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I’ve been buying photo gear for nearly 30 years, and I find nothing more gratifying than shopping for a new camera bag. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit obsessive, and I love the opportunity to find a new place for my gear and then put everything in its place. Or maybe it’s just because camera bags are so practical and versatile, and you usually get a lot of bang for your buck. There are a variety of options in bags and cases, including shoulder bags, satchels, backpacks, roller bags, sling bags and hard cases. In other words, there’s a bag that’s perfect for the way you shoot, the gear you use and where you use it—no matter what that may be.
Jim Domke designed his first camera bag to solve a problem. As a newspaper photographer, he wanted a bag that was compact, simple and easy to use, so he made one. Thirty-five years later, the same principles still reside in Domke bags, including the new RuggedWear series. The standard is the F-2 Shooter’s bag, capable of holding two pro DSLRs, five lenses and accessories. Since Domke bags get better with wear (like a favorite pair of jeans), the RuggedWear bags feature already broken-in distressed cloth (actually a waxed canvas that also makes the bags more durable and weather-resistant). Unlike traditional Domkes, though, the RuggedWear line isn’t machine-washable. List Price: $229.
For carrying quantities of camera gear and accessories while still providing quick and easy access, the camera bag standard is the traditional, padded shoulder bag. Tenba has a new one in its ultralight Discovery lineup, the aptly named Large Shoulder Bag. Built for photographers on the go who don’t want to be weighed down by the bag itself, this nearly two-pound bag can carry two DSLR bodies, five to seven lenses, an external flash and accessories. A weather-resistant nylon shell and a waterproof bottom panel keep the bag and its contents protected in inclement weather, and the contemporary design and color options give it a stylish appearance, as well. List Price: $120.
Clik Elite’s philosophy is simple: Sometimes photography isn’t a hobby, it’s a sport. So the company makes camera bags that are more akin to performance athletic equipment. Enter the Volt ClikStand, a framed backpack that does double-duty as a light stand. Designed with an equipment stand built in, you can set the large ClikStand on the ground while keeping the valuable equipment inside elevated above muck, mud and snow. The stand can also serve as a tripod or holder for lighting equipment. A tall bag with a modular interior that can be reconfigured to hold a variety of camera and lighting equipment (including bulky umbrellas and stands), the ClikStand offers a number of configurations to fit nature and travel photographers especially well. List Price: $425.
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SMALL SHOULDER BAGS
Billingham has been making high-quality, stylish camera bags in the UK for almost 40 years, in recent years innovating with the ƒ/Stop line, which includes two compact shoulder bags: the ƒ/2.8 and, fittingly, the “wider” ƒ/1.4. Both are available in black or khaki, and both are made of premium materials, including real leather edging and brass and nickel fillings, as well as the company’s preferred FibreNyte fabric shell, which offers many of the benefits of canvas in a durable synthetic material. Photographers yearning for luggage-caliber camera bags may have found their perfect solution from this importer. List Price: $240 (ƒ/2.8); $260 (ƒ/1.4)
Compact, electronic-viewfinder, interchangeable-lens cameras have been increasing in popularity as photographers clamor for their big performance in small, easy-to-carry packages. But who wants to sacrifice those size savings by using a too-big camera bag intended for bulkier DSLRs? Not the photographers at Lowepro. The company has introduced the StreamLine 100, a slim shoulder bag with a modern style that saves space and helps to hide the fact that you’re toting camera equipment, too. Smartly designed for maximum efficiency, the bag doesn’t compromise on usability with zippered front and back pockets to hold lens caps, memory cards and personal items, as well. List Price: $44.
For handling a larger DSLR and multiple lenses, the PRO Slinger from Adorama measures 10x10x61?2 inches, which is 21?2 inches wider than the standard version so it can handle wider professional cameras. It comes with all kinds of special features for keeping you comfortable while in transit. You can wear the bag as a sling or as a single-strap
backpack with a waist belt that distributes weight more evenly across your body and provides extra security. A wide, padded shoulder strap also helps for handling heavier loads. The water-resistant exterior has plenty of pockets for holding extras, and there’s a zippered security pocket on the back for valuables. List Price: $69.
Photographers who crave the smallest, lightest backpack they can find, while still providing ample protection for a DSLR and lens array, are sure to appreciate the new Kata Minibee-120 PL. Perfect for pros who carry a 13-inch laptop, too, the 120 PL features Kata’s Aeriform dividers that custom-mold themselves to fit your camera gear exactly. The bag also features a sleeve that fits securely over the handle of a roller bag or the Kata Insertrolly to turn this backpack into a roller bag. And, of course, like all Kata products, the bright yellow interior makes it easy to find dark bits of camera gear deep in the recesses of the bag. List Price: $250.
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Mountainsmith makes backpacks and supplies for, as the name suggests, hikers and mountaineers. The company also provides camera-specific bags for photographers who are serious about camera protection, durability and ergonomic comfort in a bag that will last throughout the course of a long expedition. The Borealis AT Daypack, with its backcountry suspension and room for personal supplies and necessities, also offers pro-caliber protection for a DSLR, three lenses and an external flash—plus a laptop. There’s also a mount for carrying a tripod. Snowboard- and ski-carrying options are built onto the bag, which is made of 100% recycled fabric made from plastic bottles. List Price: $190.
The Tamrac Velocity series of sling packs is designed to carry like a backpack across the body slung over one shoulder, but it will quickly slide to the front of the body for easy access to photo gear without having to remove the pack. The bags’ front pockets incorporate the company’s helpful “memory and battery management system,” which features red flags to differentiate depleted batteries and cards from those that are ready to go. The Velocity 10x is the largest model in the line, capable of carrying two DSLRs, three lenses (including a telephoto zoom) and an external flash. List Price: $120.
The Vanguard Skyborne backpack series sports an award-winning design that incorporates innovative air-infused cushioning at crucial contact points throughout the bags. The largest of the lineup is the Skyborne 53, with easily adjustable ergonomic straps that make carrying a full load (including two DSLRs with grips and attached long lenses, as well as eight additional lenses, two external flashes and plenty of accessories) as comfortable as can be. Don’t forget the 17-inch laptop it protects, as well. Additional touches like anti-theft buckles and a tripod connection make this backpack ideal for travel, whether through the backcountry or the big city. List Price: $419.