Photography / Tips and Solutions

10 Types of Camera Bags and What to Ask Before Buying Them

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If you have ever shopped for a camera bag, strap or case, we know your pain. There are so many options—too many options in the minds of some. After all, they’re just camera bags, how different can they be? Well, camera bags, while not having intricate image sensors, screen resolutions, or megapixels, are complex in their own ways. The following guide is meant to help you navigate the wide world of camera bags, straps, and cases to find the best solutions for you by suggesting some questions you should be asking yourself or your knowledgeable B&H Photo sales professional before you make a purchasing decision.

Shoulder Bags

Shoulder bags are designed to hold a camera and several lenses. There are many varieties of shoulder bags. When choosing one, consider the following:

  • Do I want to work out of the bag, or carry it around with me?
  • Do I want the bag to be multifunctional so it can act as both a camera bag and a day pack?
  • Do I want to carry a laptop computer or tablet in the bag?
  • Does the bag have a trolley strap included so if I want to attach it to rolling luggage, I can?

Backpacks

Camera backpacks are one of the most popular options for carrying around your gear. Backpacks are generally broken down into three categories:

  • Backpacks designed to hold only camera gear.
  • Backpacks designed to carry camera gear, as well as non-camera items, like your phone, keys, or a snack
  • Backpacks that offer access your gear without having to remove the backpack from your back. These are usually designed like the backpacks described above.

Here are some questions to consider when shopping for a camera backpack:

  • What gear do I want to put in this backpack? Is this a bag designed to hold all my gear, or a complement to a bag I own already?
  • How will I be using the backpack? Will I be traveling where I might want room for non-camera items (like a map), or with kids?
  • Do I want to have room to grow? Do I want to buy a camera that will allow room for gear I plan to buy in the future, or for what I have now?
  • What kinds of other features would I like in my backpack? For example: a rain cover, tripod socket, or a trolley strap.

Sling Bags

Sling bags are modified messenger-style bags that have one strap for quick and easy access to a camera. Here are some questions to think about when shopping for a sling bag:

  • Is this bag deep enough for the biggest lens I want to carry?
  • Do I favor one shoulder over the another for carrying a bag?
  • How heavy will the case be once I fill it up? Unlike backpacks, slings are designed to go on one shoulder only. If that shoulder gets tired, you can’t (in most cases) switch it.

Holster Cases

Holster cases are designed to be used with a camera and a single lens. They are the smallest, most compact carrying option, allowing it to be the easiest thing to carry and least likely to prevent you from leaving your camera at home. Here are some questions to think about:

  • What is the biggest lens I want to carry in the holster case? Do I want it to have room to expand to hold a bigger lens or a battery grip?
  • Is this a stand-alone item I want to be able to carry around my neck or belt, or is it something to go into another bag I will already be carrying?
  • Do I want room for memory cards and spare batteries or something to wrap around and protect the camera without any additional pockets?
Lowepro Toploader Pro 75 AW II Holster Bag for DSLR

Fashion Bags

Fashion bags are a great choice if you want your camera bag to look more like a purse or high-end briefcase than a camera bag. Here are some questions for the fashion forward:

  • What style and color do I like? Fashion bags come in different colors and styles that appeal to a wide range of people.
  • How heavy is the bag? Bags may be heavier due to the fabric they’re made of (fashion leather versus a synthetic).
  • If the bag will double as a purse and a camera bag, what else do I need room for?
Jo Totes Allison Camera Bag with Dual Front Pouches

Pouches

Pouches are designed for small cameras. They are meant, typically, to be worn around your neck or on your waist. Here are some things to ask when considering a pouch:

  • What size is my camera? You must know the size of your camera to pick the right pouch accurately.
  • Do I want to camera to be oriented horizontally or vertically in the case? Neck straps on two sides of a camera are typically either hanging on the outside of a case with the case’s neck strap, or stuffed-in vertically.
  • What other accessories do I want with me? Do I want room for a spare memory card, battery, or charger? If so, make sure your pouch has pockets to hold these accessories.

Rolling Cases

Rolling cases are a very convenient way to carry around a large amount of heavy gear. They are especially popular when traveling.

  • What gear will I be putting in the case? Pay special attention to cameras with battery grips that require a bag with more depth.
  • Do I need the rolling bag to fit airline regulations for a carry-on? Always check with your airline to ascertain what those dimensions are compared to the rolling case you are looking to purchase.
  • Do I want the rolling case to have backpack straps in the event I want to carry it on my back? For example, walking down subway stairs or up in a walkup building are times when backpack straps come in handy.

Hard Cases

Hard cases are the most versatile and durable type of photo transport equipment. They can be used for anything from cameras and lenses, light stands, and tripods. Here are some things to ask before you purchase a hard case:

  • What type of interior protection do I want? The choices are pick-and-pluck foam or dividers. The advantage of pick-and-pluck foam is that it protects the gear on all four sides. The disadvantage is that once you pluck, you can’t change your setup. Dividers are more versatile because they can be reconfigured at will. They don’t provide the same type of snug fit as foam does, though.
  • Do I want to carry a laptop with me? Some cases only offer that option as a kit rather than a separate accessory.
  • How much does the case weigh? The lighter the case, the easier it is to transport. Obviously.

Fitted Cases

Fitted cases are designed to go with specific models only. Just because two cameras are the same brand, or one version is an upgrade over another, doesn’t mean they will automatically be compatible with the same fitted case. Important things to ask are:

  • Do I have other lenses I want to carry with me? Many of these cases are designed for one camera and one lens only.
  • Does it look like a camera bag? Especially when traveling, it is better not to draw attention to oneself with a case with a major brand logo that may be highly visible.
  • Does the strap fit in the case? Do I need to put the strap in the case or can it hang on the outside of the case with the strap that’s on camera?

Camera Straps

Camera straps are a nice accessory for you or a gift for someone who isn’t pleased with the camera strap included with their camera. Straps are popular options for people who want something more comfortable, more inconspicuous, more stylish, or for a position where it doesn’t rest on your neck, i.e,. a “glide strap.” Here are some things to evaluate before buying a new strap:

  • How do you want this strap to differ from the one you have? To figure out what type of strap you want, ask yourself what it is about your current strap you don’t like. It will help narrow down your options considerably.
  • Do you use a tripod? Many of the “glide straps” use the tripod socket of the camera as a connection point. Is this an issue because you always keep a tripod plate on your camera, or don’t feel comfortable with your camera being held by a single connection? There are many solutions to address these concerns if they arise.
  • How do you want to wear it? Do you want to wear your strap around your neck, on your hip, on your chest, or across your body? This will help narrow down your options for choosing what is the best strap for you.

We hope this information and the prompting of questions helps you make a confident decision when it comes to purchasing camera bags, cases, or straps. What question do you have for the B&H Photo experts about a bag or type of camera bag? Please ask us in the Comments section, below, call 1-800-606-6969, or email us at askbh@bhphoto.com.

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