Hip style, enhanced ergonomics and ingenious features elevate these 10 camera bags to a new level
posted Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 3:39 PM EST
Camera bags have undergone a notable transformation over the past five years or so. The best ones are now precision engineered products designed with extensive hands-on input from end-users, and precisely targeted at specific user niches. The profusion of new large, medium, and compact-sized DSLRs and compact system cameras (and the vast array of body and lens sizes they represent) has created a need to accommodate a wider variety of outfits and accessories. That's resulted in some ingenious new systems which vastly enhance the convenience and flexibility of their custom-configurable compartments.
And that's not all! Other significant trends in camera carrying gear include laptop/tablet compartments, reflecting the ways today’s digital 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 case 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 and materials choice in the latest crop of camera bags has definitely come up a notch or two over previous generations, a sure sign that the camera bag market is not only becoming more sophisticated, but also more fiercely competitive.
Herewith, a scintillating selection of 10 cool new camera bags, which should give a clear overview of the latest trends and get you thinking about which carry gear works best for your equipment and personal shooting style. Approximate street prices shown for each bag were accurate at press time.
A trio of stylish new laptop-compatible bags
Tamrac Apache 6 Camera/Tablet Bag
Constructed of water-resistant sailcloth, this attractive, classically styled brown bag is designed to hold a DSLR or compact system camera plus accessories, and two or three extra lenses (including a 70-200mm f/2.8, or similar six-inch telephoto zoom). It also provides an interior padded compartment for a 12 x 19.5-inch laptop, plus a zippered front compartment for memory cards, cables, batteries and other small items. Expanding side pockets can accommodate a phone or water bottle, and it has movable dividers for configuring the interior.
Other features: Touch fasteners with silencers to minimize sound when opening; a trolley sleeve for slipping over the rolling luggage handle; and an abrasion/moisture-resistant Hypatex bottom.
Lowepro Urban Reporter 350 Camera Messenger Bag
This handsome black messenger-style bag holds a full-size DSLR with grip and 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached, plus three extra lenses and accessories. And as if that wasn't enough, it also accommodates a 15-inch laptop. Easy access points let you grab gear via the top main opening, zippered front pocket and side cargo pockets, and a removable padded, adjustable camera insert lets you organize your kit, or remove and store it while using the bag as a day bag.
Other features: A convertible pocket/trolley sleeve that can be used as a storage space or a sleeve to use with rolling luggage; a front organization pocket which provides multiple zippered pockets for business cards and incidentals; leather touch-points on snap closures, flap and grab handle that add function and style; and an adjustable anti-slip shoulder strap.
Tenba Messenger Large Photo/Laptop Bag
This handsome satchel-style bag is well padded to protect your gear, and will accommodate a full-size laptop up to 17 inches, plus a DSLR outfit with three lenses. Constructed of water-repellant Cordura nylon with ballistic nylon reinforcement, it has a removable insert that quickly converts it from a camera bag to a general-purpose bag, school or gym bag, or briefcase.
It has one large zippered pocket and two additional zippered pockets in the front flap, plus over 20 assorted interior pockets for accessories, and it can be carried by its molded grip handle or the included removable, adjustable shoulder strap. It features secure quick-release buckles, and comes in a distinctive chocolate brown color or a more traditional black.
A triple-header of Domke Next Generation bags
The Domke Next Generation line takes the signature Domke bag virtues of ruggedness, functionality, and easy accessibility, then adds ingenious new features. All Next Gen models incorporate PocketFlex, an innovative system of movable pockets, pouches, and patches that adhere to interior surfaces for personalizing your storage, and GearProtex, an exclusive customizable insert system that uses bendable, self-adhering separators to organize the interior space, accommodating a wide variety of equipment.
Exterior dimensions: 16.3 x 4.5 x 10.3 inches; Weight: 3.4 to 4.0 pounds, depending on material.
With its cool contemporary look, this handsome-looking, commodious bag is available in weather-resistant Ruggedwear fabric, Cordura, or plain canvas, and accommodates a full-size DSLR with a 70-200mm lens. It has two easy-access expandable zippered exterior side pouches, each with a rain flap to keep out moisture, and a handy, separate compartment for incidentals such as keys, filters, batteries, etc. The front flap -- which is secured by a custom, swiveling catch system in antique steel finish -- has its own built-in concealed zippered pouch, and opens to reveal dual expandable Front Slip pockets. There's also a zippered, padded sleeve which holds and protects an iPad or other 9.5-inch tablet.
The 12.8 x 4.0 x 9.3-inch main compartment includes Domke’s proprietary GearProtex customizable insert system, which helps to organize your gear. The Herald is also compatible with Domke’s optional PocketFlex system of storage compartments, which adhere to all interior surfaces to personalize your space. The Domke Logo side flap even tucks out of the way to help maintain your anonymity! Other features: a heavy-duty adjustable Gripper shoulder strap; an oversized Leather Grab handle; a rear trolley strap; and a "quiet" hook-and-loop fastener system.
