The best camera bags will protect your camera kit from knocks and bumps, and very often the weather too. They let you keep all your camera kit close to hand and accessible when you need it. But camera bags come in six main types, so which do you need? Our guide below goes through all the pros and cons, picks a some of our favorite camera bags and has links to more detailed guides on each type.
In this list, our general-purpose guide to camera bags, we want to explain the different types and when you might use them.
• Shoulder bags: With a single strap that runs over one shoulder, these are quick and simple bags with easy access and different capacities. Ideal for cities and travel, they can be a strain if they are too heavy. 'Messenger bags' tend to be slimmer, with a pocket for a laptop and a design that lets you push them round to your back for cycling, for example.
• Backpacks: With two straps, one for each shoulder, backpacks are better balanced for carrying heavier kit over longer distances, or when travelling. They can be better weatherproofed than other types of camera bag, and often have extra space for other items like water bottles, or even an external hook for a tripod. The downside is that it can take longer to get at your camera gear.
• Sling bags: Kind of a marriage between backpacks and shoulder bags, sling bags are single-strap bags worn across one shoulder but on the back. The sling design means that they can be slung around the body quickly to allow access to gear. A sling-style bag is a good choice if you like your camera gear out of the way but still quickly reachable.
• Holsters: The smallest bag types, this are made for very light setups. Some can even be worn on a belt, like a real holster! They're ideal for a single camera and lens, and smaller sizes are also called camera pouches.
• Roller bags: Ideal for frequent travellers and airports in particular, roller bags have wheels that let you drag them around on the ground, and some can also convert to backpacks. They're designed for camera transport, not easy access, so they are not for hill-walking or big hikes.
• Hard cases: The toughest type of camera bag, these can take a real pounding and keep your kit safe. They're not comfortable to carry, but if you need to transport a lot of expensive kit safely (as checked luggage on a plane, for example) then this is your best bet.
No matter whether you're using a point-and-shoot camera, a mirrorless model with a couple of lenses, or a DSLR camera with flashguns, filters and various camera accessories included, there will be something on this page to suit you. So let's get to it!
Best camera bags and cases in 2021
If you want to keep it simple, shoulder bags are great. There's not too much fuss, with only a single strap, and it's generally very easy to access your kit when it's in a shoulder bag. The disadvantage, of course, is that you're carrying everything on one shoulder, so you don't want to overload or carry it for too long.
You'll also see shoulder bags referred to as messenger bags. These are similar to shoulder bags, but with additional space for laptops and other work tools such as paperwork, pens and tablets. If you're often taking your camera on a commute for quick snaps before and after work, then this is an ideal choice of bag.
Billingham is known for its premium, classy camera bags, and the Hadley Pro is a gorgeous example. Though it's a shoulder bag it can take quite a bit of kit. If you've a mind to, you can squeeze in a full-frame DSLR body with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom (without tripod collar) and a flashgun. You may not want to (think of your shoulder!) but you can.
Of course, if you are carrying a lot of kit, the optional shoulder pad will be worth the investment to ease the weight a little, and there are also additional 'AVEA' side pockets available. FYI, that is real leather on the straps, so vegans and animal lovers will want to steer clear of this one.
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.
Photographers love the Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag; it's arguably the archetypal camera bag. With a blend of simple but chic styling, loads of internal space, and FlexFold dividers that allow you to customise the interior, the Everyday Messenger 13 V2 is a bag that the vast majority of photographers can get many years' use out of.
As mentioned, the FlexFold dividers allow you to customise the interior to suit your setup, building secure and padded slot for your cameras and lenses. It works well with most configurations; a small camera might take more fiddling to ensure it doesn't bounce around, but it's perfectly doable. There's a sleeve for a 13-inch laptop, and plenty of pockets for extra items.
You open and close the main compartment via a single flap that uses Peak Design's "MagLatch" system for extra security. It's a winner of a bag across the board.
Read more: These are the best shoulder bags and messenger bags for photographers
Backpacks are a firm favourite for photographers who have to travel long distances with their camera gear. If you're a walker, traveller or landscape photographer, you'll be looking for something comfortable, ergonomic and that will protect your gear from any accidental falls or scrapes. However, one downside is that you'll have to take the backpack off in order to access your kit, even if you've got one of the best camera backpacks.
