A Guide To Selecting Camera Bags

I’m not saying I have an obsession for camera bags, but I do have one for almost any occasion.  I’ve been shooting for a while, so I’ve ended up with a decent collection of bags and cases over the years. This lesson will show how different bags are needed for each type of shoot.

From the simple small case to a roller backpack, there’s a case out there for any occasion.  Maybe you just need to grab your camera and single-lens; maybe you need to bring all your gear along for a road trip across the desert. It’s rare that I’ll take my camera along without a case to protect it.

Camera bags serve two purposes: protection and organization.  Each style will offer qualities that help you decide which will work best for you.

General Considerations

Before getting into specific styles, here are some things to look for with any case.  First and foremost is the overall quality. There’s no reason to buy a cheap bag for expensive camera gear.  A cheap bag will offer less padding, use cheaper materials and you’ll soon find issues with things like zippers and stitching failing earlier than expected.

When in doubt about the quality, it’s worth looking at some of the bigger name brands (LowePro, ThinkTank, Tamrac, Pelican are just a few). If this is the first case you’re thinking of buying, make sure to read reviews and visit your local camera store to get a feel for them before purchasing.

The biggest feature to look for in a bag is protection.  That’s the whole reason for a case, so before looks, color, etc – make sure it will protect your gear.   Look at the padding both on the outer sides and the interior areas.  Many bags use moveable, padded dividers that Velcro into place. These should be thick enough to prevent gear from rubbing against other pieces.

Only you will know how much protection you’ll need. For the average photographer, that’s a semi-soft case with padding inside and out. For a professional, that might mean a hardshell, waterproof case which adjusts for internal air pressure.

Your gear should fit snug inside the case. If it’s loose and flopping around while you carry it, you’re increasing the odds of damage.  Use the dividers to adjust the case to the gear you’re carrying each time you load it. Not too loose, not too tight – just right!

When you’re looking at camera bags, try to plan ahead and think about any gear you’ll be buying the coming month or year.  Think about what you have now, and what you carry most of the time. Think about how your photography might improve by having a case that holds your camera and extra lenses that you might otherwise leave at home.  That’s the true value of a case.

Picking the Right Size of Camera Case

If you to have just one camera case, you want to pick a size based on two factors: how much of your gear will it hold and how convenient will be to carry. It’s easy to think you’ll buy a case that holds everything, but then maybe it’s so big and heavy that you never take it anywhere.

Think about the equipment you use most of the time.  Is it the same gear you want to carry with you on a trip? Carry it through an airport?  Put in the trunk of your car?  Hike 6 hours with it?   It’s always a fine balance between how much you want to take and how much you want to carry. Only you will know this answer.

The good news is that companies make camera bags in all shapes and sizes. From small pouches for your compact point and shoot to large roller bags. Take some time to review what is available and start first by picking the size you want then narrow it down.