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What considerations should I factor in when choosing a camera bag of a given style, and how important is each one?

For a question on the different bag styles, see: What different styles of camera bags exist, and how are they different?.

As an example list of bag qualities to get things started:

  • Size--both in terms of what it can hold and what it's like to carry.

  • Features--such as weather/rain protection, amount of padding, ease of access, places for accessories, etc.

  • Prices/brands--are some brands that much better so as to justify the sometimes large price differences?

  • Where to buy--online (direct or from a reseller) or in a brick-and-mortar store?

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@Sean: It's not a discussion about different bag styles, it's a question about different bag styles. Remember we don't have discussions about things on photo-SE... ;-) –  Jay Lance Photography May 9 '11 at 1:45
    
Wow, that was one messed up link; no idea how that happened. Discussion, dialogue, question, forum, etc., this site is a little bit of everything, isn't it? (At least it is according to that Venn diagram on the about page.) –  Sean May 9 '11 at 1:48
    
@Sean: It may seem like nit-picking about semantics, but check out the FAQ: "If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here." The motivation for all us regulars to not refer to things in terms of 'discussions' is that if we think of it in those terms it becomes easier to ask 'bad' questions (or more likely inadvertently lead others who aren't as familiar with the site's policies and format to do-so) Which ends up leading to more administrative work in cleaning up or closing bad questions... –  Jay Lance Photography May 9 '11 at 1:54
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I'm with Jay on this one - as asked there isn't a good way for someone to post any sort of answer that could be considered "right". I'm voting to close this as overly broad. There have been lots of other questions about bags, if you don't see something answered there go ahead and post a more specific question. –  ahockley May 9 '11 at 4:08
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Just buy one of each, thats what we all end up doing anyway. There is no such thing as a camera bag... its ALWAYS camera bags! –  cmason May 10 '11 at 0:21

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Once you have your style chosen, then the first thing is to find the right size for you given the circumstances in which you expect to use that bag.

Size with camera bags is kind of abstract since equal volume bags may not be able to fit the same equipment due to their shape. The only way I found of solving this is going to a photo store with ALL the biggest gear I intend to carry at once and try to fit it. Yes, sometimes it take over an hour to try all the models which look about the right size.

There is no reason to get a back without rain protection unless you plan never to be out in the rain with your gear. Otherwise, you'd need an extra bag just for rainy days? And what if the forecast is wrong? Or you happen to walk somewhere where it is customary to throw water-balloons at strangers on that day! (This did happen to some friends of mine)

Brands have different styles based on their intended audience. A corollary to the first rule is only to buy brands available in local stores. Between those your preference will dictate: Do you prefer a plain looking one or a flashy one? Do you prefer to pay more for one that is durable? Do the zippers on one brand annoy you? etc.

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For holster bags, you need to make sure the camera body will fit the width and height of the bag, and that the lens you use most often fits the bag's length. If you have a lens hood, you will want to factor that into the equation, whether or not it slides back or your have to screw it on backwards to fit it in.

I use a LowePro Toploader 70 AW and it fits this:

  • Canon EOS 50D with battery grip (slightly smaller than a large pro body)
  • Canon EF-S 17-55mm F/2.8 lens attached to the body
  • Canon 270EX Speedlite with bounce card in top pouch
  • BlackRapid RS-7 strap in one pouch (tight fit)

I also have a small lens bag attached (fits a 50-85mm prime) with:

  • Lens cloth
  • 2x spare batteries
  • 2x spare AA's

It's essentially my "mobile" setup.

enter image description here

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There are some good things to look at in the accepted answer for the following question ... What are the cons of a backpack-style camera bag?

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Before choosing your camera bag, you need to identify what you want to carry around in it.

I own two camera bags, one big, one small. I use the big when when I absolutely have to have the larger of the zooms or more than will fit in the small bag.

People tend to forget how heavy all that gear gets so a key consideration before anything else is how much do you want to carry around and how far do you want to carry it.

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