10 Camera Bags and Cases to Suit Every Style

JULY 10, 2012

By Dan Havlik

Whether you’re traveling abroad on assignment or just hitting the streets for a local shoot, these well-designed bags will help you haul your photo gear.

Gura Gear Kiboko 22L camera bag backpackPro Photo Backpack: Gura Gear Kiboko 22L+

Some photo backpacks are built for short treks and others for more spirited adventures. Put Gura Gear’s Kiboko 22L+ in the photo adventure category. Designed by wildlife and safari photographer Andy Biggs based on input from his customers, the Kiboko 22L+ meets international carry-on airline requirements and can house a 15-inch laptop computer, up to a 500mm f/4 lens and multiple pro bodies. This pack is made from durable but lightweight VX-21 sailcloth rather than regular old nylon. The water-shedding sailcloth is abrasion- and tear-resistant, making it ideal for a bag that gets tossed around a lot and, potentially, drenched during travel. Cold weather shooters will like the wide grabber rings around the zippers, which are easy to slip a finger through when you’re wearing winter gloves. Another nice feature is the simple butterfly flap system that opens only half of the main storage compartment, letting you grab the important gear quickly while keeping other stuff stowed away safely.

Price: $379

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 camera bagShoulder Bag: Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7

Think Tank Photo is known for its serious professional bags but the company also offers great options for lower-key shoots. Take the relatively small and discreet Retrospective 7 shoulder bag, which looks like a regular laptop bag but holds much more. Available in three colors/materials—black polyspun nylon and blue slate or pinestone (aka tan) canvas—the Retrospective 7 is designed to fit a standard digital SLR system including a couple of lenses and accessories. There’s also a rear pocket that can hold an iPad or an 11-inch MacBook Air and assorted small pockets to fit lens cloths, caps, etc. No, this isn’t what you’d bring on a major assignment but if you’re heading out for a quick one-day shoot, Think Tank Photo’s Retrospective 7 keeps it simple and subtle. Weighing just over 2.5 pounds, this shoulder bag is designed to conform ergonomically to your body so it won’t bounce, jut out or get snagged.

Price: $154

Clik Elite BodyLink Telephoto Pack camera bag2-in-1 Adventure Pack: Clik Elite BodyLink Telephoto Pack

Along with being a snazzy-looking padded backpack that can fit a pro-body digital SLR with a battery grip and lens up to 70-200mm f/2.8, the Clik Elite BodyLink’s frame system doubles as a lens stabilizer. The flip-up aluminum frame transfers the weight of your camera rig to the body, providing a steady, stabilizing support. If you’re shooting video with your DSLR, just pan slowly with your body for Steadicam-like results. Clik Elite’s bags are designed for adventure photography—such as when shooting while skiing, biking, running and so on—and the BodyLink Telephoto pack’s harness system lets you comfortably carry your gear on your back in extreme conditions. When it’s time to shoot, turn the pack around to your chest, open the frame and you’re ready to go. You can attach your camera or lens directly to the standard 1/4-inch tripod mount on the frame, or add your own ball head for more fluid results. The frame offers up to seven inches of adjustable height and a variety of shooting angles. When accessing your gear, the pack opens away from your body to provide a mini-workstation. Internal dividers let you arrange your camera gear while two external pockets help you organize your memory cards, cords, batteries and other accessories.

Price: $200

Tenba Discover Photo Hydration Daypack camera bagLight Pack: Tenba Discovery Photo/Hydration Daypack

Also in the day-shoot category is the Tenba Discovery Photo/Hydration Daypack. Yes, that’s an awkward name but this trim photo backpack fits comfortably and is logically laid out. Its sage/khaki color variation also looks great and you won’t be embarrassed wearing this one, unlike some clumsy and garish photo backpacks. The Discovery weighs just 2.4 pounds but provides room for any size DSLR, four to six lenses and accessories via a zippered in, pop-up padded insert. There’s also a zippered rear pocket that lets you slip in a CamelBak-style hydration pouch of up to 72 ounces so you can take in those precious fluids while shooting in the hot sun. The padded slot will fit a tablet computer or an 11-inch laptop. Tenba’s easy-to-deploy WeatherWrap covers the bag in the event of a sudden downpour. A top compartment gives you more room for assorted photo accessories, a jacket or your lunch. When the bag’s fully loaded, a waist belt helps distribute the weight so you don’t break your back.

Price: $130

Lowepro Pro Roller x200 camera caseRolling Airport Bag: Lowepro Pro Roller x200

If you’re flying to your next assignment, here’s a great roll-aboard photo bag that has enough room to double as your mobile studio. Called the Lowepro Pro Roller x200, this rolling airport bag has enough space to fit one to two pro DSLRs with a grip; six to eight lenses; accessories; and up to a 15-inch laptop. There are also tons of nooks, pockets and crannies in which to stuff memory cards, lens cloths and batteries. All that, and the Pro Roller x200 still qualifies as a carry-on bag and fits in the overhead bin. It also offers solid security features including a three-digit, TSA-accepted combination lock and a retractable cable to protect the zippered compartments. One of our favorite features is the bag’s Reserve Pack, which is a camera backpack built right into the hard case that you can pull out and use if you want to go lighter. We also like the x200’s removable wheels; its hideaway prop foot that lets you tilt the bag at a 30- to 45-degree angle; and the threaded mount on the collapsible handle that serves as a tripod-like platform for your camera or lights. With the Pro Roller x200, there’s more than initially meets the eye.

