10 best camera bags for DSLRs and CSCs: Backpacks, messengers and cross body carriers that will keep your kit safe and secure
Keep your snapper and its accessories all together and safe from the elements
With camera equipment getting more sophisticated, and ever more expensive, you’ll want to keep your digital SLR or CSC safe on your travels or around town.
To find you the safest, most stylish carriers, we put a range of bags and cases to the test, judging them on both their practicality and looks. Some are built to carry a lot of kit, others will just hold the basics.
All those in our roundup offer removable dividers and padded protection for your equipment.
Many offer a whole lot more, including storage for laptops and tablets, the ability to carry a tripod, and weatherproof covers and finishes to keep the rain at bay.
Some, like the Billingham, are works of art in themselves and will turn heads. While others, like the Tenba, are highly practical and slip inside existing bags to keep costs down.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Chrome Niko F-stop: £170, Always Riding
This boxy-looking bag will hold all your photography essentials – bodies with lenses, flashguns, a skateboard… seriously, the designers added a couple of Velcro straps at the front to hold your favourite deck, although it doubles up as a great tripod holder. There’s a lot more to this bag than gimmicky features though. For security, you can only access the large main section when you slip the bag off your back – preventing thieves pilfering your kit.
You can hold a smaller DSLR or mirrorless camera in a section at the top for rapid access, and there’s a pocket at the side where you can stow a water bottle. There’s also a padded sleeve for a 13” laptop – unlike in many other bags, this is stashed towards the front and protected by a waterproofed zip. Thanks to Chrome’s “yoke” shoulder straps it’s really comfortable to carry – a bag you can haul around all day when trekking in the city hunting for that perfect shot.
Manfrotto Noreg camera messenger 30: £129.95, Wex
Now here’s a clever bag – actually three bags in one. The main messenger-style body holds a smaller, pull-out equipment section for a mirrorless camera or smaller DSLR plus a lens. There’s also a laptop/tablet sleeve that zips to the back and can be used on its own. The whole lot is compact enough to take into the cabin on commercial flights. To keep the weather at bay there’s a pull-out rain protector that slips over the whole bag and then packs away when the showers have passed. It’s a great buy if you want something you can use as a standard shoulder bag on days when you’re not shooting.
Vanguard Supreme 37D hard case with divider bag: £88.97, Amazon
Your precious kit will be safe as houses inside this tough carrier. It’s big and heavy – not the sort of bag to lug around while shooting – but perfect for protecting fragile equipment. Sealed by rubber O-rings and hefty plastic quick release latches, it will stay waterproof down to five metres should it ever go overboard from a boat. To let you stow it in an aeroplane hold there’s a pressure equalisation valve to make sure it doesn’t burst open when the air pressure drops.
There are also a couple of reinforced rings where you can fit padlocks. It’ll stand being bashed around in the back of a Land Rover or truck and can take up to 120kg in weight, making it perfect to use as a handy step when on a shoot. Inside, there’s a zipped pull-out section you can use as a standalone carrier – it’s big enough for a couple of camera bodies, lenses and flash, with moveable dividers to tailor your perfect set up.
Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 5: £33, Jessops
Sometimes, you don’t need a big bag – you just want something that will help protect your camera and lens from knocks and bumps. This one’s designed for mirrorless models, with room for a couple of extra items, such as batteries and memory cards in a zipped pocket at the front. Made from tough ballistic nylon, it’s got a magnetic clasp on the lid to make it easy to open when that perfect shot presents itself. It comes with a shoulder strap, but we find cases like this are best suited to slipping onto a belt through the attached loop.
Gitzo Century Traveller messenger: £145, Park Cameras
This shoulder bag – celebrating Gitzo’s 100th anniversary – is stylish yet super-practical. The Italian leather trim with its carbon fibre-look finish oozes quality, and there are some great features, including a magnetic clasp that locks the main flap in place when you let it close. For easy access, there’s a zip running the full length of the main flap so you can reach your camera quickly and discreetly.
