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Best Camera Bags

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 20 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 91 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best camera bags

    Last Updated August 2018

    With many people relying on smartphone cameras for their photography needs, the days of point and shoot cameras are numbered – or are they? True, most people will want a ‘camera’ they can fit in their pocket. But the allure (and picture quality) of traditional cameras, like DSLRs,  may never fade for photography enthusiasts.

    Because you cannot carry an interchangeable lens camera without the proper gear, a camera bag becomes an important purchase. You need a means of toting your gear, safely, securely, and comfortably. The right camera bag accomplishes this.

    At BestReviews, we work to help readers gain the information they need to make a smart purchase. See our top picks for camera bags, and read on to learn about camera bags in depth.

    Camera bags are bulky, but that’s important to provide the padding necessary to keep the gear protected.

    Camera bag styles

    The style and design of your camera bag will help you carry your camera gear safely, but it also determines how comfortably you’ll carry the gear. Finding just the right mix of safety, comfort, and style in a camera bag will help you better enjoy your photography experience.

    • Backpack: For those who are hiking or who need both hands free, a backpack style camera bag works well. You can adjust the straps on this style of bag to make it comfortable to use, as it distributes the weight across your back. Backpack style camera bags are large and offer a lot of padding.

    • Luggage: A luggage style camera bag usually will have a hard-sided exterior, making it perfect for airline travel. These bags can hold a lot of gear. They often have wheels to make it easier to move them around, much like luggage. This type of large bag is a good option to hold all of your gear for those times you need to bring everything or just to store the gear safely at home. You then could buy a smaller, lighter bag to carry when you need less gear.

    • Shoulder: A shoulder camera bag will be the most most common option for carrying your camera gear. The shoulder bag also offers a bit more style than some other options. You may find a shoulder camera bag that looks more like a purse, for example. Even these stylish models have padding and compartments inside.

    • Sling/holster: A sling style camera bag, also called a holster bag, is smaller than other options. It fits across the shoulders and chest to give you quick access to your DSLR. This works well if you just have one camera and one or two lenses and small accessories to carry. You’ll need a larger camera bag to carry multiple DSLR bodies and lenses, though.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you will be checking your camera gear as baggage during an airplane trip, you will want a hard-sided camera bag that looks more like a suitcase.


    Camera bag considerations

    So, which aspects of a camera bag should be most important to you? We’ve determined what things you should think about before you buy a camera bag.

    Buckles

    Camera bags with plastic buckles and connecting rings will be cheaper. However, this plastic probably won’t hold up as long as metal buckles and rings. Some people will clip a tripod to the camera bag by using the buckles as well, so the buckle needs to be able to support a lot of weight.

    If you will be carrying the bag over your shoulder, look for a bag with metal buckles and rings that can support the weight of the bag.

    Capacity

    You need to pick a bag that can carry all of the camera gear you need regularly... and then some. Don’t forget to leave some extra room for any new gear that you’ll buy in the future. Also consider if you will want to put anything else in your bag, like keys, wallet, snacks, even a bottle of water. If you only carry about half of your gear when going to a photo shoot and no extra items, for example, you can purchase a smaller camera bag than if you carry everything everytime.

    Some photographers like to have a camera bag that also can hold a laptop in a side compartment. They can then download and look at photos immediately.

    Compartments

    Most mid-level and higher camera bags have compartments inside that will keep your gear sorted and protected. The separators between the compartments will be padded for additional safety. Some camera bags even allow you to adjust the size and positioning of the compartments, using Velcro attachments. Protected compartments like these are important if you have expensive accessories and lenses that you need to keep organized and at the ready.

    Camera bags that have the ability to adjust the size and position of the individual compartments inside the bag are the most useful.

    Extra pockets

    Many photographers will be carrying things other than camera gear inside their camera bag. Tech gadgets, guidebooks, maps, paper, pens, extra batteries, memory cards, and business cards – even emergency kits and snacks – all may be part of the gear you need when shooting photos. Look for a camera bag that has plenty of exterior and interior pockets for sorting and carrying these items.

    If you want the highest quality zipper on your camera bag, look for plastic or self-healing nylon zippers.

