Buying a new camera bag used to be easy. As your equipment got bigger, you just invested in the next size up. That all changed when Mirrorless Cameras became popular. With a Mirrorless Camera, you have a smaller camera to start with, and the lenses are significantly smaller and lighter too. So if you’ve been used to a bulky DSLR and have recently made the switch to mirrorless, you’ll already know your camera bag is now way too big for the job.
Camera bags come in all shapes and sizes, depending on your needs – from shoulder bags that keep your camera small and discrete, right up to backpacks that not only hold your camera but take a variety of lenses and can even hold your tripod, too. The one you ultimately opt for depends most of all on what you intend to put in it.
Two is better than one
One thing is for certain – you’re likely to find you need at least two camera bags. One is for those shoots when you just want to head out with a camera and a single lens on the off-chance that you might come across something a bit special. A holster-style shoulder bag, is perfect for this, but think about the lens you use most often. If that’s a telephoto then make sure you choose a bag big enough to accommodate your favourite lens. Lowepro’s Adventura shoulder bag range is perfect for light use. Using a top-loading system, your camera is ready to take out and use whenever you need it.
If that’s not enough room for you, how about a messenger-style format? Manfrotto’s Manhattan Speedy 10 can hold a premium Mirrorless Camera as well as two lenses (and you can even fit a tripod to the underside). The Billingham Hadley range is a little pricier but they’re fully weather resistant and, best of all, you’d never guess they held expensive camera equipment.
But there will also be those photo shoots when you want to take all (or most) of your lens options with you, and probably a tripod as well. A small shoulder bag isn’t going to cut the mustard for outings like this and a backpack is the best way forward. The good news is that there are plenty to choose from. Lowepro, Peak Design, Manfrotto and Vanguard are the key players at this end of the market. Lowepro’s Fastpack 250 AW provides handy side access to your camera, a pocket for your laptop and space down the side for a tripod. Vanguard’s Alta Rise 45 goes one better – while your tripod fits easily on the side, if it folds down small enough you can even fit it inside the bag. LowePro’s Tahoe BP 150 (shown in the main shot above) not only holds all your gear – it looks the part, too.
There’s another reason you might want to take a larger bag with you. When you go abroad you don’t want to be packing your lenses and camera gear into your hold luggage – you need a bag you can carry through security.
Choose a bag that’s made of quality materials and you won’t regret it. Bags come in cotton, canvas, leather or nylon, and ideally you want to choose one with water-resistant features so you can head out without worrying what the weather might throw at you.
If you’re out in the rain a lot, you definitely need to look for a bag that offers weather protection, or at least a cover you can pull over it in a downpour. For the ultimate in weather-proofing, take a look at Peak Design’s Messenger range (shown here).
When you’re carrying around a camera and lots of heavy glass (and maybe a tripod, too), you want to make sure you have a bag that’s comfortable. A shoulder bag puts all the weight onto one shoulder, while a haversack does a better job of evening out the load across both shoulders. Make sure your bag doesn’t hang too low when it’s filled with gear. If it still feels comfortable when you’ve filled it with all your regular paraphernalia, then you’re onto a winner.
Keep it convenient
The last thing you want is a bag that doesn’t have enough pockets. Think about all the extras you need to fit in, from spare batteries and cards to ND filters, rechargers and all sorts of leads – there’s more than you might think. These days, camera bags are made to carry all sorts of extras. A tripod is likely to be the most useful thing you’ll want to stick in your bag though, so make sure you choose a bag that can accommodate it, even if it’s just hanging off the side. Maybe you like to take your laptop or tablet around with you as well? Or perhaps you want space to carry a bottle of water? Whatever your preference, there’s a camera bag out there that’s got everything.
To pad or not to pad
Give some thought to what type of protection you’re after. Padding is important as it protects your lenses and camera. Whether you go for simple padding or closed-cell foams depends how much protection you think you’ll need – and your budget.
Choosing a bag on the internet is far from easy. Nothing compares to seeing how your gear actually fits in the bag you like. That’s why the best way to select your next camera bag is to pop into a Jessops store and see how they fit.
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