You probably have one or more camera bags for transporting your camera equipment. A shoulder bag, a backpack, perhaps a trolley. Do you place your camera in your bag with or without a lens attached? Or does it depend on how you use your camera bag?
There are many ways to pack your camera bag. Everyone has a preferred way of placing equipment in the main compartment. It also depends on the type of bag you use. A shoulder bag will have a completely different way of placing equipment.
Different types of bags are for different types of photography, I think. A backpack is perfect for transporting your equipment during hikes. It allows a lot of weight to be carried without much difficulty. Unless you have a badly designed backpack, of course.
A shoulder bag offers better access on location. You can grab a lens or camera relative easily because you don’t have to remove a backpack from your back. There are backpacks that allow you to rotate them in front of you. But often this is not that convenient, especially when It contains a lot of heavy equipment.
I also use a trolley, which can be most convenient during weddings. It offers the flexibility to take some extra equipment with you, without having it hanging on a shoulder, or packed on your back without easy access.
I wrote an article about the camera bags and their purpose some time ago. But no matter what bag you use, how do you place your camera in that bag? Do you have it with or without a lens attached?
How Do You Pack Your Camera in Your Backpack?
I believe the most common camera bag is a backpack. This is understandable since it can carry a lot of equipment while the weight isn’t much of an issue when you carry it on your back. Handling a heavy backpack might become a bit more difficult when taking it off, and placing it on your back again. But in general, it’s the most convenient way of taking photography equipment with you.
But how do you store your camera inside a backpack? Do you have it with a lens attached? Do you have the lenses separately next to the camera body? I believe the best way is to have the camera placed inside a backpack without a lens attached.
To understand the reason why you have to think about the reason why you would use a backpack. It’s for transporting equipment from one place to another. A good backpack is not designed to be accessible in a quick way. After all, if you want to grab your camera you’ll need to remove the backpack from your back, place it in a safe place, open it, and take it out.
If you have stored your camera with a lens attached, is it the lens you want to use for a specific moment? Most probably not, which means you have to exchange lenses. After you’ve taken the shot and you want to place the camera back into the backpack, you’ll need to replace the lens again because it won’t fit any other way.
A reason why many pack their camera with a lens attached, is the fear of getting dust or particles onto the sensor due to lens change. If you have a lens already attached it looks as if you reduce the risk. But unfortunately, it will force you to change lenses more often. Not only because you need to attach another lens for your shot, but also to need for attaching the previous lens again because it won’t fit otherwise.
My Advice Is to Store the Camera Inside a Backpack Without A Lenses Attached
If you use a backpack a lot, make sure the layout is made for a camera body without a lens attached. This way you can grab the lens you need and attach it directly, instead of removing a lens first.
There are also sling bags that allow you to rotate the bag to get quick access to the camera compartment. These bags are often designed to carry the camera with a lens attached. But again, how do you know you need that particular lens? In the worst-case scenario, you’ll need to exchange lenses with such a bag also.
I believe there these sling bags are often the best choice for the photographer that used only one camera and one lens. This is the only good reason to place a camera with a lens attached inside a backpack. After all, if you only have one lens, there is absolutely no reason to take it off.
What About Shoulder Bags and Trolleys?
Don't take a shoulder bag when you carry a lot of equipment with you. A heavy shoulder bag is something you have to avoid at all times. It's good for a lightweight setup, perhaps with just one extra lens. And it offers some benefits compared to a backpack.
When I use a shoulder bag, it contains a camera and one or two lenses. Perhaps three, just like I should have done with the three primes in the French Tarn. Changing lenses is easy, you don’t have to place the bag on the ground. I also prefer to have a camera without lenses inside the bag, but not always. It depends on how many lenses I take with me, and in what situation I shoot. If I have a second lens just for a special situation, I keep the other lens attached to the camera
The trolley I use for my wedding photography carries a few extra lenses and a pair of flashes. I use a harness to carry the cameras for direct access and switch lenses occasionally. Since I have two cameras, each fitted with a different lens, it’s easier to have the camera stored inside it and a lens attached. But if I'm ready with shooting the wedding, the lenses are removed from the camera before I place them in the bag.
Store Your Camera in the Most Convenient Way
I don’t want to tell you how you must place your camera in a backpack. By no means. You have to make your own decision and choose the way you prefer. But I do want you to think about it, and consider the pros and cons carefully. I believe it's better to make a layout of the main compartment of your backpack with the lenses separately from your camera body.
If you’re using a backpack to transport your photography equipment, do you have your camera with or without lens inside? Please share the reason in the comment below why you have chosen this way, and what the benefit for your photography is.