Described as "the grandchild of the classic Domke F-2", a model prized by photojournalists, this handsome and roomy bag provides top access with a double zipper. It also sports a rear slide pocket, an expandable zippered side pocket, a secure luggage strap, a key ring strap, and custom antique steel hardware closures.
It also has side rain hoods, a padded zippered sleeve which accommodates tablets up to 8 x 11 inches, expandable front pockets, and a "quiet" Velcro silencer on its closure. It has a detachable gripper-type shoulder and grab strap, and all its zippers are supplied by premium brand YKK. The models shown above are black/sand and military/black RuggedWear, Domke’s proprietary canvas that’s treated with environmentally-friendly waxes and oils to provide a high degree of weather resistance.
Domke Crosstown Courier
Exterior dimensions: 16.0 x 4.5 x 8.5 inches; Weight: 2.5 or 2.9 pounds, depending on material.
Domke describes the Crosstown Courier as “the grandchild of the classic Domke F-5XB, and it has all the above-mentioned features of the Domke Chronicle, plus convenient removable side pouches for storing incidentals. Like the Domke Director, it also boasts a padded, zippered 9.5 x 7.4-inch zippered tablet sleeve.
The model shown above is in tan/black Cordura fabric, and has exterior dimensions of 10.0 x 4.5 x 8.5 inches with the side-pouches removed.
Compact or commodious: It’s up to you
Think Tank Photo App House 10 Shoulder Bag
from Amazon (US$55)
Exterior dimensions: 8.1 x 10.0 x 1.5 inches; Weight: 0.8 pounds.
This attractively-minimalist compact bag will accommodate a basic DSLR outfit with short zoom lens, accessory flash, etc., and also holds a 10-inch tablet. It can be belt-mounted using a double-lock belt mount, or carried over the shoulder with an adjustable strap. It’s made of rip-stop nylon with exterior water-repellant DWR coating, and sewn with three-ply bonded nylon thread. The design also includes antique nickel-plated hardware and high-grade YKK zippers.
Other features: A lined smartphone pocket; an interior zippered clear pocket; a four-way front stretch pocket; a rain cover that stores away neatly in a zippered pocket; a top grab-handle; and compatibility with Think Tank Modular Component System accessories.
Crumpler Cobram Outpost Photo Messenger Bag
Designed to hold a professional DSLR camera outfit, tripod, laptop and accessories this cool “Rifle Green” messenger-style bag from Australia has an ingenious dual opening system that keeps your equipment accessible. The goal is to let you shoot from the hip, or set the bag down when working more deliberately. Its rigid main compartment has 7 adjustable dividers, and it provides a front tripod-holder flap, a front accessory compartment with a 3-pocket organizer, and left and right front access side pockets.
An internal padded sleeve accommodates a 15-inch MacBook or similar laptop. Other features: A robust 1000-denier field twill outer construction; an adjustable 1.4-inch strap with non-slip shoulder pad; a stowable rain cover; a top grab handle; and reinforced stitching at all stress points.
Tenba Roadie II HDSLR/Video Shoulder Bag
If you’re an HD videographer who needs to carry the whole kit and caboodle on a shoot, the aptly named Roadie II is a good choice. This robust, capacious bag will hold two professional DSLRs plus six or eight lenses, a monopod and microphone. It has a separate sleeve for laptops up to 15 inches, and will even accommodate a large video camcorder such as a Canon, RED or Sony. It features a wide opening for easy access to your gear, a removable Audio Tray for your shotgun mike, lav, and audio recorder, and large side storage pockets with dividers.
There's also a 10-pocket media wallet, a rain cover, shoulder strap, handles, a trolley sleeve -- even a collapsible water bottle holder! It’s constructed of durable water-repellant 1680 ballistic nylon, has YKK zippers throughout, and includes Hypalon accessory loops on the sides of the bag to provide mounting points for accessory pouches, carabiners, keys, etc.
Manfrotto Pro Roller Bag 70
Yes, it has wheels, and it definitely holds a boatload of equipment -- namely two professional DSLRs with lenses such as a 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 attached -- and that still leaves room for six additional lenses and two flash units! They're all held between two touch-fastened rigid red dividers and flexible, padded gray dividers inside the expansive main compartment. It will also accommodate a full-sized 17-inch laptop behind a padded divider on the inside of the front flap, and an iPad or tablet in a zippered pocket on top of the laptop divider. In addition, there are a large number of interior and exterior pockets, including two zippered mesh pockets under the front flap, and a concealed tripod holder at the front of the bag.
Constructed of water-repellant Cordura nylon, the Pro 70 bag features multi-layered construction, a front shield that cushions the contents from impact, four shock-absorbing feet, and padded interior dividers designed to withstand impact and maintain their interior shape. A removable rain cover is included, and the bag can be rolled using the retractable trolley handle, or gripped using sturdy handles at the top, side and base of the bag.