Best Camera Bag of 2019 – Complete Reviews with Comparisons
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The best camera bag is in the eye of the beholder. Very few camera bags can accommodate both of today’s dominant camera types, DSLR and mirrorless, which means that most of the time photographers will have very specific and different needs.
Once you know what you need, selecting the perfect bag can be infinitely easier, or is it?
Here are five of the best camera bags and backpacks on the market, reviewed and compared. Also make sure to check out the buyer’s guide to gain a full understanding of what’s essential, what’s considered a luxury, and when it’s worth it to pay a premium.
Best Camera Bag Reviews
Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack
This hybrid backpack design is big enough to fit both DSLR and mirrorless cameras, which is just one of the reasons why it’s at the top of the list.
The backpack comes with adjustable dividers. Each one is padded to protect lenses, filters, and other accessories from banging into each other. The thick padding also ensures that the compartments don’t move around during transit.
The side opening is a great feature because it allows for easy access to your camera. No one likes rummaging for their camera when they spot the perfect sunset.
The storage capacity is more than enough for the amateur and professional photographer, as long as you don’t carry two cameras with you. The camera compartment is spacious enough for DSLR cameras with standard zoom lenses.
The sling strap is padded, which adds a bit of comfort. It also makes it easy to bring the backpack to the front, open it up from the side, and take your photo quickly.
Lenses, flash units, and filters can be stored in the top compartments. On the exterior, you can also attach a tripod.
What's to like about the Altura Sling Backpack
The hybrid and adjustable interior of this backpack is its main selling point. Not all camera bags can fit both DSLR and mirrorless cameras and camera equipment equally well. But, the adjustability of the dividers and the innovative spacing makes all of this possible.
What's not to like about the Altura Sling Backpack
There is one minor downside. The sling has style and utility but may not offer the best support. Because the backpack is large, you will be tempted to fill it with everything you might need. This can put a lot of pressure on a single shoulder.
AmazonBasics Large DSLR Gadget Bag
The AmazonBasics line of everyday items and electronics has a good reputation when it comes to quality versus price. It should come as no surprise that the DSLR camera bag is one of the most efficient ones on the market.
The bag comes in two sizes, medium and large. The large version is perhaps best suited for all photographers since it has extra lens capacity and room for other gadgets.
In this bag, you can store one DSLR camera, three lenses, your Kindle, iPad or tablet, a flash, and even some camera filters.
The bag is fairly bulky, which indicates generous padding. The straps and the handle are very thick, which means that you can stuff the bag to maximum capacity and not worry about the straps failing you.
There’s also a large zippered mesh pocket inside which will work as the perfect storage compartment for cables, documents, and anything else that doesn’t need padding on all sides.
Three outside pockets can be used to store additional camera equipment or everyday gadgets like a phone, spare batteries, etc., and, you should also be able to tie a tripod to the bottom of the straps, underneath the large exterior pocket.
What's to like about the AmazonBasics Large DSLR Gadget Bag
The fact that this bag doubles as a camera bag and an everyday bag are the main selling points. Not only can you keep your precious photography equipment protected inside, but you can also carry just about everything else you may need on a daily basis, for leisure or work.
What's not to like about the AmazonBasics Large DSLR Gadget Bag
Although spacious and well-padded on the inside, the bulky design of the AmazonBasics DSLR camera bag doesn’t make this the most comfortable bag to use. The shoulder strap may make it awkward to carry at times and you may have to resort to using the handle, especially when also attaching a tripod.
USA Gear Digital DSLR Camera Backpack
If you’re looking for something that can fit a mini photography studio and you’re not worried about how much you have to carry on your shoulders, then this camera backpack might fit the bill.
USA Gear designed this backpack to carry everything a photographer might need. You can fit a DSLR camera, multiple lenses, a 15.6” laptop, and even a tripod.
Each compartment is well padded so that there’s no direct contact between your equipment even when you’re roughing it on mountain trails.
The backpack is designed with two straps, but, there’s a twist — you can remove one of the straps and tuck it away — you can then use the backpack as a sling backpack and have quick access to your equipment while moving. A waist strap is also available to help with weight distribution and comfort.
There are eight total accessory pockets, inside and out, not counting the laptop and camera compartments. An additional cool feature is the rain cover.
What's to like about the USA Gear Digital DSLR Camera Backpack
Multiple storage compartments and a rain cover make this a very good DSLR camera backpack. One that you can use in just about any type whether and in urban environments or when hiking on mountain trails.
