No matter what type, brand, or model your camera happens to be, you will inevitably need to find a way to store, protect, and carry it, along with all the other gear you may need. And while finding the best camera pouch, case, or backpack can be a never-ending quest for some photographers, we’re going to give you a head start on your quest with a roundup of some of the most popular brands and models of camera bags that can meet your varying needs in the field.
Beginning at the smaller, more accessible end of the spectrum, a camera pouch provides quick and easy access to your camera when you need it, and quickly stow it when you don’t. If your camera is small and lightweight, then a camera pouch may be right for you, and you may even find dedicated pouches designed to fit your camera model. If you go with a generic pouch, you will have more choices as far as construction, style and color, while a dedicated pouch will be custom tailored to fit your camera like a glove.
When buying a pouch for a slim, compact camera, it’s understandable that you don’t want something unnecessarily large, because that defeats the purpose of having a compact camera in the first place. On the other hand you don’t want a case that’s too tight because you might not be able to close it or you could damage the camera trying to do so. For a good fit, measure your camera’s height, width and depth, and then look for a pouch whose interior dimensions are close to but slightly larger than the dimensions of your camera.
Lowepro is B&H’s most popular brand of compact and DSLR camera pouches. Three of the top four models include the Rezo 15, Rezo 30, and Rezo 50, which feature pockets for memory cards and other small accessories. While Lowepro is the most popular brand, those ranked highest by B&H customers include two Case Logic models (the DCB-302 Compact Camera Case and UNZB-2 Universal Pocket) and one Op/Tech USA (the Digital D Offset Soft Pouch). The DCB-302 has room for a small camera, memory cards, an extra battery and other small accessories, and it comes with a detachable shoulder strap and belt loop. The neoprene UNZB-2 boasts an ultra-thin profile to fit easily in your purse or pocket. Like many of the Lowepro models, the slim pouches are best suited for compact cameras with retracting lenses. The neoprene Op/Tech Digital D pouch is best suited for small digital cameras with non-retracting offset lenses.
Camera Holsters and Zoom Cases
Though they do not offer much in the way of extra storage space, Camera Holsters and Zoom Cases are some of the slimmest enclosures available for DSLRs with attached lenses. And like a gunslinger’s holster, they let you get your camera out fast and put it away just as fast. Here, Lowepro leads once again, followed by Canon, Tamrac, Case Logic, and Ape Case as far as popularity and positive reviews.
The Top Loader Pro 75 AW from Lowepro is designed to protect and store a professional DSLR with grip and an attached zoom lens. It also has several places to store accessories like extra memory cards, and features a quick-release buckle and adjustable dividers. Tamrac’s 5627 Digital Zoom 7 has many of the same features, but is designed for DSLR’s with smaller lenses attached.
Rather than keeping your camera zipped in a holster, you could be even more efficient and just keep it out at all times attached to the unique Clik Elite BodyLink Telephoto Pack. A hybrid backpack and chest pack, the BodyLink will fit a DSLR with grip and 8.5-inch lens, and it features a height-adjustable frame to mount your camera on. It provides a solid anchor against your body, while still allowing you to move freely while supporting the weight of a heavy camera and lens. You even have easy access to the pack with gear mounted to the frame.
When you’re out in the field, shooting faster than a speeding bullet, don’t forget to bring along your Krypton Green Vector 2: Top Load from Tenba—because although Kryptonite is Superman’s weakness, thankfully, it has no effect on you! Every zipper, clip, and piece of fabric on the holster is custom-dyed throughout, and provides water-resistant materials that keep your DSLR with lens and accessories safely tucked away in a striking, lightweight design.
