Bags come in all sorts of varieties. Some are designed to contain all your gear — from your biggest lenses, to your cache of spare batteries. Others are slim and compact, intended for no more than a single body and lens. From backpacks to slings and over the shoulder or messenger-style bags, there's nearly an endless selection of models from which to choose. So how do you decide what's best?
Predictably, it all comes down to the amount of gear you own, and how you want to use it. If you're searching for the perfect bag for your DSLR, here's a good place to start.
For those new to DSLR photography, the search for the perfect bag is a relatively simple affair. Most starter kits come with a body, a lens, and number of other smaller accessories. It's when you start adding external flashes, additional lenses, and even tripods into the mix that things get complicated.
Some of the best shopping advice we can give is to bring your gear with you before making a purchase. After all, you want to ensure that everything fits. Don't forget to take future camera and accessory purchases into account as well. Finally, if buying online, try and find a similar model in-store, to avoid any unforeseen surprises. In most cases, you'll need no more than two lenses for average your average shoot — something most bags should have little trouble accommodating.
These can generally hold the largest amount of gear and come in a variety of sizes. If you're looking to store and transport most, if not all of your camera accessories, this is likely your best bet. More recent backpacks are even advertised as laptop friendly, and have separate padded pouches to carry and keep your computer safe. Of course, this all comes at the cost of mobility and weight — though to compensate, most backpacks are also the most ergonomically sound.
However, it's important to be security conscious. Because backpacks are accessible from behind — outside of your field of vision — it's easy for potential thieves to gain access to your gear without your knowledge. This might be something to consider for travellers, or those shooting in crowds. With this in mind, don't just consider what you'll be carrying, but where.
Slings are unique because they're a cross between backpack and messenger bag. Though they can sit behind, like a backpack, their single-strap design allows the entire pouch to be shifted to the front for easy access. Ultimately, you get some of the same support and ergonomics as a traditional backpack, but with the flexibility and quick-access of a conventional messenger bag. Some slings even come with an additional strap, turning it into a traditional backpack.
The downside is that slings aren't particularly big — at least, generally not as large as many travelling backpacks. Manufacturers such as Lowepro and Kata have various models that can fit different combinations of lenses, bodies and flash, but don't expect to hold anywhere near as much as a traditional backpack.
These are similar to slings in their over-the-shoulder design, but give you more freedom in terms of storage. Because the pack typically sits to the side, as opposed to on the back, there is more room for larger objects such as tablets or laptops. In fact, this configuration makes a messenger bag the best choice for those looking to carry more than just camera gear.
Of course, comfort is something to consider, as weight distribution — focused primarily on one shoulder at a time — is the least effective of all the options we've covered. This is one of the primary tradeoffs for having immediate access at almost all times.
The one thing we haven't done is discuss specific manufacturers — and there a lot of them. Some popular brands include Kata, Lowepro, Tenba, Crumpler, Think Tank and even Pelican, if you're looking for some heavy-duty, brief-case style carriers. What sort of DSLR bag do you have?