All too often, camera bags take their styling cues from Henry Ford’s Model T. They have a boxy shape and you can have any colour you like, so long as it’s black. Some of the best camera backpacks are also the worst style culprits. Most are undeniably functional and durable but they’ll never set the fashion world alight. Maybe it’s time for a change.
Sidestepping the dubious allure of black nylon, a growing number of luxury photographic bags feature premium leather and waxed canvas, or a mix of the two. Most are based on classic satchel or messenger bag styling, but add some clever design flourishes and wouldn’t look out of place anywhere from Carnaby Street to Beverly Hills.
None of the luxury bags in this buyers’ guide certainly are a ‘case’ of style over substance. They’re designed to cosset your kit and give serious protection against the bump and grind of daily life. Indeed, most of them aim to be highly versatile, so you can use them to carry camera gear, or just your everyday kit and caboodle. Let’s settle into the lap of luxury and see what’s on offer.
1. Hawkesmill Monmouth Street
Spectacular design meets sumptuous quality
Main material: Canvas/tweed | External dimensions: 400x280x127mm | Weight: 2.2kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: 15-inch laptop + tablet | Removable camera insert: Yes | Top handle: Yes | Strap pad: Yes (x2)
The best luxury camera bag overall: The Hawkesmill Monmouth Street camera bag is smartly turned out in navy triple-layer weatherproofed canvas. It has an additional layer of Harris tweed on the top flap, plus Belgian leather straps and trim (in chocolate colour, naturally). It’s one of the bigger and heavier bags in our buyers’ guide and can stow a similar range of gear as the Billingham One.
However, the Hawkesmill bag comes complete with a removable compartment that can be tailored to full or partial camera kit stowage plus a 15-inch laptop. There are two additional dump pockets at the front, and a full-length rear zippered pocket that contains a removable organizer insert.
One problem with larger bags is that, once they’re full of camera kit, they can be heavy to carry on one shoulder. Not only does this bag have a wide, comfortable leather carrying strap on the top (riveted to an internal steel bar), but the shoulder strap can also be looped through an additional third D-ring, enabling you to wear the bag like a backpack. Two strap pads are supplied for the purpose.
2. Barber Shop Undercut
Is it a bag or a backpack, or maybe even both?
Main material: Canvas/leather or leather | External dimensions: 410x310x120mm | Weight: 1.8kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: 14-inch laptop | Removable camera insert: Yes | Top handle: Yes | Strap pad: Yes
The best luxury camera bag/backpack: Based around 50 miles inland from Venice, the Barber Shop company creates a range of camera bags, backpacks, organizers, straps and accessories, from finest Italian leather and other premium materials.
There’s a wide selection of bags on offer but the Barber Shot Undercut is one of the most intriguing. It’s available in blue or brown canvas with contrasting leather trim, or in more camera-conventional black Cordura fabric with leather trim if you prefer. Alternatively, you could spend about 35 per cent more, and buy the full-leather option in medium brown, dark brown or black.
As well as the variety in choices of materials and colour, you can also choose how you want to carry the bag. It has a removable shoulder strap complete with comfortable strap pad, carrying handles at the top and on one side, and can equally well be worn as a backpack.
This spreads the load if you pack the bag with a heavy collection of kit, like a full-frame DSLR with 24-70mm and 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses, plus a flashgun, a 14-inch laptop and other bits and pieces, all of which can be easily accommodated. The backpack straps are easily unclipped at the bottom and can be stowed away in a zippered pocket.
The bag is beautifully designed and crafted, and the metaphorical cherry on the top is that you can have it personalised with your initials at no extra cost.
3. Billingham Hadley One
A step up in size from the classic Hadley Pro
Main material: Canvas/FybreNyte | External dimensions: 370x275x140mm | Weight: 1.4kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: 13-inch laptop + tablet | Removable camera insert: Yes + alternatives | Top handle: Yes | Strap pad: +£34/$50
The best canvas luxury camera bag: Billingham has been creating premium handmade bags in England since 1973. Typical of the range, the Billingham Hadley One combines a three-layer waterproof material with top-quality leather and solid brass fittings.
Noticeably larger than the classic ‘Hadley Pro’, the Hadley One is similarly available in a range of canvas or FibreNyte colour options with contrasting leather details.
The bag comes complete with a full height, half-length camera insert, so you can use the bag for camera kit and daily essentials. A full camera insert is available for an additional £60/$70, which will accommodate a full-frame DSLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached, plus a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens complete with tripod mounting ring, an additional medium sized lens and a pro-grade flashgun.