Where shoulder bags are concerned, Lowepro returns to the top of the satisfied customer list with its Adventura 170 Shoulder Bag. Domke offers up its larger F-2 Ruggedwear Shooters Bag, while Tamrac and Pearstone join the ranks with their 5612 Pro 12 and Onyx 1040 camera bags. The Adventura 170 is a budget-friendly option for those who need to fit a single DSLR with attached lens, plus two additional lenses or a flash and other small accessories. It can also hold a camcorder and accessories. And although Lowepro’s Adventura 170 is highly recommended, it is far outmatched in the number of lens and accessory compartments by Tamrac’s 5612 Pro 12, which has room for two DSLRs with attached lenses, several additional lenses, a flash, and many other small accessories. It can definitely support a professional photographer in the field with multiple camera body and lens options. And for those who want to go a step further to both look and feel as though they’re on safari, the National Geographic NG A5270 Africa Series Medium Rucksack or NG 2477 Earth Explorer Large Shoulder Bag will provide unique functionality and style. Each offers ample space for your DSLR or camcorder with accessories.
For top-notch quality and construction materials, the Tenba Black Label: Small Shoulder Bag or Large Photo/Laptop Messenger Bag are comfortable and versatile enough for any type of wedding, press, editorial, or event photography. The Black Label bag is dressed in ballistic nylon that has been laminated with open-cell foam, adding protection against water, stains, wear and tear. It has enough room for two of your DSLR bodies, 3 to 5 lenses, and a flash and accessories. When you want to carry everything you can for any eventuality, Tenba’s Large Messenger bag is designed to help you do just that. It’s lightweight and rugged, with enough room for a DSLR, 2-3 lenses, a flash, a 17" laptop, books, magazines and accessories. It even features an anodized aluminum plate on the front flap that can be engraved with your own logo or company name, letting customers know who you work for, or the name of your business, without having to say a word. When you want your bag to look and feel as good as you shoot, Tenba’s assortment of professional bags will not disappoint.
When not in the field, perhaps back in the big city, ONA supplies a range of stylish and sophisticated camera bags that provide both form and function. They even have an insert that turns any old bag into your very own padded camera bag. For a light amount of gear, say a DSLR, a flash and couple of lenses, The Brooklyn and The Venice bags will keep you looking great while shooting around town. They include additional pockets besides the main one, allowing you to store your phone, e-reader or tablet—and both bags come with removable dividers to allow you to rearrange and re-organize your gear. Put them in when you need them, and take them out just as easily when you don’t.
Should you need to bring more gear with you, ONA offers a larger shoulder bag: The Union Street. The Union Street is designed to hold anything and everything you might need for a day of shooting, including a DSLR, three lenses, small accessories, personal effects and even a 15-inch laptop. You’ll be ready for anything, from an impromptu photo shoot to a classy gallery exhibition.
If you already own a bag you love, but wish it offered better protection for delicate camera gear, ONA’s Roma Camera Insert and Bag Organizer might just be the ticket. While it might not replace a dedicated camera bag, it is great for quick trips with a camera and lens, as well as anything else you carried in your bag without the insert.
While there are many great sling bags from a plethora of manufacturers, Kata is well known for and really shines in this category. Kata’s 3 in 1 Sling Backpacks are very popular among B&H shoppers, and the Large 3 in 1 Sling Backpack is chief among them. Fitting a DSLR camera with battery grip and attached long-range zoom lens, a 15.4-inch laptop computer, half a dozen additional lenses, a flash, and plenty of accessories and personal items, this roomy bag also features a built-in rain cover. Other manufacturers have created their own sling bags in various shapes and sizes. Tamrac’s smaller Velocity 7x is capable of transporting a DSLR with 6-inch lens attached and a couple of extra lenses, while the sleek Vanguard UP-Rise 43 holds a DSLR with grip, attached lens and 3 or 4 additional lenses, plus flash and accessories. Case Logic’s SLRC-205 is built to house a DSLR with a standard lens attached plus an extra lens or flash. Lowepro’s popular SlingShot 202 AW carries a DSLR with attached standard lens and 3 to 4 extra lenses or flashes (plus accessories), as well as a tripod or monopod. The same manufacturer’s Passport Sling accommodates a DSLR with attached zoom lens, an additional lens or flash, a memory card and personal items.
