Sophistication and Convenience Meet in the Camera Bag Aisle

Sophistication and Convenience Meet in the Camera Bag Aisle


Camera bags have come a long way, and the best ones are now precision-engineered products designed with extensive hands-on input from end users that are precisely targeted at specific niches of the consumer market. For example, the increasing popularity of wildlife and adventure photography has resulted in an exciting generation of brilliantly designed high-tech photo backpacks aimed at attracting this expanding and lucrative market segment.

Plus, with the profusion of large-, medium- and compact-size DSLRs and compact system cameras with a vast array of body and interchangeable-lens sizes, the need to accommodate a wider variety of outfits and accessories has resulted in some ingenious bag systems that vastly enhance the convenience and flexibility of configuring their compartments.

Other significant trends in camera carrying gear include: the inclusion of laptop/tablet compartments, reflecting the ways today’s photographers operate in the field; impact-absorbing layers or inserts to protect delicate equipment and computer screens; a variety of access points to enable photographers to choose the equipment they need without disturbing the rest; and ruggedized, water-repellant materials plus more effective closures and sealing to better protect equipment in inclement weather.

It’s also noteworthy that the overall quality of construction and finish materials in the latest crop of camera bags has definitely come up a notch or two over previous products—a sure sign that the camera bag market is not only becoming more sophisticated but also more fiercely competitive.

Herewith is a selection of nine of the coolest camera bags.

A pair of stylish laptop/camera bags

Tamrac Apache 6. Constructed of water-resistant sailcloth, this attractive, classically styled photo messenger bag is designed to hold a DSLR or CSC plus two or three extra lenses, including a 6-inch-long telephoto zoom such as a 70–200mm f/2.8, and accessories. It has an interior padded compartment for a 12×19.5-inch laptop plus a zippered front compartment for memory cards, cables, batteries and other small items. Movable dividers allow the interior to be reconfigured, and expanding side pockets accommodate a phone or water bottle. Other features include: touch fasteners with silencers to minimize sound when opening it; a trolley sleeve for slipping over a rolling luggage handle; and an abrasion/moisture-resistant Hypatex bottom. Dimensions: 14.25×7.25×9.75-inch exterior; weight, 2 lbs., 6 oz. $149.95.

Lowepro Urban Reporter 350. This messenger-style bag holds a full-size DSLR with grip and attached 70–200mm f/2.8 lens plus three extra lenses and accessories, and it accommodates a 15-inch laptop. Easy access points let users grab gear via the top main opening, zippered front pocket and side cargo pockets, while a removable padded, adjustable camera insert lets photogs organize kits or remove and store it while using the bag as a day bag. Other features include: a convertible pocket/trolley sleeve that can be used as storage space or to slip over a rolling luggage handle; a front organization pocket that provides zippered pockets for business cards and incidentals; leather touch-points on snap closures, flap and grab handle; and an adjustable antislip shoulder strap. Dimensions: 15×5.9×10.8-inch interior camera insert; weight, 3.3 lbs. $159.99.

A trio of Domke Next Generation bags
The contemporary styled Domke Next Generation line takes the signature Domke virtues of ruggedness, field functionality and accessibility and adds ingenious features. All models incorporate PocketFlex, an innovative storage system of movable pockets, pouches and patches that adhere to interior surfaces for customization, and GearProtex, an insert system that uses bendable, self-adhering separators for organizing the interior space to accommodate various equipment.

Domke Chronicle. Described as “the grandchild of the classic Domke F-2,” this commodious bag in Domke’s Journalist series features top access with a double zipper, a rear slide pocket, an expandable zippered side pocket, a luggage strap, a key-ring strap and antique steel hardware. It offers side rain hoods, a padded zippered sleeve that accommodates objects up to 8×11 inches, expandable front pockets and a Velcro silencer on its closure. It has a detachable gripper-type shoulder and grab strap, and its zippers are premium YKK. The bag comes in RuggedWear, Domke’s canvas duck that’s treated with environmentally friendly waxes and oils for weather resistance. Dimensions: 15.75x7x10-inch exterior. $349.95.