What's not to like about the USA Gear Digital DSLR Camera Backpack
The side tripod holder lets you carry one essential piece of camera equipment. At the same time, the balance of the backpack may be way off, especially if you use an aluminum tripod.
CADeN Camera Backpack
Here’s an interesting backpack that can fit a lot of stuff and offer almost unparalleled protection from the elements.
CADeN obviously wants to stand out with the design of this DSLR backpack. Not only can this spacious backpack fit two DSLR camera bodies inside but it also provides protection via a waterproof camera case.
On top of that, a rain cover is also added. You can easily fit seven lenses inside, a flash, a power bank, filters, a 14” laptop or notebook, and various other camera equipment and everyday accessories. And yes, there’s a power bank.
Elastic mesh bags are featured on both sides of the backpack. This leaves the bottom of the backpack to be used for the tripod holder.
There’s also a hidden zippered pocket which you can use to store sensitive or valuable items. The overall quality of the 900D polyester is pretty good and fares well in humid conditions.
What's to like about the CADeN Camera Backpack
It’s hard to put a finger on one outstanding feature. However, for most photographers, the 2-camera capacity is probably going to seal the deal for the CADeN DSLR camera backpack. For others, it might just be the USB charging port.
What's not to like about the CADeN Camera Backpack
As great as it all looks on paper, there is a downside to this CADeN backpack. The interior organization makes it compatible with only a few DSLR cameras. The camera brand that seems to fit the best inside is Nikon.
Kattee Leather Canvas Camera Bag
If you’re not worried just about protecting your camera equipment but also of how your clients may see you when you arrive for a job, then a stylish bag may be more your speed.
This Kattee DSLR messenger shoulder bag comes in a variety of colors and is made from both leather and canvas. The combination of materials gives it a very professional look and timeless appeal.
On the inside, you can fit one camera and up to three lenses. The self-adhering dividers can be removed or adjusted. The padding is thick and soft on the sides facing the equipment.
Multiple pockets can be used for additional items and accessories such as memory cards, batteries, business cards — you name it.
The messenger bag lacks any tripod attachment options. However, the design concept is all about having an active bag with plenty of style and character to up your status and make you look good during interviews or when working in high-end venues.
What's to like about the Kattee Leather Canvas Camera Bag
The level of adjustability on the inside is off the charts. The compartments can be organized to fit almost any DSLR camera as well as some vintage cameras if you’re willing to sacrifice some lens space.
What's not to like about the Kattee Leather Canvas Camera Bag
It’s not the ideal model for travel photographers or those that need tripod stands or a laptop for on-the-spot editing.
There are many photographers that are content with carrying mirrorless or DSLR cameras in holsters. While there’s nothing wrong with that, a camera bag is always a better choice. It provides more protection and it lets you carry around various useful accessories like extra lenses, filters, batteries, and more.
Camera backpacks are often considered the most complete solution for any photographer, not just traveling photographers. Backpacks are comfortable to carry and usually have a great weight distribution due to the dual-strap design.
Furthermore, backpacks have an insane amount of room on the inside — enough to store more than one camera, multiple filters, lenses, laptop, tripod, maybe even extra clothes, some food, and so on. Of course, camera backpacks also come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designations.
You’ll find that some backpacks are compact and fit only what you need to carry in a starter kit. Others are made to handle professional kits which usually include at least two cameras and their accessories. Then you will also find backpacks specifically designed to carry drones.
As with any other type of backpack, shopping for camera backpacks can take a few days if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for.
Maybe you’ve been carrying around your tripod strapped to your backpack for some time now. While that is a quick fix, it’s not a good long-term solution. All tripods do need some level of protection.
Tripod bags are designed to provide just that, as well as an easier carrying solution for this relatively voluminous camera accessory. However, note that not all tripod bags will have dedicated compartments for the camera, lenses, and other gadgets.
Camera Roller Bags
If you’re hauling around heavy equipment, then a roller bag may be the ideal solution, especially if you work events or take photographs in and around the city as opposed to in the countryside.
Roller bags are similar to your garden-variety travel luggage. They’re big, sturdy, well-padded, and wheeled. This minimizes the physical strain of carrying pounds of equipment while also maximizing storage space.
Roller bags will always have enough compartments for at least two cameras, a laptop, filters, lenses, and so on. But, unlike camera backpacks, they don’t leave you much room for anything non-photography related. You won’t be able to use them to also pack clothes, food, drinks, etc.