Have you never got the right bag for the job? Although this unusual and rather pricey modular system will likely have niche appeal, it’s actually great value for money because it can be easily modified for all kinds of scenarios. The Velcro dividers inside can be moved to accommodate specific gear (including a drone) or dumped in favour of open space, while the rear-opening lid contains a zipped compartment for a 13-inch laptop. However, the real genius is the front’s succession of loops that can be used to attach accessories such as a neoprene flash holder, a tripod toe-cup and straps, and a phone case, making this a truly versatile camera backpack.
The Vanguard Alta Sky 51D is designed to carry camera gear, a drone, or a combination of both. The main compartment has room for a pro DSLR with attached 70-200mm lens, and up to four lenses around it. Padding is good, and there’s a hatch on one side for mobile access, although openings on both sides would be better. Primary access to this area is via a large rear panel that contains a slot for a 15-inch laptop. The flap opens wide, but you’ll need to bend the shoulder straps out of the way for unobstructed camera access. Comfort is assured by good-sized hip pads, thick back padding and generous shoulder straps.
It’s hard not to like this bag’s chic style, tactile materials and beautifully crafted hardware. At 46 x 30 x 17cm, it’s pretty compact for a camera backpack, but can still transport an ungripped DSLR with up to five lenses. There’s no front or rear opening, but rather large side flaps which afford very good mobile access. Inside are internal dividers that form shelves attached to the front and back. These are a clever design that can snap into thirds to allow a long lens to pass down one side, or can be instantly segmented so multiple small lenses can share one shelf. Up top is a large multi-use area that can expand by up to 8L thanks to a top flap with four latching positions. A travel tripod will stow on the side, there’s space for a 13” laptop and tablet in the back, and you can even lash a small drone on the front. A basic waist belt helps support heavier loads, and though it lacks hip pads, it can be completely trucked away.
Read more: These are the best camera backpacks right now
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 are kind of halfway-house between a shoulder bag and a backpack.
Despite boasting a fairly small 10L capacity, and measuring a relatively narrow 24cm, the boxy shape of the Solstice makes it a practical size. It’s well suited to carrying a full-frame body with two or three lenses, and they’ll be well protected. Generous front, rear and base padding, along with substantial interior dividers, give the Solstice a tough feel, as do the quality water-resistant outer materials.
Access is via a full length side flap that gives a wide opening to the whole bag. On the opposite side is an expanding pouch suitable for a bottle, or a typical travel tripod, anchored by an additional side strap. Up front is a long slot opening revealing storage for a tablet and filters.
Speaking of anchoring, this camera sling bag also features a secondary cross-body strap for keeping things stable when you’re really on the move. The main strap sits on your left shoulder. It’s supple and well padded, and combined with the decent back padding makes the Solstice a comfortable companion.
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.
Read more: See more of the best camera sling bags
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.
Think Tank really did have its thinking cap on when designing this holster, which is packed with clever features. The ‘10’ model has internal dimensions of 160x100x152mm and weighs 400g, making it an ideal size for a large CSC or smallish SLR with a kit zoom lens. Better still, it has an extending bottom, with a similar zippered arrangement that you’ll often find in carry-on luggage, enabling the internal height to stretch to 210mm. This makes it equally suitable for a camera with a larger lens fitted, like a compact telephoto zoom.
There are no less than seven different sizes in the entire Digital Holster V2 range, to suit everything from a medium-sized CSC right up to a pro-style SLR with a 150-600mm super-telephoto zoom attached. The 10 model we’re featuring includes two adjustable and removable inner partitions, enabling you to stash an extra lens underneath in the holster’s taller configuration. There’s an additional Velcro-secured accessory pocket inside the top flap and a zippered external side pocket, plus a stretchy front pocket.
The strap is removable, there’s a grab handle on the top, plus an over-sized belt loop which, again, has a Velcro fastening so it’s easy to attach to a belt or other strap. A slip-over rain cover is also supplied.
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.
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.
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. There's now a new and slightly lighter Switch-55 which doubles as a backpack – even better!
Read more: These are the best roller bags for your camera right now
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.
For the ultimate in kit protection, you can’t beat a hard case, and the Vanguard Supreme 53D Hard Case 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.
Read more: These are the best hard cases for cameras
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