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The Best Camera Bags in 2018 According to SLR Lounge

By Christopher Lin on December 14th 2018

There are hundreds of camera bags on the market, with new ones joining the competition every year.

To help you in your decision making, we’ve created our list of the Best Camera Bags for photographers, updated annually.  These lists are based on our personal experience with these bags as working photographers combined with extensive research from other reputable sources online.

If we missed anything, or if you have any recommendations on what we should consider for next year, please comment below!

Best Messenger Camera Bags (Camera sling bags)

A reliable messenger bag is important for both amateur and professional photographers who need quick access to gear, especially lenses. Gear within backpacks and roller bags takes time to access, so consider a messenger bag if you need access to multiple lenses quickly.

Think Tank Signature 13 Camera Shoulder Bag (Our Choice)

Our Winner for the Best Camera Messenger Bag.

The Think Tank Signature 13 is a great blend of style and functionality. It fits one standard-size DSLR with a mid-range zoom attached plus 2–3 additional lenses.

The wool and leather materials used are both stylish and durable, and the neutral colors give the bag versatility for everyday and professional use.  Also, the look, unlike many messenger bags on the market,  is gender neutral.

The main drawback of this bag is the laptop compartment size.  It can only fit a 13-inch laptop, making it a great camera bag but maybe not the best everyday laptop bag.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Peak Design Everyday Messenger


2nd Place for the Best Camera Messenger Bag

The co-developers, Peak Design and Trey Ratcliff, have thought through every minute detail, from the compartment separators and secure pockets to the way the strap attaches to the bag.

Peak Design also makes other great products that work seamlessly with this bag, so if you’re a capture clip or slide strap user, this is a great choice for you.

The main drawback of this bag is that there is no luggage strap on the back of the bag.  It also has a tapered design that limits its potential carrying capacity.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Tenba Messenger DNA 15 Slim Bag

3rd Place for the Best Camera Messenger Bag

The Tenba DNA checks all of the boxes in terms of  functionality and comfort for a great messenger camera bag, including sufficient carrying capacity, secure and hidden zipper pockets, a comfortable strap, padding for lens protection, and more.

The major con is that the look of the bag has a cool but casual/street wear appeal that may not work for some photographers who photograph formal occasions like weddings, galas or bar mitzvahs.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Best Camera backpacks

Camera backpacks are great for photographers who want more carrying capacity and carrying comfort than a messenger bag but don’t want to lug around a full rolling camera bag.  We recommend a camera backpack if you’re traveling, going on an outdoor or urban photo adventure, or if you need more equal weight distribution than a messenger bag has to offer.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack (Our Choice)

Our Winner for the Best Camera Backpack

This features a unique design that gives you quick access to ALL of your gear without having to remove the backpack.  Some other backpacks require that you remove it entirely and set it down in order to access your gear; they also only give you quick access to some compartments. The Peak Design backpack, however, gives you full access to the fully modular compartments from both the left and right sides.

In addition, it’s also beautifully designed and made with high-quality materials and stitching.  The look and functionality make this perfect for everyday use, overseas travel, or just daily photo adventures.

The primary drawback is that the top pocket is secured with a clasp (and not a weatherproof zipper). So, if you’re going on a serious outdoor adventure, this may not be the right fit for you.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Think Tank Photo Streetwalker HardDrive V2.0 Backpack

2nd Place for theBest Camera Backpack

If you’re the type of photographer who likes to carry more than 3-4 lenses plus other gear, then this might be the backpack for you.

Other backpacks can carry as much gear, but none that we have found can do so with a slim, contoured design. The carrying capacity, the weather sealing, and the convenient tripod mount make this our bag of choice for serious outdoor photographers.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Wandrd pRVKE Travel and DSLR Camera Backpack

3rd Place for theBest Camera Backpack

Wandrd isn’t afraid to think differently in terms of design and functionality.  Aesthetically, it’s style is appealing for everyday use as a commuter backpack.  Functionally, it has an array of pockets, a unique system that allows you to access everything without setting the bag down, and an expandable roll top that gives you extra space with you need it.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Best rolling Camera Bags

Most professional photographers need a rolling camera bag/case to store all of their gear.  Below are our favorites:

Pelican Air 1615 Case (Our Choice)

Our Winner for the Best Rolling Camera Bag

This is the most durable rolling camera case on the market. Shorter photographers can stand on it when they need extra height. Travel and nature photographers can reliably drag it through extreme elements without fear.  And the kicker is the low price in comparison to its competitors.

The main drawback is that it’s not as easy (or smooth) to roll around as some luggage-style bags, especially the ones with four wheels.  Also, with its rigid, durable design, the carrying capacity is limited if you have a ton of gear.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Think Tank Photo Airport Roller Derby

2nd Place for the Best Rolling Camera Bag

The Think Tank Photo Airport Roller Derby is one of the most popular rolling camera cases on the market, for good reason.

