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When you’re looking for products to support and enhance your photography, there are a few schools of thought. Some people prefer to spend the minimum to get the practical needs covered, others want reliable functionality and will spend a little extra to get it, and then there are those who prefer only the top of the line, and price is either not a concern or worth the sacrifice. Of course, items like camera bags, backpacks, straps, and vests need to be utilitarian and durable, but who says they can’t be beautiful, as well? Below is a selection of camera bags, straps, and other items that put an emphasis on beauty and design while still fulfilling their function. Let’s refer to them as “the luxury that lasts.”
The Oberwerth Heidelberg Camera Bag is a full-grain leather satchel with a removable padded insert that can hold a DSLR camera, 2 lenses, a 13" laptop and accessories. Handmade in Germany, it features vegetable-tanned cowhide, snap closures and air-filled interior pads to reduce weight. It is available in four styles and colors. Oberwerth makes a range of gorgeous camera bags, including the Kate Multi-Functional Leather Ladies Bag, which can hold a DSLR camera with two lenses along with additional accessories, such as memory cards. The bag also contains a zipped pocket and other compartments that can securely store a laptop or tablet up to 13", and personal items like a mobile phone or wallet. The “Kate” comes in a range of colors and optional button and fastening finishes.
The Leather Clifton Camera and Everyday Backpack from ONA is a lovely and durable camera backpack made from full-grain Italian leather and can hold a DSLR and 4–6 extra lenses and accessories. Two removable inserts with padded dividers organize items inside, and air mesh on the back panel and shoulder straps keep it comfortable. ONA makes a range of quality bags in several styles, designed to be practical for the photographer and handsome for daily use, which also adds an element of inconspicuousness, but a favorite of mine is the Prince Street Camera Messenger Bag—and its reviews on our site help explain why.
Figbags makes colorful and elegant premium leather bags with interior dividers, buckles with clasp closures, and an inner pocket for a small laptop or tablet. The Hanborough Leather Satchel holds a camera and up to two lenses with accessories, and the Lincoln Leather Bag, which is more of a handbag, will carry a camera and two lenses plus accessories discreetly.
Similarly, Aide de Camp produces high-end shoulder bags that look as much like purses as camera bags. The Leyden Camera Bag is fine example, and features 14-karat champagne gold-plated hardware. The Nadine Travel Tote has a zip-top closure and laptop compartment with removable padding that can double as a diaper-changing pad.
Using buffalo leather for many of its products, compagnon offers a comprehensive selection of camera bags, backpacks, tool bags, and straps. The Weekender Camera and Laptop Bag is large enough for multiple DSLRs and up to ten lenses, with a separate compartment for laptops. There is also a fashionable Backpack for Camera and Laptop and several variations on messenger bags with a very elegant yet rugged design.
Billingham makes backpacks, bags, pouches, and a large variety of cases and accessories, but one item stands out as quite luxurious—the 550 Original Shoulder Bag, made from soft-weave waterproof canvas. As users will attest, you are not only paying for good looks when you buy this bag, but for versatility and longevity. These bags last! Leather handles and trim and metal feel keep the bag in shape, and numerous interior partitions help to organize your cameras and lenses. Optional tripod straps and removable side pockets help you to customize the bag for specific outings.
A few very recognizable brand names also add to the camera bag options. The ISAAC MIZRAHI Liz Camera Satchel holds a DSLR with lens and is the height of elegance, made with burgundy-colored genuine leather, gold-toned hardware, and a strong magnetic grip. The interior camera insert is removable and the cross-body strap is detachable for nights on the town. The Trenton Backpack, from Kelly Moore Bag, converts easily from backpack to shoulder bag and can hold a DSLR with attached lens, as well as an additional lens measuring up to 14". A removable padded basket with two removable padded dividers protect your gear, while a dedicated laptop slip pocket prevents any unwanted movement within your bag. Think Tank Photo is recognized for its huge range of professional-quality camera bags and cases, but the Lily Deanne Tutto Premium-Quality Camera Bag is one of its fashion-forward entrants. Lightweight despite its leather exterior, it provides the little touches photographers appreciate, such as a light blue interior lining that makes finding gear in low light fast and easy. It will hold a DSLR with mid-range zoom lens attached, and up to five additional lenses. A dedicated 15" laptop compartment and many interior and exterior pockets are featured.
Probably the funkiest of lux camera bags are the Capturing Couture collection. Capturing Couture designs bags, numerous straps, lens totes, and cap keepers with bright, intricate, colored patterns. Of the many options they offer, The Moonshine Camera Backpack and the Americana Camera Backpack are my favorites. They hold two DSLRs along with two lenses, a flash, and accessories, and provide an interior 12" pocket for laptops or tablets. They can be worn as a backpack or messenger bag and feature a water-resistant base with five metal feet. Check out the full line of lens totes with patterns and designs not normally found in the camera game, and the many fun camera straps, including the Dakota Teak.
Finally, the Barber Shop Quiff Borsa Traveler Doctor Camera Bag, which I suppose sums up all of its possible functions with its name, is a gorgeous grained-leather Italian-made bag, large enough to hold two DSLRs and up to five lenses. Its insert can be removed and the bag used for travel or general purposes, and its stay-open doctor-style design is old-school functional.
Starting where we left off with bags, the Barber Shop company offers three variations on its Full Beard Single Cross Strap, which features a comfortable shoulder pad and allows your camera to slide freely while you transport your gear securely in any environment. The camera attaches to the strap using a 1/4"-20 mounting screw, and a leather hood covers the mounting hardware to protect the camera body. These straps are crafted in Italy with vegetable-tanned leather.
The Artisan and Artist ACAM-310 Silk Camera Strap is designed for mirrorless cameras and is made of a thin but sturdy Japanese silk strap with leather ends, which protect your camera. Light, smooth, and simple, it can be used as a neck or wrist strap.
Made from Scandinavian elk leather with natural rubber padding and wax coating for protection, the German-made EDDYCAM Fashion -2- Camera Strap comes in multiple color combinations and is extremely comfortable, in addition to a having a long lifespan, backed up by a limited 5-year warranty. New from EDDYCAM is the Edition 35mm Camera Strap, which is a bit narrower than the Fashion-2 and designed for mirrorless cameras, but no less beautiful. It, too, is sourced from wild Scandinavian elk leather, from a tannery in Finland, and then handmade in a workshop, in Bavaria, Germany.
HoldFast Gear makes many leather products for photography, from lens pouches and wallets to straps and bags. The Roamagrapher Camera Bag is beautiful and dear, but the most noteworthy luxury item from this manufacturer may just be the Money Maker Genuine Python Skinny 2 Camera Harness. It is made in the U.S.A from genuine python leather and is designed for two cameras, both hanging at your hip. The Speed Clutch mechanism allows you to slide each camera smoothly from your side, up to eye level to shoot, and the "X" pattern across your back provides comfort and added support.
Haute couture is one thing for which photographers are not necessarily known, at least not while working, but if you want the top of the line in photographers’ vests, I would recommend The Vest Guy Scott Bourne Mesh Photo Vest, which is available in a selection of colors and sizes. MOLLE attachment loops, top utility pockets, large cargo pockets with dividers, exterior and interior D-rings, and an interior hydration system set these vests apart. The pockets on this U.S.-made vest can hold lenses as large 70-200mm or 100-400mm.
How have you combined photography and fashion wear? Let us know in the Comments section, below.