The Best Camera Bags for 2020

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The Best Camera Bags for 2020

Let’s be honest: one of the main problems, especially when we are just starting out in the photography world, is how to take our photo equipment around with us. As soon as you buy your first DSLR or mirrorless camera with a lens, you will probably think, "how will I carry it around with me?”



The next step of your shopping venture will likely be into the maze of camera bags and you’ll soon discover that choosing what bag to buy for your gear can actually be harder and more complicated than actually buying your gear. Should you invest in a shoulder bag or a classic backpack? Sling bag or holster? Or maybe a hard case? You probably already know how hard it can be for you to make a decision, unless you already have some clear ideas about what you'd like in a bag. So, please: let me help you extricate yourself from this maze and make things a little bit easier. In this guide, you'll find out exactly which kind of bag will best suit you for your needs. 



Types of Camera Bags

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Camera bags need to be tailored to suit what type of photography you do. Photo by: 'Leonardo Papèra'.

As I already hinted in the introduction, there are many types of camera bags. Depending on which photography genre you practice or the gear you need to carry around, you may find some of these types completely useless and others just perfect for you. That’s why I've decided to make a list with all the different types of bags and their pros and cons. 



Shoulder Bags

Let’s start with shoulder bags. These are probably some of the most commonly used types of camera bags, as they are very easy to put on or take off and you'll have fast access to all your photographic gear. On the other hand, you’ll have all the weight on one shoulder and if you’ll be staying out for a long time, it can be quite uncomfortable to carry a shoulder bag after a while.

My recommendation is to go for a shoulder bag if you only need to bring one camera with one or two small lenses at most; if you have some heavy gear with you, then you should opt for a different type of bag that will allow you to distribute the weight better on your body. 

Backpacks

As an outdoor and landscape photographer, I find that the backpack is by far the best option for me. When you need to bring a lot of gear with you (camera, lenses, tripod), a good backpack is the best way to carry all the equipment around.

Obviously, you can choose between different sizes and shapes, so you can select the one you are most comfortable with. On the other hand though, every time that you want to take a photo, you’ll need to take off the backpack, maybe take out the tripod and then you’ll finally have to access the camera and the lenses.

The point is that it will take a lot more time to get ready to take a picture compared to having your camera in a shoulder bag, so if you practice street photography or other photographic genres that require you to be ready to “capture the moment”, the backpack might not be the camera bag you are looking for. 

Sling Bags

Sling bags are a mix of the two previous types: they try to give you the comfort of the backpack with the accessibility of the shoulder bags. As such, you can decide where to have the weight of your gear.

A sling bag can also replace a shoulder bag but it won’t replace a backpack, especially if you need to carry a lot of gear with you. The fact that all the weight will still be on one shoulder, even if better balanced, will still be uncomfortable after a while. 

Holsters and Pouches

If you are travelling super light, a nice holster and/or pouch might be the most comfortable option for you. All you have to do is to tie the holster to your waistband and attach the camera (or the pouch with the camera inside) to it. It’ll be really easy and really fast to detach it from your belt and start shooting but keep in mind that if you need to walk a lot, it will be a pain for your legs to feel the weight of the camera at every step. Oh and don’t forget that you’ll have all of the weight on your waist: as a consequence, it is fundamental that you have very light camera gear in order to use these kinds of camera bags.

Roller Bags

If you travel a lot with your camera and feel the need for an “ad hoc” bag to store all the equipment, a roller bag could be a winner for you; they seem a lot like a normal suitcase, but they are made to fit all the camera gear inside with specific compartments.

However, the limits of these bags are quite obvious: they are generally heavy, big and it can take some time to access to the equipment inside. 

Hard Cases

This type of camera “bag” (I wouldn’t define it as a bag anymore) is very peculiar, made for those photographers who are seeking the best possible protection for their equipment. If you need to face some rough travels where your gear might be at risk, then this type of bag will protect it from whatever may hit it or fall on it.

Of course, they are really heavy and not made for walk-around photography.

The Best Camera Bags for 2020You probably wouldn't bring a hard case to a location like this. Photo by: 'Leonardo Papèra'.



How to Choose the Best Camera Bag for You

Until now, we've examined the different types of camera bags but I haven’t said anything about how to go through the selection process. So let's look at some general parameters that you can use to pick out your next camera bag.

Are you looking for portability or ease of access? Do you prioritise lightness or protection? 

If You're Looking for Portability

Assuming that if you are in the market for a camera bag because you actually need to carry your gear around and not just put everything in it and then let it sit in your room, portability may be a crucial parameter when buying a new camera bag. 

What photographic genre are you practicing the most? If you need to walk long distances or around busy places like cities and towns, then I recommend something like a backpack or sling bag (based on how many pieces of equipment you need to carry with you) so that you’ll be able to better distribute the weight of the gear across your body.

If you travel light and you don’t need to walk a lot or for a long time, then shoulder bags or holsters and pouches might be your top choice. 

Our choice: Think Tank Turnstyle 20 v2.0

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Think Tank Turnstyle 20 v2.0. Photo by: 'Think Tank'.

