Secrets to Choosing the Right Camera Bag

As summer months and vacation time approaches, amateur as well as professional photographers continue to argue the merits of using a traditional camera bag over replacing it with other styles bags.

In the current economy, not even the pros want to spend an extra $100 to $200 just to experiment, so here are some tips to help choose what works best for you to store all your photography essentials:

The most important thing to remember about a camera bag is that it is not designed for hauling an entire studio, rather it is meant to carry the cameras, lenses and accessories your experience tells you you'll need at a photography studio, an outside shoot, or even on vacation.

Almost all camera bags manufactured today have padded sides, bottoms and in some cases, tops to protect your investment. Priced from just a few dollars to well over $100, price can be a good indicator of the bag's quality and usefulness within its design range.

Traditional camera bags look like...well, camera bags. Boxy in appearance, they hang from the photographer's shoulder and provide almost instant access to the equipment kept inside. Most have velcro dividers that permit custom layouts to easily and safely store/carry your fragile lenses and camera bodies.

The traditional style camera bag range in sizes to be able to handle most point-and-shoot, SLR (single lens reflex) and DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras, and prices generally reflect size as well as design.

choose camera bag

Cons:

Because the traditional styled bags are boxy in appearance, they are by nature somewhat cumbersome to carry. An additional worry may be the occasional bad-guy who knows exactly what's in the bag and will target it for a few fast bucks. This style bag is relatively easy to grab off an unwary photographers' shoulder.

In many instances, the newer style backpack camera bags beat the traditional over-the-shoulder bags without breaking a sweat. Weight is evenly distributed over the photographer's upper back and held securely on his/her shoulders.

camera backpack

This style bag usually has more small pockets to pack away the extra batteries, memory cards, lens cleaners, and other necessary accessories. As with the traditional style bag, velcro dividers make customizing your bag to your equipment a snap.

Cons:

These bags are a dream to carry, but a nightmare to get into in a hurry. This style bag is designed more for the trek than for the shoot.

A sling style bag may suit your purposes better than either the traditional or backpack styles. Like the backpack it is worn across the photographers' upper back but is secured to only one shoulder and strapped around the torso.

A clip releases the torso strap to permit the bag to be slung under the "carry shoulder" so it does not need to be taken completely off to gain access. Speeds up the "get-it-out-of-the-bag" before the opportunity is lost.

Cons:

By nature of its intended use, the sling style bag is smaller than either the traditional or backpack style camera bags, so has fewer places to tuck your equipment.

The last camera bag on the list is humble belt bag. Relatively inexpensive, many of these bags are designed to fit a single model point-and-shoot digital camera.

The belt bag is functionally streamlined and perfect for its intended use; a walk-about where only occasional snapshots are taken. Many professional photographers carry a digital point-and-shoot camera when "off duty", so you never know if the person you see with that touristy belt bag is amateur or pro.

Cons:

Small, seldom has room for more than the camera.

So, what style of camera bag should you choose? 

Count on your experience to determine what you want to carry and then shop around for the bag that holds it all. One rule of thumb is that if you don't have any empty pockets or cubby holes left in your bag, it doesn't have enough.

If you'll be out on a journalist's beat, maybe the quick access of a shoulder style bag is best for you. If you know you'll be moving a lot but won't need to get into your bag very often, the backpack may be just the ticket.

If you need quicker access but don't want a box hanging from your shoulder, perhaps the sling style camera bag will suit your purposes. Just taking in the sights with a small point-and-shoot? Choose the belt bag to carry your camera as it fits your needs to a "T".