A Viewfinder Darkly

Photography tips and tutorials

How to Choose a Camera Bag

December 9 2008

by Phil Northeast

One of the keys to great photos is carrying your camera whenever possible to maximize the chances of capturing a priceless moment, so the right camera bag is important.

The most important criterion is that the camera bag is easy to carry, so the camera does not get in the way as you go about life, but is still there for the unexpected shot.

Backpack camera bag

Backpack camera bag (Mike Rockwell)

There are a wide variety of camera bags on the market, this in response to the extensive range of cameras available, and an even wider range of different photographic purposes. A good camera bag is for much more than carrying the camera, there is a host of important accessories and essential bits of equipment to carry around as well.

Define the essential pieces of equipment to form the basis of your starting set up or walking around camera gear. Walking around is photographer’s term for this minimum set up that is convenient and light enough to carry while you walk around but is versatile enough to get some sort of reasonable shot of most situations.

Even the simplest Point & shoot camera may need memory cards, spare batteries or a battery charger. Of course sometimes if you have more sophisticated camera gear the amount of equipment required varies and for  you may need more than just a walking around set up, so you need a larger bag. The answer is to buy two or more bags rather than try to compromise on one to fill a number of roles. You might end up with bag that does none of them very well and is really a waste of money.


Solid camera case

A solid camera case with foam cutouts

As well as convenience, the bag serves to protect the exposed LCD screens and the camera body from scratches. Those easy to operate control knobs that stick up are also more vulnerable to accidental knocks, so a bit of cushioning is important even for a compact pocket size camera. There are small bags with a loop to attach the bag to a belt so the bag not only protects the camera it is a very convenient way to carry a camera.

The old-fashioned camera bags relied on shaped cutouts for equipment in a bed of foam to hold and protect cameras and lenses. This still works well when maximum protection is required, particularly in solid water and crush proof cases for serious travel and adventure. For everyday carrying lighter moveable foam dividers are held in position with Velcro strips and offer flexibility for the perfect fit for day-to-day changes in bag needs.

It gets more complicated as the cameras become more sophisticated and they generally are large and use more accessories and optional equipment. There are two main types of bags for these cameras and often the choice is a matter of personal preference depending partly on the individuals approach to photography.

Shoulder Bags

Shoulder Bag

Shoulder Bag

Naturally shoulder bags come  in a mind numbing range of shapes and sizes suitable for a compact walking around bag to larger models that can swallow more than one pro style DSLR, a range of lenses and pro style flash guns for location shoots.

While the size varies greatly, shoulder camera bags commonly open from the top allowing for quick changes of lenses or a new memory card. This also applies to the pockets for business cards, forms, and notebooks essential for a professional photographer working a crowd.

Shoulder bags, especially the larger ones, are awkward to carry for any length of time,

Back Packs

These are good for carrying larger amounts of photographic gear where there is a lot of walking required to get the best spots for photographing. Particularly over rough terrain, the backpack leaves both hands free for climbing or maneuvering around obstacles. A backpack evenly distributes load over both shoulders, and with the help of a waist strap, stays securely in place. While shooting the backpack is out of the way leaving both hands free for operating the camera and allowing for quick movement, something photojournalists in dangerous situations appreciate.

The down side of the backpack is it is more difficult to access the contents. Manufacturers have tried various designs to make this easier but the backpack is still harder to get at than a shoulder bag.

originally published at suite101.com


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