The 10 Best Camera Sling Bags
The Perfect Shot May Be A Slingshot
Good photography often involves being in the right place at the right time. The resulting images communicate moments that will occur perhaps once in the entirety of human existence, rare combinations of light and presence that reinforce both the enormity and the brevity of life.
The first step toward capturing such an image is to find yourself in front of one. A lot of that is luck, though most of the best shooters have a nose for amazing moments. Some will go so far as to put themselves in harm's way in the pursuit of such pictures, while others can find these instants lurking in our everyday lives. The best thing you can do to ensure you find yourself in the presence of great photographic opportunity is to have your camera on you as often as possible.
The next step toward creating indelible photographs grows out of the first — it’s all about preparedness. Having your camera on you often is all well and good, but it won’t help you out much if it’s sitting disassembled in some messenger bag, its body cap firmly in place and its lenses cordoned off by protective barriers. Nor does it make much sense to keep your camera around your neck at all times. Not only will this cause the people around you to behave differently then they would without the presence of a camera, it also puts you at risk for a mugging by advertising to any miscreants in the area that you've got expensive camera gear.
The next best option would be to have a bag that could conveniently transport your camera in its assembled configuration, allowing you to pull it out and get to shooting more quickly. There are certainly some camera backpacks that load on the top for this specific reason. The only problem with these is that you have to take them off completely to access the compartment that houses your camera.
A camera sling bag solves all of these problems. For one thing, it’s designed to carry your camera fully assembled. What’s most important, however, is the fact that it utilizes a single strap that runs across your chest in place of the dual straps you’ll find on most backpack designs. As a result, sling bags can rotate around your torso, placing the primary opening to the camera compartment just below your chest. You don’t have to take the bag off, and you’ll have access to your camera within seconds. That could mean the difference between taking an enduring photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in the aftermath of a World War, and a less iconic, though perhaps equally marketable, picture of her slapping him afterwards.
Shooting One Day At A Time
In order to determine the best camera sling bag for your day-to-day shooting, you have to come to terms with the kind of shooter you want to be on a given day. That’s the best way to utilize a sling bag: as the perfect vehicle for a day of shooting.
There are sling bags on this list that allow you to carry the majority of your best gear, but unless you plan to travel with your all of equipment and you have specific limitations on the mobility and storage of hard cases, opting for a slightly smaller bag is the best option. That way, you can keep on your person only what you absolutely need for a day’s shooting. There’s always the outside chance that you’ll feel the need for that 85mm when all you brought is your 24-70, but that’s why you were born with legs.
Once you’ve gotten a good look at what gear you need on a daily basis, you can use that setup to narrow your list of options to just those bags that will accommodate it. After that, you can move on to less pressing features.
Among the tertiary features to consider when evaluating camera sling bags is additional accessory storage. If you’re the type to shoot on multiple, smaller memory cards to protect yourself against card failure, make sure the bag you select has enough card storage slots to suit your needs. The landscape photographers among you will appreciate a bag that includes a tripod strap that can cut down on your overall baggage footprint.
The last thing you’ll want to investigate — though certainly not the least important — is the shoulder strap system. If you’re left handed, or you plan to trek across vast distances with your new camera bag, you’ll want it to have a reversible strap. It’s not the most common feature among sling bags, but it will allow you to switch the shoulder on which your bag hangs, alleviating the pressure on one side. Also, look for extra support straps that run across the chest or at hip level. These can take a little bit more of the strain off of your shoulder while helping to keep in place a bag that’s otherwise designed to move.
Bags Come Home From War
For the greater part of photographic history, shooters were left to their own devices in the bag department. Many early photographers transported their gear in trunks and other large, hard-sided luggage because the gear itself was so much bigger than it is today, and the durable luggage provided much-needed protection.
After the standardization of the 35mm film format, shooters in the war zones of Spain, France, and England found that the bags toted by grenadiers and other infantry made convenient, if not terribly protective cases for their cameras and lenses. Many of these shooters added extra padding in the form of shirts, pants, and other clothing.
Shooters returning from these conflicts recognized the need for bags, and many took their ideas to manufacturers. That resulted in a huge influx of camera-specific bags made by manufacturers for specific camera bodies and lenses. These were portable and protective, but severely limiting to shooters with ever-evolving gear sets. Eventually, the market responded by creating a class of more customizable camera bags that could fit any number of setups, and that evolved into the selections you see on our list.