The 10 Best Camera Bags
This wiki has been updated 24 times since it was first published in July of 2015. Choosing a camera bag is a matter of personal preference. You have to ask yourself what kind of shooter you are and evaluate the lenses you use most often, so they'll be there when you need them. Or, you can get a giant roller bag that holds everything you own. Either way, your choice should still suit your personality, so we've put together a mix of options that will match a variety of styles. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 05, 2021:
Fortunately for us, these camera bag categories tend to evolve at a much slower pace than the DSLR and mirrorless equipment they’re designed to house, so it wound up being quite a forgiving round of updates. Believing that the last editor for this list did a good job of putting together a healthy mix of options – from the sling-style Altura Photo Backpack, which is suitable for a casual day of shooting, to the Ape Case Pro4000 Backpack, which has enough room for a much larger arsenal of gear – we found little need to make any major modifications to this list.
The only notable change we ended up making was replacing the Lowepro Sport BP 300 AW, which wasn’t available at the time of this writing, with a very similar model from the same company: the Lowepro Sport BP 300 AW LI.
This is a pretty broad category, so we did our best to include a mix of options that we hope illustrate a range of possibilities for our users, but if you’ve already got a fairly specific idea of what you’re looking for, you might find that you’re better off browsing through one of our specialized lists. We’ve got rankings for camera messenger bags, camera bags for travel and waterproof camera bags.
March 05, 2020:
Without a tremendous amount of turnover in this category, we only saw fit to remove a single model in the Tamrac 5611 Ultra Pro 11, which was a well-meaning design that offered a tremendous amount of storage for accessories like filters and extra batteries, but whose weight distribution made it a pain to carry around, and a camera bag needs to be comfortable to carry first and foremost.
We replaced that model with the low-key Kattee Leather Canvas, the materials of which are rather durable considering its low price point, but potential buyers should expect it to stink up the place like raw leather for a good week or so. It will take a little time to break in, as well, but once it does, its metal snap closures should hold in place for years.
In our special honors section, we found a few nice high-fashion bags, some of which look rather unassuming and would never be mistaken by a potential camera thief as containing any gear. The Gatta Christie Noir, in particular, just looks like a women's backpack-style purse. And the fine leather of the Cecilia Mercator 16L is hard to beat if you're a guy looking for a slick pack.
Gatta Christie Noir Intended for women, this model greatly resembles many of the fine designer backpacks you'll see on the market. It has a soft interior with a total of five pockets for storing everything from everyday items to photo accessories, and a cross strap helps secure everything in place, so nothing falls out if you lean over when wearing it. gattabag.com
Blackforest Rimo 1 This vegetable-tanned option can hold a body and up to three lenses, with a laptop compartment big enough to support a small Chromebook or tablet. A set of four corrosion-resistant pegs sit on the bottom, allowing it to stand up on its own and protecting its underside from dirt and moisture. It's a unisex offering, but it may be too big for some people. blackforestbags.com
Cecilia Mercator 16L This fashionable backpack boasts a predominantly leather construction that's soft and supple to the touch. It's available in charcoal, cotton, and chestnut finishes and has extra padding on the side that hugs your back, making it surprisingly comfortable for long photographic outings, but it is on the pricy side. bhphotovideo.com
One Bag For All Of Your Tricks
The other thing that camera bags offer that you won't see in any old messenger bag or backpack is an array of slots and pouches designed to carry accessories.
For all the wonderful advantages of shooting with a camera that utilizes interchangeable lenses — better low-light performance, sharper pictures, more options in focal length, etc.—, the one hassle remains that you have to lug all of those lenses around if you want to keep your options open.
Fortunately, there's a whole slew of interesting and efficient camera bags on the market for you to fill with all that tasty gear. The only downside to all that choice is that the options can become a little overwhelming. But before we can get into what you need specifically from your camera bag, we should look at how they are designed to function.
Given how fragile certain parts of a camera system are, it's imperative that a camera bag provide a significant degree of cushioning. All along the edges of any good camera bag (and certainly on all the bags on our list) is an additional layer of shock absorbing material, usually a synthetic foam, that will protect your gear in the event that you drop the bag or slam it into something.
In order for that shock absorbent lining to be most effective, and to guard against damage caused by pieces of gear bumping into one another within the camera bag, each of these bags comes with little foam dividers that provide internal cushioning. The edges of these dividers are equipped with Velcro material that sticks to the insides to the bag, allowing you to customize the layout of the compartments. That way, each lens and body in your bag will fit snug as a bug, preventing unwanted additional movement that could cause damage.
The other thing that camera bags offer that you won't see in any old messenger bag or backpack is an array of slots and pouches designed to carry accessories. In the old days, these pouches fit filters and film, two things that the advent of digital photography has all but done away with. Now, those slots will fit batteries, memory cards, and other implements of the digital medium.
Protect You Gear From More Than Just Impact
The first time I traveled overseas to shoot a wedding, I spent a week in Paris wandering around and taking pictures. At one point, crossing one of those bridges that are covered in padlocks, a middle-aged English couple stopped me and engaged me about my gear. I had a pretty nice Nikon body and one third of their holy trinity of lenses attached to it, and the guy in the couple was also a Nikon shooter.
He figured that tipped off his muggers, since he didn't even have his camera out when they approached him.
He told me that just that morning he and his girlfriend had been held up on a side street not far from the bridge where we were standing, and that the muggers made off with the lion's share of his gear. He hadn't thought at the time to ask them to let him keep the memory cards, so they ran off with a week's worth of travel photos.
He also told me that he blamed his bag for the mugging, which didn't make sense to me at first. Then he explained how much he loved being thought of as a photographer, and how he'd purchased the one bag in the store that looked more like a camera bag than any other. He figured that tipped off his muggers, since he didn't even have his camera out when they approached him.
It's an interesting thing to think about when evaluating not only the camera bags on our list but also your personal aesthetic. Does your taste put you more at risk for such a crime? I've always preferred camera bags that look like old rucksacks, slung inconspicuously over the shoulder and containing many secrets.
Of course, it's important to consider how much gear you need or want to carry, and whether a given bag can fit it all. It's also important to consider your shooting style and whether a sling bag or a messenger bag would get in the way more or less than a backpack might. While you're at it, though, keep in mind where you do the bulk of your shooting, and whether you ought to consider concealing your cargo more effectively from the dastardly types out there.
Bags Before And After The Great War
The pioneers of photography, the men who took the ancient technology of the camera obcsura and invented ways of preserving their captured light, didn't have to worry too much about camera bags. Their equipment, and all of the photography equipment that would dominate the scene for the ensuing century, was so large that it required full trunks for transportation.
At around this time, camera makers began to produce fitted casings for their cameras, but these were only good for certain bodies and lenses.
It wasn't until smaller film formats hit the scene in the early years of the 20th century that cameras became more portable. Even then, though, there wasn't a market for carrying cases or many interchangeable lenses. In the 1930s and 40s, cameras built by Leica and other foreign manufacturers eventually settled around a standardized 35mm film format, which also began to standardize the relative size of cameras and their lenses.
War correspondents in the Spanish Civil War and the second world war made great use of these smaller cameras, but they relied on hunting and fishing bags to lug their gear around, putting their lenses at risk. At around this time, camera makers began to produce fitted casings for their cameras, but these were only good for certain bodies and lenses.
Eventually, in the decades that followed WWII, third-party manufacturers made bags intended to be more universal, to allow shooters of different brands and kits to use the same bags. Companies like LowePro and Manfrotto have continued this trend, making a wide variety of bags designed to appeal to every kind of shooter.