Best Camera Bags 2020: 15 top bags for photographers
No matter what kind of camera bag you’re looking for – backpack, shoulder bag, sling or roller – you’re sure to find the perfect one for you in our round-up of the best camera bags on the market.
If you’ve spent time and money investing in your camera equipment then you’ll require a bag in which you can safely transport it all around. Camera bags come in all shapes and sizes – from simple holsters intended for a single compact to reinforced rucksacks designed to accommodate full-frame DSLRs with an assortment of lenses, flashguns and other useful equipment.
The most versatile all-round bag we found was the Vanguard VEO Select 49. If you’re looking for a lightweight sling bag for a smaller mirrorless camera, then the Manfrotto Pro Light FastTrack-8 Sling is your best bet.
Best Camera Bag Buying Guide – Which is the right bag for you?
The size of bag that’s right for you will depend on the amount of equipment you own, and how much of it you want to carry around with you at any given time.
Either way, the first thing to do is to draw up a list of all your camera equipment. This will enable you to get a good idea of the size of bag you should be looking for. Don’t forget to factor any imminent purchases into the equation too.
The different options
There are many different types of camera bag on the market. Popular designs include compact pouches and belt holsters, waist belts, shoulder bags, backpacks, rolling cases and sling-type bags.
Pouches are the smallest and are generally designed to carry no more than a small compact. They can usually be attached to a belt to keep them within easy reach. Waist belts are generally a little bit bigger than pouches, making them ideal for superzooms, bigger compacts or even a small mirrorless camera.
Related: Best cameras
Moving up in size, shoulder bags – also referred to as ‘messenger bags’ – are usually big enough to carry a DSLR or mirrorless body plus a couple of lenses. They differ from standard backpacks in that they employ a single strap that rests on one of your shoulders. One advantage is that they’re much easier to access than backpacks, as you don’t have to remove the bag from your shoulders to get into it. On the flip-side, they aren’t as spacious and can unbalance you, especially if you’re carrying a lot of weighty equipment.
Sling bags are a halfway-house between shoulder bags and backpacks. The main compartment is usually styled like a backpack, but they’re fitted with a single, diagonally positioned strap. This allows them to be worn like a backpack but also rotated around to your chest, so you can quickly access the storage compartment without having to remove the bag completely. They sometimes come with a hip belt for added comfort.
Related: Best waterproof cameras
As is the case with all camera equipment and accessories, you’ll ultimately get what you pay for. It pays to invest as much as you can in a decent bag, even if it means having to save up a bit longer.
In addition, expensive bags also tend to come with more durable zips and better-quality padding. As a rule of thumb, bags costing around £80 or more are generally of good quality.
1. Vanguard VEO Select 49
This backpack turns into a shoulder bag to give you the best of both worlds
- Quickly switches from backpack to shoulder bag
- Very comfortable in both configurations
- Includes 15in laptop compartment
- Fits the carry-on luggage requirements of most airlines
- Great value
Finding a camera bag that matches all your photographic needs can be a challenge. Sometimes you might want to carry lots of gear and distribute the weight across both shoulders, whereas other times you might want to travel light and prefer a messenger-style bag to sling over one shoulder for fast access to your kit. Well, this VEO Select 49 bag does in one bag, all for under £150.
Switching from backpack to shoulder bag couldn’t be easier – you just loosen the shoulder straps, feed them through two loops to keep them out of the way, and clip on the padded shoulder strap.The side zip gives you quick entry to your camera, and with sturdy side and top handles it’s easy grab for overhead airplane lockers.
The interior is spacious with room for a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached, plus two to three lenses, a flash and accessories. The internal dividers configure it as a daypack, with the top third being a handy place to store spare clothes and toiletries on a short city break when travelling with just hand luggage.
We took it on a two-day trip abroad, using it as a backpack while travelling and as a shoulder bag when walking around the city. It was very comfortable to carry in both configurations, and if you pack sensibly you can cram a surprising amount of kit inside.
When you consider the VEO Select 49’s versatility and how well it’s made, it offers sensational value for money, As stylish backpacks go that can be converted into a shoulder bag in seconds, it’s by far one of the best we’ve tested.
2. Manfrotto Pro Light FastTrack-8 Sling
An innovative sling bag that’s great for travelling light
- Innovative design
- Quick release
- Water repellant
- Expensive for the size
- No space for a standard laptop
The increased popularity of mirrorless cameras has seen a steady rise in the number of smaller photo bags being made. One of the most intriguing examples to be released of late is Manfrotto’s Pro Light FastTrack sling, which is like no other sling bag we’ve seen before. It’s the first of its kind to combine a sling strap with a camera strap and the idea is that it solves the issue of getting your bag’s strap and camera strap into a tangle, while making it fast and convenient to access kit and stow it away when on the move or in a hurry.
