How to Choose a Camera Bag: A Helpful Guide

As a photographer, you want to be able to take photos wherever you are located. You want to easily draw the camera, point it at the subject, and take the photo. However, in order to be at your top photography level all the time, you need your photography gear. The best way to stash a certain amount of photography gear is to get a camera bag.

Now, you are probably going to say that there are tons of camera bag types. Well, you’re right. Buying the right camera bag for yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds. They all vary in size, storage, shape, weight, height, dimensions, etc. The type of camera bag that’s right for you is in direct correlation with the amount of photography gear you want to carry around.

Do you have a lot of lenses, cameras, and/or proprietary accessories?

In that case, you want a camera bag with huge storage. On the contrary to that, if you’re an amateur photographer, you don’t need to waste a fortune on a good camera bag.

In this article, we’re going to talk about different types of camera bags, and also we will give you a straight answer about every camera bag’s purpose, so you can decide whether that type is good for you. We also included the links to our separate articles for each camera bag type, in case you want to buy one for yourself.

There are 7 different types of photography camera bags:

So, let’s jump straight into the guide so you can find out what camera bag suits you the best!

| Camera Pouches and Holsters |

Let’s begin with the modest camera bags. I highly doubt that every reader has a full-sized DSLR, dozens of lenses, and high-end photography gear. In that regard, we need to give the advantage to the modest photographers. As these two sentences have implied, camera pouches and holsters should be enough for those with only one camera and one lens. The reason we’ve merged these two is because they’re very similar.

Camera Pouches

Camera pouches are small and they can sometimes fit a full-sized DSLR inside but you can’t pack much of additional stuff. Most of the camera pouches come with a space that can take one DSLR camera with one lens and that is it. For example, some of the camera pouches have compartments at the front but they’re small and are able to fit in a microSD card or a smartphone – this is the best case scenario! Camera pouches are carried on a single shoulder, which is the reason why they aren’t meant for bigger loads.

Camera Holsters

Camera holster is a bit larger version of the camera pouch. In most cases, the holsters have one or two additional compartments but this is usually only one compartment under the flap. Holsters are made to let you draw the camera in a matter of seconds, take a photo, and return it inside. They’re very comfortable to carry around and they aren’t bulky or robust.

So, if you don’t have special needs for the storage size and only want to store a single camera, pouches and holsters are great for you. Beware that holsters have slightly BIGGER storage than pouches, and they usually come with one or two additional compartments.

If you want to buy a camera pouch for yourself, read our detailed article about camera pouches and check out our recommendations. We also have an in-depth article and recommendations about camera holsters.

| Camera Waist Belts |

Camera Waist Belts

When it comes to capacity, waist belts are vastly different between each other, yet we can approximately say that they’re similar to pouches and holsters. The reason for this is that there are waist belts that let you stack different pouches and holsters on top of them, making them very versatile and flexible. As its name says, waist belts are worn around your waist and they usually come with a storage that isn’t able to pack a full-sized DSLR camera and tons of gear. While some more expensive waist belts can do that, we don’t think it’s comfortable to carry the belt like that. Coupled with other accessories, a waist belt can wear out quickly when it is overloaded with photography gear.

Waist belts are great for photographers with mirrorless or P&S cameras that don’t care much about exchanging lenses, tripods, etc. An average mirrorless camera can easily go with a waist belt and a smaller 50mm lens can be packed here. If you decide to go with the more expensive waist belts, a DSLR can be packed, especially if you hook an additional pouch to the belt. This will give you an advantage in storage size. Beware that most waist belts come with the pre-existing pouches that aren’t that big, so don’t expect a miracle. In some cases, waist belts aren’t able to pack as much gear as the pouch can but also, in some cases, it can out-mass the pouch. This is the reason why the waist belts are on our list just after the pouches and holsters.

So, who should buy a waist belt? Well, those who don’t like carrying anything over their shoulders – for the health, comfort or any other reason. You can then tie the belt around your waist and let your hands be free, which is a plus if we subtract the compromises that need to be made in terms of storage.

Here is our detailed article about camera waist belts. We have some recommendations that will surely meet your needs in your search for the perfect camera waist belt.

| Shoulder Camera Bags |

Shoulder Camera Bags

At last, we crossed the boundary between the small and the big camera bags. While not the biggest storage for your photography gear, a typical shoulder bag will offer you a fine balance between the style and the capacity. Shoulder bags are also called messenger bags and they represent the most popular types of photography camera bags in the photography world. The reason for that is that they allow you to carry a full-sized DSLR with more than three lenses. Shoulder bags are very practical as they are usually easy to access and they have a couple of additional compartments.

Photographers that often carry a laptop with them should definitely go for the shoulder bag. More expensive shoulder bags will allow you to pack a DSLR, a couple of lenses, and a 17-inch laptop, in the best case scenario. Furthermore, a shoulder bag packs additional compartments that let you store your SD cards, portable flashes, etc. The great thing about shoulder bags is that they often come with a tripod slot, letting you attach a medium-sized tripod. For photographers that need to incorporate both a laptop and their camera, a shoulder bag is the most stylish solution.