For weightier collections of kit, it’s worth splashing out on the SP50 strap pad to add comfort, which costs £34/$50. Other included highlights include an internal pocket for a 13-inch laptop, a rear zippered pocket for a tablet or documents, and two large ‘dump pockets’ at the front, with popper fasteners.
4. Fig Hanborough
Chic and stylish, it’s made from premium leather
Main material: Leather | External dimensions: 310x250x125mm | Weight: 1.5kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: 13-inch laptop + tablet | Removable camera insert: Removable dividers | Top handle: Yes | Strap pad: Yes
The best women's luxury camera bag: The Fig Bags company makes premium leather bags and accessories in England. It was launched by photographer Krystina Reynolds, who grew tired of having to carry separate bags for camera kit and other daily essentials. As such, the bags mostly tend to have feminine styling and are easily adaptable for carrying cameras, personal belongings or a mix of the two.
While some pouches and bags in Fig’s range are quite small and look more like purses and handbags, the Hanborough is one of the larger items with a more androgynous look. Only the Oxford bag and Woodstock backpack are bigger.
It comes complete with a removable strap and strap pad, and two moveable dividers. It’s an all-leather bag with brass fittings and is available in brown, navy, burgundy, yellow, black, tan and green, so there’s certainly no shortage of colour options.
While reasonably small and manageable, it can still accommodate a full-frame DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached, plus either a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens or a flashgun and a smaller additional lens. A sleeve in the main compartment can stow a 13-inch laptop, and there’s space for a large tablet in the zippered rear compartment.
5. Fogg B-Major Satchel
Supremely versatile, it’s a handmade luxury bag for just about anything
Main material: Canvas/leather | External dimensions: 360x250x170mm | Weight: 1.2kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: Tablet | Removable camera insert: Alternative dividers | Top handle: No | Strap pad: Yes
The most versatile luxury camera bag: From Fogg’s impressive range of French handmade bags and accessories, the B-Major has a classic satchel style. It looks and feels reasonably compact but can still accommodate a full-frame DSLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached, plus a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a flashgun in the main compartment. There are two additional dump pockets at the front, plus a full-length zippered pocket and a slim rear pocket with a magnetic tab.
The bag comes with a particularly generous set of six dividers, enabling supreme versatility. You can split the bag into two full-length sections for use as an everyday messenger or shoulder bag, or configure it for various sizes of cameras and photographic accessories, complete with a padded ‘trap-door’ for stacking items.
The top, bottom and sides of the bag are reasonably thin yet still contain 7mm padding all around, and 10mm padding at the bottom. Structural integrity is very good and the mix of cotton, linen, premium leather and solid brass is thoughtfully combined. Optional pouches of various sizes can be attached to the sides.
6. Gillis London Trafalgar Street Messenger 7754
A beautiful vintage leather bag for a camera kit plus tripod
Main material: Leather | External dimensions: 370x300x170mm | Weight: 2.6kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: 15-inch laptop | Removable camera insert: Yes (x2) | Top handle: No | Strap pad: Yes
Best luxury camera/tripod bag: Ingenious and stylish, the Street Messenger 7754 is one of the larger bags in the prestigious range of Trafalgar vintage leather and waxed canvas/leather camera bags. It has classic messenger styling, while other options include satchel, duffel and shoulder bags, plus backpacks.
There are two padded inner sections which can be easily removed, to create a more lightweight messenger bag for everyday use. Somewhat uniquely, there’s a lower full-length padded section, accessed by a zippered opening at one end.
This is ideal for stowing a travel tripod or maybe a telephoto lens, and is a more secure option than the pull-out, external carrier featured in the Gitzo Century Traveler bag.
The upper section has three adjustable dividers for accommodating a camera body and lenses, up to the size of a full-frame DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached plus a flashgun or one additional medium sized lens. A zippered pocket at the rear is suitable for a 15-inch laptop.
There’s no carrying handle on the top, but a full length zip enables quick access to your camera without the need to open the main front flap. An additional front zip reveals an extra front pocket.
7. Gitzo Century Traveler Camera Messenger
It’s a case of ‘back in black’ for the Gitzo
Main material: Nylon | External dimensions: 390x280x140mm | Weight: 1.2kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: 13-inch laptop | Removable camera insert: Removable dividers | Top handle: Yes | Strap pad: Yes
The best budget luxury camera bag: Just when you thought you were safe from the onslaught of black nylon camera bags, here comes the Gitzo. Despite being famous for luxury tripods that are massively expensive to buy, Gitzo's Century Traveler is very competitively priced for a camera messenger bag.
