Let’s talk about camera bags that are suitable for amateur photographers, that are able to hold 1 – 2 camera bodies, 3 – 4 lenses, and some room for your photography accessories.
Today’s question came from Oliver, who says he has a camera system that consists of a Nikon DSLR and 3 lense, 1 flash and lots of memory cards, cable release, batteries.
He is looking to add another camera body when he gets the money and maybe a prime lens. He won’t always be carrying the whole camera kit when out taking photos.
He currently uses a lowepro backpack and it holds his camera kit nicely, but is very empty when he takes a single camera body and lens setup.
He has looked online and came to the conclusion. No camera bag is going to work for every occasion.
What are your thoughts?
Table of Contents
What is the Best camera bag for an amateur photographer?
I have to agree with you there mate, there is no camera bag that will suit every single occasion.
I must have accumulated at least 10 camera bags over the years and each bag serves a different purpose, and I assure my wife every time I buy a new one it does too.
Just like a pair of shoes, there’s no pair that suits every single occasion, but there is a pair of shoes for every occasion.
Anyway, back to camera bags. When choosing a camera backpack, it comes down to how much equipment you want to carry when you’re out photographing.
Often with new photographers, they tend to take their whole camera kit and they don’t necessarily use all of it. Why?
Well, it has to do with where they store all their photography equipment and not planning for the photo session ahead.
Now, you say you’ve already got a backpack and it holds your camera kit nicely. It’s only when you take one camera body and one lens, your camera backpack feels empty.
The solution is depending on what else you want to carry with you and how long you’re out photographing.
- Camera pouch or camera bum bag – Holds only your camera and lens. Perfect for short photo sessions or when you want to carry the bare minimum.
- Small camera sling bag – To hold your kit and other essentials like water or a jumper. Perfect for a day out photographing with some walking.
- Small camera backpack – Will hold your camera kit and a few camera accessories or water and clothes. Perfect for longer sessions, the two shoulder straps will make it easier on your back, especially if your camera kit is heavy and you’re walking a lot.
That’s what I would recommend.
How to choose the right camera bag for the job
Now if you’re using your camera bag for storage, like a lot of us do, then having a bag that accommodates your whole photography kit in one camera bag is a good storage option.
For instance I store my event photography kit in a photography roller bag. And the rest of my camera equipment in two other photography bags. I know what I need when I go out to photograph events and have packed my bags ready to go.
So you can understand why most photographers have more than one camera bag, as your camera kit grows you need more places to store it and not everyone has shelf space to do that.
Small camera pouches / camera bum bags
The Lowepro sideline shooter bum bag is no longer sold by Lowepro. As an alternative the Lowepro Inverse 100 AW or Think Tank Hubba Hubba Hiney Is a good solution. Try these pouches, Thank Tank Skin set
Let’s start with when you want to carry a camera body and one lens, I tend to use a bum bag. I’ve got a Lowepro Sideline Shooter. It’s a bum bag, I’ve had it for almost 20 years now. It was one of the first bags I purchased.
It has several zips, one that opens up the whole bum bag from the top for easy access, it also has a few other pockets on the side.
It has one main zip that gives me quick access but predominantly it’s just like a bum bag. It’s one big pocket with some mesh pockets on the outside and mesh pockets on the inside.
I have my camera either with a 50mm or 24-70mm, no grip, and it fits quite nicely.
In fact there’s room for other stuff as well, either small second lens or wallet, keys, phone.
It’s quite comfortable to wear, it doesn’t have much padding around the front, which is fine by me. But it has a fair bit on the back, the part that makes contact with your body.
Now I also use pouches with my Think Tank Speed Belt. It looks a little bit geeky but I use this when I do sports photography or if I’m out photographing a family session and I just want to take one or two things.
I put one or two pouches on the belt, for essentials like a little flash or even another lens. I keep my keys and wallet in the camera pouch to fee up my pockets.
Like other camera pouches they attach to a regular belt. You can buy pouches separately, they are called the Think tank Skin Set. I’ll put a link in the show notes for these bags I talk about so you can have a look.
