What defines a pro camera bag? Quality construction, durability, maximum protection and convenience; those are some of the characteristics professional photographers look for when selecting camera bags. However, most pros use a variety of photo gear for different assignments. As a result, they may require a range of camera bags, from compact sling bags to cover a specific shoot to oversized rolling cases when traveling on extended assignments.
Indeed, the overwhelming majority of pros have acquired an impressive array of camera bags and cases to press into service at a moment’s notice.
To keep things manageable, we’ve limited our selection to three types of camera bags that have proven the most popular among pro shooters over time—shoulder bags, backpacks and roller bags.
Camera Bags for Pros
The traditional mainstay of pros and serious enthusiasts, shoulder bags are convenient, straightforward and can accommodate a lot of gear efficiently. They’re easy to put on and take off; generally provide quick and easy access to equipment; and the best ones are very protective and durable. The downside: carrying a heavy shoulder bag over one shoulder for long distances can be uncomfortable as well as affect posture.
A little bigger than the classic Domke series shoulder bag, there’s hardly a better choice for professionals who need to carry a comprehensive kit on assignments, in comfort and style. The Domke F-1X is just slightly larger than the iconic Domke F-2 bag. However, that makes a big difference to pros and serious shooters who need to tote a medium-format camera system or a multi-DSLR setup with up to 13 lenses.
Made of durable sailcloth canvas, it has 15 compartments and pockets. They include a patented four-compartment removable insert; two commodious side pockets; and four compartments under the weather flap for small items. Other features include a removable padded bottom stiffener and a four-point carrying handle, as well as an adjustable nonslip gripper strap sewn completely around the bag for extra security. Reviews highlight its rugged good looks, high load capacity and also the fact that it’s Made in USA. In black, sand or olive, $214.99.
Billingham Hadley Pro
Made in England by a legendary maker, this classic bag in fashionable canvas is accented with leather trim. It accommodates a DSLR with an attached 70–200mm f/2.8 lens or a mirrorless camera outfit, plus accessories for either system. Its removable insert has padded touch-fastening dividers. Moreover, there are two expandable slip pockets in front and a zippered compartment at the back for holding photo and personal items.
The waterproof bag also features Billingham’s signature rain flap on the top front, which is secured with hand-finished leather straps with brass buckles and stud fasteners; a wide adjustable shoulder strap; and a robust carrying handle. In addition, a quick-release system provides easy access to gear. The bag is also easily adjustable to a range of outfits and has an interior top divider on the camera inserts to protect gear from weather. Included is the Hadley Pro divider set with two small and two large dividers. $215.99.
MindShift Gear Exposure 15
This attractive bag from MindShift Gear is optimized for photographers on the go in any weather. It features a durable weather-repellent-coated exterior, YKK weather-resistant zippers and “weather wings” at the front flap for diverting rain. In addition, a seam-sealed rain cover affords maximum protection from the elements, and all metal parts are made of corrosion-resistant anodized aluminum.
Moreover, the Exposure 15 holds a DSLR (without grip) or mirrorless camera with an attached telephoto zoom plus two to five extra lenses, a flash unit and small accessories in the main compartment. A dedicated pocket protects a 15-inch laptop. Other features include: an oversize lid closure with a quick-release buckle; a zippered wide organizer and small lid pockets; a side stretch pocket with an elastic cinch strap; a side accessory strap compatible with optional Peak Design or Spider Light clips; a trolley strap; and straps for attaching a tripod/monopod. The bag can be carried by its wide adjustable cross-body shoulder strap or its robust top handle. $169.99.
A great solution for comfortably carrying a lot of heavy camera gear, photo backpacks distribute the weight over both shoulders. They’re a perfect choice for hikers, nature photographers, travel photographers and anyone who needs to tote a comprehensive photo outfit over long distances while keeping it protected. The downside: usually you have to take the backpack off to gain access to the equipment.
Manfrotto Pro Light 3N1-26
This commodious, nicely configured backpack holds two DSLR bodies, five lenses and a flash, or a medium-size video rig. Gear is well protected between padded touch-fastened dividers. Manfrotto’s interior Camera Protection System is comprised of reinforced, cushioned 3D shock-absorbing foam. In addition, the bag provides access to equipment via its three-way-entry camera compartment: one on the right side, one on the left and one in the middle. Each can be individually opened while the others stay closed or all can be opened at once.
Thanks to its modular harness, the backpack converts from a right-handed to a left-handed sling, to a regular X-position backpack worn across the torso. Other features include: dual side zip pockets; dual front pockets; a large top compartment with an interior organizer; numerous pockets for separating gear; and a trolley strap. There’s also a tripod attachment as well as a pocket for a 10-inch tablet. Moreover, a removable reflective rain cover keeps equipment cool. $219.99.
