How do you choose the best camera bag? They come in a range of different types and it's important to choose one that suits the amount of kit you need to carry, how far you're going to carry it and what kind of access you'll need while you're on the move.
With simple point-and-shoot cameras all you need is a small holster style bag or a simple camera pouch, but if you're carrying mirrorless or DSLR cameras with a couple of lenses, and maybe flashguns, filters and other camera accessories, you'll need a bigger bag with more protection.
So let's just quickly run through the types to explain what's available, what it can carry and when it's most useful.
Shoulder bags are the most traditional type. Shoulder bags are easy to put on and take off and you can get access to your gear quickly. Their only disadvantage is that carrying a heavy weight over one shoulder for a long time can become uncomfortable. Messenger bags are like shoulder bags for commuters. They're wider and slimmer, and in addition to space for camera gear they have laptop sleeves and often pockets for paperwork, pens and other accessories.
Backpacks are the top choice for walkers, landscape photographers and travelers who need to carry heavy gear over long distances and keep it well protected too. Access to your gear isn't so easy, though, since you have to take the backpack off, even with the best camera backpacks.
Sling bags aim to offer the comfort of a backpack with the access of a shoulder bag. They can swing round to the front to be opened like a shoulder bag and swing round to your back like a backpack. They're are kind of halfway-house between a shoulder bag and a backpack.
Holsters and pouches are designed to carry a single camera with lens attached. Depending on the size, these could be designed for compact cameras, mirrorless cameras or DSLRs. They're great if you're not planning on taking or changing lenses.
Roller bags are designed specifically for travel, with wheels in the base, an extending handle for pulling them along like suitcases and often with dimensions chosen to fit international cabin baggage requirements.
Hard cases for cameras offer the ultimate in protection against impact, rough handling and harsh environments. They're not really designed for carrying any great distance, but they can keep your camera gear protected in environments where no other bag can.
We've got every type of bag in our list of top choices, below, and if you want to see more of a particular type, don't forget to click on the links.
Billingham Hadley Pro
This superbly made shoulder bag is expensive but worth it
Type: Shoulder bag | Camera: DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 3 | Laptop/tablet compartment: Tablet | Tripod attachment: No | Additional compartments: 2 | External dimensions: 350x120x300mm | Weight: 1,100g
Something of a design classic, in a school satchel kind of way, the Hadley Pro oozes class. Along with full-grain leather and brass fixings, the canvas-style construction looks smart-casual, but is nevertheless fully waterproof. Unlike many photographic shoulder bags, the build is slim and easily manageable, yet you can just about squeeze in a full-frame DSLR body with an attached 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, plus a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom (without tripod collar) and a flashgun. Two additional front pockets enable extra gear to be stashed away, and the rear zippered pocket is big enough for a tablet. For heavier collections of kit, the optional shoulder pad is worth buying, and additional ‘AVEA’ side pockets are also available. Overall, this is one of the best camera bags there is.
Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13 V2
A stylish and adaptable messenger bag you can use every day
Type: Messenger bag | Camera: DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 3 | Laptop/tablet compartment: 13-inch | Tripod attachment: Yes | Additional compartments: 3 | External dimensions: 380x270x120mm | Weight: 1,100g
It isn’t cheap, but the Everyday Messenger camera bag covers a lot of bases: it’s smart enough for work, portable enough for commuting and as space to hold some handy extras – like your laptop and a bike lock – alongside your camera kit. Outside, the spring-loaded flap-catch has four fastening points, making it both secure and flexible – you can expand or contract it deepening on what you’re carrying. Inside, the main compartment has two clever semi-rigid ‘FlexFold’ dividers to prevent your camera bodies and lenses from smashing together. They're said to be origami-inspired and, while they work very well to cosset your kit, they do take a bit of getting used to. There's also a zippered compartment at the back of the bag to house your laptop (make sure you get the right size – the Everyday Messenger comes in 13-inch and 15-inch versions) and stabilising straps for your chest or waist that are tucked out of sight, plus a tough tubular sleeve on the inner surface of the lid for a tripod. With enhanced weatherproofing and a more durable fabric on the small inner pockets, if you can justify the spend, this is another of the best camera bags out there.
Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW
Perfect for hiking, this Lowepro has a waist belt and easy access
Type: Backpack | Camera: 2x DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 8 | Laptop/tablet compartment: 15-inch | Tripod attachment: Yes | Additional compartments: 1 | External dimensions: 348x270x488mm | Weight: 2,600g
The Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW is a big backpack can hold one or two pro-grade DSLRs and up to eight additional lenses or other accessories, which means you don’t need to leave anything behind when hiking into the hills for landscape photography. You also get quick and easy access to your cameras, thanks to four separate access points on the top, rear and both sides of the backpack. For hiking on tricky terrain, there’s a waistband that delivers stabilizing support as well as extra storage for small items, but you can remove this if you need something more streamlined. Lowepro’s ‘ActivZone System’ design ensures a really comfortable fit, which you’ll appreciate on long walks.
Tenba Shootout 32L
Great for heavy loads with an internal frame for weight transfer
Type: Backpack | Camera: 2x DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 8 | Laptop/tablet compartment: 17-inch | Tripod attachment: Yes | Additional compartments: 5 | External dimensions: 380x480x230mm | Weight: 2,722g
Tenba offers Shootout backpacks in three different sizes, with 18, 24 and 32 litre capacities. The Shootout 32L is the largest of the three, with sufficient space for two DSLRs and up to eight additional lenses or other gadgets, and one of our picks for the best camera backpack on the market. As well as the main compartment, extra pockets and compartments enable you to stow yet more gear, including a 17-inch laptop. The clever design features a robust, aluminium frame and ‘pivot fit’ straps, which make this bag particularly comfortable to carry, as the weight is transferred very well to the back and hips. Even so, it’s a heavy beast, weighing in at more than 2.5kg, even before you start adding camera kit.