Camera Messenger Bags
Messenger bags are essentially shoulder bags; they’re practical, light, and have just enough room for all your camera accessories. Most camera messenger bags are also designed to allow quick access to everything inside so that you can take pictures on the fly without having to stop and dig up everything from inside the bag.
These types of bags suit everyday photographers as well as travel photographers. The sizing is usually compliant with TSA regulations. This means that you’ll never have to lose sight of your bag and worry about how it’s being handled. The padding, on the other hand, is not always as impressive in messenger bags.
Sling Camera Bags
Sling camera bags are essentially a combination of backpacks, shoulder bags (messenger bags), and camera holsters. They’re fairly compact and don’t feature a lot of storage space or padding. But, they allow you easy access to the equipment.
Mirrorless vs. DSLR Camera Bags
It’s worth pointing out that almost all types of camera bags can be broken down into two categories: mirrorless camera bags and DSLR camera bags.
This is understandable since the accessories are not always interchangeable. And, different-sized compartments are necessary for the cameras themselves.
Camera bags can be as small or as large as you need them to be. Regardless of the type of camera bag you prefer (from the previously mentioned ones), you can almost always find a model that fits all your essential and non-essential photography gear and camera equipment.
It’s always a good idea to plan ahead. If you’re just an amateur photographer, chances are you’re only using one camera, maybe two lenses, and not a lot of filters.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a larger camera bag and have some spare compartments on the inside. Consider whether or not you’ll want to add a flash system, secondary camera, more lenses, batteries, maybe a laptop, and so on.
It’s also important to know which type of camera you’re using, DSLR or mirrorless. For example, DSLR camera bags tend to have deeper pockets so as to accommodate the various gripped bodies.
Style is purely a personal matter. You can choose bags that are rugged and not particularly eye-catching. They’ll likely serve you well while traveling, camping, hiking, etc.
You can also get bags that are more stylish. They’re probably more appropriate if you are a professional wedding photographer, if you have a studio, etc.
Of course, how stylish the camera bag is may also depend on its type. Messenger camera bags can look quite fancy, whereas a camera backpack may look bland or sporty and not something you would take with you at a 5-star venue.
But at the end of the day, style is just a side bonus. A stylish camera bag may not offer the minimum required protection for your gear in terms of padding and waterproofing. It may up your status and make you feel more comfortable and confident with your look, but that’s about it.
Active or Passive Bag Concept
The active or passive bag concept refers to how easy the bag is to use or how mobile it is. Sling bags, messenger bags, holsters, shoulder bags, even backpacks are considered active. That’s because they promote an active utility which facilitates quick access and maximum mobility.
Passive bags are usually designed to get you from point A to point B with all your camera equipment safely stored. Roller bags are the most easily recognizable as passive bags, in part due to their size and in part because of the interior compartmentalization which makes it difficult to whip out the camera and snap photos when you’re on the move.
Quality is highly debatable. It’s not always as easy as saying that one fabric is superior to another, or to say that one of the bags is clearly better quality.
There are many canvas camera bags on the market these days. That’ doesn’t mean that all manufacturers use the same high-end canvas or that they all provide the same level of waterproofing.
Quality includes everything from the quality of the seams, to the ruggedness of the zippers, to the thickness of the padding and the design of the pocket dividers.
How to Pack a Camera Bag
The No. 1 rule of packing a camera bag that every photographer should follow is to use independent compartments for independent pieces of gear. This is especially important for camera lenses. The less contact they have with each other the longer they will last.
Sometimes you’ll notice that dividers have a bit of give. While this makes it easier to stuff certain components, it may also promote a loose fit inside the bag. You don’t want too much pressure on your gear from the dividers but you do want them to have a snug fit, especially when traveling.
This means that using some extra fabric or pieces of polystyrene to fill in the gaps is recommended.
How to Organize a Camera Bag
Camera bags may come with or without removable dividers. If you can’t take out the dividers then you may be quite restricted in the organization of your various accessories. However, when you can remove some dividers, you can get a lot of extra space.
Not only that, but you can also use other dividers or neoprene lens pouches to reshape the interior compartments to better fit your needs. This is super helpful if you constantly upgrade your gadgets or you like having multiple spare lenses on hand.
The main reason for using neoprene pouches is the built-in padding and their pliability. Some camera bags may have very rigid dividers, which gives you no margin for error when trying to stuff in all your camera accessories.
Another thing that you may want to consider is to always store your lenses vertically side by side instead of stacking them on top of each other, even if there are lens pouches with side slide-in pockets which allow you to stack lenses horizontally. This just makes it easier to take out the lens you need with minimal contact and it should also make it easier to see the size of the lens.
How to Make Your Own Camera Bag
Making a camera bag may sound like a great idea on paper, but it’s not always the case. You would actually have an easier time buying a camera bag and modifying it to your equipment’s specs than starting from scratch.
That being said, if you want to take on a DIY project, the easiest way to make your own camera bag is by using a backpack as the foundation of your design.
You will need the following materials:
- A cutting surface
- Heavy-duty glue
- Foam material for padding (camping pads work well)
For the design, you can find inspiration from pictures and specs of camera bags. Study the sizes of the compartments for various camera equipment. Create your own dividers and compartments from cardboard and foam material.
Use glue to stick the foam to the makeshift dividers. You can also use tape to mask the edges and provide extra protection.
Place padding on the front and back of the backpack. You should also use some foam on the bottom of the backpack. Do this even if the backpack is sturdy and well-padded as most camera equipment is rather fragile.
After cutting all pieces to size and sticking the foam to the cardboard cutouts, insert the front, bottom, and back plates. Then, add the compartments one by one.
Make sure that the lenses have their own compartments and that the camera is easy to access.
How to Waterproof a Camera Bag
Although it isn’t hard to wrap a camera bag into a secondary bag that’s waterproof, actually waterproofing a camera bag is an essential safety measure. Since not all camera bags are 100% waterproof, and even those that are advertised as such may just be water resistant and not completely sealed, here’s how you can do this on your own.
First, you’ll have to clean the bag. This means cleaning the exterior and the interior of any debris, gunk, and dirt particles. Because you will be using a waterproofing spray, you can’t afford to have any unwanted particles on the fabric before you apply the sealant. It will trap the particles in and create permanent stains. Depending on the size of the particles, you may also find that the sealant will lose its integrity in the dirty areas.
After cleaning the bag and washing it, wait for it to air dry. Most camera bags react better to air drying.
The next natural step involves treating the seams. You can use rubber sealant, in small amounts, on all seams that aren’t overlapping (like the seams on clothes). Run the sealant on the entire length of the seam.
Allow the sealant to dry both inside and outside the camera bag. Now check which kind of waterproofing spray is best suited for the fabric of the bag. Canvas bags react well to silicone sprays. Others may need a petroleum-based waterproofing spray.
It’s a good idea to spray a small portion of the bag to see how the fabric reacts and how long it takes to sink in. Use the spray on the inside of the bag to avoid ruining its appeal if something goes wrong.
After you’ve settled on the right spray for the job, start spraying the outside of the bag. Make sure the zippers are closed. Run the spray all over the fabric, seams, and zippers. You can repeat this to ensure maximum coverage.
Just make sure to let the bag dry after the first spraying. The final step is to reinforce the waterproofing on the zippers. The spray sealant won’t do you much good here. This means that you have to use something else, possibly an acid-free packing tape.
The upside is that this won’t leave residue marks on the bag. However, you will need to add new tape every time you use the bag. It’s not ideal, but it works and it will help keep your camera, lenses, and other accessories safe from moisture or direct water contact.
How to Clean a Camera Bag
It’s always best to check the owner’s manual for cleaning and maintenance instructions. Each bag may be different. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some general guidelines that you should always try to follow.
If your camera bag has a waterproof coating, you should avoid putting it in the washing machine. Waterproof coatings don’t react well to tumbles and spins, and you may have to manually reapply a spray sealant afterward.
Some camera bags may allow enough water to get into the interior pouches that they can spin out during the washing cycle, potentially ruining the seams.
Hand washing is usually your best bet. The most common problem is dust and sand that gets stuck on the outside of the camera bag. Using mild soap and warm water should be enough to get rid of most of the gunk.
Alternatively, you can also use some commercial dust removal sprays to finish the job. Note that most manufacturers advise against using rubbing alcohol or chemical cleaning agents that may ruin the integrity of the fabric in the long run.
And, whenever you’re cleaning the interior of the bag, it’s recommended to take out any removable dividers and pouches and clean them separately from the rest of the bag.
If you’re still not sure what type of camera you’ll use or where you might go to snap great photos, then the Altura Photo sling backpack might just be the best camera bag for you. Because it can be organized to fit both DSLR and mirrorless cameras, it offers amazing value for photographers of any standing.
The backpack is also quite affordable and very spacious. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look more stylish. If you prefer something lighter and that makes you look like you’ve been around the block a few times, then the Kattee canvas and leather messenger bag might suit you better.