Here are a few small camera pouches and bum bags to check out.
|Lowepro Inverse 100 AW||Think Tank Hubba Hubba Hiney||Think Tank Modular Set|
|12.9 x 8.5 x 8.7 inches||3.94 x 10.59 x 6.69 inches||Fits into a travel bag|
|1.74 Pounds||0.99 Pounds||Four piece modular system|
|Built-in All Weather Cover||Shoulder strap included||DSLR user with 2-4 lenses|
|Lowepro Inverse 100 AW||Think Tank Hubba Hubba Hiney||Thank Tank Skin set|
Camera sling bags / messenger bags
Next are camera sling bags and messenger style photography bags . These bags are what I use to carry two lenses and a camera around the city or short day trips.
So far my photographer bum bag is the only time I keep my camera and lens attached, I prefer to keep my camera kit in the bag as it keeps a low profile.
There’s no right or wrong way to keep your camera in your photography bag, that is why they have dividers so you can customise the sections. But, some bags are designed to fit your camera and lens attached.
Almost all camera bag brands, like Think Tank, also Lowepro make bags that just hold the camera and lens, which is cool, and maybe a little bit of space for memory cards and other small bits and pieces.
They’re very limited as to what you can carry, so I use a sling bag that looks like a messenger bag, made by Think Tank, it’s called the Lens Changer 3.
It is designed predominantly to carry only camera lenses, the idea is when you are out shooting the bag will hold three extra lenses ready to be changed out. It fits a 70-200 mm perfectly to give you an idea how tall the bag is.
When I go out to town, I use this bag to carry two lenses and a camera body. A Canon 5D mk4 without the grip on fits nicely.
It also fits a 24 – 70 mm with the lens hood connected and no issues with a 50 mm lens. The bag comes with a rain cover and has a pocket in the back where I can put notes, model releases, directions, that type of thing. I use that quite often when photographing events to hold flashes, batteries and lenses.
It was $160 at the time, not too expensive, but not too cheap either for what it is, I guess it’s limited. When you think about it, it’s only meant to hold 3 camera lenses. If you adapt the camera bag to your needs, it actually works quite well.
It looks like a regular messenger bag, which is great, especially if I’m on public transport and I don’t want to look like a tourist.
Here are a few photography sling bags and messenger bags to check out.
Camera backpacks can get heavy and bulky. You can get smaller backpacks that would accommodate a camera and a couple of lenses, but the problem with backpacks is they hold so much and take up room.
I guess that’s not really a problem when you think about it, but if you have to lug a heavy photography backpack around, from the house to the car and then from the car park to a short distance away, it’s okay.
If you’re going on a photo walk and walk around all day, catching public transport into the city or wherever you’re going and then you’re walking around for the day, it can get tiresome and sweaty back.
Lowepro and Think Tank make really good straps on their bags, making long walks a breeze, which I love, provided you don’t over pack your camera backpack.
These are the two brands I use all the time. I can comfortably change between these two bag brands, depending on the photography job, Both companies make good quality bags. They’re made very well and they have a lifetime warranty.
You can’t go wrong with that, right?
I use the Shape Shifter backpack and that fits two camera bodies, two lenses upto a 70 – 200 mm and a flash in the main compartment.
Once I take everything out I can zip up the sides to compress the camera bag, perfect for doing event work and I can just slip in the boot of my car or I can wear the bag compressed which becomes 4 inches / 10 centimeters thick, Perfect for walking in crowds.
Alot of bags are over-padded that really aren’t necessary. I know that sounds weird, because of all the glass and the fragile electronics.
But if your bag is so full of equipment, once you drop it, something’s going to break regardless because of all the weight.
I’ve found that if I’m careful with it and I don’t drop it, it’s all good.
The Shape Shifter 2, has heaps of pockets. It can even fit a laptop in there. It also fits heaps of accessories in the front.
It also has a few other pockets, it comes with a rain cover as well and it was only $200, It serves the purpose of carrying two cameras, two lenses and a flash perfect. To top it off the the front pockets expand and the waist belt and shoulder straps are the best I’ve used.