    Padding

    You want thick padding in the lining of the camera bag to provide protection from exterior bumps, drops, and motion. Soft padding isn’t always better, especially on the exterior. You want a material that has a little give to it, but that also offers sturdiness and a solid density to protect against damage.

    If you will be working around water or in rainy conditions, think about buying a waterproof bag.

    Weather resistance

    A camera bag should be water resistant, which means it will protect your gear from rain or splashing water. It should also close tightly, ensuring that wind-blown particles cannot penetrate the bag. Some bags will offer a waterproof pocket or compartment inside the bag, rather than giving the entire camera bag waterproof capabilities. This consideration is especially important if you are out on nature where you may need to walk through water.

    EXPERT TIP

    Look for a camera bag that has a tough, hard material in the bottom of the bag. Camera bags with soft bottoms won’t protect your gear.


    Camera bag prices

    Camera bags run the gamut in terms of cost. You’ll pay anywhere from $10 to $1,000 for a camera bag. Let us help you figure out what you’re receiving for your money.

    • Less than $30: Simple, low-cost camera bags will have soft sides and soft bottoms. These bags won’t provide much protection from exterior bumps and drops. They do usually have padding on the inside so the pieces of camera gear will not crash into each other, but the exterior padding is limited. This type of bag will work well for novices who don’t use it all that often or aren’t worried about their gear, but we wouldn’t suggest regularly trusting high-end, expensive gear to a bag like this. These low-cost bags are best for occasional, light use when you simply need a place to put everything and carry.

    • $30 to $150: These mid-range camera bags have plenty of padding on the exterior of the bag, creating a protective barrier for your gear. These bags will have a lot of compartments and extra zipper pockets, all well-padded. You also may find a laptop pocket in a bag in this price range.

    • $150 to $300: High-range camera bags have a large compartment area that will accommodate multiple DSLR camera bodies and lenses safely. If you want to take all of your gear with you for a photo shoot, you’re going to need a big camera bag like this. You may find some stylish camera bags in this price range that look more like purses.

    • More than $300: These professional-level camera bags may have hard-sided exteriors, making them great for travel. They’re also very large and often contain wheels that make it easier to move the bags through an airport. Some stylish camera bags from high-end designers will fit in this price point as well.

    If you’ll be working in damp or highly humid conditions, carry silica gel packs inside the camera bag to draw out moisture.

    FAQ

    Q. Do I have to buy a camera bag? I’d rather use my budget for camera gear.
    A.
    If you’re using DSLR camera gear, you will need to have a high-quality camera bag. Even though most of us would rather spend money on a lens or another piece of gear, the camera bag is important. Think of it as an insurance policy. You need to keep the DSLR gear you’ve purchased in good working order, and a camera bag protects it. So rather than skimping on a camera bag purchase and risking thousands of dollars of broken gear, buy a bag that will protect your gear.

    Q. Should I buy a camera bag that matches the manufacturer of my gear?
    A.
    Some photographers are big fans of either Nikon or Canon, and they want to pick a camera bag that shows that loyalty. These bags will be clearly marked with the manufacturer’s name, usually in bright yellow or white stitching. However, other photographers don’t want to carry a camera bag that’s clearly identifiable as a camera bag. This marking could be an inviting target for thieves, knowing what’s inside. Some people prefer a generic looking, third party camera bag for that reason. Functionality should not differ much, if at all, between branded and non-branded bags in the same price range.

    Q. I often need to shoot spontaneous photos. What options do I have for grabbing my gear quickly from a camera bag?
    A.
    First, make sure your camera bag is well organized. Know exactly where each piece of gear is located inside the bag so you can access it as quickly as possible. Second, if you know you will want to use a particular camera body and lens combination, have it connected and ready to use inside the camera bag. Finally, think about using a holster style of camera bag, which just holds one camera and lens, keeping the gear within easy grasp at your side or on your chest.

    Q. How do I carry small items like lens caps and memory cards in a camera bag?
    A.
    Some camera bags feature small zippered compartments to hold small items. It’s helpful if these compartments use a mesh exterior or a transparent plastic exterior, so you easily can see what’s inside. Some photographers choose to further sort these small items by using a transparent plastic case. Think of using a case that may normally be used for fishing gear, as it will work great for sorting small camera items, too.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Branson
      Branson
      Videographer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor