Photographic kits come in all shapes and sizes, from diminutive point-and-shoot cameras to sprawling arrays of mirrorless or DSLR bodies with their massed ranks of lenses, flashguns, filters and other accessories. In this buying guide, we’ll take a look at the best camera bags for a range of different setups, so you can find one that works for you.
For compact cameras, a small pouch or soft case should be enough to protect your camera when you’re out and about. For a system camera with a couple of spare lenses and maybe a flashgun, plus a few other small accessories, the best camera bag for you might be a conventional shoulder bag or convenient messenger bag. These often have additional compartments for stashing essentials like car keys, a mobile phone and maybe even a tablet or small laptop computer.
Let’s take a closer look at the best camera bags on the market…
The best camera bags right now
1. Billingham Hadley Pro
Sumptuous quality makes this the best camera bag overall
Something of a design classic, in a school satchel kind of way, the Hadley Pro oozes class. Along with full-grain leather and brass fixings, the canvas-style construction looks smart-casual, but is nevertheless fully waterproof. Unlike many photographic shoulder bags, the build is slim and easily manageable, yet you can just about squeeze in a full-frame DSLR body with an attached 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, plus a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom (without tripod collar) and a flashgun. Two additional front pockets enable extra gear to be stashed away, and the rear zippered pocket is big enough for a tablet. For heavier collections of kit, the optional shoulder pad is worth buying, and additional ‘AVEA’ side pockets are also available.
2. Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13 V2
A brilliant quality and stylish shoulder bag for your camera
It isn’t cheap, but the Everyday Messenger camera bag covers a lot of bases: it’s smart enough for work, portable enough for commuting and as space to hold some handy extras – like your laptop and a bike lock – alongside your camera kit. Outside, the spring-loaded flap-catch has four fastening points, making it both secure and flexible – you can expand or contract it deepening on what you’re carrying. Inside, the main compartment has two clever semi-rigid ‘FlexFold’ dividers to prevent your camera bodies and lenses from smashing together. They’re said to be origami-inspired and, while they work very well to cosset your kit, they do take a bit of getting used to. There’s also a zippered compartment at the back of the bag to house your laptop (make sure you get the right size – the Everyday Messenger comes in 13-inch and 15-inch versions) and stabilising straps for your chest or waist that are tucked out of sight, plus a tough tubular sleeve on the inner surface of the lid for a tripod. With enhanced weatherproofing and a more durable fabric on the small inner pockets, if you can justify the spend, this is one of the best camera bags out there.
3. Lowepro Whistler BP 450 AW
The best camera bag for travel photographers
Flight-friendly, the Whistler BP 450 A camera bag is designed with carry-on restrictions in mind. Even so, it can take a large collection of camera or video kit with a tailored fit, thanks to fully customisable dividers. The entire inner compartment can also be completely removed, so you can use the bag as a regular backpack. Meanwhile, the large front compartment can expand to take loads of additional gear. There’s no limitation on where you can travel either, thanks to four-season protection against snow, rain, dust and sand. There are even side straps for attaching winter gear like skis and ice poles.
4. Thule Aspect DSLR backpack
Room for a DSLR, laptop tablet and even a small drone
Thule has thought of everything on the hiking-ready Aspect backpack. A side-opening area is big enough for a DSLR and a few lenses, with a stretch pocket in the lid for SD card pockets and accessories. Almost hidden from view within the cushioned back panel is a large laptop pocket, which also stows a tablet, while a top compartment is roomy enough for lunch or even a small drone, such as the DJI Mavic Pro. It’s even got comfy straps and a supportive hip belt that’s removable. The only thing we’re not so keen on is that the main DSLR area could be easier to access and customise.
5. Think Tank TurnStyle 20 V2.0
Turn on the style with this camera slingbag
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.
6. Manfrotto Reloader 55 Roller Bag
A wheelie good roller bag for your camera
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 manoeuvring your kit around without having to carry it. When you do need to lift the bag, however, be warned that it’s weighty, tipping the scales at nearly 5kg even before you add any camera kit.
7. Nest Athena A40
On a tight budget? This cheaper messenger-style camera bag is great
The largest of Nest’s three Athena messenger bags, the Athena A40 has generous dimensions to accommodate chunky DSLRs and long telephoto lenses. You can also pop a tablet or even a 13-inch laptop computer in its rear compartment, while a front pocket is ideal for filters and spare batteries or memory cards. It’s well made from shower-resistant nylon and comes complete with a rain cover and rubber feet. The squeeze-action buckle is quick and easy to use, while a zippered top flap adds security. It’s not the most stylish looking bag around and the strap feels a bit cheap, but it’s available in black or brown and is unbeatable value at the price.
8. Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW
A particularly good camera bag for hiking
backpack can hold one or two pro-grade DSLRs and up to eight additional lenses or other accessories, which means you don’t need to leave anything behind when hiking into the hills for landscape photography. You also get quick and easy access to your cameras, thanks to four separate access points on the top, rear and both sides of the backpack. For hiking on tricky terrain, there’s a waistband that delivers stabilizing support as well as extra storage for small items, but you can remove this if you need something more streamlined. Lowepro’s ‘ActivZone System’ design ensures a really comfortable fit, which you’ll appreciate on long walks.
9. Tenba Shootout 32L
Another big hitter of a backpack
Tenba offers Shootout backpacks in three different sizes, with 18, 24 and 32 litre capacities. The Shootout 32L is the largest of the three, with sufficient space for two DSLRs and up to eight additional lenses or other gadgets, and our pick for the best camera backpack on the market. As well as the main compartment, extra pockets and compartments enable you to stow yet more gear, including a 17-inch laptop. The clever design features a robust, aluminium frame and ‘pivot fit’ straps, which make this bag particularly comfortable to carry, as the weight is transferred very well to the back and hips. Even so, it’s a heavy beast, weighing in at more than 2.5kg, even before you start adding camera kit.
10. Lowepro Magnum 200 AW
This shoulder bag is a stickler for tradition
Available in 13-inch and 15-inch options, the Lowepro Magnum 200 AW messenger camera bag is ideal for carrying a medium-sized camera kit with either a 13-inch or 15-inch laptop, respectively. Innovative design elements include quick-action MagLatch closures, and a zippered top flap for speedy access to your camera without the need to open the whole bag. ‘FlexFold’ dividers are said to be origami-inspired and, while they work very well to cosset your kit, they do take a bit of getting used to. The Version 2 edition has enhanced weatherproofing and employs a more durable fabric on the small inner pockets.
11. Mindshift Gear Multi-Mount Holster 20
The best holster camera bag on the market
Holster bags are designed to carry a camera with a mounted lens, which stands on its end with no room for passengers in the shape of additional lenses or a flashgun. They’re particularly ideal for DSLRs with a superzoom lens, where you’re likely to go on walkabout with just the lens that’s mounted on your camera. The big question is: how well will the camera and lens fit the holster? With this in mind, the Multi-Mount holster is available in no fewer than four different sizes, named 10, 20, 30 and 50. The Mindshift Multi-Mount Holster 20 will probably be the ideal size for most DSLR shooters and, unlike many holsters, this series does actually have an additional front pocket that can accommodate a flashgun or other accessory.
12. Vanguard Supreme 53D Hard Case
This hard camera case is soft on the inside
For the ultimate in kit protection, you can’t beat a hard case, and the Vanguard Supreme 53D Hard Case with Divider Bag 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.
13. Manfrotto Street Medium Backpack
A camera bag for life as well as photography
Whether you’re commuting to work or going for a grand day out, you’re likely to need more than just your camera kit. Typical of split photography/daypacks, the Manfrotto Street Medium backpack has two separate compartments. The lower one can accommodate a DSLR with an attached lens, plus two other lenses or similar-sized accessories. The upper compartment, with a separate zipper, plays host to all your other daily essentials. Other separate pockets enable you to organise your bits and pieces, including a dedicated 15-inch laptop compartment. A smaller edition of the bag is also available, which is better suited to mirrorless compact system camera outfits.
14. Billingham 445
This luxury camera bag is a thing of beauty
The middle-sized bag in Billingham’s 5 Series range – the Billingham 445 – can swallow up one or two DSLRs and up to eight additional lenses, flashguns and the like. There’s also a full-length front pocket that can accommodate a 13-inch laptop, for which a ‘laptop slip’ is available as an optional extra. Nine different pockets are included, which can be arranged at will to suit different photographic items, and external ‘Delta pockets’ are also available separately, for attaching to the bag. The quality is fabulous throughout but it’s a relatively heavy bag and, even though a shoulder pad is included, it can be a strain to carry when fully laden.
15. Lowepro Dashpoint 10 Camera Pouch
A little slip of a thing that’s brilliant for compact cameras
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.
16. Vanguard Alta Sky 51D
The most versatile camera bag you can buy
Whether you’re carrying a DSLR kit, a drone and its incumbent accessories, a compact system camera, daily essentials, or any combination of the above, the Alta Sky camera bag can adapt to suit your needs. You can divide the main compartment into two separate sections or use the whole interior in one large section. There’s full rear opening as well as both top and side access, so you can get at anything you need with minimum fuss and bother. And despite being fairly hefty, the similarly versatile straps and handles make it comfortable to wear and to use.