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The best messenger bags for photographers in 2020: bags for camera gear and a laptop!

best messenger bags for photographers

The best messenger bags for photographers do more than just carry your camera year. They also have a laptop compartment so that you can browse, edit and share your photos on the move – they also make great everyday commuting bags.

These are among the most popular types of  camera bags around, and all the major manufacturers have made sure their stable includes a fair few of these stylish, lightweight options.

Well-regarded names like Manfrotto, Billingham, Think Tank and more have all produced multiple messenger bags designed to tempt photographers who are looking for something stylish and unfussy to carry and protect their gear with. Sitting on one shoulder, messenger bags are ideal for day trips and city breaks; if you're planning on an extended photo hike, or a trip that involves a lot of heavy camera gear, you may want to take a look at our roundup of the best camera backpacks instead.

Our picks of the best messenger bags are based on a number of factors, including capacity, weatherproofing, comfort, style and price. So whatever your highest priority when picking a camera bag, there should be something on this list to suit you.

Let's get to the bags!

Best messenger bags for photographers: Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15 messenger bag

1. Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15

A stabilising waist strap on this modern bag prevents bounce

External size: 43 x 30 x 18cm | Weight: 1,200g | Color options: Tan, Charcoal, Ash | Laptop size: 15-inch

Quality build
Innovative and useful features
Stiff interior dividers

The Everyday Messenger is beautifully made and bristling with clever touches. 

A spring-loaded flap catch with four fastening points is both secure yet easy to use, letting the bag expand or contract to suit varying loads. The flap also has a zipped top passthrough for even easier access, and behind this is another zip that reveals a 15in laptop slot and a separate tablet compartment. You can even attach a tripod on top.

Inside the main section are innovative dividers that snap around and over individual items, although you’ll need to spend some time arranging an optimal layout as they’re not as squashy and forgiving as conventional foam pads. Everything’s supported from a wide and supple strap, anchored at either end by precision hinges that allow for free movement without jangling. A top-quality bag.

Best messenger bags for photographers: Think Tank Signature 13 messenger bag

2. Think Tank Signature 13

The Signature 13 is a more formal affair

External size: 37 x 14 x 28cm | Weight: 1.4kg | Color options: Slate grey, Dusty olive | Laptop size: 13-in

Quality and style
Good size for DSLR kit
No easy access top slot
Awkward flap catch

The Signature 13 has a boxy 37 x 27 x 16cm exterior that retains its shape well and offers a high level of gear protection, with extra security from an internal zippered secondary cover. 

Although the bag is compact, arrange the quality dividers to split the main compartment into three sections and you’ve got an optimal layout for a DSLR with a 24-70mm lens attached, and two reasonably sized optics on either side. A 13in laptop will slot in behind, while a large expanding front pocket is ideal for a flashgun and filters. 

The manufacturing quality is top-notch; the wool-like fabric feels soft yet hard-wearing, and there’s a leather base and accents that’ll worry Billingham. A long, leather-backed neoprene shoulder pad is also especially comfortable. 

Best messenger bags for photographers: Tenba Skyline 13

(Image credit: Tenba)

3. Tenba Skyline 13

A water-repellent, weatherproof bag that sits comfortably on the shoulder

External size: 43.18 x 29.21 x 15.24 cm | Weight: 0.73kg | Color options: Black, grey | Laptop size: 13-inch

Durable, weatherproof construction
Good price
Limited customisation potential

Tenba's slick, upgraded Skyline 13 is a terrific messenger bag for zipping around a city with your camera gear in tow. It's capable of holding a mirrorless or DSLR camera with around 3-5 lenses, and can also hold a 13-inch laptop in its dedicated pocket. All this gear will also remain protected from the weather thanks to the tough, water-repellent fabric (which Tenba is confident enough in to forgo a dedicated rain cover), and there are tons of useful extra features like a carry-handle and extra zipped compartments for odds and ends.

The interior dividers are customisable but only up to a point thanks to limited surface for the velcro to cling onto, which is a bit of a shame, but this is still a great, stylish bag for its price and well worth picking up.

