A great camera bag is essential for every photographer, both professional and amateur. Even if you prefer only using a camera strap while out shooting, you need someplace safe to store your camera when you’re traveling between locations.
It can be hard to choose the right camera bag, though. There’s an incredible number of options out there. You can easily spend hours browsing bags and reading reviews – hours that could’ve been spent out shooting.
To save you time, we’ve narrowed down the options for you. Now, all you need to decide is your budget and preferred style. We’ve done the rest.
Choosing the Best Camera Bag
When choosing a bag, your most important decision will be what style of bag you want. There are five basic camera bag styles: holsters, compact shoulder bags, messenger bags, slings, and backpacks.
Next to style, you need to determine your budget. Camera bags range widely in price, from a mere $10 to over $250. Keep in mind that price and style are related. If your budget is $20 and you want a high-quality leather bag… You might need to reconsider your budget.
If you’ve already got a style and price tag in mind, jump down to the category that fits your interests:
- Compact Shoulder Bags
- High-end Messenger Bags
- Mid-range Messenger Bags
- Budget Messenger Bags
- High-end Backpacks
- Mid-range Backpacks
- Budget Backpacks
Otherwise, browse through them all to get a feel for what’s out there, and discover what appeals the most to you!
Holsters are the smallest type of camera bag you can get. They’re designed to hold your camera, a few small items, and not much else. This minimalist approach works great if you’re staying close to home or have a second bag for everything else.
Compact Shoulder Bags
Slightly larger than holsters, compact shoulder bags give you more space while still remaining lightweight and minimalist – great for traveling. You can bring along an extra lens and notebook, for example, but not much else. They’re not as roomy as messenger bags, but then, they’re not as bulky either.
High-end Messenger Bags
Messenger bags are a favorite choice among many photographers. They’re stylish, convenient, and roomy enough to hold a laptop. They’re convertible, too; you can use them both as camera bags and as regular messenger bags. All you need to do is remove the padding for your camera.
They’re also great for urban trips. Because you can swing the bag from back to front, you can keep your gear secure when going through crowded areas. You just keep it facing forward with a hand cradling the bottom of the bag. Coincidentally, this is also a good setup for quick shots.
Messenger bags have an incredibly wide price range. You can get a basic one for under $25 or a luxurious one for over $600. If you can afford to go all out, the following bags (and brands) are among the best. Though they’re all over $150 and mostly over $200, you’ll get a bag that’s well-known for its style and quality.
Mid-range Messenger Bags
The following messenger bags are more modest than the high-end options, but they’re still quality purchases. They’re all under $130 – not quite luxury bags – yet they’re still built with premium-quality materials and tasteful style.
Budget Messenger Bags
If you like to keep your purchases simple and cheap, here are five great messenger bags to choose from, all under $50.
One problem with messenger bags is that they can get in the way, especially if you’re hiking or having an active photo shoot. One solution to this problem is getting a sling, which looks like a combination of a backpack and a messenger bag. It sits firmly against your back but with one strap, so you can still slide it around – albeit less easily than a messenger bag.
Most slings are between $30 and $60, though you can find high-end options, too, like the sleek Peak Design Everyday Sling, priced at $150.
Camera backpacks come in two designs: single-compartment and dual-compartment. Single-compartment backpacks are like regular backpacks, only with padded dividers for your gear. Dual-compartment backpacks allow you to separate your gear from the rest of your stuff, like your packed lunch or muddy shoes.
Typically, both options allow you to remove the dividers, so you can use the backpack for other purposes, too. However, some backpacks are designed to convert easily, while others are clearly camera backpacks.
Like messenger bags, backpacks have a wide range of prices. This difference is not necessarily related to quality; some backpacks cost more simply because they’re larger and more “rugged,” intended for outdoor use.
If all you want is a small, urban backpack, you can find excellent, high-quality bags for under $100. But if you’re planning to go trekking in the wilderness, you might want an “adventure backpack,” which will cost more.
The majority of high-end backpacks are built for adventurous, outdoor photographers. They’re perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor sports that require more supplies than just a camera. But even if you’re not an outdoor photographer, you may love the space and thoughtful design put into the following five bags, all over $200.
Mid-range backpacks are like tamed-down adventure backpacks. They tend to be sturdier than budget backpacks, but they’re not as large or rugged as $200+ adventure backpacks. They’re great for short hiking trips and traveling, but they might not be well-suited for a week-long trek in the woods.
Then again, if you’re an outdoor photographer on a budget, you could possibly get by with one of these backpacks, priced between $75 and $130. You might need to limit the gear you’re carrying, but it could work.
Not every photo shoot requires a tough backpack for hiking in the wilderness. Sometimes, a basic, comfortable backpack is enough. For simple outings with your camera, check out the following backpacks, all under $60.