Shopping for a Picture Perfect Camera Bag
I thought that buying a camera bag would be a simple task – a decision I can make in five minutes or so; boy how wrong I was!
The first camera bag I bought ended up back at the shop because I wasn’t satisfied with it, and so did the next one, and the next, and in the end, I still went for the cheap one.
I remember my first cheapo “$25 from Ritz Camera” (do you still remember that store?) camera bag had its buckles gave out that resulted to 2 damaged lenses and one broken lens mount on my Minolta.
So here I am trying to help you buy your first camera bag and avoid costly mistakes like I went through. But at the end of the day, you’re most likely to own two or more camera bags anyway, so read along.
Camera Bag Price
The first thing to consider is the price – how much can you afford to spend on your camera bag?
Now you’ll notice that I didn’t put ‘how much do you WANT to spend’ but how much can you afford.
You have probably spent a lot of money on your camera, probably spent as much as you could fork out on accessories and lenses as well. However, I still really strongly recommend not cutting back your budget for a camera bag.
Your camera bag is what keeps your camera safe, away from danger and away from the elements. It is something that you will spend a lot of time with, so holding back on the bag is really fools gold – it’s not a smart to save money on a camera bag if your camera is later damaged.
Camera bags are worth it even if the bag eats into your initial budgeting for camera equipment.
Don’t opt for the cheapest camera bag as I mentioned earlier, but equally don’t assume the most expensive is the best either – weigh up all the options carefully.
Having your camera in a bag that is secure is a great means to discourage wandering hands.
Some bags, like the Domke, have removable padding sleeves, which can make the bag more versatile and low-key if you plan to use the bag without padding as well.
Cameras are tempting items for thieves; they are worth a lot of money (increasingly so these days) and are hard to track down and identify when stolen.
The counterpoint to this is that you want to have reasonably easy access to your camera – if you have to open 6 locks to get to it then you are unlikely to be able to get to your camera when it is needed for that once in a lifetime shot!
So a good compromise between security and speed of access is something to look for in a camera bag.
Making sure that your bag is waterproof is an absolute essential – if you are caught in the rain / snow you want to be able to hide it away safely and quickly. A leaky bag is a total disaster for the camera and everything in it.
Of course, having the right amount of padding is a no-brainer, but again, you have to balance your needs between protection vs. weight and size as well.
Camera equipment are delicate and your camera bag can protect your camera from bumps and knocks or even the occasional drop!
Here you may need to choose between hard and soft cases – hard cases often offer more protection at the expense of additional weight. If you’re in the market for a hard case, look no further than the Pelican Brand.
Weight and Size
The weight of a bag is something you must consider seriously. A hundred grams may not seem much on paper, but after 3-hours of hiking, your neck and shoulders will certainly feel the weight.
You are likely to be carrying around your camera bag a lot. If it is too heavy that will either make you leave it all at home or just take the camera meaning you won’t have the bag just when you need it, which is far from ideal!
Larger bags often have wheels and if you are carting a lot of equipment then it is well worth considering such a bag (of course that does mean it takes more space and can be trickier to get in some spaces so may not meet your needs).
If you carry tons of stuff and travel often, a roller bag would be your best bet.
I currently use a Think Tank Airport Security roller bag for my travels. It fits 3-4 days worth of clothing, my camera gear, and my laptop in one package.
Less stuff to carry around in the airport!
This will also differ depending on the stuff you are going to put it to – if you are going hiking with your bag then you will have different needs to someone who is going on holiday or climbing a mountain. It’s vital to think about the setting your bag will be used in.
A user-friendly, everyday backpack like the Think Tank Shape Shifter is a great bag to use if your gear quantity varies often.
With your camera often comes more and more gadgets, I have for example in my camera bag: a spare lens, a flash, spare batteries, cleaning tools, plastic bags, basic small tools, flashlight, and some spare memory cards.
The more kit you have the more storage space you will need (although you again need to think about how much you are practically going to need or want to carry around.
No point in taking the kitchen sink but also you want all the things you will need!
More than One Camera Bag
Remember earlier I mentioned you’re likely to own more than one camera bag anyway?
Frankly, if you’re the type who carries a camera everywhere, you’ll most likely invest on at least 3 bags. One for daily, light-duty use. One for more serious shoots with the ‘essential’ equipment, and a large bag to store everything if you have a big shoot or long travel.
Make sure you take inventory of all the camera equipment you own, what equipment do you carry on what kind of situation. That’ll help tell you how many or what size of camera bags you’ll need eventually.
Camera Bag For the Ladies
Before I forget, ladies, don’t think your preferences are ignored by camera bag manufacturers. There are many stylish camera bags for ladies in the market such as what Jill-E and Dre Hartmann Ladies Camera Bags offer.
Not only are these camera bags functional, they certainly won’t cramp your style as well. No ugly black canvas bags here.
Go check them out!
You may also need to think about tripods and laptop storage as well. Most camera bags have ample space for memory cards and other small items, but may not have the space needed for a bulky laptop and/or tripod.
If you can find a bag that has adjustable slots/removable sections that that is ideal as this will let you change your load out or expand your selection as your needs change.
Adaptability is worth paying that little bit extra for.
Comfort and Ergonomics
Consider the comfort of the bag. Is it comfortable to wear on your shoulder or back. Think about what you will have to carry with it – will it sit comfortably with those things. Can you get away with it in a public space without it looking ridiculous.
I prefer over-the-shoulder messenger style bags like my current, every-day bag, the Delsey Corium, but some people prefer backpacks or even the suitcase style of camera bag.
Depending on your field needs, you may find that a quick-action, top-loading belt system like a may be better than a backpack that requires you to put the camera bag down before access, for example.
In conclusion, make sure that when you are buying a camera bag that you think about these pointers. Consider what’s important to you and the use you are going to put it to.
You spent a lot on the camera, and probably took quite a bit of effort selecting your gear, make sure you do the same with the camera bag you’re going to use to carry them as well.