Tamrac’s Velocity 7x is a compact, rounded shell of a sling bag featuring a unique memory card and battery management system, whereby red flags are used to identify which are batteries are fresh and which cards are full. There’s also a tuck-away waist belt and fast flip top that opens away from your body, concealing the contents from others. Lightweight and easy to swing around from a backpack to a sling bag, it is quite versatile and comfortable to wear anywhere.
Similarly, Vanguard, Case Logic, and Lowepro offer their own sling bags and swinging backpacks. Vanguard’s UP-Rise 43 sling bag has a sleek matte black polyester finish, as well as a bright orange foam-divider interior, providing better visibility of contents in the dark. Case Logic’s SLRC-205 has a unique asymmetric design for added comfort when worn over a shoulder, and a hammock system to suspend a DSLR for added impact protection. Lowepro’s popular SlingShot series sling bags, and specifically the 202 AW Camera Bag, sport an ergonomic sling strap for added comfort, and speed of rotation when swinging the bag back to front. Even more popular than the SlingShot bags, however, is Lowepro’s more unique Passport Sling Camera Bag, designed for travel enthusiasts who wish to carry an equal amount of camera and personal gear along with their DSLR camera. It features an expandable compartment that increases its capacity by 30 percent when needed.
Waist packs aren’t just your regular old 1980’s fanny pack—unless you get the f.64 Fanny Pack, that is. For a comfortable and very breathable option, the Clik Elite Seeker Waist Pack is specifically designed to do well in both areas. Featuring a supportive back panel, corrugated circulation channels and a padded belt with bi-directional buckle to distribute weight evenly, it offers a great blend of form and function. Waist packs vary in style from true waist packs to slings and hipbags, and are available for both still and video cameras. Designed to be smaller, faster alternatives to full-size backpacks or camera bags, waist packs are an efficient and lightweight solution for storing and retrieving your gear in a flash, while not being quite as small or limited as a compact holster.
Moving up to true backpacks—no more swinging, slinging or spinning here—we find the usual suspects. Tamrac’s 5588 Expedition 8x and Lowepro’s Pro Trekker 400 AW standard backpacks have room for one or two DSLR cameras, half a dozen lenses, and a 17-inch laptop, with more buckles and pockets than some photographers will know what to do with.
Mountainsmith’s Borealis Backpack, made out of recycled ReDura PET fabric, is capable of carrying a 17-inch laptop, a tripod, and even a pair of skis, a snowboard or snowshoes. Kata returns with their Bumblebee series in the Pro-Light Bumblebee-220 PL, which has such distinctive features as a Gecko harness, spine guard and clinch-clasp sternum strap.
If you’re concerned about water damaging your gear, Aquapac’s 25L Wet & Dry Backpack and Manfrotto’s Lino Pro VII offer varying levels of water proofing to ensure your gear is properly protected. The iKan Explorer Bag holds a two DSLR camera bodies, up to eight lenses, a pro flash and dozens of smaller accessories, and a removable rain cover keeps your gear dry in bad weather. Never again will you fear getting caught in the rain or slipping into the river you’re shooting.
For nature and sports photographers, or anyone who uses long telephoto lenses, there are special backpacks designed to accommodate long lenses. The Kata TLB-800 PL Telephoto Lens Pack holds a camera and lens up to 800mm in a cradle, and the Tamrac 5793 Super Telephoto Lens Pack can house a camera with a 600mm lens attached.
If you want the storage capacity of a small suitcase combined with the portability of a backpack, then a rolling case such as the Ape Case ACPRO4000 Digital SLR and Laptop Roller Backpack is an ideal choice. It’s designed with numerous compartments that can be reconfigured to hold various cameras, lenses and flashes. Fully adjustable harnesses ensure optimal comfort, while the built-in telescopic handle makes for effortless transportation.
Depending on the amount of gear you have, or at least how much you need to carry at any given moment, this roundup offers multiple luggage options in all shapes, sizes, textures and colors. From large to small, sling pack to fanny pack, the bags outlined here will most definitely provide an answer to the question, “Which bag do I need?”