Considering the Right Camera Bag for Yourself

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Cameras bags are an object of desire for every photographer. While some photographers go for the more classy and stealthy look, others prefer just to keep their equipment the most secure that they possibly can, in the largest bag they can get their hands on. Whether you're the National Geographic explorer, traveling to remote regions, or you stalk the secretive alleys in your local city, documenting the daily happenings, there is no one bag that does it all. Here is a short list of some popular choices, and a checklist to help you get the bag that's right for you.


 The Checklist

- Are you carrying a lot of gear?

- How big are the individual pieces that you're carrying?

- How careful are you? Will your gear need thicker padding than the mattress that you sleep on at night?

- Where are you going? Will you be subject to the elements? If so, how is the weatherproofing?

- What type of look are you going for?

- Do you need to carry other things besides photo gear?

- Do you have back or shoulder problems?

- Do you need speedy access to your gear?

- How big a bag do you need?

- How much abuse can it take?

- What material is it made of?

- How much does it cost?

- How high-quality are the straps? Is there padding? How easily will they break?

Stealthy

The Olympus Premium Case was designed to hold the Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera. Photographers that dig that vintage look will be pleased to know that it can hold other cameras as well. For example, it can hold the Fuji X100 (which we loved), and still have room to spare. Street photographers that prefer small cameras like the Canon G series, Sony NEX cams or the compact Micro Four Thirds cameras will appreciate this bag's looks. Indeed, it doesn't look at all like a camera bag. If anything, it harkens back to the look of an old TLR case.

With this said, you may not want to carry it out into the rain, as it does not seem to provide adequate protection against cats and dogs falling from the sky.

The Acme Made Union Photo Messenger is another choice for shooters that aren't carrying a DSLR. This little bag is built tough, with a flexible but hardy shell, complete with weatherproofing. Designed to hold superzoom cameras, it can also carry your Micro Four Thirds camera or Sony NEX, and still have some extra head and maneuver room. There are pockets inside and outside for things like SD cards, lens caps, and more.

One of the main benefits of the Photo Messenger is that while it is tough, it is extremely light. Because of the design and shape, it actually reminds me a bit of a turtle—except that it's nimble.

For the female photographer that wants to double as a secret agent, Jill-E has a line of camera bags that don't look like camera bags at all. Their small camera bag looks like a woman's handbag. So when you're walking around or going from shoot to shoot, the entire world won't know that you're packing a D7000 with lenses in there.

I've heard from friends that this bag is actually very handy because there is so much room to hold more than just photography accessories, and that it's very comfortable when walking around in the hot NYC summer weather.




The Trekker

The Billingham Hadley bags are the personal choice of many of my co-workers here in the executive offices. With their discreet and quietly attractive design, these bags have quite a bit of padding inside to keep your gear protected. These bags were designed to carry small DSLR cameras with lenses, a small camcorder with accessories, or a rangefinder with accessories. In the modern world, you could also stuff in a Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX camera, with lenses and accessories. I pack other things in there as well, like a small book to read, my wallet, film, memory cards, etc.

For those of you with tablet devices, you'll be glad to know that this bag can hold one.

The Crumpler 7 Million Dollar Home bags are another choice for the photographer or traveler that will be doing a lot of walking, and will need to carry quite a bit of gear. It has lots of padding inside, which will keep all of your expensive lenses and other items from bumping into one another, in addition to keeping them protected from other variables.

It's worth it to note that the Crumpler bags are also expandable to accommodate larger pieces of gear, if needed.

For another messenger-style bag, consider the Kata DB-455 Digital, which seems like a nice option for a journalist. Able to carry a DSLR, lens, and a bunch of accessories, it's a fitting choice for magazine writers wandering a trade show floor, going to vendor meetings, and attending one event after another. You'll have lots of room for those small items that you may need as well.

As my personal camera bag of choice for weddings, the Domke F2 Shoulder Bag has served me, along with many other photographers, for years. Rugged, well padded, and with lots of room for storage, the Domke F2 will be the love of many working event photographers. My bag is almost as old as I am (I'm 24), and still holds up very well. The straps are not ripping, the pockets are still in great shape, the Velcro is not coming off at all, and I can stuff nearly all of my gear inside. My only qualm is that I wish that it would have a padded pocket to accommodate my MacBook.

For photographers that also want to carry their laptops with them, consider the Lowepro Stealth Reporter camera bag. Like the Domke, this bag isn't so small, but it can hold lots of gear in its sections. This bag can hold more than you think, as I've not only seen the main compartments filled up, but I've also seen accessories stacked on top of those.

The Traveler

Want a backpack? The Lowepro CompuDay 250 is a backpack that allows the user to have quick access to their camera via a zippered side pocket. There is also room for a laptop. If you're getting on a plane, this bag includes a trolley sleeve on the back to slide it over the handle of your rolling luggage. It also has an external pouch for a water bottle—which you'll probably need if you're carrying all of your gear with you.

An alternative is the Kata 3-in-1, which has the same zippered side pocket. What's different about this bag is that it's designed for left-handed or right-handed access via the zippered sides. Additionally, the backpack can snugly tote three or four lenses, a flash, and other accessories. Like the Lowepro, it can also store a laptop, and has been reviewed as being perfect for daily trips.

What camera bag do you use? Please let us know in the comments below.

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The ThinkTank Retrospective 30 is my favorite bag. My original reason for the purchase was to carry my Nikon D700 and a couple of primes along with an iPad and other small stuff for daily trips. But I've found it to comfortably (a key word) hold much more than that when needed.

On a shoot last week, it carried a Nikon D700 with a 35mm f/2 D attached, a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 D, a Nikkor 60mm 2.8D, a Nikkor 18-105mm 3.5-5.6, a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 with tripod foot and hood reversed, a Nikon SB-900 in its case, along with extra batteries, a folded Lumiquest Softbox III, ThinkTank's Pee Wee Pixel Pocket Rocket memory card wallet, a small notebook and pens. I even fit a water bottle in the side pocket.

It sounds unbelievable, but it fit all that gear inside to my amazement and it was still comfortable to carry on my shoulder. The bag was a bit pricey ($180) but it has been worth every penny.

Yeah, but B&H doesn't sell Think Tank.  That means they don't make the B&H list, right?

I like theDeluxe Backpack 200 EG  from Canon.  It's pretty lightweight, got lots of compartments and dividers, and is not to hard on the wallet.