Camera bags: can't live with them, can’t live without them.
They can be cumbersome, large and yet they are a vital part of our equipment. Any trip outside really requires the use of a camera bag. After all, we spend thousands of dollars on bodies, lenses and flashguns, they really need to be protected.
The problem is, no-one has truly invented the perfect camera bag, and we can all relate to the many annoying things about camera bags which plague our much-loved hobby. Today we are going to highlight some of those annoyances.
The perfect camera bag is yet to be made.
If you are not the chiseled square-shoulder type, you will be familiar with this. No matter how carefully you lay the strap over your shoulder, five minutes is all it takes to start slipping off.
It's more likely to happen with over the shoulder bags but it can also occur with backpacks when slung over one shoulder.
This is one of the most annoying things about camera bags, especially when carrying something like a tripod. You are constantly stopping to re-adjust having to put the tripod down as you do so!
I am sure there must be an expert in “ergonomic design” who could invent a strap for those with sloping shoulders? I would shower him or her with money if they achieved it.
Go anywhere off-piste with your camera bag and you will know all about this one. The sharp, hard edges that many camera bags have. Bump into a tree and a corner digs into you. Ouch.
Pick the bag up too quickly and it jams into your leg. With several kilos of camera equipment giving the bag momentum, a walk in the woods can honestly give you more bruises than climbing Mount Everest.
Some camera bags can have deceptively sharp edges.
It's great that camera bag companies give us little pockets for your memory cards. It's also great they even put little SD card logos on them in case we could not work out what they are for? What's not so great is that you have to apply Vaseline to you cards just to get one to fit into the pocket.
What's not so great is that you have to apply Vaseline to you cards just to get one to fit into the pocket (probably wouldn't recommend this). It's also time they realized many of us tend to carry significantly more than two memory cards with us.
Given the size of SD Cards, it's surely not rocket science to provide several well-designed slots to place them. And, it surely shouldn't be difficult to remove the cards either.
No Tripod Mount
Have you ever had a camera bag that has no way to mount and carry a tripod on it?
I have had several, none of them cheap. I'd have thought it's not a huge expense to design a way of attaching a tripod to the side of a bag. Let’s face it, they are hardly the most difficult things to secure, given their legs, locks and knobs.
Whilst we're at it why do some camera bags that do have tripod mounts insist on putting them high on the side of the bag? Not only does it unbalance the bag but you have to duck when going through even a normal sized door.
In my opinion, the best place to stow a tripod is near the bottom and perpendicular to the bag.
Few bags have mastered the tripod mount.
Camera Bags That Aren't Waterproof
Here's a puzzler for you. Why would you design a bag to carry expensive camera equipment outdoors and not make it waterproof?
Yep, confuses me too.
Yet a quick look at many camera bags on the market and you will see a significant percentage are not even splash proof. Some require you to unpack a separate cover to use when it’s raining (it's not all that practical).
If I can go to a store and for $30 buy a coat that will keep me dry in a monsoon, how difficult can it be to use waterproof materials when making a camera bag?
Most airlines, with the exception of some budget airlines, have a pretty standard set of dimensions for carry-on luggage (we've all faced that headache at some point of adjusting ounces & grams to satisfy the check-in scales).
Why then do some camera bag manufacturers insist on making their bags slightly bigger than those dimensions? I have a fantastic bag at home that negates most of the issues mentioned above yet is about 5cm too tall for hand baggage.
It fits every other way except in height. Every time I travel I breathe a nervous sigh of relief if it makes it past check-in.
If you're going to make a camera bag, make one that is slightly smaller than the “standard carry on” dimensions or one that is significantly larger. At least if we buy the larger one we know we will not get it into the overhead cabin storage!
You can bet one of the dimensions is just too big for hand baggage.
So these are what I consider the most annoying things about camera bags and there is, and will probably never be a perfect camera bag but it seems to me that some of the issues mentioned above could be solved fairly easily.
Sometimes it feels like camera bag companies do not really understand their market. To be fair though, bags have got much better in recent years yet some of these niggles still exist.