Just like a normal sling bag there’s one thick, well-padded strap that’s worn diagonally across the body from which a second thinner, fully adjustable, camera strap branches off. Attached to this camera strap are two buckles. These are designed in such a way that they slide up and down the camera strap, and attach to your camera via short tethers that loop through the camera’s strap eyelets. The beauty of the system is that it lets you store the camera in the bag with the strap attached, or if you know you’re going to be using the camera frequently, you can leave it to dangle at your side ready to grab and pull up to your eye when a shooting opportunity presents itself.
Better still, the camera can be released from the camera strap in seconds should you wish to use it with a tripod, and each buckle has a lock, which offers reassurance that your camera won’t accidentally unfasten. It’s a clever and well-executed strap arrangement.
The camera compartment happily accommodates a premium mirrorless camera minus a battery grip with a standard lens attached. The side compartment is a useful area for storing a couple of small primes or one larger zoom like the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS that I managed to cram in.
There are a couple of pockets for storing cards and cables too, with the well-padded area behind the main and side compartments being a good place to slot a tablet up to 9.7in in size.
3. Vanguard Alta Rise 48
A great option if you need to carry lots of heavy kit
- Very well designed
- Great for heavy kit
- Waterproof rear
- Can’t use side pocket when carrying tripod
- No pocket for tablets/laptops larger than 10-inches
When you need to carry around a full-frame DSLR and a set of large lenses, a backpack is a much better option than a shoulder bag. With the Alta Rise 48, Vanguard has produced a well-made backpack that offers pretty much everything you might need.
This bag is designed in the front-opening fashion, with a full-height front lid that folds down to give unrestricted access to your kit. The idea is that you can put the bag down on its base, which is covered in waterproof vinyl, and then use the adjustable straps on each side to hold the lid part-open, so neither the backpack harness nor the front get mucky. There’s also a large flap on the side that gives access to your camera while you’re on the move.
The roomy main compartment will hold a large DSLR such as a Nikon D850 or Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a battery grip and 70-200mm or 100-400mm telezoom attached, along with three or four more lenses including f/2.8 standard and wideangle zooms.
The quality of materials and construction is excellent, and the back and shoulder straps are really well padded to ease the strain of carrying a heavy load. There’s even a tuck-away belt strap to help distribute the weight better when you’re carrying your kit over a long distance. The discreetly styled black exterior shouldn’t attract undue attention, while the bright orange interior makes it easy to find things inside.
4. Mindshift Gear Photocross 15
A neatly designed backpack that gives you unusually quick access to your kit
- Offers very speedy kit access for a backpack
- Very well made
- Weatherproof zippers and materials
- Good value
- May be too big if you don’t have many lenses
Backpacks might be the best bags for your shoulders and back when you’re out lugging around a large amount of kit, but they don’t quite offer the speedy convenience of a sling bag. Well, the Mindshift Gear Photocross 15 offers a bit of both thanks to a side-opening design that lets you swing it round and quickly grab your gear.
The basic idea is that all your kit is accessed through a single zipped flap that covers the entirety of one side. When you need to get at your camera, you simply slide one strap off your left shoulder and swing the bag round to your front. This isn’t quite as convenient as a proper shoulder bag for shooting on the go, but we prefer it to any other backpack we’ve tested.
Inside you’ll find a sizeable space that’s easily enough to hold a full-frame DSLR with a 28-70mm f/2.8 or 24-105mm f/4 zoom attached, and at least three or four other lenses as large as a 70-200mm f/2.8 or a 100-400mm telezoom.
There’s also a padded compartment that will take a 15-inch laptop, while two large mesh pockets inside the flap can be used to organise smaller items. Mindshift Gear has prioritised ruggedness and light weight in the design and construction, with high quality, waterproof nylon for the exterior and a tough tarpaulin base. Both zips are waterproof and employ T-shaped pulls, making them extremely easy to open and close.
The Mindshift Gear Photocross 15 is superbly made and capable of holding loads of kit. If you want the carrying comfort of a backpack but with camera access similar to a shoulder bag, it’s a fine choice.
5. MindShift BackLight 26L
A fine choice for protecting your kit from the elements
- Built-in laptop compartment
- Rear entry
- Excellent design and build quality
- Designed for outdoor photography
- High price point
MindShift has made a name for itself in outdoor photography circles with its innovative Rotation range, favoured by photographers who carry more personal gear than camera kit. The BackLight bags, meanwhile, allow you to carry much more camera kit, but still have a generous amount of space for personal items.
