable shock absorption. Extra rain cover offers waterproof protection. Tripod/carry straps on base.
  • Ergonomic design, padded shoulder straps, air mesh back panel, and top grab handle provides plenty of storage space and maximum carry comfort.
  • Outer dimension approx. 29 x 18 x 42cm/ 11.4×7.1×16.5″.

Ergonomics

Here is the Tarion M-02. It’s a nice looking bag from the images; but trust me when I say that it’s actually fairly ugly. Despite all of this, it’s ergonomically well designed for most photographers. Here you spot the main parts of the bag. There are two side pockets and a giant flap to cover up a draw string top section. Then the flaps close down via magnetic buttons. They also hold the bottom section closed.

Here’s another side look at the Tarion M-02. You can spot the other pocket and the backpack’s straps.

The strap are pretty comfortable and very well padded. They’re bound to cause you some extra heat when walking around. Then the straps also close together for extra comfort. Unfortunately, that isn’t available on the bottom. However, you’ve got straps on the bottom for a tripod!

Remove the top flap and here’s what you’ve got. It’s drawstring designed.

Open up the main compartment and here is your camera storage area. It’s very well contained to itself.

In the top drawstring area you’ll spot a laptop pocket in the back. But otherwise it’s a vacant space for anything and everything.

Build Quality

Maybe I should get the bad part out of the way first. Basically, I think that this has the be the ugliest buffalo leather that I’ve ever seen and Tarion should be ashamed about using it. But it does a good job of keeping clean and the overall bag is designed for security at an affordable price. It more than does its job. Everything feels pretty high quality. In terms of its design and approach, I believe this to be questionable, but for security purposes you’ll find that it all works perfectly. For quick access? Nah. It’s not happening.

Ease of Use

The Tarion M-02 is a pretty simple bag to use. You’ll configure the main inside pocket to however you want it to be. It’s best used for mirrorless cameras and perhaps one or two lenses is what I’ve found. It keeps things very tight and compact with just enough padding to satisfy most people without swaddling your gear in the latest sheets from Bed, Bath and Beyond. If you really want quick access to your gear, your best bet is to stick your camera with a lens attached into the top of the bag with no padding or anything. Most cameras are tough enough to take the abuse. The side pockets are great for a book, keys, passports, wallets, eye drops, etc. There is a fair amount of room.

When it comes to accessing your gear, you’ll surely need to put the bag down, open it up and get to it. With that said, if you’re in the rain, consider taking cover. You’ll need to open up the whole lower compartment to access anything. You’ll also need to undo the top flap enclosure. To get the most use of this bag, I’d recommend using something like a Peak Design Capture Clip or using a really nice, long strap to give you freedom of movement. When you want to change lenses, get ready to settle down for a while. For this reason, this bag could be perfect for landscape photographers, travel photographers, etc. But if you’re a photojournalist that needs quick access and that literally need to change lenses on the move the way that I did when I was younger, I can say with will certainty that you’d be making an awful decision with this bag despite its very attractive price point.

Storing a tripod on the bottom is simple enough. This feature is one that I’ve seen very few companies implement but it should be an industry standard for landscape and travel photographers. Personally speaking, I rarely need a tripod because I’m trained to handhold to 1/15th. But when I do, I like it to be in a comfortable spot.

A feature that I found to very nice is the overall size. It stays compact and doesn’t become a super large pod on your back. Instead, it’s very versatile to keep on your back while in the crowded NYC subway. For courtesy reasons, I’d still take it off and place it on the ground.

Conclusions

For the price point, I think that I really like the Tarion M-02. But I think that I’d never use it again. I need quicker access (not super fast), something more stylish, a few more straps for extra security, and I’m really a big fan of roll top backpacks these days. For most photographers who own a car though, you wouldn’t need to worry about most of the issues that I need to while being a packrat and exploring a city.

The Tarion M-02 earns four out of five stars. Want one? They’re really cheap on Amazon.