Best Camera Bags 2017 – Buyer’s Guide

Whether professional or amateur, every photographer needs to store and carry their equipment in a safe but practical manner. Most camera bags are comfortable to wear and transporting your gear using one is definitely a good idea, however, this can become quite a hassle when the quantity and diversity of your equipment doesn’t match the features offered by the camera bag. Or if it does match, in some cases the price might not make it worth it.

Let’s explore some options and decide.

Types of camera bags

1. Camera pouches and Cases

For smaller cameras like the Panasonic Lumix GM5 that provides convenient quality for a rather compact size it is recommended to get a camera pouch. It has just enough room for the camera and a few extra accessories such as memory cards and cables. You can just attach it to your belt and have it ready in no time.

2. Camera holsters

Expanding the idea of camera pouches but with considerably more space, we encounter the camera holsters. Very similar in size and feature to the pouches, they allow the storage of longer zooms. Thus, they’re very useful for DSLRs.

3. Waist belts

Not exactly the best choice in terms of fashion, they provide a high rate of features and functions to compensate. Most of them come with a modular interior and dividers so you can customize your experience of carrying a camera and accessories, in some cases maybe even an extra lens.

4. Shoulder bags

Also commonly known as messenger bags, they rank highest on the level of popularity among photographers. They sport a great deal of capacity but we shouldn’t try to abuse this feature. There’s enough space for an SLR and a few lenses, even a flashgun or two and accessories such as chargers and batteries.

5. Backpacks

The backpack is an old-school option for carrying anything, we know that. However the camera bag backpack is a large model adapted for photographers that can spare enough room for a DSLR with four lenses, a tablet, laptop and extra accessories. It’s useful for traveling long distance without much hassle and some even have options to attach a tripod.

6. Rolling cases

Known also as trolleys, they offer the most in terms of storage capacity if you really have much to carry. Some of them are classified as hard cases which provide extra durability and protection for your gear in almost any condition.

Let’s have a look at some prime examples of each.


1. Tenba Shootouts Series-Best Camera Backpack

The Tenba Shootout backpack is definitely a top-liner among its kind. It comes in three models: 18L and 32L and the middle option, the 24L Shootout. It’s specifically designed for comfort and safe travel, wrapped in a professional appearance.

The zippers: Now this can be a very important factor in buying a backpack, and it’s not at all ridiculous that. The Tenba Shootouts are outfitted with YKK Self-Healing Zippers which are extremely durable and reliable. You can expect these to never break or last for a very long time.

The 18L Model: Taking a deeper look into the three variations we have the 18L which has a capacity for 2 DSLRs with 3-5 lenses including flash and accessories. Some of the features include the “Pivot Fit” straps that automatically adjust to the user’s shoulder type and are built from a Lycra type material to avoid clothing friction. It weighs 3.2 pounds or 2.6 without dividers.

The 24L Model: Obviously the biggest difference between the three models will be the quantity it allows to carry, however, along with this change comes also a new possibility. The 24L can fit 2 DSLR with 4-6 and flash with accessories such as an iPad or Laptop. Tenba boasts that even their 18L model is a good fit for passionate hikers, but for all intents and purposes we consider that this new possibility we mentioned earlier starts with the 24L due to its bigger size at a weight of 4 pounds or 3.5 pounds without the dividers.

The 32L Model: A bit over-exaggerated in terms of big it is, it has the capacity to store 2 DSLRs with 5-8 lenses and it weighs an astounding 6 pounds, while having all other features of the previous models.

The highlight features in all three models also boast a hip belt, crush-proof top compartment for safe storage, a tripod carrier, an adjustable trolley strap, weather rap rain cover and a water-repellent rip stop exterior. The base of the bag is moisture resistant in case any liquids spill inside. The accessory loops on the harness straps provide good optional pouches for different other attachments and the compression straps will take a weight off your shoulders in balancing the backpack to the center gravity of your body preventing load shifting.

The material is a consistent rip stop nylon mentioned before; however it does raise some concerns on durability in case of abrasion.

Pros
  •  It’s rather expensive for the features it brings to the table and its heavy weight compared to other professional bags
Cons
  • The interior lacks in design and practicality when it comes to the compartments it offers.


2. Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag

The San Francisco company Timbuk2 has over 25 years of experience in producing classic messenger bags with innovating technology such as the Double-Loop CAM buckle that is easy to adjust and eliminates the annoyance of dangling straps. The vision behind Timbuk2’s bag is generated through consumer feedback and professional consideration.