It features Think Tank’s modular interior, a high carrying capacity, durability, and a high-quality build.  It also has four wheels, making it easy to roll around at the airport, on the street, or through a crowded event. While you will pay a premium for the smooth rolling, it’s well worth it for professionals.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Lowepro PhotoStream Roller 150

3rd Place for the Best Rolling Camera Bag

The Lowepro PhotoStream Roller is a classic rolling camera bag with a modular interior, as well as compartments and pockets for for laptops, lenses, flashes, tripods, and other camera gear.  The build quality is great and the price point is fair.

This is a great bag to consider if you don’t want to splurge for a 4-wheel bag, yet you want more carrying capacity than a Pelican.

Check the prices from our preferred retailers below:

Best Budget Camera Bags

If you’re looking for a budget camera bag, whether it be a messenger, backpack or rolling bag, then you are going to have to make sacrifices, primarily on the style and uniqueness of the bag. But if these aren’t a priority for you, then you should consider the Amazon Basics lineup. For the functionality, you’re not going to beat the price.

Here are our recommendations:

best camera bags for women

Our recommendations above are for all genders.  However, there are brands designed specifically for women with bags that feature the look and feel of  designer purses.  If you’re looking for these, you’ll want to check out Kelly Moore Bags and Jo Totes.

How to choose a camera bag

Primary Features

Before pulling out your credit card, make sure you focus on the features that are most important for you.  Remember, every photographer has a unique set of gear and a unique sense of style, so the “best” for someone else might not be the best for you.

Place top priority in the following features:

  • Comfort – Whether you’re shooting an event or going on a hike, your camera bag could be on your body for long periods of time.  Ensure that the straps are comfortable and that the bag is not too heavy. Your health could be on the line.
  • Size/Capacity – Ensure that the camera bag carries what you need for your style of shooting but isn’t excessive in size.  Many bags have two versions/sizes, one smaller and one larger, so read the specs carefully and watch a few Youtube videos before making that final purchase.
  • Style – Just like anything else on your body, your bag, whether you care or not, reflects your personal style to the outside world.  Select a bag with versatility, one that you can wear with whatever outfit you find yourself shooting in that day.

Small But Important Features of the best camera bags

In the competitive bag market, the smallest features or conveniences make the biggest difference. You’ll have to decide what’s important for you and your personal preferences.  Here are a few features we recommend focusing on:

  • Luggage Attachment (for backpacks and messenger bags) – The ability to slide a messenger bag or backpack onto a roller bag or luggage is critical for traveling and during long shoots to give your back and shoulders a rest.
  • Secure pockets (Zipper) – Ensure your bags have enough zippers and pockets to accommodate your gear. Zipper pockets are especially important for places you will store your memory cards.
  • Rain Jacket/Waterproofing – Find bags that are weatherproof.  If you live in a rainy area, find bags that allow you to weatherproof quickly and conveniently.

 Summary

Here is a list of all of the gear discussed in this article:

What did we miss?  Please give us feedback so that we can check out other bags and keep this list up-to-date.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Co-Founder of SLR Lounge and Photographer with Lin and Jirsa Photography, I’m based in Southern California but you can find me traveling the world. Click here to connect on Google +

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Simon Pollock

    Appreciate the places, cheers! Simon @ thinkTank  

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  2. Amii & Andy Kauth

    We’re big fans of the Tenba Roadie Air Case Rollers … As solid as the Pelican Air mentioned here (we’ve stood on them, jumped off them, etc.) but with a classier look. Plus, with the Pelicans you have to buy an insert so you’ll end up close to $400 anyway. As well, the Roadies are made to fit in any overhead bin (and they do … even on the smallest airplanes). 

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  3. Kathleen Healy

    How did you only cite a mention to Kelly Moore bags? So many options for both men and women. I literally have 3 Kelly Moore camera bags that are unisex in nature and don’t scream “I am carrying expensive camera equipment”. 

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  4. Kathleen Healy

    [Kathleen Healy has deleted this comment]

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  5. Lenzy Ruffin

    The WANDRD Access Duffel (45L). I bought one a few weeks ago. 

    Between its capacity and versatility, it’s great for local shoots where I need to take a lot of equipment, and for travel when less gear and more room for clothes, etc is necessary.

    This is the first camera bag I’ve had that I don’t feel like there are deficiencies I just have to live with or work around.

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    • David J. Crewe

      I’m a huge fan of the WANDRD bags and they’re on my list to buy this year. I’ve been following those guys since they were beta testing the bags years ago and was even lucky enough to use and write one of the early reviews! 

      So all this rambling…and I mean to say, i’m a tad jealous you have one! :) 

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