Whether you are a professional photographer who travels with an expensive DSLR camera wherever you need to go or are a hobbyist who just bought a handy point-and-shoot camera, you will want to protect your investment by getting a high quality and durable backpack for your camera. Camera backpacks come in a variety of designs, styles, materials, and sizes, each design and made to meet the specific requirements of different buyers.
There are all kinds of camera bags from luggage bags to pouches, but in this guide, we will focus on backpacks. If you are shopping for an ideal backpack, this comprehensive guide should help you know what to look for and what is suitable for your needs.
Why buy a camera backpack?
Most cameras often come with a sort of storage bag that protects it from the elements and common damage threats. However, for the obvious reason that the safety of the camera must be guaranteed, especially during transportation, a backpack comes in handy. When you have a backpack, taking your camera with you, no matter where you are going, will be easy and convenient. You will simply need to pack up your camera and other photography equipment, arrange them in your backpack and swing it over your shoulder.
The biggest benefit of having a camera backpack is easy mobility. Other reasons to go for a backpack are comfort and capacity. Most backpacks have several compartments and pockets for various tools and equipment and straps that hold the bag on your back. It is easier to move around with your camera and explore different terrains with the backpack secured on your back.
Besides, when you find the perfect scene to take a shot, you will just remove the bag from your back, unzip it and pull out the camera and any other equipment you need.
The weight of the camera and accompanying equipment/accessories is evenly distributed on the backpack compared to other types of bags, providing the much-needed comfort while on the road. The best camera backpacks offer plenty of space for the camera and all the necessary equipment and accessories depending on your professional and personal needs.
Factors to Take into Consideration When Choosing a Camera Backpack
Are you ready to shop for the ideal backpack for your camera and photography equipment and accessories? Here are some of the most important variables to factor in when selecting the most suitable backpack.
1. Durability and Design
Since the primary purpose of a camera backpack is to protect your investment—cameras, photography equipment, and accessories—the most important consideration when shopping for a backpack is to look for one made from materials that can withstand the weight of the camera and equipment and provide sufficient protection from the elements. Your backpack should sufficiently protect your camera and equipment from rain, dust, and even shock while you travel with your gear. The ideal bag should be water resistant, and the seam points, the zippers, and other joined areas must be able to prevent dust and moisture from getting in as well.
While considering how durable the materials the backpack is made from, consider both the exterior and the interior of the bag. Remember that the frequent insertion and removal of the camera and equipment can wear out weak materials fast, and placing the bag on the floor, at times dragging it, also causes it to wear out fast.
Therefore, be very observant when checking the durability of the bottom, the straps, and the padding of the bag.
2. Size and Capacity
Camera backpacks come in all sizes and shapes; there is always one that meets the needs of everyone. You can even buy backpacks of different sizes to have an ideal backpack for different occasions and situations.
When considering a large camera backpack, remember that the more the storage capacity, the more weight you will have to lug around. When deciding the size of bag to buy, consider the size and number of equipment and accessories you will need to carry around.
Also, remember that if you need to travel by flying with your backpack, airlines often have bag size limits that may affect your choice of the bag
More On Capacity
The number and individual sizes of the different compartments inside and outside the backpack is another consideration you should not overlook. If you need to travel with a variety of cables, battery packs, lenses, and other equipment and accessories, consider a bag that has multiple large, medium-sized and small pouches that can fit your items. Remember also to check the weight rating of the bag and compare it with the maximum weight of your equipment; capacity and weight are two different but related factors you must consider when selecting a backpack.
3. Features and Protection
Backpacks specially designed for photography equipment often come with a ton of unique features that can help you select the right one. For instance, Tamrac and Manfrotto brands of bags include features such as storage for the tripod or monopod, a pocket for your laptop, space for the cameras and lenses, interchangeable dividers, and others.
If you are a professional photographer, you will want to get a backpack that has several lens compartments, a harness for your tripod, space for your films or memory cards, etc.
Other features you should look for in a camera bag are a special room for the camera cleaning kit and sufficient padding for the camera and lens compartments including waterproofing, rust proofing, shock proofing, and dust proofing. Note that there are different levels of waterproofing and shock-proofing; It would be best to buy a properly proofed bag that will not require you to buy external dust and rain cover to protect your valuables.
While still on proofing properties, check the quality and materials of the bag zipper to make sure that they are rustproof, and that it has flaps that provide extra protection to the zipper from the water, moisture, and other elements. Check the interior of the bag for an elasticised mesh in one or more of the compartments to keep the camera and other delicate equipment in place while you are on the go, and ensure that the padding is adequately cushioned to absorb even internal shock.
Camera backpacks can be categorised into single-strap sling bags and double-strap bags. Larger double strap bags often have a waist strap as well, to provide extra support for the back and neck when carrying heavy cameras and equipment. The single-strap sling camera bag is ideal for small cameras that don’t have heavy accessories and equipment because it can be slung over one shoulder. The larger cameras and cameras with heavy equipment, on the other hand, need the larger higher-capacity double strap bags.
Some backpacks come with a storage room for the camera and fixed or removable straps specially designed to make it handy for action. While selecting a bag, check the material the strap is made from, ensure that the straps are adjustable to meet the heights and back sizes of different people and that they are properly attached to the bag. You should also check the padding on the strap, especially when going for a high capacity camera backpack; you would not want a bag that cuts on your shoulder when you are on the road.