The appearance

Just as you’d probably expect and as the company itself advertises it, it’s a classic messenger bag without too many extras on the exterior to overcrowd it on the design part. However, it does come in a variation of over 20 different colors.

The materials the bag uses

Codura nylon, cotton canvas and 100% Polyethylene. The Cordura fabric is smooth and high quality, pleasant to the touch. Overall the combination is one of the reasons why The Timbuk 2 is so heavy but still easy and comfortable to carry around due to its air pockets.

Models

The medium bag is big enough to fit

The features

The bag comes with a Waterproof TPU liner for excellent weatherproofing, internal organizers for phones and miscellaneous such as pens. There’s also an internal water bottle pocket for easy use. The flap buckles are concealed and subtle, helping with the weatherproofing element aforementioned. The fully adjustable shoulder strap provides a comfortable airmesh pad. The corner flaps provide protection against the rain but can become an obstacle when taking wide objects out of the bag.

Pros
  • It comes in different sizes according to each user’s needs
  • The design is attractive and friendly and there is room for customization.
Cons
  • There is no option for left-handed people unless you order a custom-made bag that comes at a higher cost than the standard one.
  • User reported that the strap adjustment doesn’t lock and wears quickly.


3. Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 20 V2.0

Think Thank Photo is a popular US based company that provides sells and provides designs for camera bags and accessories for photographers, especially for the SLR cameras users. The idea behind the name is based on the focus on producing ideas and solutions based on feedback from photographers. Their products are technical by nature and provide well thought space and extras to enthrall the buyer.

Usage and features

Useful for holding a modular system or extra system, it’s a good choice if you want to carry your camera without too many extra accessories to be spread around in a big backpack. It provides ample protection and small spaces for some goodies like snacks. The neck strap makes it easy to secure and attach it to your body. So if you want to just grab your camera and not your whole photography kit and take a short trip downtown for some professional exploration, the Think Tank Holster gives you the necessary incentive to do so without having to lose your head over what storage method you should use.

Always showing their professional side, Think Thank Photo provides a small pocket for business cards on the top. Not only can you carry your camera around with you, but you can recommend yourself by easily taking advantage of this small and thoughtful feature.

It comes with a Think Tank rain cover that can be used to store extra SD cards or small miscellaneous items if you’re not actually using it for its intended purpose. Extra pockets on the top for camera batteries, a flap top to cover the LCD screens and sensible objects in order to protect them from scratching. Enough room to store a considerably large zoom lens and small side pocket.

Pros
  • The neck strap prevents the rain coat from fully covering the top of the case
  • Durability is a big plus. The sturdiness makes it an attractive choice.
Cons
  • Not big enough for 24-70mm lens and above, barely making it a tight fit
  • For photographers that need to capture wildlife, the Velcro noise might be a big minus for obvious reasons


4. Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7

The Think Tank Retrospective 7 provides a tough design with lightweight materials. It weighs around 3 pounds and is overall very balanced in its capacity and size. Easy to fit an SLR and a flash inside it without filling it up, but still leaves enough room to compensate in case you need to carry anything extra.

The exterior design is comprised of sand-washed cotton canvas which provides a professional but tough look. It comes in different variations so if canvas isn’t a first choice for the user, there is always the option of buying it in nylon. Fortunately for travelers in harsh weather conditions, the material is also water-repellent, while the bottom is coated with polyurethane. Expect long term resistance against tear-and-wear due to the choice of A-class materials and balance of weight. One of characteristics of the design is the fact that it doesn’t give away your identity as a photographer, it looks like a simple, strong shoulder bag.

In terms of ergonomics the bag is comfortable to wear with high quality padding in the shoulder straps.

The exterior zippered pocket is really big and enough to fig an iPad or a personal tablet no bigger than 11 inches. The spaces encourages you to deposit your phone there too.

Pros
  • Well-built, good looking, flexible storage space
  • Durability is a big plus. The sturdiness makes it an attractive choice.
Cons
  • Only minor drawback of this bag is the weight, material is high quality but thick, so it’s a bit heavy.


5. Pelican 1510 Case

Trademark of Pelican Products Inc, the Pelican 1510 Case comes in a few different variations and models. The standard 1510 is the “foam” model and it boasts incredible features such as strong polyurethane wheels with stainless steel bearings. It is fully watertight, dust proof and crush proof.

It has a neat feature called Automatic Pressure Equalization Valve – balancing the interior pressure and keeping the water out. The rubber over-molded top and side handles are comfortable and pleasant to hold and it has easy to open double throw latches. Other noticeable things: open cell core with solid wall design which reminds of a combination not often found in most products nowadays: strong and easy to use.