When I do the event work, my 17 inch laptop fits perfectly. I sometimes use the bag with less equipment but then it’s overkill, as you’ve pointed out with your Lowepro bag. But it is a really well made bag for the price.
Here are a few photography backpacks to check out.
Camera roller bags
Next on the list is camera roller bags, once you start to buy more camera equipment a mid size camera bag on wheels will work well to hold a lot of photography gear and in the process save your back from lifting a heavy bag.
With your current setup I would not recommend a camera bag with wheels unless your carrying lighting equipment such as flashes, light modifiers or at least 2-3 cameras and 3-4 lenses, otherwise it would definitely be overkill.
Alternatively, It would be a good camera storage solution. I use a roller bag, I’ve had it for 12 years now, and I paid $400 for it. It carries a whole heap of equipment and you can configure different size compartments with the included dividers. I use it for both my sports photography and wedding photography work.
I find pulling the bag on gravel is not ideal and simply have to carry it. Wheeling the bag on grass is manageable for short periods.
You can get roller bags that have straps made by Think Tank, which are really smart, the straps tuck away when not in use. But once again, when you’re loading a camera bag up with so much equipment it defeats the purpose, you should be rolling it, right?
The wheels Think Tanks bags are rollerblade wheels and they’ve survived over the years. I’ve used it every weekend for the past 12 years, so they’re really well made and that bag is called the airport security Version 2, I’ll put a link in the show notes for you to check out.
That’s going to the extreme with a fair bit of equipment and the configuration of a roller bag can be changed, along with a lot of the backpacks too.
I do like it when my bags come with lots of dividers. Think Tank roller bags have so many dividers that I’ve used the dividers in other backpacks too.
Here are a few small camera roller bags to check out.
Making you own cheap camera bag
Lastly, I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, Oliver but how about making your own camera backpack?
Here’s the situation, if you buy more equipment, you need a bigger bag, because you say it fits your current situation nicely but if you wanted to go on a day trip the bag too big when carrying minimal equipment.
How about you take some of the inserts out of your current photography bag and use them as a day pack to protect your camera?
I’ve done this a few times when I’ve gone hiking.
Attach your camera and lens and make a square with the dividers to place your camera in. That way it’s not too bulky, plus the bag can carry more than just camera equipment, like a jumper rain jacket and best of all it’s cheap.
That would be my suggestion if you are on a tight budget.
Camera bag FAQs
Most camera bags are made from cordura, nylon and even leather and are able to keep your equipment dry if it’s light rain. The issue is camera bags have layers of material and padding, once water soaks into your bag, it won’t keep anything dry.
Plus if you don’t fully dry out a wet camera bag it will start to smell and develop mold which is bad for your camera equipment.
There are bags that use different materials and zips specifically designed for wet weather.
Smaller pouches don’t normally have rain covers. Mostly backpack and roller bags will come with a rain cover.
Some rain covers are attached to the bottom of the bag making it easy to put on, but need to be fully dried out before storing. Roller bags will tend to have the rain cover separate.
You do need some padding, after all your camera lenses are made of glass. Most bags will use different thickness of sponge padding for different areas of the bag.
Backpacks and roller bags have thicker padding around the outer edge and thinner dividers to keep your equipment safe.
Some bags and pouches simply use very thin padding or will use layers of material to protect your camera, which is useful to reduce bulk.
The waist belt is there to evenly distribute the weight on your back and so your shoulders aren’t taking the full load.
If you plan to carry lots of equipment you should invest in a quality camera bag that uses thin padding for the waist belt and straps.
You will find that your camera bag can hold a lot of weight. It simply comes down to how comfortable it is for you to carry. So don’t overload your camera bag as you risk hurting your back or shoulders.
Think about moving to a camera roller bag if your backpack or sling bag feels too heavy and uncomfortable.
If you’re going to buy more equipment, then you need somewhere to store it, and maybe getting a second camera bag would be an idea for storage.
Splitting your equipment over two bags will be a cheaper option than buying a larger bag. But it will come down to how much equipment you plan to carry at one time.
As an interim use leftover dividers in a day pack as a cheaper camera bag option and until you decide what to get.