the best camera bag bang for buck - part 1
the best camera bag bang for buck - part 1
Don’t panic, we've got you covered!
I can count on three fingers the most needed and purchased camera accessories for start-career or beginner photographers and filmmakers. The first one is kind of obvious: the camera itself—most likely with a kit lens. A tripod is the second. And a bag comes third; a backpack, or something to protect and carry your crispy, newly purchased camera. You have just spent a couple of hundred on a camera, so a protective case that transports your gear is not the first thing you might consider all the way through. This wisdom develops after spending a lot of time with your gear.
You might find yourself checking out bag reviews after getting that second lens, a tripod or a flash kit. Suddenly your first bag seems to be getting smaller, and you’re ready to gear up.
Predicting your future gear
To fully understand what you should be looking for in a bag takes getting to know your gear, and further, predicting your future gear. Even for seasoned photographers it is a challenge to pick the right bag; "does it store my 500mm lens?" "Can I bring this as carry-on?" "Is this bag deep enough for a battery-grip?" And the less obvious questions pop up too: "should the camera compartment be accessible via the front, or the back?" "Do I want a bag to get stuff from A to B, or do I want to bring it on a weekend day-trip?"
Don’t panic, we've got you covered. In this full-out review we will look at nine contemporary backpacks, carry-alls and other units to protect and transport your gear. We’ll be considering them on the following aspects; gear protection, build-quality, weight distribution, space, camera-accessibility, looks and comfort.
The right advice
Bags and cases might all look the same, but just like with cameras, the right advice makes it pretty hard to buy a crappy one nowadays (except maybe for this camera) (Link: shorturl.at/iHI49 ). Most bags have all the standard features like laptop sleeves, good camera padding etc.; the usual perks. So what makes a good camera bag stand out?
My first ever real backpack was a Naneu Pro Military Ops Bravo (link: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/531470-REG/Naneu_Pro_BRVBK_Military_Ops_Bravo_Backpack.html)—a heavily padded, military aesthetic, rear-access backpack. It seemed decent at the start; it was about the right price, it featured bright colored dividers which made finding my gear a lot easier in the dark and it included a rain sleeve—sounds good, right? It was far from ideal. It’s boxiness all but broke my back when lugging it around for five weeks, and its accessibility was just awkward.
Today, at least a dozen backpacks, cases and years of experience further, I can shine some light on what I would be looking for in a good camera bag.
1 F-STOP Travel and adventure Camera Backpack
- Tilopa (50L Magma color) | Essentials Bundle €499 / $499
F-Stop bags work with custom Internal Camera Units, ICU for short. This brand was the first to fully develop these into a good working system, something nowadays widely replicated (and perfected) by the competition. You purchase an empty shell, and separately get yourself the camera compartment that suits your needs. F-Stop also provides bundles for adventurous photographers, with different size camera compartments, accessory straps and rain covers.
With an F-Stop bag you can decide if you want to fill your bag to the top with an XL Pro ICU, or go with a Slope Medium, and fit some extra socks, shirts and thermals alongside your hardware. Getting the freedom to choose as a creator is amazing, making these bags wildly popular with all types of creators. You can fit a full wildlife set in it, and bring a tent and a sleeping bag, or you can fit a RED Cine camera set in there—no problem. These bags are advertised for the outdoor photographer, though I spot studio-based photographers with them all of the time.
2 WANDRD PRVKE 21L Black
Photo Bundle V3 €255 / $318
WANDRD are a relatively new player in the photography game. After years of struggling with finding the best backpack, the WANDRD brothers decided to go and develop their own backpack. On traveling the world, checking out the available options on the market, listening to all of their friends and hearing their needs, they braved their way into the world of design and production.
Right now, they have a solid foot in the game and produce one of my favorite backpack designs.
The PRVKE (pronounced: provoke) has had many updates, listening to user feedback, adjusting zippers, pouches and the Camera Cube Dividers. The latter not necessarily to my liking, as the original ones were the only companies making solid but snug, compact dividers—something I loved. You can imagine that every cm counts in a 21L bag, so I was devastated upon learning that the V3 update had new Cubes, with thicker dividers. At least my gear is super well protected now.