The extension handle is as expected retractable and it comes with stainless steel hardware and padlock protectors.

The case is made out of reinforced plastic and comes with a life-time warranty.

If you’re going for a serious and professional look and don’t mind modifying the case out of necessity, this is a good buy. Price-wise, it’s not the best choice. It’s definitely not the best case Pelican Products have launched so far, but it can compete. If you don’t enjoy carrying around a bulky solid case and want everything pre-made to work, this is not the best choice. It is low maintenance, but you need to replace some of the interior.
Pros
  • A majorly solid and high quality build
  • Durability is the best advantage this case has to offer, being called by many of its users almost indestructible.
Cons
  • Some user have reported it to be a bit heavy
  • The design is more of a look for engineers, rather than photographers,


6. Lowepro Inverse 200 AW Camera Beltpack

Lowepro is a brand of Daymen Canada Acquisitions ULC. The Inverse 200 AW Beltpack is a perfect example of craftsmanship and versatility. Equipped with a multitude of pockets and features it offers a customization main storage compartment and it sports a water resistant cover, water bottle holder and tripod straps.

It weighs around 2.12lbs and has the capacity for a pro DSLR with medium zoom lens, but you can also fit in two additional lenses, chargers, cords and plenty of filters and memory cards due to the number of pockets inside.

The design is well engineered to go hand in hand with the functions it offers and is noticeable a camera bag from almost any distance because of its many clips, zippered pockets and straps. In terms of color we have a few combinations available such as blue and black, all black and green and black. With top-tier construction quality all the pockets and attachments are carefully sewn and easy to access in daily activities.

It has eight main compartments with several locking systems depending on what you wish to deposit: mesh pockets, zippered or even velcroed pockets. As soon as you open the first section, the biggest part of its main storage compartment is used to deposit the camera and lenses. Other two pockets provide storage capability for a few SD cards. On every side there is an elastic mesh pocket able to hold a water bottle and a phone device. In case of rain, you can pop out the water-resistant nylon cover and permanently secure your bog using a thing elastic wrap. The adjustable straps with clips on the bottom make it an optimal choice to secure a monopod or a small tripod.

In terms of user comfort it is a bit more difficult to handle in the beginning, but once you manage to get used to its size and adjustability, it is comfortable for long term wear even with tons of objects stored inside.

Overall a very simple to wear camera bag populated with multiple storage choices for photographers that just can’t decide between which accessories to use. The price is more than fair for the features, even though the waist straps loosen up and have to be readjusted constantly.
Pros
  • The attachment points and weather protection give it a big plus
Cons
  •  The nylon rain cover is difficult to configure and it doesn’t allow you to access the bag while in use.


7. Think Tank Airport Essentials

The Think Tank Camera Backpack is a compact and comfortable wear due to its ergonomic and well balanced robust handles plus the lumbar support and air mesh paneling that will keep your back cool while you’re wearing it. The exterior is outfitted with pockets designed for quick use and storage of essential traveling items. Just like the name suggests, air-travelling and using this backpack for its impressive storage features make it one of the top-tier choices on the market. It doesn’t look like a traditional camera backpack although it has all the functions necessary to be one.

On the outside we have superior water resistance fabric. The whole exterior is designed with a durable water-repellent coating and the popular polyurethane coating for the bottom of the backpack. The zippers are abrasion resistant, the bottom panel is made from ballistic nylon and let’s not forget the ultra-stretch pockets available to guarantee long-term use.

In terms of features, the lock system is easy on both sides of the process, the cable lock YKK® RC Fuse zippers protect your gear from any danger. The backpack is built in accordance to international carry-on standards so it will easily slide underneath the seat in airplanes. For smaller accessories the inside flap contains laminated mesh pockets where you can store your memory cards, snacks or any other miscellaneous items.

The backpack has a removable padded waist-belt, contoured adjustable harness and it’s compatible with camera support straps that are sold separately. The aforementioned features, especially the harness system makes it very convenient and easy to carry while offering multiple choices. The height adjustable sternum straps are used for weight distribution and the elastic pockets on the shoulder strap grant it exceptional quick-access capabilities. The shoulder straps are also thick and you can use them to attach small accessories to them. The tripod/monopod mounting system included is a big feature for the traveling photographer which is not present in all the camera bags or backpacks on the market.

In the interior we have removable closed cell foam dividers which provide an opportunity for modification – should the user wish it.

Storage: You can fit inside a standard DSLR, a 10” tablet, 13” or 15” laptops, 300mm f/2.8, 70-200 mm/f2.8 and f/4.0 pro lenses. .

