Whether you’re an amateur who only uses their camera while on holiday once a year or a full-time professional shooting from dawn until dusk every day, one of the first accessories you should think about buying is a good quality camera bag. However, with a number of different bags and styles to choose from, finding the right one can be a little overwhelming at times. That’s why we’ve put together this Camera Bag Buying Guide for you.
Camera bags are specifically designed to house and protect your camera, lenses, laptop, and all your other accessories such as batteries, filters and flash guns wherever you are in the world. In addition, camera bags have the added bonus of being extremely comfortable, often more so than a regular rucksack or backpack! With separators and compartments, everything is divided within the camera bag so you know exactly where each item is kept, and the thick padding means you know your camera’s safe from knocks and scrapes when carrying it out and about when you’re on the move.
Long gone are the days where camera bags just come in the colour black made up of cheap synthetic materials. Today, camera bags are as fashionable as they are practical, and they come in an array of different colours and materials.
When it comes to choosing a camera bag, questions you want to be asking yourself are what are you going to be using it for? How big a bag do you need? Will it be comfortable to wear when you’re on the road? Even if you’ve got lots of gear and multiple lenses, do you want to be carrying it all? And finally (and arguably most importantly), what’s your budget?
In our Manfrotto Camera Bags Buying Guide, we’ll take you through all the different bags you can buy, the advantages and disadvantages of each, and discuss which bag is best in certain situations.
From simple holster bags which just carry a single camera to messenger bags that are perfect for urban environments to bigger backpacks that can carry all your camera gear so you don’t have to leave anything at home, the one thing you can guarantee is there’s a camera bag that’s suitable for you. Now you just need to find it!
Types of Camera Bags
DSLR Camera Bag
There is a huge range of DSLR camera bags to choose from and they’ve all got one thing in common – they are small, compact cases with enough space for your DSLR camera with a lens attached, a second lens and a few extras like memory cards and batteries.
DSLR camera bags are great for those who don’t want to carry around too much equipment making them ideal for amateur photographers. These bags are very compact with a padded handle for carrying in your hands and a shoulder strap means they sit comfortably down by your hip.
One of the key features of this type of camera bag is the quick access you get to your kit and how light it is to carry around. Also, they hold a surprising amount of camera gear, and the majority of them come with a mini rain cover making them perfect if you’re out for the day.
Another bonus is their low-price tag (often they come free with a new camera). If you’re looking to buy a bag that’s small and easy to use then a DSLR camera bag is the one for you.
One to try – Advanced Rear Access Backpack
Camera Messenger Bag
Camera messenger bags are among the most stylish on the market (take the National Geographic camera bag as an example!), but they’re extremely practical too. With a number of components and zips, messenger bags still give you fast access to your camera and you can even carry up to three different lenses. Not only that but you can also carry non-essential camera items such as lunch and a bottle of water making them fantastic multi-purpose bags.
A messenger bag is usually made of cloth or leather meaning they blend in in all urban environments. They look a lot like a laptop bag but are much thicker with more padding. With only one strap, these bags are carried over the shoulder or worn over one shoulder with a strap going across the chest resting the bag on the lower back.
Messenger bags are often used by people who don’t like carrying a bigger backpack or rucksack on their shoulders and want a trendy alternative (such as a leather camera bag). One of their key features is being able to carry your laptop, tablet and documents all in one bag. Also, messenger bags are perfect for flying too as you can easily store it under your seat or in an overhead compartment.
An alternative to the messenger bag is the sling bag. This looks more like a backpack than a messenger bag, but they have that signature strap going across the chest making them similar to a messenger bag. They also give you quicker access to your camera than a backpack as you can swivel the bag around your body to open up the main compartment.
If you’re on a bike cycling around a city, messenger bags really come into their own, but they’re also perfect for anyone walking around too. Messenger bags are sophisticated and stylish camera bags but also very discreet making them a fantastic choice for the work place.
One to try – Windsor Reporter Bag
Shoulder Camera Bags
Shoulder bags are one of the most popular options for entry-level photographers because of their practical and simple design. These bags are perfect for daily use and can carry your camera, lenses and a few other bits and bobs too.
Shoulder bags are traditionally rectangular in shape and have an extremely tough exterior protecting them from most major impacts. They’ve been specifically designed to be robust while remaining practical, and with a number of dividers inside you can customise your shoulder bag to suit your needs.
Unlike messenger bags, shoulder bags sit on one shoulder hanging down by the hip as opposed to sitting across the chest and hanging down on lower back. Also, another factor to consider is shoulder bags usually don’t have room for a laptop or a tablet – this bag is just for your camera gear.
A few key features of the shoulder bag to look out for are a strong comfortable strap and a padded carry handle.
Although shoulder bags usually come in black, there are also a few fashionable shoulder bags on the market such as our National Geographic Slim Shoulder Bag.
If you’re looking for a camera bag that can carry more than one lens but something that’s smaller, lighter and more protective than a messenger bag, then you’ll love everything about a shoulder bag. Also, if you have a compact system camera or a camcorder then there are many options for you to choose from.