However, shoulder bags with stylish design are very expensive. If you don’t really need a shoulder bag, you shouldn’t buy it. For those who are constantly on foot or traveling (not via plane) and need to stay in contact all the time, with all their photography gear with them, a shoulder bag is a MUST.

We also have an in-depth article about camera shoulder bags, recommendations, and things to look for when buying a camera shoulder bag.

| Sling Camera Bags |

Sling Camera Bags

In many ways, sling bags are very similar to shoulder bags. The first noticeable difference is in the way you will wear them. The shoulder bags are on the same side of the shoulder you’re using for wearing it, whereas, in sling bags, the bag is on the opposite side of the shoulder used for wearing. That way, sling bags can pack a bit more than a typical shoulder bag and in some cases, the storage is equal. While the shoulder bag can fall off the shoulder, a sling bag is tightly secured thanks to your neck, which is in the way of the strap moving left and right.

So, what do sling bags have that shoulder bags don’t? The storage and ease of use. Sling bags pack flexibility of a typical shoulder bag and combine it with the storage capacity of backpacks. Sure, a backpack can carry more weight but the sling bag are pretty close. They usually have access from several sides, including the front, back, and the top. Furthermore, the additional compartments can sometimes pack a laptop or a tablet, allowing you to stay in contact or edit photos on the fly. The main reason why the sling bag is so practical is that it can swing around your shoulders and let you access the camera without any hassle.

Simply swing it around, open it up from the above, and start taking photos. Sling bags are also very popular for travel and event photography, as they allow you to be more flexible. Pretty much everything that we said about shoulder bags can also be applied here, with the exception of superior ease of use and sometimes capacity.

For those interested in camera sling bags, we have an article that can help you with your decision-making process of choosing the right camera bag.

| Camera Backpacks |

Camera Backpacks

We all know what a backpack is and we are aware of the capacity that one backpack can provide to us. With the roller bag being the biggest storage for your photography gear, a camera backpack is unbeatable when it comes to portability while maintaining a very large storage capacity. Despite being so huge and able to carry that much gear, a backpack is very comfortable to wear, as you wear it on both of your shoulders. This reduces and even completely removes the stress from your shoulders, regardless of the amount of your photography gear. Speaking of photography gear, an average camera backpack can store two or more cameras, more than 4 lenses, laptop, tablet, and has additional compartments for small or big camera accessories. Some more expensive and robust camera backpacks will allow you to pack both laptop and a tablet, for increased versatility.

Sure, this makes the backpack heavier but if you really want to pack that much, we assume that this is something you’ve already come to expect. Design-wise, backpacks aren’t very beautiful, like some of the shoulder bags for example. However, they offer superior storage size to every camera bag we’ve mentioned, except roller bags. Does this mean that a backpack is great for travel photographers? Both yes and no. If you love spending your time in nature and shooting landscapes, then a backpack is a great option. It will allow you to store even food inside. Those who don’t need this kind of flexibility should steer clear of the backpacks.

The reason for this is that backpacks are usually more expensive than smaller camera bags. And if you don’t have a couple of cameras, lenses, and tripods, then the camera backpack isn’t for you. The bigger the storage, the bigger the possibilities when on foot. For those who have problems with their shoulders, a backpack is surely going to help, thus we think that it’s great for that purpose. All in all, if you have a lot of stuff to carry, whether it’s your photography gear or something else, a camera backpack is obligatory. You’ll know when to buy a backpack. If you can’t fit your stuff in the shoulder bag or a sling bag, go for a backpack – that’s a nice rhyme, by the way!

Once again, we have a special camera backpack guide. Take a look and you might find the right camera backpack for your photography gear.

| Camera Roller Bags |

Camera Roller Bags

If a pouch is a bicycle, a sling bag is a car, a backpack is a van, then a roller bag is a big, badass truck. You get the point, right? The camera roller bags are unmatched when it comes to the sheer storage size. You’ve probably seen and used a roller bag in your life. It can easily pack all the stuff you need for your vacation, regardless of the duration. The same thing applies here and if we look at everything through the photographer’s lens, then we can say that the roller bag is suitable only for the small percent of photographers. That is to say, the photographers who travel by plane… A LOT!

You see, roller bags are made to pack more than three cameras, more than six or seven lenses, a tripod or two, and they have numerous additional compartments. This means that you can stuff in some drinks, food, and even some clothing for your trip. A camera roller bag is typically very expensive and there has to be a good reason to go for it. They aren’t pretty, they aren’t classy, and they are here only for the single purpose – to pack tons of gear. Furthermore, typically roller camera bags are very heavy. In some cases, we’re talking about five or seven kilograms! If you add the desired amount of stuff in there and fill it to its maximum, a total weight can go over 10 or even 12 kilograms.

A travel photographer who does his business outside of his native country should always have one of these. This is the primary purpose of a roller bag and if you need really big storage, you’ll have to go for one of these big boys.

For those interested in roller bags, we have an in-depth guide for them. We picked out the best roller bags for every budget and explained what you should look for when buying a roller bag.

This was our guide for those interested in photography camera bags. As you can see we started with the camera bags that have the small storage capacities and we finished with a camera bag that has the biggest storage.

I hope our guide has helped you find the right photography camera bag for your photography gear.

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How to Choose a Camera Bag: A Helpful Guide

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