Domke Director. This svelte bag, in the Viewfinder series, is shown in stone/black Cordura, a durable fabric used in military wear and premium luggage. The Director provides a suede wrap grab handle, a rear slide pocket, an expandable zippered side pocket, a key-ring strap, a secure luggage strap and custom antique steel hardware. Other features include: side rain hoods; a padded 9.5×7.37-inch zippered tablet sleeve; expandable front pockets; a Velcro silencer for discreet opening; a detachable shoulder strap; and YKK zippers. Dimensions: 10.5x4x8.75-inch exterior. $249.95.

Domke Crosstown Courier. Based on the classic Domke F-5XB, the Crosstown Courier in the Metro series has all the above-mentioned features of the Domke Chronicle plus removable side pouches and, like the Domke Director, a padded zippered 9.5×7.37-inch zippered tablet sleeve. The Courier comes in both Domke’s RuggedWear and Cordura. Dimensions: 16×4.5×8.5-inch exterior with removable pouches. $229.95 in Cordura; $259.95 in RuggedWear.

A quartet of cool photo backpacks
Mountainsmith Parallax. This roomy backpack holds three DSLRs, four lenses, including a 70–200mm f/2.8 long zoom, a flash and accessories, and it provides three-point access for retrieving gear. It also features two front zippered compartments with a sleeve for a 17-inch laptop, a back-panel gear compartment, two zip pouches at the front and one on the side for small accessories, and a side slip pocket that unzips at the bottom to fit a tripod with a compression strap to secure the tripod. Other features include: padded waist straps with pockets; a removable rain cover; YKK zippers; and a customizable interior camera area. It is constructed of 500d S-Kodra high-tenacity nylon with a waterproof coating. Dimensions: 23x13x9.75-inch exterior; weight, 6.8 lbs. $269.95.

Manfrotto Professional 30. This attractive backpack looks medium sized but holds two DSLRs with grips, a 70–200mm f/2.8 lens plus three more lenses, a flash unit and a 13-inch laptop/tablet. Its Exo-Tough construction features multilayered impact protection, rigid interior dividers, a front shield and four feet that divert impact from the pack’s middle to protect delicate contents. Other features include: front and side tripod attachments; quick-release belts for securing tripods; a rear trolley sleeve for attaching to rolling luggage; a removable rain cover; an exterior side zippered pouch; and two zippered accessory compartments under the flap. It’s constructed of high-density Cordura nylon. Dimensions: 12.2×10.2×17.1-inch exterior; weight, 4.2 lbs. $220.

MindShift Gear rotation180 Panorama. Founded by the creators of Think Tank Photo and conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá, MindShift has an outdoor focus. Claimed to be the first 180º rotating backpack, it uses patented technology to enable photographers to access gear without taking off the pack. The rotating belt pack holds an SLR with a short zoom attached plus two other lenses, or four lenses with a CSC. It features three tripod-carrying options, a hydration reservoir pocket that holds a three-liter bottle, a top pocket for jacket, gloves, etc., a removable belt pack that can be worn separately, a padded airflow harness with daisy chain, an adjustable sternum strap with load lifters, and YKK zippers. It’s constructed of 420D/210D velocity nylon and 420D high-density nylon with water-repellant coatings. Dimensions: 9.8×19.7×8.3-inch exterior; weight, 20 pounds. $199.99.

Pelican ProGear U160 Urban Elite Half Case Camera Pack. Its name is a mouthful, but this backpack is based on an ingeniously concise concept: integrating one of Pelican’s signature waterproof, crushproof, O-ring-sealed hard cases and a ballistic nylon soft bag into an ergonomic backpack. The case features a padded divider to protect a camera body, lenses and flash, and with the dividers removed it becomes a travel pack that accommodates a day’s worth of gear. The padded upper compartment has room for hard drives, cables, etc., and a pocket for storing a tablet. Both storage compartments sport a yellow interior for visibility. Other features include: tripod carrier straps; side pockets; an aluminum S-curve spine and load lifters for easier carrying; and a removable waist belt to distribute the load. It’s constructed of 900-denier ballistic nylon. Dimensions: 19.5×13.5×9-inch exterior; weight, 7.1 lbs. $324.95.