The Perfect Camera Bag


I've used quite a few different styles and sizes of camera bags over the years and have come to identify some features I require and some I like, as well as some designs to avoid. So here's my list of features that would make the perfect camera bag. According to me, at least.

Ok, building a perfect camera bag is going to be impossible--there won't ever be a single perfect bag for all occasions and styles of shooting. Shoulder bags and holster bags can each have their place, but there are quite a few features that I think every bag should have. In fact, if a company came out with a product line of bags that met these requirements, I'd buy several of them: a holster bag, a shoulder bag, and a sling bag; maybe others, too.

In no particular order, here are my perfect bag requirements:

  • First, something easy: adjustable dividers. I think every manufacturer puts these in. (Of course, they're not necessary in a small bag, like a holster bag or a smaller bag for a point-n-shoot camera.)
  • The bag should have a bright interior. My Domke Bug Bag has a bright yellow interior. Compared to the traditional dark color, a bright interior makes it surprisingly easy to find things at dawn and dusk, and even in the dark of moonlight. Domke doesn't make these bags anymore (a shame, since they are nice). The only other bright-interior bags I can find are by Kata.
  • A zippered pocket for small items is essential. I just need one, and it doesn't need to be very big. I need somewhere to store some extra batteries and memory cards (though many bags have spots just for those things), as well as a body cap, rear lens cap, allen wrench (for the camera QR plate to mount to the tripod), and a few other items. There are often spots for accessories, which works well for larger items like filters and a cable release, but small items just bounce around in there. Lots of manufacturers include a zippered pocket, but they're not in all of their models.
  • Somewhere for a pen and paper. These could go in the small zippered compartment, but there needs to be a quick-access spot for these. Many bags now include a pen sleeve and larger sleeve for notepad--perfect!
  • A wide and thick strap--whether shoulder strap or hipbelt--makes carrying a bag much easier. I think LowePro always gets this right. Their straps are well-padded and comfortable on all of their bags I've seen. They're also ergonomically shaped to wrap around you better. You can buy their Deluxe Shoulder Strap, which will probably clip onto just about any bag. I swap one among a few bags. I should point out that I don't require a Deluxe Shoulder Strap for everything--a smaller one is fine for a smaller bag, but it still needs to be big enough to make carrying comfortable.
  • Appropriate padding should be used throughout the bag. Extra thick/dense padding should be used on the bottom of a shoulder bag, where it's going to be sitting on the ground and all the weight will compress it over time. The non-camera compartment of a bag could have less or no padding to save weight and increase usable area. Most LowePro bags have lots of heavy padding throughout--perhaps overkill for some of them, and cheap no-name bags often have practically no padding to them. A balance needs to be struck.
  • Heavy-duty all-weather zippers should be used to keep out rain and stand up to sand abrasion. I don't like the protective fabric "lip" found around many zippers, as this always just gets in the way and ends up malformed anyway; with a better zipper this lip is unnecessary. Most manufacturers of hiking/backpacking bags have done this right for several years now; it's time for the camera bag manufacturers to catch up. My newest bag, a LowePro SlingShot 200 AW, got this right.
  • As someone whose local camera stores have very little camera bag variety, I'd like the manufacturers to include more detail in their bag descriptions so I can make a well-informed mail-order decision. Specifically, tell me, clearly, what will fit. Is this bag large enough to hold a 300mm f4 lens, with hood? Give specific examples, too: "...holds a Canon 20D body without grip, 17-85mm lens (roughly 3 × 4.5 inches), 70-300mm lens (roughly 3 × 6 inches) and full-size flash, plus accessories." This doesn't need to be an exhaustive list; just give more detail. The current state of "holds 2 bodies, 6 lenses, 4 flashes, and accessories" always seems a little untrue to me, since what they really mean is that it holds some combination of these, but not all of these, especially when you consider the variety of sizes lenses come in.
  • An easy way to add a little additional space would be great. LowePro has the SlipLock system and Tamrac has the Modular Accessory System and Strap Accessory System, and I'm sure other manufacturers have them, too. It's a great way to carry just one more lens on certain occasions. If you're still a film shooter, the film drop bags are an easy way to toss a spent roll somewhere to not get lost. But perhaps the most important thing for me: a way to carry some water. LowePro's SlipLock Bottle Bag lets me take my Nalgene bottle anywhere with me. When going out to take photos (whether hiking with Scouts or just wandering about) I typically want to take my camera, a few snacks, and water. It's been easy to fit some food in the camera bag, and with the Bottle Bag I can easily take water, too.

I'm sure I'll come up with some other features I want in my perfect bag, but these are a good start. Are there other features you want?

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Dan & Sherree & Patrick currently uses Facebook for comments. Older comments are still here for readers, though. Read old comments »

Dear Sir,

From your beautiful bag,

I'd like to discuss about your bag strap with the person in charge of it.
Kindly ask the person to contact me.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Very truly yours,
Changs Chung/director

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