The PRVKE is for the everyday user, the traveler, and the photographer who cares about quality, function, and style. These bags also come naked, and need a Camera Cube (all brands come up with their own name for these things, but camera cube sounds the most straightforward) to protect your gear. The Camera Cubes with customizable protection give you the flexibility of having your camera bag seamlessly turn into a travel or everyday bag. These backpacks have enough space for your lunch, clothing, tablet and whatever else you need, alongside your camera related gear. The cool thing with the V3 update is that now there are optional ‘full size’ Camera Cubes available, that cover the entire bag, so you can bring loads of extra gear compared to the standard Cube.
3 Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II
€179 / $175
When I think about camera backpacks, this type of one pops up in my head. A sturdy, black backpack with camera access on all sides, a laptop sleeve and a hardened top shell. My draw to the ProTactic comes about as unsurprising, as this bag has been part of the Lowepro line-up for quite some years now. And with good reason. It ticks most of the boxes for a lot of photographers; it fits a large amount of gear, has a laptop sleeve, mounts tripods and accessories on the outside, and conveniently doesn't break the bank.
- 25L full size back access
- Weight: 2.84 kg
- External Dimensions: 36 x 22 x 52 cm (internal: 30 x 16 x 44 cm)
- Quick side camera access
- Hardened top shell
- Fits a 15” laptop
- Removable waist strap
Camera accessibility: 4-Point access so you can reach gear quickly and easily, with your backpack on one shoulder (depending on your layout). The bag also features a FormShell-molded, turret loading top and large back access to the entire interior.
4 Morally Toxic Valkyrie 20L
£259.99 (about € 312 / $ 350)
The Morally Toxic brand is part of British company 3 Legged Thing; known for bold designs, amazing style and great tripods. This brand offers a different perspective on a sometimes—and often!—dull photography and video scene. Some people like to be different, some brands do too. I like their products and their attitude, but it might not be for everyone. The Valkyrie bag is described as the ultimate camera backpack for photographers who are tired of plain, corporate-looking camera bags. No two bags are the exact same, and you’re sure to stand out with this backpack.
20L - Medium (large available, 25L)
3 Colorways: ONYX, EMERALD, SAPPHIRE
Dimensions: 44 x 33 x 19 cm (42 x 28 x 12 cm)
Detachable memory card wallet
PhotoSport BP 24L AW III Photo Backpack €239 / $229
While some bags compete over which one carries the most gear, this bag seems to try harder to be a hiking & daytime bag than a camera-carrier. This great looking, comfortable backpack fits a full frame camera with attached 24-70mm, plus maybe one extra lens. Next to that, there is room for about 19L of other accessories like filters and batteries, or non-camera equipment. The bag does not feature a tablet or laptop sleeve, so keep that in mind if this is a dealbreaker for you.
Lowepro states that their latest PhotoSport BP is made from 75% recycled fabrics. This might not be on the top of your priority list, but I can certainly think of quite a few photographers who really care about their footprint and the environment that is often their subject. To be honest, I think the idea of using (at least partially) recycled materials should be a standard for the world we currently live in.
24L, in Black/Blue or Black/Grey
75% recycled fabrics; bonus points here
External Dimensions: 27 x 22 x 50 cm
Camera Compartment Dimensions: 18 x 10 x 23 cm
Weight: 1.5 kg
Strap system designed for multiple camera-carrying configurations
3-liter hydration pocket
6 Peak Design Everyday
Backpack 20L v2
Peak Design started out as a highly stoked team, making amazing camera accessories with high quality standards. It’s to be expected that their bags have been developed with a similar passion; with love, enthusiasm, a great eye for design and an ear for its users.
Their stylish camera bags were an instant hit and are definitely worth checking out.
The 20L Everyday backpack is, no secrets there, a compact everyday backpack. Though it's designed to be a quick grab ‘n shoot bag, I had a hard time fitting gear into the unique divider design. I felt like it just couldn’t hold half the stuff I wanted to bring.
20L Photography backpack
4 colorways: Black, Charcoal, Midnight, Ash
Made from part recycled material
Unique origami-style FlexFold divider design, which is great when in place, but adjusting it takes some time and skill.