This model offers rear entry, which can be achieved with the bag face down on the floor or held on the waist using the waist belt. For the latter, there’s a handy neck strap to keep the back panel open while accessing the bag. The main section allows you to carry more than enough kit for a day out shooting landscapes, and in the front pocket there are 9l of storage, with pockets for a 15-inch laptop and an iPad.
With the configuration the bag ships in you can fit up to a pro-spec DSLR with a lens attached (but without a grip), several lenses, accessories and a large 100mm filter system case if you need to – it works perfectly straight away.
When you use the MindShift BackLight 26L you can immediately see that a lot of thought has gone into the design of the bag. Not only is it comfortable to wear, but it also has a good balance of storage for camera gear and personal items. With great design, build quality and storage, the BackLight is a compelling option for anyone involved in outdoor photography.
6. Shimoda Explore 40
A superb modular backpack for adventure photographers
- Modular design makes it highly customisable
- Very comfortable to carry
- Extremely well made
- Fairly expensive
The Shimoda Explore 40 is designed with adventure photographers in mind and accepts different ‘core unit’ inserts so you can customise it to fit your travelling needs. These are bought separately or as past of the four Explore 40 kits that Shimoda offers.
With the starter kit you get the bag and two small core units for £350. The more expensive professional kit costs £460 and is supplied with two small core units, a medium core unit and an accessory case.
If you’re looking to carry a DSLR or mirrorless camera plus a few lenses and accessories, leaving space for clothes, food and other items, then the medium core unit will be enough. The benefit of buying a small core unit (£50) as well is that it doubles as a small shoulder bag with the supplied strap, which is great for casual walks around a city.
A good number of padded dividers are provided within each core unit, and they fasten well with tapered tabs. To prevent kit from becoming loose or falling out, a zipper cover is supplied. Access to the main compartment is via the rear or side, and there’s a very clever height-adjustable harness with four different height options to cater for short or tall, male or female torsos. On the inside there’s a 13-inch laptop sleeve and three zipped pockets.
A tripod can be secured via the side pocket, but those who’d like a rain cover to protect the Explore 40 from the elements will need to buy one separately for £8.
Fully loaded, it’s a very comfortable bag to carry. The shoulder straps are even wide enough that they feature a handy pocket to store a large smartphone. Zips are smooth, buckles connect faultlessly and you’re left with the impression that it’s in the premier league of modular backpacks. The Explore 40 isn’t cheap, but it’s an exceptional modular backpack that’s also available in smaller 30L or larger 60L sizes.
7. Billingham 72
Brilliant waterproof protection for small cameras
- Robust construction
- Moveable divider
- Classic looks
- Only suitable for small cameras
- Expensive for the size
The 72, is Billingham’s smallest camera bag. Designed for petite cameras such as fixed-lens compacts, rangefinders, or mirrorless models, it’s available in a choice of five colours.
If you’re going to spend £100 on a camera bag this size, it’s got to offer something well above the ordinary, and that’s exactly what Billingham has delivered. The 72 is a rigid bag with especially thick padding around the walls, which means it’ll provide suitably robust protection for your valuable kit. The main material is either canvas or Billingham’s harder-wearing nylon FibreNyte, but both use a multi-layer construction to be essentially impermeable to the elements. With a snug-fitting lid that’s fastened by a single quick-to-use closure, you can be confident your camera will be kept safely dry in the heaviest of downpours.
In terms of size, the interior is pretty much a 140x110x90mm box, which means the 72 is ideal for a mirrorless camera with a small lens attached. You could also use it for larger fixed-lens premium compacts such as the Leica Q, Panasonic Lumix LX100, or a Fujifilm X100-series model.
8. Gillis London Trafalgar Rucksack
A stylish backpack that can double as your everyday bag
- Massive storage space
- Can be used as an everyday bag
- Handcrafted leather
- Extremely high price point
Founded in 2015, Gillis London is a relatively new brand to the photography industry and offers a range of over 20 camera bags including, satchels, messenger bag and backpacks.
One of the most unique bags is this, the Gillis London Trafalgar Rucksack. Measuring 43 x 32 x 15cm, it’s big enough to house anything from a large sized DSLR kit – like a Canon EOS 5D IV or Nikon D810 – right through to a small mirrorless kit.
Most camera backpacks have a big open front and a divider system but the Trafalgar backpack has two separate compartments – the top and bottom.
The bottom section has access to it through a zipped opening on one side and it’s big enough to house a camera with a telephoto lens attached or even a travel tripod up to 32cm in size. The top compartment has a tray with some dividers which can house a camera along with a couple of lenses.