Best messenger bags for photographers: Billingham Hadley One

4. Billingham Hadley One

A larger and more modern version of best-selling Billingham Hadley Pro

External size: 370 x 140 x 280mm | Weight: 1.38kg | Color options: Black FibreNyte with Black Leather, Khaki FibreNyte with Chocolate Leather, Sage FibreNyte with Chocolate Leather | Laptop size: 13-inch

Stunning material and quality
Spacious, classy design
Lots of color options
Fiddly flap fasteners
Restrictive sized insert

The Hadley One's standout feature is a 13in laptop slot behind the main compartment. It’s a practically sized bag without being unwieldy, although you only get a half-width padded insert included. This will swallow a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, plus an ungripped full-frame body with a 50mm lens attached. 

The remaining space in the main compartment is great for personal effects, or you can add an optional second camera insert. Two large front pockets, meanwhile, are perfect for keeping lenses reachable during a shoot. 

But the real reasons you buy a Hadley One are its supreme quality, and a timeless style that’ll suit any occasion. The smell of the leather straps and reinforcing trim is worth the money alone, while the rugged canvas outer material and slightly domed flap shrug off abuse and a heavy rain shower.

Best messenger bags for photographers: Gitzo Century Traveler Camera Messenger

5. Gitzo Century Traveler Camera Messenger

This clever bag contains an expandable pouch to house a Gitzo Traveler tripod

External size: 28 x 39 x 14cm | Weight: 1,2kg | Color options: black | Laptop size: 13-inch

Packed with features
Well-made
Not so stylish

The Century Traveler Camera Messenger features locking side-pocket zippers, and a class-leading Fidlock fastener that latches and releases the main flap effortlessly and silently. 

The flap has an easy access slot on top, under which is a compact but fairly practical main compartment that’ll just about stash a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV or a Nikon D850 with a small attached lens, plus a couple more optics alongside. Behind this is a sexy suede-lined 13in laptop pouch, although the two end pockets won’t fit much other than the included rain cover. 

As you’d expect from Gitzo, build and material quality are very good, with leather trim and premium hardware. The carbon-effect accents won’t be to everyone’s taste, but you won’t feel short-changed.

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6. Manfrotto Noreg messenger-30

Multiple purpose bag transforms itself to suit the occasion

External size: 22 x 11 x 19 cm | Weight: 1350g | Color options: gray | Laptop size: 15-inch

Four-in-one storage solution 
Pull-out rain cover
Only available in gray
Laptop sleeve is insubstantial

The Noreg Messenger-30 is not just designed to be a camera bag – it can be turned into your work bag or overnight bag too. It's a regular shoulder bag with a removable padded insert that has its own shoulder strap, giving you a smaller photography bag for quick photo expeditions. And there's a removable padded 15-inch laptop sleeve on the back that you can unzip and take in to meetings, or just leave at home if you don't need it. 

If you just need an overnight bag that fits airline carry-on regulations you can take off the laptop sleeve, remove the camera insert and stuff in all the clothes, wash bag and other bits  you need for your overnight stay. There are straps for carrying a tripod too, as well as a pull-out raincover.

Best messenger bags for photographers: Manfrotto Windsor Camera Messenger M

7. Manfrotto Windsor Camera Messenger M

The largest messenger bag in the Manfrotto range isn’t just a good looker

External size: 33 x 42 x 15cm | Weight: 930g | Color options: black | Laptop size: 15-inch

Spacious and stylish
Accessibly priced
Uncomfortable strap
Needs an inner cover

This bag is set up for half camera gear and half daily essentials, though the versatile, extra-thick interior padding can be configured to span the entire main compartment. 

Its 42 x 33 x 15cm outer dimensions give plenty of interior space for a full-frame body and extra lenses, including a 70-200mm telephoto optic. A 15in laptop slot and sizeable front pouch add extra storage, and there’s a useful fast-access slot in the top of the flap. This is secured by a pair of magnetic catches that release effortlessly, but with no secondary cover within, the bag is far from secure. 

Although you get nice leather accents with fabrics that are more than acceptable, the bag lacks a true premium feel, particularly next to some of the other options here.

Read more: 

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