One to try – Street Shoulder Bag
Holster bags are unique as they’re designed for carrying just your camera with your favourite lens attached and that’s it. There’s no room for an extra lens or accessories with these bags, so what you see is what you get!
Another different feature of the holster bag is they’re designed to hang off your belt around your waist as opposed to being carried. This is great as it takes all the weight off your shoulders and gives you extremely easy access to your camera.
Holster bags are made to really protect your camera. When you slip your camera into the bag, it sits snugly with thick padding around it, and they usually come with a built-in rain protector too which you can easily slip over the bag.
Another huge advantage of a holster bag is when you don’t want to wear it on your waist you can pack it away in a bigger bag to be kept safely stowed away.
One thing to look out for when buying a holster bag is you want one to fit your camera as snuggly as possible, so choose one for your primary lens set up (the lens you use the most). That way you’re ensuring maximum protection. You can even get one for your 70-200mm lens.
If you do a lot of event photography and you want to carry around a spare camera with lens attached then a holster bag is a good alternative compared to an open harness which provides less overall protection.
Either way, if you want to carry around just your camera and one lens then a holster camera bag is the one for you.
One to try – NX Camera Holster II
Camera Roller Bags
Camera roller bags are absolutely fantastic for transporting huge amounts of heavy camera gear without having to carry it all on your back. In fact, a camera roller bag is like having your entire home studio with you on wheels!
With wheels built into the bottom of the bag these look like any type of wheelie case but with one major exception – inside the bag is split up into a number of compartments to carry multiple lenses, laptops and tablets, flash guns, audio recorders and a whole heap of other accessories too. There’s one thing you can guarantee, you won’t run out of space with a roller bag. Also, roller bags have very thick walls to handle heavy impacts, and some cases are even made out of rigid plastic as opposed to a synthetic material.
Camera roller bags usually cater for camera enthusiasts and professionals with a lot of kit. Also, if you’re prone to back problems then this type of bag completely negates carrying any heavy weight making it a huge advantage for some.
Another key feature is a lot of camera roller bags come with a built-in lock. When you’re travelling with equipment that’s worth thousands of pounds you want to ensure everything’s safely locked away so this is a brilliant addition to look for.
One thing to consider is if you fly a lot then make sure you buy a roller bag that can safely fit into an overhead compartment. If it doesn’t then you’ll be asked to put it in the cargo hold, a place where your bag is more likely to be mishandled and thrown about, and you don’t want that.
If you’re doing lots of travelling, say for more than a week, and you know you need most of your camera gear with you, then a camera roller bag really is a wise investment.
One to try – Pro Light Reolader-55
Camera backpacks are heavy duty backpacks used by those on the road a lot. When travelling, you want a comfortable camera backpack that can carry all your equipment, lenses, filters, etc, as well as having enough room for things like water, food and an extra change of clothes in case you’re going to somewhere like a temple and you need to cover up.
One of the best things about a backpack is they offer excellent functionality being able to keep your camera and all your gear stored away with easy access. If you have a lot of a kit – we’re talking about two camera bodies, a few lenses, laptop, filters, and all other accessories too, then you’ll still be able to pack everything away in a camera backpack.
When you’re travelling, every day you’re outside sightseeing, every day you’re outside doing something different, and often you can be walking around for up to eight hours or more. If you don’t have the right travel camera bag you can do some serious damage to your back.
When buying a camera backpack, it’s important to get one that has thick shoulder straps and a thick waist strap. You want to carry about 70% of the weight on your hips so the pressure’s off your shoulders. That way you’ll be able to carry it around all day without any trouble.
Another type of camera backpack to keep an eye out for is a drone backpack. These are made specifically for drones such as the DJI Phantom 4, but they can also carry a lot of other camera equipment too. You’ll be very surprised how much you can pack into a drone backpack.
If you’re really into hiking then there are camera hiking backpacks too. These are much slender in shape to keep all the weight evenly distributed across your back and they come with breathable technology so you don’t overheat when you’re hiking.
If you know you’ll be travelling lots and you need a good, sturdy multi-purpose bag then you really can’t go wrong with a camera backpack. They really are among the best camera bags you can buy.
One to try – Manhattan Mover-50
A very different type of bag to consider is a tripod bag. As a rule of thumb, tripods are fairly cumbersome and they can be difficult to carry around. That’s where a tripod bag comes in.
These bags are a comfortable carrying solution and a lot more protective of your tripod than just strapping it on to a backpack.
If you want to safely transport your tripod, you can choose from a complete series of tripod bags that are specifically designed for all existing tripod models and made to hold all the different sizes and weight capacities. All you need to do is select the one that best fits your tripod.
One to try – Tripod Bag Unpadded 60cm
Have you chosen your bag yet?
With so many different photography bags to choose from it’s very easy to get overwhelmed but you just need to remember, a camera bag is there to protect all your equipment while making things easier to carry it all around.
Another thing to consider is your bag should represent you and your personality – make sure buy one that you’re going to love in years to come. Whatever your needs, there will be a bag out there with your name on it and in your budget, and having a camera bag is better than having no camera bag. Hopefully our Camera Bags Buying Guide will have helped you choose the right one for you!