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It would be nice if there was an all-purpose camera bag that could work for every photographer. But seeing as we all have different needs, that's just not possible. There are many features to think about when choosing the right camera bag for yourself. These depend on how much you need to carry, how often you'll be moving, and how much security and protection you need. Here's a list of things to keep in mind when thinking about investing in a camera bag:
This is perhaps the most determining factor in choosing a bag. It affects how much you can carry and your mobility while carrying it. For those of you who only need a single camera and lens, a holster is small, lightweight, and give you quick and easy access. If you'd like to carry a few more lenses and accessories, consider investing in a sling bag. Shoulder bags can work too and vary the most in size. Some hold only a few extra lenses while others can carry an additional body and several more lenses and flashes. These and roller bags are best suited for those who need to bring lots of gear to a photo shoot. If you have more gear than these bags can handle, you might consider leaving some things at home, or buying small van.
Do you need to be able to quickly access your gear, or are you simply using your bag as a means of transportation? For adventurers and street photographers, being able to quickly pull out and store your camera is important. Holsters, sling bags, and some waist bags will give you this ability. They are limited in size, but excellent as far as weight, portability, and mobility goes. If you just need to carry your gear from one place to another, shoulder bags would be your best bet. Backpacks are not as easily accessible, but bridge the gap in size and portability between the sling bag and shoulder bag.
Mobility and Portability
Though closely related, these two are slightly different. Mobility refers to the amount of movement you have while wearing the bag whereas portability refers to how comfortable and easy the bag is to carry. Most portable bags give you the best mobility, but there are some exceptions. A holster may not be comfortable if you do a lot of climbing or heaving hiking, though it's easy to carry. Waist bags give you great mobility except for when you need to sit or crouch. Sling bags and backpacks give the best mobility, but backpacks are not easily accessible. Shoulder bags and satchels are the most uncomfortable to carry and they tend to swing as you walk.
Protection and Security
Again, closely related but separate. Protection is safety against falls and other accidents which could damage your gear. Security is safety against theft. Since all of these bags are attached to you somehow, you shouldn't have to worry about protection too much, but accidents do happen. If this is a concern for you, look to see how much padding a bag has and make sure it's make out of quality material that's not likely to rip. Some bags are even constructed with a wire mesh to prevent trampling and slashes. As for security, larger bags like shoulder bags and rollers seem to be the biggest targets of theft because they have the most gear and can be left unattended. Some bags come with locks although you can always invest in a small padlock. The most important thing can do is keep your bag within sight.
This is a factor that can easily be overlooked and most regretted when buying a camera bag. Even if you're just using your bag to carry your gear back and forth to shoots, padded shoulder straps can be a lifesaver. It's especially important if you're doing a lot of hiking or moving about while shooting. For this, I find it best to read reviews from other people. Comfort is not something you can easily gauge by looking at the specs.
Take into consideration any other needs you might have. For instance, do you often take a laptop or iPad with you? If so, consider a backpack or bag that can safely carry one. Will you be shooting in the rain? Some bags come with built-in rain gear that folds out and around the whole bag. There are several other unique features that camera bags have, more than I can mention here. The best advice I can give is to make a list of all your needs and shop around until you find a bag that works for you.
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Written by Spencer Seastrom
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