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You need to protect your shiny new camera when transporting it, and for that we recommend a shoulder bag built for the purpose. There are so many out there, though, and so many of questionable quality, that finding the right one to swaddle your precious equipment in might seem a daunting task. To help you make the right choice, we’ve picked our five favorite camera shoulder bags in a variety of styles and price points to help you schlep your gear safely and securely.
Best Overall: Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2.0
If you’re heading out on a photo adventure or just want to look like you are, the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7 V2.0 is a great way to haul your equipment in style. With a rugged retro design that will give you the air of a National Geographic photographer, the Retrospective 7 V2.0 is crafted with tough yet soft and pliant cotton canvas treated with a water-repellent coating to withstand the elements. Inside there’s plenty of room to stash a standard mirrorless camera or DSLR along with two lenses, a flash, small accessories, and a 13-inch laptop or 10-inch tablet computer. For security there’s a zippered compartment under the bag’s main flap. Other handy features include a luggage handle pass-through on the back and a removable carrying handle on top in addition to the adjustable shoulder strap. There’s also a collapsible pocket for a water bottle and a rain cover that encloses the bag if it really starts pouring. The bag’s available in two colors, black and a rich beige that the maker calls “pinestone”; we prefer the latter for its classic look.
Best Luxury Bag: Billingham Hadley Pro 2020
Billingham’s camera bags may cost a bit more, but they’re worth it. Manufactured in England since 1973, these bags are handsome and made with the best materials around. The Hadley Pro 2020, the latest entry in the popular shoulder bag line, features several key upgrades to the previous model. The bag has new leather accents including a leather strip under the handle to make carrying it more comfortable. The shoulder sling is now fully removable, and a luggage retainer strap has been added to the back to make traveling with the bag easier. The rear pocket now features an upgraded weatherproof zipper. Inside there’s a padded insert with a padded lid and four padded dividers to protect your gear. The Hadley Pro 2020 accommodates most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras along with two or three small or medium-size lenses and accessories. Perhaps what we like most about the Hadley Pro 2020, though, is that it doesn’t look like a camera bag. It’s more of a chic satchel you’ll be comfortable bringing anywhere.
Best Small Bag: Domke F-5XB
Sometimes you want to travel light as a photographer, and for that we suggest the Domke F-5XB. The F-5XB can be used as a camera bag, or you can remove the shoulder strap and thread a belt through its belt loop to create a waist or hip pack. While it’s small—just 10 by 7.2 by 4.5 inches—inside there’s enough room to hold a DSLR or mirrorless camera plus a couple of lenses and small accessories. The F-5XB has a zippered and padded main compartment lined with soft, velcro-friendly material that lets you adjust the bag’s removable padded dividers. There’s also a long, thin compartment on the front and a U-shaped exterior pouch for documents such as camera manuals. Domke is a storied name in camera bags, and the company has a reputation for making tough, understated gear that’s popular with photojournalists. The F-5XB is no exception; it’s made from water-resistant canvas with a protective weatherized flap on the front to shield the bag’s contents from the elements.
Best Leather Bag: ONA Bowery Camera Bag
Photographers who appreciate the look and feel of leather should seriously consider the Bowery Camera Bag from ONA, which is handcrafted from the real thing, tanned in Italy. ONA calls the color “antique cognac,” and while that may sound odd, the Bowery bag does make us think of sitting in a vintage leather chair and imbibing something warm and delicious. But this bag will also make you want to go out and shoot photos. It has a padded interior with a removable divider and accommodates a DLSR or mirrorless camera and one or two lenses. There are five open pockets on the exterior: two on the front, two on the sides, and one on the back that is large enough for a small laptop or tablet computer. The other pockets give you plenty of room to stash accessories such as a phone, keys, a passport, and memory cards. The bag’s front flap can be closed with a solid brass buckle, and side flaps offer added protection. The shoulder strap is both adjustable and removable.
Best Budget Bag: Ruggard Journey 34
Budget-minded photographers can save a few bucks with the Ruggard Journey 34 bag without skimping on quality. The Journey 34 may look small, but it offers enough room to store, protect, and transport a compact DSLR or mirrorless camera with an attached lens. You can also slip in up to two extra lenses, a flash, and photo accessories. The simple but attractive black bag has a large front lid with a quick-release buckle and double-pull zipper closure. The front main compartment has four padded movable dividers; its light gray interior lining is helpful for finding gear in dim light. Under the bag’s front flap is a large zippered pocket for accessories. Inside this pocket are two slip-in compartments, two memory card pockets, and a zippered mesh pouch. There’s also a water bottle/accessory side pocket on the outside. On the back of the Journey 34, there’s a trolley strap that lets you slide the bag onto rolling luggage for easy transport. The bag is surprisingly well built for the price, made of weather-resistant polyester and ballistic nylon, and two plastic feet on the bottom protect against scrapes.