Manfrotto Street Medium Backpack
Twin compartments carry both camera gear and daily essentials
Type: Backpack | Camera: DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 2 | Laptop/tablet compartment: 15-inch | Tripod attachment: Yes | Additional compartments: 3 | External dimensions: 280x150x460mm | Weight: 1,100g
Whether you’re commuting to work or going for a grand day out, you’re likely to need more than just your camera kit. Typical of split photography/daypacks, the Manfrotto Street Medium backpack has two separate compartments. The lower one can accommodate a DSLR with an attached lens, plus two other lenses or similar-sized accessories. The upper compartment, with a separate zipper, plays host to all your other daily essentials. Other separate pockets enable you to organise your bits and pieces, including a dedicated 15-inch laptop compartment. A smaller edition of the bag is also available, which is better suited to mirrorless compact system camera outfits.
Vanguard Alta Sky 51D
Highly versatile backpack for cameras, drones or laptops
Type: Backpack | Camera: 2x DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 5 | Laptop/tablet compartment: 15-inch | Tripod attachment: Yes | Additional compartments: 3 | External dimensions: 370x260x565mm | Weight: 2,920g
Whether you’re carrying a DSLR kit, a drone and its incumbent accessories, a compact system camera, daily essentials, or any combination of the above, the Alta Sky camera bag can adapt to suit your needs. You can divide the main compartment into two separate sections or use the whole interior in one large section. There’s full rear opening as well as both top and side access, so you can get at anything you need with minimum fuss and bother. And despite being fairly hefty, the similarly versatile straps and handles make it comfortable to wear and to use.
Think Tank TurnStyle 20 V2.0
Looking for a sling bag with style? You've found it!
Type: Sling bag | Camera: DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 4 | Laptop/tablet compartment: Tablet | Tripod attachment: No | Additional compartments: 1 | External dimensions: 235x440x137mm | Weight: 500g
Available in three sizes and two colour options (blue/indigo and charcoal), the ‘20’ is the largest of Think Tank’s TurnStyle camera bags. With one shoulder strap rather than the usual two, it’s worn as a sling bag. A particular bonus is that you can swivel it around on its strap to access your camera and accessories without needing to take the bag off and lay it down - although the downside is that it doesn’t spread the load like a typical backpack would. There’s enough room for a DSLR and up to four additional lenses or other accessories. The ‘10’ edition takes one less lens, and the ‘5’ is better suited to mirrorless camera outfits. Each bag has an additional tablet pocket and an extra front compartment. Even the largest 20 model is refreshingly lightweight, yet robust and trusty.
Lowepro Dashpoint 10 Camera Pouch
Brilliantly simple and effective pouch for small cameras
Type: Pouch | Camera: Compact | Additional lenses/accessories: None | Laptop/tablet compartment: None | Tripod attachment: No | Additional compartments: Memory card pocket | External dimensions: 93x60x134mm | Weight: 100g
Lowepro is somewhat legendary in the field of camera bags, renowned for its clever design and tough build quality. The Dashpoint range of pouches come in ‘10’, ‘20’ and ‘30’ options to suit a range of compact camera sizes, each of which are available in slate grey or galaxy blue. For small point-and-shoot cameras, the Dashpoint 10 is likely to be the best fit, but it definitely pays to check the dimensions of your camera before buying. Each edition of the pouch comes with wide-opening zippers for easy access, impact-resistant padding and a removable shoulder strap.
Manfrotto Reloader 55 Roller Bag
Brilliant for frequent fliers, the Manfrotto hold lots of kit
Type: Roller bag | Camera: DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 10 | Laptop/tablet compartment: Laptop + Tablet | Tripod attachment: Yes | Additional compartments: 2 | External dimensions: 350x230x550mm | Weight: 4,900g
For travel on trains, planes and automobiles (or at least coaches), the Manfrotto Reloader 55 is a great roller bag. You can fit loads of kit in the very well-protected main compartment, which has endlessly adjustable dividers. Additional pockets are built into the lid to safeguard both a tablet and a laptop of up to 17 inches in size. Further pouches are built into the underside of the flap for smaller accessories. Typical of roller bags, it has a sturdy set of wheels and an extending handle that makes it easy to maneuvering your kit around without having to carry it. When you do need to lift the bag, however, be warned that it’s weighty, tipping the scales at nearly 5kg even before you add any camera kit.
Vanguard Supreme 53D Hard Case
This tough hard case is even waterproof to a depth of 5m
Type: Hard case | Camera: DSLR/CSC | Additional lenses/accessories: 11 | Laptop/tablet compartment: None | Tripod attachment: No | Additional compartments: 0 | External dimensions: 630x520x240mm | Weight: 7,820g
For the ultimate in kit protection, you can’t beat a hard case, and the Vanguard Supreme 53D Hard Case with Divider Bag is our pick of the best. This camera case from Vanguard is super-tough, fully dust-proof and waterproof, has steel-reinforced padlock rings and an automatic pressure release valve to cope with changes in air pressure and altitude, for example when consigned to the baggage hold of an aircraft. This strong case has an O-ring that will withstand being submerged in water to a depth of five metres, as well as a removable soft inner case with adjustable dividers. There are no fewer than three carrying handles for lifting the case, plus a set of wheels and a retractable pull-along handle.