The bag has a unique look and it’s comfortable to wear. Thanks to this styling, I find it’s just as functional as a day to day bag as it is a camera bag which is handy as it’s fairly expensive. Although, when considering it’s handcrafted leather, it is competitively priced.
At the time of review, the Gillis London Trafalgar Rucksack was available for £299.
9. Billingham Hadley One
Pricey, but might be the only camera bag you ever need
- Very high quality
- Extremely long lasting
- Built-in laptop compartment
- Flexible partitioning
- Can be used as an everyday bag
- Not many pockets
- High price point
Billingham is one of the best-known names in British photography, having been making its top-quality canvas-and-leather camera bags since 1973.
At heart the Hadley One is a rather simple bag, designed to protect your gear against the vagaries of the British weather while providing quick access to your kit. Aside from the main compartment there’s a just full-width document pocket on the back and a pair of generously deep ‘dump’ pockets on the front: you won’t find multiple organiser pockets for memory cards, batteries or the like anywhere here.
In terms of size the One sits halfway between the existing Hadley Pro and Large models, which means that it’s deceptively capacious. But whereas those bags are designed to carry camera kit and little else, the One is aimed as more of an everyday bag, with space for other items alongside the camera.
The bag is large enough to hold a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a 70-300mm telezoom attached. Alternatively I was able to fit in an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with a 12-40mm f/2.8 zoom onboard and a 7-14mm f/2.8 stacked underneath.
There’s no getting away from the fact that £265 is a lot of money to pay, especially when you can buy some nice alternatives for a lot less money. But the Billingham Hadley One is superbly made and will last for decades, while providing excellent protection for your valuable equipment.
The Hadley One is also more than just a camera bag – the laptop compartment and flexible partitioning make it equally useful as a work or overnight bag. So yes, it’s expensive: but in the long term it should be money well spent.
10. F-stop Gear Ajna 40L
A cracking modular ally for outdoorsy types
- Lots of features for hikers and adventurers
- Good breathability and comfort
- Internal dividers keep kit secure and safe
- No side entry
- Fairly expensive
The successor to F-stop’s Loka daypack, the Ajna 40L is designed for outdoorsy types and those who want to carry photo kit alongside other travelling essentials. To turn it from a conventional backpack into one that offers a well-protected home for your camera kit, you’ll need an internal camera unit (ICU) of which there’s a wide selection.
Various bundles with different ICUs, pouches and straps are available, or you can choose to customise it yourself and buy the bag with ICUs separately. The medium-slope ICU (£75) we were supplied with had space for four additional lenses alongside a 70-200mm lens mounted to a DSLR.
Velcro tabs and connection loops prevent the ICU from moving inside. The thick and soft internal dividers do a great job of keeping kit safe and secure on the move and the ICU can be zipped shut, making it a great independent storage unit that can be grabbed and inserted or left at home when travelling without photo kit. F-stop makes an extensive range of accessory pouches, rain covers, packing cells and filter cases so you can tailor it exactly to your liking, but these are all optional.
The Gear Ajna has plenty of other useful features, too. It accepts a hydration reservoir with a Velcro-sealed tube port, offers quick-release side compression straps, adjustable waist and sternum straps with an integrated whistle for emergencies, and spacious internal mesh pockets for less commonly needed items like cables and chargers.
Unlike some of its rivals, like the Shimoda Explore 40, there’s so side entry, so access is via the rear panel. It’s possible to attach a tripod down the spine and the moulded rear panel ensured good breathability and comfort while we were out on a hike. There’s room for a 13-inch laptop too, and if green isn’t for you, it’s available in black or striking orange if you’d like to stand out.
11. Tenba Solstice 24L Backpack
An outdoorsy, lightweight gem
- Extremely lightweight
- Plenty of space with multiple compartments and pockets
- Designed for outdoor photography
- Reasonably priced
- Not as high quality as some bags on the market
Designed with the outdoor photographer in mind, the Solstice combines a lightweight design with plenty of storage for a day’s shooting outdoors.
This is, in fact, one of the deeper bags we’ve tested, and will carry up to a pro-spec DSLR such as a Canon EOS-1D X or Nikon D5, but is also suitable for smaller DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. The amount of kit and space for personal items sits in the middle of the group on both counts, with a near 50/50 split.
There are two stretch pockets and straps on either side for carrying a tripod on one side and a bottle of water on the other, or anything else you need quick access to. Other than these there’s just one fairly large pocket on the front; all other storage is within the two main compartments inside the bag.