It’s not altogether nylon either, as the front flap is faced with premium Italian leather, which is also used for the top strap, baggage trolley loop and a few other flourishes.
Although reasonably slim and lightweight, the Gitzo can play host to a full-frame DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached, an additional 70-200mm f/2.8, plus a full-sized flashgun, or a bigger collection of smaller lenses and accessories.
There’s also an internal compartment for a 13-inch laptop, plus full-length zippered external pockets at the front and rear of the bag, and two smaller zippered pockets, one on each side. The front pocket has a built-in organizer section.
Access to the main compartment is via a clever ‘G-Lock’ pull tab, and there’s also a zip across the top flap so you can grab your camera without having to open the whole bag.
And lest we forget that Gitzo is predominantly a tripod manufacturer, the underneath of the front pocket has a separate zip that gives access to a pull-down tripod carrier for a reasonably small travel tripod.
8. ONA Brixton
It’s a material world or, in this case, a world of materials
Main material: Canvas/leather or leather | External dimensions: 343x267x127mm | Weight: 1.5kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: 13-inch laptop + tablet | Removable camera insert: Removable dividers | Top handle: Yes | Strap pad: Yes
Most stylish canvas/leather camera bag: You really want black nylon? Well, the Nylon Brixton bag comes in premium black 1050D ballistic nylon with full-grain leather accents and gunmetal grey solid brass hardware.
But why stop there? For a few dollars more, there’s the classic Brixton which swaps out the black nylon for classier waxed canvas, and is available in three colour options. Next up, there’s the 50/50 Brixton, which combines waxed canvas with a full-grain leather front flap.
And at the top of the range, there’s (our personal favourite) the Leather Brixton. This one uses handcrafted premium-grade leather throughout, and looks simply stunning.
There’s room inside for a DSLR with a mounted lens, up to three other lenses and accessories, plus a 13-inch laptop. For other bits and bobs, there are also two dump pockets at the front. Whip out the four adjustable dividers and you have an everyday messenger bag that’s both tough and stylish.
9. Think Tank Signature 13
Slim and stealthy, it looks like a regular posh messenger bag
Main material: Wool-like fabric | External dimensions: 370x265x160mm | Weight: 1.4kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: 13-inch laptop + tablet | Removable camera insert: Removable dividers | Top handle: Yes | Strap pad: Neoprene lining
The best slimline luxury camera bag: Although it looks comparatively small and slim, the Think Tank Signature 13 can nevertheless accommodate a full-frame DSLR with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached, plus a 70-200mm f/2.8 and large flashgun, along with a 13-inch laptop tucked behind a divider in the main compartment.
Sprung latches with adjustable leather straps enable easy access to the main compartment, but there’s also a secondary internal zippered cover. You can use this for added security, or fold it away into a rear section if you don’t feel the need for it.
The front of the bag has a large additional pocket, with its own internal divider. One part of this is accessed by a leather strap with a popper. The other adds greater security, with an additional zip revealing an organizer section.
There’s yet another zippered pocket at the rear, plus a luggage trolley strap. The shoulder strap has a neoprene lining to enhance comfort, and there’s also a carrying handle on the top of the bag.
Unlike the full leather or canvas-like material that’s usually used in luxury bags, this one is made from rain-resistant wool-like material which is pleasantly soft to the touch. A waterproof rain cover is also supplied.
10. ZKIN Stonehenge
A veritable Tardis of a camera bag
Main material: Nylon | External dimensions: 300x200x130mm | Weight: 0.6kg | Laptop/tablet compartment: Tablet | Removable camera insert: Removable dividers | Top handle: Yes | Strap pad: No
The best compact luxury camera bag: Compared with most luxury camera bags, the Stonehenge looks tiny and is incredibly lightweight at just 620g. Even so, it can take DSLR with a mounted mid-range zoom, plus an additional lens and flashgun.
You can access your kit from the top or through a rear zippered flap, the latter of which also contains a padded tablet compartment. There’s also a separate zippered front pocket.
Here’s the clever bit. The bag has a roll-top design, in which you’d normally roll up the top flap and secure it with poppers built into the two leather straps. However, the rolling action enables the bag to grow in height, so you can carry longer lenses like a 70-200mm f/2.8, a camera with a larger than standard lens mounted, and another similarly long accessory. You can still close the poppers on the leather straps, thanks to their length being adjustable via the buckles on the front.
Although it can grow or shrink to suite different sizes of kit, it doesn’t feel the most luxurious of bags. It has a 1000D Cordura outer with Ripstop lining, and only a touch of basic leather for the straps and rear carrying handle. Even so, the down-to-earth materials are reflected in the reasonable selling price.