The best camera bags are designed to protect your camera kit from the weather and elements, as well as accidental drops and spills. They keep your camera kit close to hand and accessible when you need it, and unlike a standard bag, they also make sure it's well organized inside.
Camera bags come in many different shapes and sizes, so which is right for you? Our guide below explores all the pros and cons and picks some of our best camera bags that you can buy right now.
How to choose a camera bag
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These are the different types of camera bags and when you might use them.
1. Messenger 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 around to your back for cycling, for example.
2. Backpacks: With one strap for each shoulder, backpacks are better balanced for carrying heavier kit over longer distances, or when traveling. They can be better weatherproofed than other camera bags and often have extra space for other items like water bottles, or an external hook for a tripod. The downside is that it can take longer to get to your camera gear.
3. Sling bags: A combination of 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 reachable.
4. Holsters: The smallest bag types, these 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.
5. Roller bags: Ideal for traveling – in 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.
6. 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 cameras 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 camera model with a couple of lenses, or a DSLR camera with flashguns, filters and various camera accessories included, there will be something h to suit you.
Best camera bags and cases in 2023
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, but with additional space for a laptop and other bits and bobs. If you take your camera, then this is an ideal choice.
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 customize the interior, the Everyday Messenger 13 V2 is a bag that the vast majority of photographers can get many years of use out of.
As mentioned, the FlexFold dividers allow you to customize the interior to suit your setup, building secure and padded slots 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.
Thanks to a detachable carrying strap and two alternative sets of fastening loops, the Morally Toxic Wraith works equally well as a shoulder or sling bag, giving it a bit of a split personality. A far cry from uniform black, it has a distinctive look in onyx, emerald, and sapphire color scheme options, along with innovative design flourishes and impeccable build quality.
All in all, it has an edge over many competitors. For carrying your camera kit and daily essentials in style, and with ample protection, the Wraith is a good choice.
The Billingham Eventer MKII has a hand-crafted, heritage look that we think is just beautiful to look at and beautifully put together. Its tall, briefcase-style dimensions make it easy to carry and pack away, but while it does allow for longer lenses it means you’ll probably have to double-stack a lot of your kit.
Despite its many clever design touches, the Eventer MKII lacks smaller compartments and pockets for cables, cards, and batteries, and it’s a little narrow for a pro DSLR or a camera with a grip fitted.
And then, of course, there’s the price, which puts it out of reach of most photographers. On paper, it can be hard to see what’s so special about the Eventer MKII, but we found it understated traditional style are hard not to fall in love with!
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 have 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 kits, 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 good messenger bag for zipping around a city with your camera gear. It has space for 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 customizable but only up to a point thanks to the 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. Choose from grey as pictured or a more classic black version.
The best camera backpacks are a firm favorite for photographers who have to travel long distances with their camera gear. If you're a walker or landscape photographer, you'll be looking for something comfortable, ergonomic and that will protect your gear from any accidental falls or scrapes.
The Tenba Axis V2 20L backpack provides plenty of storage space for a range of cameras and photographic accessories. Its multi-compartment design enables you to access what you want when you need it, and it's comfortable to carry thanks to padded straps and breathable back support pads.
The main compartment is separated into storage sections by thick padded bands with velcro attachments. Inside, we could fill most of the compartment with a Canon EOS camera body, three lenses, a Canon Speedlite flash, an infrared trigger unit, and a SmallRig VB99 mini V mount battery. There's also a 14" laptop compartment.
Long lenses such as our Canon 70-210mm zoom lens were slightly taller than the main compartment, so if you do have large telephoto lenses you might consider a bigger backpack. If you do need extra space the Tenba Axis V2 Multicam Black range also includes backpacks with a 24L and 32L capacity.
The Morally Toxic Valkyrie has been five years in the making and comes from a new spin-off brand from British tripod manufacturer, 3 Legged Thing. It sports a clever design and eye-catching material, especially when it catches the sun, helping the Valkyrie stand out from the plethora of boring black camera backpacks out there.
But this is certainly not a case of just style over substance, as everything is smartly designed to make carrying your camera kit and daily essentials as pleasurable and painless as possible. Quick access to all areas and some genuinely innovative touches make the Valkyrie a backpack to be treasured, plus it’s endlessly adaptable and will cosset your gear in fine style.
The Manfrotto Pro Light Flexloader L is big and it’s heavy – and that’s before you’ve even begun filling it with up to eight lenses. Sure, it’s aimed at professional photographers and videographers, but it’s a huge shame that it won’t be going on flights as carry-on luggage despite Manfrotto’s claims.
That limits Flexloader to being used domestically on road trips, for which it excels. The laptop sleeve is tight, largely because of the hefty depth of the EVA foam back, but the backpack straps are excellent and the Flexloader is comfortable to carry for a long period.
It’s hard not to like the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L 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 that afford very good mobile access. Inside are internal dividers that form shelves attached to the front and back.
These are clever designs 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.
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 the Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II backpack can be moved to accommodate specific gear (including a drone) or dumped in favor 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 an attached 70-200mm lens and up to four lenses around it. The 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.
Sling bags aim to offer the comfort of a backpack with the access of a shoulder bag. They can swing around to the front to be opened like a shoulder bag and swing around 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. 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 color 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 as 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.
The McKinnon 8L Camera Sling should meet the needs of photographers who use a smartphone, small DSLR or mirrorless camera systems. There are plenty of pockets, pouches, and dividers for you to organize your gear to suit your preferences.
The single padded sling enables you to carry it on your back or keep it close to your chest to protect your gear in crowds and the durable water-resistant material will help you keep shooting regardless of the weather.
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.
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 oversized 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 comes in ‘10’, ‘20’, and ‘30’ options to suit a range of compact camera sizes, each of which is 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 maneuver 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, and 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 meters, 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.
One of the downsides to hard cases is their weight and that's before they're full of kit which is why the Peli Air range is so good. They're 40% lighter than a regular Peli Hard case with the Peli Air 1535 weighing 1.35kg.
When we tested its robustness we found it to be almost as tough as the Protector 1510 - it had a little more flex in it but for the weight difference, it's certainly nothing to worry about.
It comes in three different options: with no foam, with padded dividers, or with cubed foam, you can shape it to your requirements or Peli's ingenious TrekPak System. It uses sheets of corrugated plastic in between layers of closed-cell foam which is sure to protect your kit.
It comes with a bespoke cutter so you can slice the strips to snuggly fit your gear and each join is secured by purpose-made hooped pins. It's an incredibly well-thought-out design that's more space efficient than the standard foam or dividers.
How we test camera bags
The Digital Camera World team are all camera enthusiasts, and between us we have tested hundreds and hundreds of different camera bags over the years – and owned a fair few of them too! For us, a good camera bag is one that keeps your photographic gear safe and secure when not in use – but also easily accessible for when you need to take pictures. The particular requirements of a bag will depend on its type – we'd expect quicker access from a messenger bag than with a hard case, but we'd more demanding with how much abuse the hard case can take. We test our bags in real-word scenarios - accessing how much kit you can fit into each, so we can give a clear idea of which type of photographer each is best for. The design and looks of a bag or camera case can be equally important to the photographer - so we ensure we take this into account in our assessments.