Choosing a Camera Bag

Once you're invested in your photography gear, you're going to want to know that you're transporting it around securely and in style. To help you pick the right tool for the task, take a look at our guide for choosing a camera bag

Backpack group test

Choosing a camera bag that perfectly suits your needs is a difficult task. If you have a modest kit, do you buy one to fit the gear you have or allow for expansion? If you have a larger system, do you get one big bag to house all of your gear, or do you only take selected items out at a time?

The truth is, there is no perfect bag and most photographers end up with several, which they'll use for different occasions.

Before choosing a bag, think about the type of photography you do. If, for example, you're a landscape photographer then a backpack may be the best choice for you. If travel photography is your passion you'll want to take your gear as hand luggage, and may also want it to hold your passports and tickets, newspaper or small laptop. You might want to also pack a smaller shoulder bag for use once you get to your destination.

There are over a dozen major bag and case brands in the UK, each with their own design ethos. None are right, or wrong - in the end, once you've chosen the right type and size of bag for your needs, the rest comes down to personal taste. Here's our guide to help you choose.

 


 

Factors to consider

Materials

Top Camera bags are made from a variety of materials. Natural fibres (eg. canvas, cotton, leather) are favoured by the likes of Domke, Billingham, and National Geographic, while man-made hi-tech materials like ballistic nylon are preferred by brands such as Kata, LowePro, Tamrac and Crumpler. The latter generally offer higher performance - lighter, better water-resistance etc - but consider that traditional bags have survived use by Amazonian explorers and Vietnam war correspondents, so they should be able to cope with the odd downpour on the Peaks.

Protection

The more padding a bag has, the more protection it offers, but the heavier and more rigid it becomes. Brands such as Kata are at the forefront of developing innovative workarounds such as aluminium ‘spines'. A bag's water-resistance is very important. Look out for exposed zips that can let in water, or flaps that don't offer a good seal. Some bags come with a waterproof cover, like a big shower cap, which you can pull over the bag if it rains.

Capacity

How big a bag do you need? You may have lots of gear, but do you want to carry all of it with you? The type of photography you do will influence the bag you'll need. Into sports or wildlife? You'll need one that can hold a big telephoto lens. Travellers, on the other hand, will want something smaller.

Comfort

An uncomfortable bag will kill your desire to go out and take pictures. A bag that sits too low, a strap that digs into you, a harness that cuts into your back - in some cases this is due to bad design, but it's also because we're all different shapes. Try your bag out before buying - ideally with weight in it.

Types of bag

Zoomster

If you have a bridge camera or DSLR with a single lens, then the snout-shaped zoomster may be for you. They come in various sizes and all feature a main tapered cavity which holds your camera. Most feature a couple of accessory pockets.

Pouch

For small cameras. Most can fit on a trouser belt and many will have an additional pocket for media cards, etc.

Rough Guide to Bags - Zoomster Rough Guide to Bags - Crumpler Pouch
   

Rolling cases

Some large cases come with built-in wheels and a handle, like airport luggage, for ease of transportation. These are aimed more at getting your gear from A-B than using on a shoot.

Shoulder bag

The main advantage of shoulder bags is that, unlike backpacks, you can get to your kit to change lenses etc while walking along. The drawback is that all the weight is on one shoulder, which, if the bag’s heavy, can cause discomfort after a while.

Rough Guide to Bags - ProRunner Rough Guide to Bags - Packington

 

 

Messenger bag

Messenger bags are like shoulder bags only thinner, and are usually worn across the body. There’s usually less padding and their lack of depth makes big cameras problematic.

Backpack

Can’t decide between a shoulder bag and backpack? These go on your back like a rucksack, but you can access your gear by swinging it round to your front rather than having to remove it. Slings are relatively new and gaining in popularity.

Rough Guide to Bags - Messenger style Rough Guide to Bags - MuffinTop
   

Hard cases

Hard cases are made from wood, aluminium or plastic resin. Inside is either a set of dividers, or a block of foam diced into cubes, which you customise to your needs. They’re designed for transportation, usually either in the boot of a car or on an aeroplane. Some, such as the Peli range (pictured), are waterproof and virtually indestructible.

Waist bags

Modular carrying systems are based around a waist belt or harness, onto which you can attach any of a whole host of different bags, cases, pouches etc. These enable you to configure your gear-carrying solution to your specific needs.

Rough Guide to Bags - Peli Rough Guide to Bags - Inverse 200

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