Tamrac Anvil 23
This thoughtfully designed Tamrac backpack fits three pro DSLR bodies plus fives lenses in photo mode. Conversely it fits a Canon C100 outfit with handles and lens detached, a backup body, a mic and three lenses in video mode. It has a padded compartment with an interior sleeve for storing a 15-inch laptop. Other features include: padded touch-fastened interior dividers; zippered exterior accessory pockets; clear interior TPU pockets; adjustable side compression straps; and quick-release removable tripod straps.
The Anvil 23 can be carried using the padded grab handle or be worn as a backpack secured by its shoulder harness with padded adjustable shoulder straps and a connector to distribute the load. There are also D-rings for attaching extra gear. For enhanced comfort and stability on extended treks, the removable hip belt and the side of the pack are fitted with M.O.L.L.E. system attachment points. Moreover, there’s a form-fitted rain cover. All zippers are YKK and fitted with large pulls. $250.95.
Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II
A great solution for transporting a comprehensive pro outfit, Lowepro’s backpack accommodates a pro DSLR with a 24–70mm f/2.8 lens attached, another DSLR and eight additional lenses or flash units. There’s a built-in tripod attachment as well as a protective cradle-fit suspension pocket for a 13-inch laptop.
The backpack provides four easy access points at the top, sides and back. Moreover, adjustable interior dividers allow for organizing gear. In addition, its ActivZone harness delivers targeted support at the shoulder blades, lumbar area and waist for comfort on extended treks. It also includes a removable waist belt for added stability. Other features include: an all-weather cover; a water bottle pouch; an accessory case; a tripod cup; and two cinch straps—all SlipLock compatible. $229.95.
These are the top choice of traveling photographers, especially those flying to distant shooting locations with a full complement of gear. They have wheels in the base and extendable handles that let users tote heavy loads over long distances without undue strain. Moreover, they generally hold a lot of equipment and will accommodate tripods and personal items. The downside: They don’t roll very easily over rough indoor or outdoor surfaces, and they have to be carried up and down staircases.
Think Tank Photo Airport Advantage
Complying with the rules for carry-on luggage, this sleek, sturdy rolling case combines minimalist styling with maximum carrying capacity. It holds two pro DSLRs with attached lenses; four additional lenses; a 15-inch laptop; as well as accessories. Its interior has padded touch-fastening dividers to organize and protect gear. There’s also a variety of zippered accessory pockets underneath the lid.
The Think Tank roller provides three-sided zippered access to the spacious main compartment. In addition, its main YKK zippers accept optional padlocks. Other features include: side pockets for a water bottle and travel tripod; additional straps for a larger tripod; a retractable trolley handle; three grab handles for easy overhead stowage; and a seam-sealed rain cover. It also sports large 80mm ABEC Grade 5 roller-bearing wheels. Quality construction materials include water-repellent 420D nylon; closed cell foam padding; tall skid plates; and also durable reinforced PE board dividers. $269.75.
Tenba Roadie Roller 21
This attractive, weather-resistant nylon roller stows as carry-on luggage on most airlines. Moreover, it has a TSA-approved combination zipper lock, a lock and cable system and an extendable handle. The Roadie holds an impressive pro shooting outfit, including two gripped DSLRs, a 400mm f/2.8 super telephoto or 10 smaller lenses, and an assortment of flashes and accessories. It also includes a removable insert that users can transfer to a separate bag when they reach their destination.
In addition, the Tenba roller features: adjustable dividers; a padded 17-inch laptop sleeve; numerous organizers, including a four-pocket organizer for small personal items; a drop-in tripod carrier; a handy add-a-bag strap; as well as a rain cover. There are also top, bottom and side handles for easy stowage; a robust honeycomb internal frame; user-replaceable shock-absorbing wheels with high-carbon steel bearings; and an integrated front strap with a D-ring for a luggage tag. $389.95.
Manfrotto Pro Light Reloader Air-55
This strikingly styled, beautifully made roller case fits carry-on requirements yet holds two pro DSLRs, one with an attached 40mm lens, four other lenses, and flashes. In addition, it has a front-access pocket compartment for a 17-inch laptop and another front pocket for personal items.
Its exterior is made of Pro-Light Rip-Stop fabric with upgraded corners protection and also additional protection trims. Internally, it features an EVA molded tray to ensure light weight as well as protection. Moreover, 14 protective dividers and five Manfrotto CPS dividers are adjusted to accommodate gear. In addition, it has two internal panel see-through pockets for organizing small camera accessories, such as cables and memory cards. $379.99.