Pros:

  • Space Organisation inside the bag

  • Fast Access 

  • Possibility to include laptop and accessories inside

  • Lightness

Cons:

  • You’ll feel all the weight load on one shoulder at some point



If You Need Security

Security is a fundamental factor when choosing your bag and it needs to always be taken into consideration. Unfortunately, camera theft can happen all around the world but with the right attention and the right bag for the occasion, you’ll be able to reduce the chances of losing your gear. 

When traveling in busy places (e.g. airports, train stations or even cities), the first rule for me is to have all my most valuable items where I can see them and never lose sight of them; I’d never recommend a backpack for this, so if you want a sling bag at all costs, then be sure to wear it in the front and not in the back.

Instead, if you generally find yourself in the wilderness or places where the chances of losing your gear are really low, you may easily opt for whatever kind of bag you prefer. 

Our Choice: Peli 1510 Protector Case

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Peli 1510 Protector Case. Photo by: 'Pelican'.

Pros: 

  • Security

  • Portability: with the wheels it can work also as a roller bag

  • Plenty of space

Cons: 

  • Weight

  • Quite big if you don’t have a lot of equipment to bring with you



If You Shoot in All Weather

If you are an “indoor” or studio photographer, then you can probably skip this parameter and go straight to the next one. However, if you find yourself shooting a lot outside, then how your bag will protect your gear from difficult weather conditions (e.g. rain, snow and humidity) might be a very important factor to take into consideration during the selection process.

Of course, the hard-case ones will be by far the best in the field; there are also some nice backpacks though that can protect your gear nicely for a fair amount of time. Many backpack manufacturers also offer waterproof solutions for their products. I’d try to avoid holsters and pouches, since they won’t offer you a lot of protection from bad weather conditions.

Our Choice: Mountainsmith Tanuk 40L 

 

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Mountainsmith Tanuk 40L. Photo by: 'Mountainsmith'.

Pros:

  • Weather resistance

  • Space

  • Designed and Tested by the famous travel photographer, Chris Burkard

Cons: 

  • 40L might be too much for someone



If You're Looking for Durability

Let’s start by stating that the durability of your camera bag will mostly depend on how you treat it. If you take care of your bag, it will be your trusted partner for many years, while if you treat it badly, it could give you some headaches after a short time. 

Having said that, always keep in mind that for obvious reasons, the soft cased bags (made with fabrics) have the tendency to be less durable than the hard case ones. 

Our Choice: Boundary Supply Prima System

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Boundary Supply Prima System. Photo by: 'Boundary Supply'.

Pros:

  • Durability

  • Modular structure

  • Cool design

Cons:

  • A bit too big for the use it’s made for



If Ease of Access is Important

As a landscape photographer, my best choice has always been the backpack; my main photographic genre is generally slow, I always have the time to arrive on the location, take my backpack off my shoulders and start assembling all the equipment. A few times though, I have found myself in some situations where I have needed to “capture the moment” and due to my backpack, I haven’t been able to do that very quickly. Instead, I have had to detach the tripod, put down the bag, open it to get to a lens and mount it on the camera body.

I can deal with losing a few shots over many years but this example was just for you to understand that if you need to be always ready to shoot and/or have easy access to your gear, then a backpack is not ideal. Neither are the hard cases. For easy access, I would probably go for a shoulder bag, a holster or a pouch. 

Our Choice: Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13” V2

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13" V2. Photo by: 'Peak Design'.

Pros:

  • Fast and easy access

  • Lightness

  • Size

  • Build quality

Cons:

  • Quite expensive

  • Not made for long walks



If You Have Lots of Equipment

Some camera bags are specifically made for light or small equipment, like holsters and pouches, sling bags or even shoulder bags. If you need to carry just a camera with one or two lenses, then I wouldn’t look at getting a backpack or hard case.

However, if you have some heavy equipment that you'll need to bring with you, with some big lenses or multiple camera bodies, then your only choices will be big backpacks, roller bags or hard cases. 

Our Choice: Tamrac Anvil 27 

 

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Tamrac Anvil 27. Photo by: 'Tamrac'.

Pros:

  • It fits up to 7 or 8 lenses and 1 or 2 camera bodies

  • Extra space for laptop and accessories

  • Weather protection

Cons: 

  • Weight

  • Slow access if you have the tripod attached 



If You Value Comfort

Personally, I find the backpack the most comfortable kind of camera bag, since you have the weight on both your shoulders and not just one; if you don’t have some heavy gear to carry around though, a sling bag may be the top choice for you if comfort is what you are looking for!

Our Choice: Lowepro Tactic 450 AW

The Best Camera Bags for 2020LowePro Tactic 450 AW. Photo by: 'LowePro'.

Pros: 

  • Durability

  • Designed for a great comfort

  • Space

  • Four access points

Cons: 

  • It might be too big if you have a lighter build

  • Quite heavy and bulky



If You Need to Travel Light

Some types of bag just aren’t made for light traveling, while others are made for it. For maximum lightness, I suggest picking a holsters or pouch, sling bag or maybe a small shoulder bag. When travelling light, there is no need to consider backpacks or hard cases of any type.