Onlly drawback is it cannot store big camera bodies like the D4s in a vertical position and its price is rather expensive.


8. Lowepro Fastpack BP 150 AW

The LowerPro Fastpack BP 150 AW is a travel-ready backpack designed for DSLR, tablet and a 11” laptop. It has three main primary storage zones for optimized organization of objects and an open zone at the top with multiple packets for cables, smartphones and other items. The backpack can be secured to a rolling trolley using the compression straps.

The bag is comfortable and lightweight, making it a pleasure to carry around even for a whole day. The left, top and front access to gear is a feature that grants access from almost every angle to your items. The padded touch-fastened interior dividers add a well-thought compartment for depositing small items such as flashlights and sunglasses. The tall stretch-mesh pocket on the right side can hold a water bottle or a tripod/monopod where an adjustable strap is used to secure the top of it. The pack features a shoulder harness with a chest strap and a removable waist belt that provide comfort and stability when you’re filling up the bag with extra items for a lounger journey. It also has 2 slip-in pen pockets and 1 split-in mesh pocket for wallets and small items. The rain cover does its job well to protect your gear from inclement weather using the All Weather AW Cover. The All Weather system is attached to the bag at the bottom of the backpack and is easily detachable by removing the Velcro bottom. There’s also 1 key lanyard with a swiveling clip that is located right next to the pockets on the top compartment.

Pros
  • Highly recommendable bag if the user is looking for an agile design.
  • For its current price, you will be getting an excellent overall value.
Cons
  • If you have an attached tripod or water bottle, the rain cover won’t be able to always reach all of it, leaving some of your items a bit vulnerable to outside conditions.


9. Tamrac 5612 Pro 13 Camera Bag

Tamrac, Inc. is a relatively small American-based company from California that manufactures photographic equipment. They started out in 1977 and were later acquisitioned by Gura Gear in 2014.

The Black 5612 Camera Bag from Tamrac is built for storage of two DSLRs with lenses attached. It also has enough space provided for additional lenses, flashes and accessories. It sports a Dual Action Top that provides protection against rain or harsh weather for the main foam-padded compartment. The thick bottom is a rigid platform also foam-padded with plastic for shock absorption. On the front we have a Memory and Battery Management System with red flags to help the user identify which batteries or memory cards are full. We also encounter two zippers for each front pocket that go all the way down to the bottom of the pockets. The internal dimensions are 15 by 6.75 by 8.25 inches. The Lens-Bridge Divider System allows for smart placement of the camera above the rest of the equipment and the material chosen by Tamrac is 900 Denier PolyTek and ballistic nylon.

Pros
  • The shoulder strap is durable
  • Easily customization interior for accommodation of different types of camera bodies and lenses.
  • Its size is certainly a big plus if we’re talking storage, allowing most camera bodies to fit with confidence
Cons
  • Not very encouraging for long term wear.
  • Cheap and fragile feel of the zipper.
Overall a good buy if you have the patience for a lot of storage and can overlook some flaws that are easily covered by newer models of competing camera bags.

10. Lowepro Slingshot 202–Best Sling Camera Bag

Another unique and comfortable camera bag by the Lowerpro brand, the Slingshot 202 is a rather strange product designed to carry a DSLR camera with standard zoom lens attached and 3-4 additional lenses or flash units, however we do not include the grip of the camera here. The material is 600 Denier Polyester, 210 Denier Nylon lining and 1680 Denier Ballistic Nylon. The main compartment used for the camera is fully padded and surprises us with a divider system for camera gear placement. The upper compartment is generally used for personal items or miscellaneous. The two memory card pockets on the inside lid of the main compartment are easy to access and use.

The design has the purpose of allowing quick rotation from back to front to access your camera as quickly as possible.

Another feature of the Slingshot 202 is the Hideaway Tripod Mount system with a foldout holder included. It’s designed for quick release and comes with a strap that secures the monopod or tripod to the side.

The All Weather AW cover is also present like with most modern camera bags. The “Three SlipLock” attachment loops add more to the storage capacity of the camera bag in the form of compatible pouches, cases and bags. The easy-glide zippers are smooth to operate and grant quick access to all the compartments. Two fastex buckles prevent the user from opening the compartments all the way by accident.

It lacks the functions and features of other models produced by Lowepro and it’s not as spacey as one would like, but overall the price more than fits the category.
Pros
  • The price is much lower than expected for the features it provides
  • Much more comfortable than a messenger bag
  • Easy access, more convenient compared to a backpack.
Cons
  • The lack in color variation might be a problem if you’re capricious.


 

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