Two of the side pockets have locking zips for security, and there’s room inside for a DSLR with an 18-200mm lens plus a couple of lenses and a flash. A 13” laptop slides into a padded slot at the rear of the main compartment, and there’s a fold-out rain cover in one of the outer pockets to keep the weather off that smart nylon and leather body. You’ll find space for phones, notebooks, pens and other small items in a zipped section at the front, while a zip across the bottom of the bag hides a handy fold-out holder for a smaller tripod.
Thule Aspect DSLR backpack: £93, Amazon
Heading out into the hills for a serious landscape photography session? This whopper could be for you. Thule is better known for roof boxes and bike racks, but it has come up trumps with this spacious carrier. The main padded section will hold a DSLR with a medium-sized zoom lens, a couple of spare lenses, and all your bits and bobs. At the back is a zipped section big enough for a 15” laptop, and on top is another zipped compartment for clothes, food or other items. The padded shoulder straps and belt make it super-comfy to carry, even over long distances and tough terrain while fully loaded, and there’s a loop and pocket on the side to take a medium-sized tripod.
Tenba Tools BYOB 10: £29.99, Wex
Not everyone wants, or needs, a separate bag for their camera gear. The handy little “bring your own bag” insert will keep your kit safe while slipped inside a rucksack or shoulder bag. It looks quite small yet we squeezed in a DSLR with an 18-200mm lens, spare camera body, 50mm lens plus a small flashgun. There are stretchy side pockets for a phone or other items, plus a zipped section in the lid for cables or filters. You also get a D-ring on the outside to attach your keys. Take out the padded dividers and you can fold it flat to stow away when not in use.
Lowepro Flipside 200 AW II: £109.95, Lowepro
It’s a smaller backpack than the Thule but this one still holds a serious amount of kit. Along with our DSLR and a couple of lenses it carried a flashgun, charger and 8” tablet. There’s also plenty of space for notebooks, pens, maps and a loop for your keys. For added security, you access the main compartment from the body side – perfect for on the Tube as no one can pinch your camera in a crowded carriage. With your arms out of the straps and the waist belt in place, you can flip the bag down in front of you to reach your equipment without putting it on the floor. There’s room for a medium-sized tripod and a water bottle in the side pockets, plus there’s a fold out rain cover.
Manfrotto Pro Light FastTrack-8 PL: £99, Wex
Here’s a clever idea that will attract urban snappers – a sling bag that does away with the need for a separate camera strap. You replace it with the included lockable attachments, clip them to the sling and away you go. When you’ve finished shooting, just slide the bag around your chest and put the camera away. It takes a bit of getting used to but we grew to like it. The top pocket on the bag is big enough to hold a DSLR with shorter zoom – in our case an 18-55mm – and there is room inside the bag for spare lenses and other kit. There’s also a padded and zipped section at the back for a 9” tablet.
Billingham Hadley Small Pro: £200, Jessops
We couldn’t review camera bags without including something from Billingham, a favourite with press photographers the world over. This smaller offering is unashamedly old-fashioned but exquisite. We loved the detailing, especially the brass “clogballs” on the lid that you push through the leather closing straps. Securing them is fiddly at first but as the leather grows more supple you’ll manage it one-handed.
Billingham’s “Stormblock” material incorporates butyl rubber bonded between two layers of fabric, so you don’t need to worry about the weather getting in. If you can’t be parted from your bag, whip out the padded camera insert – which held our DSLR with 18-200mm zoom, a 50mm lens and flash – and you can use it as an everyday bag. There’s a leather-backed grab handle, plus a canvas strap for which you can buy a leather pad for extra comfort. It’s available in six colours, including smart sage and chocolate through to a vibrant red.
The verdict: Camera bags for DSLRs and CSCs
Chrome’s Niko F-stop is a worthy winner of our best buy, although the likes of the Billingham and the Gitzo ran it very close. All three look great while allowing you to carry enough equipment for a busy day’s shooting. Serious shooters will want to take a look at the super-rugged Vanguard, especially if their passion takes them on adventures around the world.
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