Price: $470

Tamrac Velocity 10X camera bagSling Bag: Tamrac Velocity 10X (Model 5770)

We like the convenience of photo sling bags but don’t always feel secure, or comfortable, using them. One of the exceptions is Tamrac’s Velocity line of Pro Sling Packs, which are comfy, roomy and have great build quality. The Velocity 10x (Model 5770) is the largest in the series and capable of fitting up to two pro-size DSLRs with lenses attached, extra lenses and a flash. (Not bad considering most sling bags can barely fit one DSLR.) Swing the Velocity 10x around and its zippered Quick Flip Top opens away from your body so you can quickly grab your camera. Meanwhile, the bag’s padded sling strap evenly distributes the weight so the Velocity 10x feels snug for extended treks. There’s also a Tuck-A-Way waist belt if your assignment requires more vigorous activity such as hiking or biking.

Price: $119

Billingham Large Hadley Pro camera bagClassic Photo Bag: Billingham Large Hadley Pro

Billingham’s canvas and “faux” canvas bags from England look and feel classy. With the Large Hadley Pro, they are now offering some extra room. Most Billingham bags have a classic attaché style to them, which is great if you shoot with a narrow rangefinder camera, but not ideal if you use a big and bulky DSLR. The Large Hadley Pro has plenty of space for your DSLR setup while maintaining the understated, khaki with tan leather trim look Billingham is known for. The bag is actually waterproof, employing “Stormblocker” dual laminate canvas to keep your gear safe and dry. Inside it has soft dividers and room for a large DSLR body, two lenses or one lens and a flash, plus accessories. There’s also a zip-up sleeve on back that can fit an iPad or a small laptop. The craftsmanship and materials in the Large Hadley Pro, down to the leather straps and buckles, are top-notch.

Price: $298

Chromo Niko Camera BagHipster Pack: Chrome Niko Camera Bag

Hipster photographers, have we got a camera bag for you! Already beloved by bike messengers (or those who just want to look the part) the world over, California-based bag manufacturer Chrome has come up with a stylish sling to haul around your camera gear. Called the Niko, this new bag has Chrome’s distinctive seatbelt buckle strap and several camera-friendly features. But first, here’s a cool, superfluous feature: That signature Chrome buckle release across your chest doubles as a bottle opener. Sweet! Otherwise, the Niko is a straightforward sling-style photo bag with an extra cross-chest “load stabilizer” strap to keep it in place even when you’re leaning over the handlebars of your bike or dashing to the subway to get to a photo gig. The bag has a customizable main compartment with soft dividers for fitting your DSLR, an extra lens or two, and accessories. The Niko takes durability and protection seriously with its weather-sealed YKK zipper over the camera compartment and waterproof outer Cordura shell. A set of Velcro straps on the side can carry your tripod or your bike pump.

Price: $105

ONA Camps Bay camera bagHandsome Trekker: ONA Camps Bay

Photo bags don’t need to trade style for practicality and vice versa. One of the snazziest looking backpacks we’ve seen in recent years is the Camps Bay camera and laptop bag from ONA. The bag, which wouldn’t look out of place in a J. Peterman catalogue next to a typically overripe description, is made from waxed canvas and detailed with dark “truffle” leather. Don’t let those luxurious touches fool you. The Camps Bay is also practical, with enough padded interior space to house a digital SLR with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached; seven additional lenses; a 17-inch laptop; and some smaller personal items. The bag’s interior dividers are removable and adjustable and there’s a divider at the top of the pack to create up to seven inches of additional space for batteries, flashes and other accessories. The bag has a layer of air mesh on back to wick sweat, while the pack’s thick padded shoulder straps will ease the pain of humping all that pricey photo gear on your back. And no, this backpack is not cheap but it is worth it.

Price: $430

Jill- E E-GO Laptop career camera bagCamera Purse: Jill-E E-GO Laptop Career Bag with Camera Insert

Female photographers are a market that has been, traditionally, underserved by photo bag manufacturers. That’s changing thanks to companies like Jill-E. One of Jill-E’s latest inventions combines an attractive purse with a removable insert for your digital SLR. The purse is the Jill-E E-GO Laptop Career Bag and, at first blush, it looks like a handbag. Peer inside and there’s a padded compartment that will hold up to a 12-inch laptop. Sold separately is the Camera Insert Bag, a removable, protective DSLR divider for your camera and one to two moderately sized lenses. If you’re taking the night off and don’t feel like hauling around your heavy camera, just pull the Camera Insert Bag out and hit the town with this stylish, weather-resistant, all-leather purse.

Price: $239 (Laptop Career Bag); $40 (Camera Insert Bag)

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