It should be added, not all bags have all these problems (take a look at Shotkit's list of the top bags to get a feel for the good ones). I live in hope that someday, one of the more forward-thinking companies takes on board these issues and creates a range of bags to suit most photographers.
If you have any niggles about your camera bag (or indeed, suggestions for improvements), let us know in the comments below. Please!
- Fact: Spending $200 On A Camera Bag Will Actually SAVE You Money! by Jason Row
- 3 Tidy Checklists To Get Your Photography Gear In Order by Dzvonko Petrovski
- Your Guide To Buying an SD Card – 7 Helpful Tips by Jason Row
- The Best Camera Hard Cases
How about this for something TOTALLY DIFFERENT?! Event Photography?
Yes, you still need a decent camera bag for events (it's not just for lugging up mountains and through airport security)
This online guide “Event Photography” by Steele Training will cover the secrets of successful event photography to get you started.
Good article. I certainly felt the same way about camera bags for a long time. But then I found the LowePro Whistler 450. Great bag. Hold a lot of gear. Almost waterproof. Takes a beating. No hard edges. Solid backpack straps. Ive had it for almost a year and I would be it again in a heartbeat!
I have two “shoulder packs,” one for my main camera and the other for my point-and-shoot along with my small video camera. My main problem is simply remembering what is in each pack. Without having duplicate air bulbs, cleaning brushes, spare batteries, and such I am forever fumbling through one or the other pack to find a needed item. I sometimes wish the packs were transparent.
I have three different LowePro bags of different sizes and not one of them is truly user friendly. When I saw the Kickstarter article on a new redesigned camera bag produced by a company called Peak Design it looked to me like my prayers were about to be answered, so I, Like many others “crowd funded” this project and am happy to report that my experience with this bag has been everything that I had hoped for. I would recommend this system to anyone.
There was one bag that honestly got a great rating for me, damn near perfect. Only problem it finally wore out, and wouldn’t you know Tenba doesn’t make it any more. It didn’t have one of those stupid inserts, the bag sealed with weather tight zippers, it had useable pockets. I shot football games in pouring rain the bag was wet on the outside, but inside everything was dry. It also held an incredible amount of stuff.
Oh, and I enjoyed the article. I’d add inserts into the list. The argument you can pull the insert out and use the bag for something else is twisted. In the case of messenger bags, they don’t hold all that much of anything else so why would you bother. The inserts add weight and take up space.
To your first point about bags slipping off shoulders. The worst by far is Ona who provide bags with the most useless shoulder (un-)pad combined with straps made of seat belt material. A true example of style over substance.
The best solution to your woes is either the Domke USPS shoulder pad which has an angled pad to counter the natural slope of your shoulder, or one of the excellent Billingham SP pads that is both comfortable and very grippy.
I totally agree with you Jason, I have a few bags, one of them is a Manfrotto Advanced II backpack. There’s a fitting for a tripod, on the side! But my one beef with this bag is the separate rain cover supplied will only fit over the bag, and not over the bag and tripod! I mentioned this to Manfrotto and all they said was “The Backpack rain cover isn’t designed to fit over the tripod! So it doesn’t matter if your tripod gets wet! I bought a rain cover from ebay which did the trick! Not very good coming from a manufacturer of first class photography equipment. I also have a Lowepro Passport messenger bag, with NO facility for a tripod! A couple of straps on the bottom of the bag would’ve been very useful! Not too much to ask is it! OH and there’s no rain cover for the bag! Did I get in touch with Lowepro? What do you think?
Can’y live with them; can’t live without them. I have an over the shoulder Lowepro. I cary my 6D, 24-105, 70-300, and 17-40. No way to do this and be able to get the camera in and out of the bag without a hassle. Truth be told the design that would suit our needs probably is not possible, but I am still on the look. Headed for Cornwall and Scotland later next month and hoping to come up wit a more accommodating bag.
All of the faults mentioned are real. However, there is no bag that will fit all needs as it depands on the gear which is to be carried. That depends on the place and project. I have found that I need a variety of bags depending on specific needs at the time. Better focus on which bag suits a particular situation rather than compleining that the page on hand are unsuitable for the current project.