Most camera bags have zippers on the side, but there are some that have them on the back. The zippers can make it easy to access equipment and the camera fast when they are on the back of the bag, but there is also the danger of accidental unzipping. It is recommended that you choose backpacks that give access to the major compartments without the need to remove the straps for those quick shots.
You can go for a full photo backpack that allows you to open the entire bag by unzipping just one zipper or a half photo backpack that opens halfway to provide access to the several compartments on the lower half of the bag. If you are buying a small backpack that carries the camera and one or two light accessories, a full photo backpack would be ideal. The half photo bag that requires you to lift the top of the compartments to access your safely strapped gear is ideal for larger backpacks that carry several accessories inside the bag.
Types of Camera Bags
Camera backpacks come in different sizes, shapes, and designs, which is good because the cameras and camera equipment they carry also come in different sizes, types, and shapes. In this section, we will highlight some of the available camera backpack choices and some examples to aid you along in finding the perfect backpack for your specific needs and preferences. We will begin with the smallest and work our way up to the largest in size.
1. Ultra-Compact Bags
As the name implies, ultra-compact bags aren’t really backpacks; they have very limited space and are tight-fitting. These bags are ideal for protecting your camera while it is inside another bag. There is a wide variety of ultra-compact bags on the market to choose from, some carrying just the camera and others having space for a few other accessories. Examples include Tamrac Digital Neo’s 12, Lowepro Apex 5 AW and Sony Camera Sock.
2. Compact Camera Bags
Compact camera bags are versatile and can have straps that make them backpacks or can be pouches that do not qualify to be backpacks. These bags are often stylish and can be quite costly. They are a great investment to minimise damage and protect the camera while you are out and about. Some examples of these bags are LowePro Rezo 10, Lowepro Rezo 20, and Tamrac Digital Neo’s 14.
3. Compact Pocket / Travel Zoom Camera Bags
Examples of compact pocket/travel zoom camera bags are the Lowepro Apex 30AW, Acme Made CMZ Pouch, and Tamrac Pro Compact Digital. These cameras are somewhere between a compact digital bag and a full-fledged zoom camera. As a result, there is an overlap in the bags that qualify for this category, often depending on the size of the camera. These bags are robust, stylish, and can have a strap for the shoulder or the waist depending on make, design, and size.
4. Ultra-Zoom / Bridge Camera Bags
The ultra-zoom or bridge camera bags are larger than compact pocket cameras and often have lots of space including compartments for accessories. This makes these cameras ideal for carrying bridge and ultra-zoom cameras. Some of these bags can even fit smaller mirrorless cameras and their lenses. Examples are Tamrac Digital Zoom 2, Lowepro Apex 100AW, and Acme Made Union Ultra-Zoom.
5. Mirrorless / Compact System Camera Bags
If your camera is too large to fit in the bags we have discussed above or if you want a specific mirrorless camera bag, then you should be checking out the likes of Acme Lunchbox, Tamrac Aero 36, and Lowepro Apex 110AW. There are many options to choose from in this category, with most bags fitting extra lenses, small equipment, and accessories. They also range from very convenient bags to stylish backpacks with straps.
6. Digital SLR Bags
The Digital SLR bags are great handy bags to carry your DSLR camera without taking along any accessories, equipment, or extras. It has a zipped front pocket where you can fit the essentials such as memory cards and extra battery, but that is it. These bags come in a wide range of designs and styles including single-strap sling or double strap backpack. Examples include the Tamrac Evolution Zoom 16, Lowepro Nova 140AW, and Acme Made The Bowler.
7. Digital SLR with Extra Lens Bags
If you want a compact bag for your DSLR but still want extra space for your lenses and accessories, this bag is perfect. It is ideal for when you want to take a variety of shots and wish to take your equipment along. They come in different sizes for different sized lenses and may even allow you to take with you up to 4 lenses. Examples of these types of bags are Crumpler Messenger 2500, Lowepro Adventura 170, and Lowepro Nova 160AW.
8. Messenger Style Bags
The messenger backpacks offer convenient and quick access to your camera and equipment. They are designed to look less suspicious than an ordinary rucksack style back and enables you to take out your camera easily when you need it. They are versatile, come in different sizes and designs and can fit a range of equipment and accessories including a laptop and lenses. Some of the most popular messenger style camera backpacks in the market are the Kata CS 17, Tamrac Rally 7, and Lowepro Classified 250 AW.
9. Digital SLR with Laptop Bags
If you need a camera backpack that also carries your laptop, then you should go for this type of bag. Whether you have a small 10-inch laptop or a larger 17-inch one, there is always a bag to accommodate your laptop as well as your DSLR camera and its equipment and accessories. To get an idea of how they look, have a look at the Lowepro CompuRover AW, Tamrac Expedition 6X, and Tamrac Evolution 8 Sling. These bags offer much storage and easy accesses to the padded and side pockets.
By now, you know what kind of camera backpack you need depending on your camera size and type, your needs, the intended use of the bag, and your budget. This guide should help you pick the best camera bag that will serve you well for years to come, so be sure to bookmark this page for future reference.