Our Choice: Lowepro Toploader Zoom 50 AW II

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Lowepro Toploader Zoom 50 AW II. Photo by: 'Lowepro'.

Pros: 

  • Light and small 

  • Very discrete

  • Easy access

Cons: 

  • The included rain cover sometimes can be quite tricky to use

  • Not much space



If You Fly and Need Carry-On

If you need to fly with your camera bag, then you will need to think about the maximum dimensions allowed on the plane. You should probably opt for something small and not bulky. Check your airline website to know more about the allowed carry-on sizes.

Our Choice: Manfrotto Reloader 55 Roller Bag

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Manfrotto Reloader 55 Roller Bag. Photo by: 'Manfrotto'.

Pros:

  • It is allowed as carry-on luggage on most airlines

  • Plenty of storage for equipment

  • Extra space for laptop and accessories, side attachment for a tripod

Cons: 

  • Too big and heavy to use on a daily basis



An All-Inclusive Option

In some cases, you might need some extra space besides your photographic gear, such as clothing and food. There are some big backpacks, hard cases and roller bags that have this kind of space, so that you can pack more than just your photographic gear. 

Our Choice: Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack. Photo by: 'Manfrotto'.

Pros: 

  • Lot of space both for camera gear and extras

  • Not expensive

  • Fast access through the side pocket

Cons:

  • You may need more space if you’ll travel for many days



Day to Day Camera Bag

If you generally go for day trips with your camera along, there are many cool bags of all kinds (sling and shoulder bags or even backpacks) that will allow you to store your smartphone, laptop and a few other personal items safely inside the bag.

Our Choice: Billingham Hadley Pro

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Billingham Hadley Pro. Photo by: 'Billingham'.

Pros: 

  • Beautifully made

  • Stylish

  • Perfect for day trips

Cons:

  • Limited space if you have some big pieces of gear to bring with you



Outdoor and Hiking Bags

Sometimes, it’s hard to find a bag which is great both for photography and hiking. If you don’t have to walk a lot, then even a sling bag or shoulder bag can be fine, otherwise the only real choice that you'll have is a backpack.

For multi-day hikes, you can adapt many “normal” hiking backpacks to photo-hiking bags, simply by placing an internal camera unit (ICU) inside. These are padded contraptions made specifically for holding camera gear.

Our Choice: F-Stop Tilopa 60L

The Best Camera Bags for 2020F-Stop Tilopa 60L. Photo by: 'F-Stop'.

Pros: 

  • Modular architecture to organise it as you want 

  • Great for multi-day hikes

  • Comfortable during long walks

Cons:

  • Too heavy and big for day trips

  • Expensive

  • ICU is sold separately



Tactical Camera Bags

When you have to work with elusive subjects (well, unless you are shooting some very weird people, obviously we are talking about animals), camouflage is a crucial factor. It's better to go for a tactical wrap rather than a fluorescent-coloured camera bag if you don’t want to be spotted from miles in the distance and make your subject run away. 

Our Choice: WANDRD PRVKE 31L

The Best Camera Bags for 2020WANDRD PRVKE 31L. Photo by: 'WANDRD'.

Pros: 

  • Available in dark green for camouflage

  • Spacious

  • Lightness

Cons: 

  • You might need more space for telephoto lenses



If Style is of Utmost Importance

The eye wants its part, right? It doesn’t matter what kind of camera bag you are looking for, there are some very cool and stylish ones out there for every different person! From vintage looking leather bags to minimal and elegant bags, there is one for everyone!

Our Choice: Gillis London Trafalgar Rucksack

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Gillis London Trafalgar Rucksack. Photo by: 'Gillis London'.

Pros:

  • Vintage look

  • Stylish and beautifully designed

  • Perfect for everyday use

Cons:

  • More expensive than other similar bags



If You Need Heavy Protection

You probably already know the best choice for this parameter at this point of the article, don’t you? Of course, the hard case bags are by far the ones that will offer the best possible protection for your camera gear! 

Our Choice: Vanguard Supreme 53D Hard Case

The Best Camera Bags for 2020Vanguard Supreme 53D Hard Case. Photo by: 'Vanguard'.

Pros:

  • Waterproof up to 5 metres

  • Weatherproof

  • Perfect to protect your camera gear against shocks

Cons: 

  • Heavy

  • Difficult to carry around

The Best Camera Bags for 2020With a little bit of research, you'll find a bag for you in no time! Photo by: 'Leonardo Papèra'.

As you've probably learned by now, there are a many different types of camera bags out there and with so many models on the market today, you’ll more than likely manage to find the perfect bag for you! 

There’s not such a thing as the “best” and “worst” camera bag, so before you start reading reviews and scrolling through websites to find the one you need, always keep in mind that the ones which work for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. 


About the author:  Leonardo Papèra is a landscape photographer based in Italy. You can find more of his work on his website or by following him on Instagram.


What kind of camera bag are you currently using? Are you in the market for a new one? What kinds of features suit you and what you do? Leave a comment below!