Whether you're an amateur photographer who enjoys taking selfies and holiday pics or a full-time professional, one of the most important camera accessories you will buy is a good quality camera bag.
The right bag not only protects your equipment, it can also make the job a whole lot easier by keeping everything you need within easy reach. However, with a few different bags and styles to choose from, finding the right camera bag to invest in can be a little overwhelming - that's why we've put together this handy guide to what to look for in a camera bag.
Why Do You Need A Camera Bag?
Why are camera bags so popular? The number one reason people purchase a camera bag is for protection while on the move. It makes sense really - when you have spent significant amounts of money on your camera, lenses and accessories - investing in a good quality camera bag is the best way to keep your gear safe.
A dedicated camera bag offers tougher exteriors and compartmentalised padded interiors, providing the tailored protection needed for all of your camera accessories. Camera bags are also specifically designed with easy and convenient access in mind, making them so much more than just a bag – they are a vital piece of equipment.
What Are The Different Types Of Camera Bags?
A camera bag is there to protect your equipment while you carry it all around, right? But how do you choose the right one when there are so many on offer? First of all, let's take a look at the 5 main types of camera bags and some of their advantages and disadvantages.
1. Camera Backpacks
One of the most popular camera bag choices for professional photographers, the camera backpack comes in a range of sizes and styles, easily accommodating various camera accessories and personal items. Camera backpacks differ from standard backpacks as they have specifically designed compartments for the safe storage of photography gear.
Functionality is the key to the success of the backpack, offering comfort, convenience and mobility (the ability to carry all your equipment on your back). Modular design elements provide multiple access points – perfect for those on the go providing hands-free comfort for the avid photographer.
- Hands-free storage
- Modular design
- Weight centred on both shoulders
- Usually comfortable to wear
- Access requires removing the backpack from the body
Heavy if carrying too much
Sometimes uncomfortable, especially in warmer climates
2. Cross-Body Sling Bags
Like shoulder bags, cross-body camera bags have a convenient one strap design, however instead of hanging from one shoulder, as the name suggests, the bag is slung comfortably across the body with the bag resting on the back. When in use, the sling bag can slide around to the front for easy access without having to remove the bag from the body.
These bags are designed for fast access and convenience while keeping a low profile – the perfect option for day trips and events. They are comfortable and distribute the weight more evenly than shoulder bags while providing an increased level of security due to the fact they are kept close to the body at all times.
- More comfortable for prolonged use
- Good for day trips
- No need to take the bag off to gain access
- Lower carrying capacity than a traditional backpack
3. Holster Bags
Holster camera bags are designed to carry just your camera and your favourite lense – what you see is what you get! These compact bags offer convenient protection for your camera while on the go – anywhere anytime. Holsters come in different sizes to suit the various camera brands but usually have a snout shape to accommodate the camera and its lense snuggly.
Holster bags are designed to be carried around the neck or attached to a belt around the waist, providing instant, easy access. This neck-waist combo offers interchangeable options keeping the weight off your shoulders and the hands free. Holster bags are also great for added protection when travelling as they can be placed inside a larger bag.
- Compact size
- Neck and waist carry options
- Added protection
- Only fits the camera and one lens
4. Shoulder Bags
Sometimes called messenger bags, shoulder bags are a popular choice for many photographers for their practicality. Most designs have standard features, including a wide comfortable shoulder strap, protective flaps or covers, durable zippers and various pockets and compartments.
Shoulder bags are stylish and sophisticated while providing fast access to your camera and a bit of room to carry additional accessories and other personal items such as laptops and water bottles, making them the perfect multi-purpose bag for all occasions.
- Easy access
- Stylish, casual look
- Varying capacity levels
- Weight is all on one shoulder
- Not ideal for larger lenses or large and heavy equipment
5. Camera Roller Bags
If you are travelling a lot or tend to take all of your camera equipment with you, then a camera roller bag is a wise choice. These bags usually split up into various internal compartments designed to carry multiple lenses, laptops or tablets, lights, a tripod and a whole heap of other accessories.
Camera roller bags come in either a hard case or soft case option and provide the means to transport large amounts of camera gear with ease by rolling the case on its wheels. If air travel is common, look for a camera roller bag that meets the carry-on requirements of your local airline.
- Carry a large volume of equipment
- Easy to transport equipment (no carrying)
- All gear stored in one bag
- Limited mobility
How To Choose A Camera Bag?
The right camera bag will make your photographic task easier and more efficient. But the wrong bag can quickly become a burden. That's why choosing the right camera bag is important for any photographer. But with so many great options out there, it can be difficult to know what to look for in a camera bag - here are 7 questions to ask yourself in order to help you on the right track to finding the perfect camera bag to suit your situation.
How Much Camera Equipment Do You Carry?
The amount of equipment you plan to carry on a regular basis will be the most significant determining factor in what type of camera bag you choose. If you only carry the camera and one lense, then the holster bag is perfect, but if you need to carry multiple lenses, batteries, filters, and lights, you will need to look at either a backpack or roller bag. Keep in mind though, the more equipment you carry, the heavier the load.
How Will It Be Used?
Putting some thought into what type of photography you do and how you plan to use the bag is an excellent place to start. What will you be shooting with? What and where are you shooting? What kind of transport are you taking? Also, always check with the bag manufacturers to ensure your specific camera equipment will fit in the bag you intend to purchase.
Do You Like The Bag?
Another important thing to consider when choosing a camera bag is personal preference. Do you like how it looks? How it feels? Does the bag provide the right look for your photographic exploits? Buying something you love is going to mean you'll get much more use (and enjoyment) out of it in the years to come.
How Quickly Do You Need Access To Gear?
Bags such as the holster, shoulder bag or cross-body bag are designed for quick and easy access, whereas access to backpacks and roller bags is definitely more time-consuming. If your main concern is ready-access and greater mobility, you want to stick with quicker access bags. However, the bigger bags are better for having everything you might need immediately at hand.
Have You Read The Reviews?
While bag manufacturers can explain all of the bag's great features and make endless claims about their quality and functionality, the best way to find out how the bag performs in the real world is to read the reviews. Reviews will give you a good idea of what other people who have purchased the bag think of the product and whether it meets the requirements of real-world photography.
Is It Comfortable?
Probably one of the most important factors to choosing a bag that will stand the test of time is making sure it is comfortable. Check the straps are supportive and well designed to support your back and shoulders. Look for added comfort features such as extra padding, ergonomic design. Before making your purchase, it is a good idea to add weight to the bag when trying it on. This will give you a better idea of where the bag will sit on your back and how it will feel.
Don't Forget Quality!
After purchasing your expensive camera equipment, the last thing you want to do is cut corners on the camera bag that is going to keep it safe. Good camera bags will have removable inserts, adjustable compartments and good quality zips. Look for a good amount of padding to prevent your gear from rubbing against each other in transit. You also want to make sure the bag's outer material is durable and has some degree of waterproofing, especially if you are often outside or on the go during a shoot.