At 1.45kg this is a super-lightweight bag, but a couple of hundred more grams for a slightly larger belt with pockets would have been a useful.
Available in black or blue, the Tenba Solstice 24L is an interesting outdoor backpack that manages to combine a generous amount of storage for personal items, alongside space for a pro-spec DSLR with a grip attached, several lenses, accessories and even a large 100mm filter system case. While it doesn’t feel quite as well made as the MindShift BackLight 26L, it’s not far off, and is a highly attractive all-rounder.
12. Lowepro Flipside 400 AW II
A great choice for those with smaller frames
- Rear entry
- Good build quality
- Plenty of storage for kit
- Not much space for personal items
- Waist belt better suited to petite frames
The Lowepro Flipside 400 AW II is the latest release in Lowepro’s Flipside range. This, as the name cleverly suggests features a rear entry so the bag can be placed front side down on the floor to gain access to kit, or held on the waist using the chunky waist belt to avoid getting the back of the bag dirty.
There’s space to carry up to two pro-spec DSLRs without a grip attached, a number of lenses and accessories. There’s more space for kit than you’d really need when shooting landscapes.
The Flipside is comfortable to wear thanks to generous and well-positioned padding on the back of the bag and the waist belt. The downside, however, is that unless you’re small, the waist belt has a tendency to sit rather high above the hips and around the stomach, which means the weight of the bag won’t be sufficiently distributed.
Build quality is great, and it’s well-padded on the back. Overall, a great bag if you’re a petite photographer who only requires a small amount of personal storage space, but it’s less suitable for those with a medium or large build who need more space for personal items.
13. Ona Union Street Shoulder Bag
A super-stylish messenger camera bag
- Thick protective padding
- Stylish design
- Limited space
- Extremely high price point
The Ona Union Street Shoulder Bag is a stylish messenger bag that comes in a choice of colours: smoke grey, ranger tan and black. The bag is intended to take a DSLR kit or compact system camera kit along with a 15-inch laptop, accessories and small personal items.
Hand-crafted from premium waxed canvas, with the details constructed from a combination of Italian leather and brass, the strap is soft but very strong and the padding to protect your camera is super-thick – offering more protection than the vast majority of messenger bags that are currently available.
You can also flatten its dividers for those occasions when you’re not using it to carry cameras.
14. Manfrotto Offroad Hiker Backpack 30L
A cracking bag for trekkers and outdoorsy types
- Designed specifically for trekking
- Contoured back support and padding
- Plenty of personal storage
- Minimal space for kit
The best type of bag you can have when you’re out trekking is one that’s designed specifically for this purpose. The problem is these aren’t also designed to carry camera gear. With the aim of solving this problem the Manfrotto Offroad Hiker Backpack 30L is a backpack with a difference; by blending the best of both worlds, this camera bag wouldn’t look out of place at the top of a mountain.
Photographic gear is carried in a removable insert that will hold up to a pro-spec DSLR with a lens attached but without a grip, an additional lens and accessories. This is arguably all you’d need for a day out shooting in the hills. Water can be carried in one of the stretch mesh side pockets, which also double up for carrying a tripod.
The best configuration is to carry a one- or two-litre bottle of water on one side, and your tripod on the other to balance out the weight. The hip belt helps to direct the load onto your hips rather than your back and features a mesh pocket on one side and a closed pocket on the other. Two closed pockets would be preferable, but as it is, the mesh pocket is best used for items that can get wet.
The Offroad Hiker feels rigid, but this is in part due to the hard contoured back that supports the bag like a traditional hiking backpack. This ultimately makes the bag comfortable to wear for long periods of time, and generous padding in the lower back area helps to maintain comfort. Plus, there’s a mesh back to keep the bag away from the back to maintain and maximise airflow.
All in all, it’s a highly attractive option for the outdoor photographer who carries minimal kit and needs plenty of personal storage. It’s available in blue, green, grey and red.
15. Manfrotto Advanced Travel Backpack
Generous storage for the travelling photographer
- Good amount of space
- Can fit a 15-inch laptop
- Quick-access side pocket
- Water-repellant with rain protector included
- Not as high quality as some bags on the market
Spacious enough for a mid-range DSLR with lens attached, a flashgun and up to two additional lenses, the Advanced Travel backpack still has enough room inside for a 15-inch laptop and yet doesn’t feel overly bulky.
In use the quick-access side pocket allows you to remove your camera without fully opening the bag, while on the other side an expandable pocket can be used to house a small travel tripod. An external strap in the middle of the backpack takes care of full-sized tripods.
Subtly styled and comfortable to wear, the bag’s outer material is water-repellent – although for added peace of mind, a rain protector is also included.