Five Camera Bags I Love

Five Camera Bags I Love

Earlier this week, Fstoppers creators Patrick Hall and Lee Morris posted a tongue-in-cheek video that mocked photographers’ very real lust for the perfect bag. I hope you all got a great laugh out of that just like I did. We’ve all been in Hall's position, watching a seemingly endless pile of gear come out of someone else’s bag. Today, I thought I’d go through the five bags I use on a regular basis for both my work in Seoul and my travel work.

Let me start by laying a few ground rules. These are not the best bags on the market. They are not the be-all-and-end-all. They may not be right for you. These are bags that I love. They are homes for my gear that I have found work best for the way I shoot and the equipment I use. The criteria for choosing these bags is simply that they do their job in a way that allows me to get my job done. A couple of these are out of production, but I have tried to provide alternatives where possible. So, here they are.

LowePro StreetLine SH 140

This little bag is something I wasn’t sure about in the beginning, but it has been an amazing addition to my kit. I looked long and hard for the perfect bag for my day-to-day work, and this is it. I needed something I could put a couple of bodies, a couple of lenses, a flash, and, when needed, my laptop into. The LowePro StreetLine series is comprised of three shoulder bags and a backpack. I chose the SH 140 because I use a small laptop and because I love that you can fold the gear pockets to make room for different shaped objects. They can also be folded to accommodate things other than camera gear.

I typically use this bag for family sessions, corporate events, and personal days. On a family session, it holds two Fujifilm X-T2 bodies, my 16mm f/1.4, 23mm f/2, 35mm f/2, and 50-140mm f/2.8 lenses. For corporate events, I will usually take my 16mm lens out and replace it with a Godox TT350F flash, then add my laptop into the back sleeve if I have been asked for onsite deliveries. On my days off, I’ll often mix a little street shooting with some blogging and a drone flight. My laptop, a Fujifilm X-T2 with a 23mm and a 35mm, plus my DJI Mavic Pro kit all fit in there snugly.

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 6

For times when the SH 140 doesn’t quite work out, this is my go-to bag. I love it for weddings, couples sessions, and family sessions. The two main features that make this bag so appealing to me are its shallow design and those trademark Think Tank Photo sound silencers. At weddings, the Velcro can be covered with inbuilt flaps to silence the bag so you can open and close it without disturbing the guests. 

The shallow design is perfect for smaller MILC systems like my Fujifilm kit. The lenses are much smaller than their DSLR counterparts, and so can be tucked into much shallower compartments. I can get two X-T2 bodies and four prime lenses into this bag with no problem at all. If I need a flash or a zoom like the 50-140mm, I can put it in a pouch and lay it over the top of the other lenses and bodies. The flexible lid of the bag and strong Velcro that holds it shut mean that I don’t have to worry about anything falling out. 

Again, this series of bags comes in many different sizes, so check them out on B&H.

LowePro Versapack 200AW

This is a bag that has so many different uses. It is broken into two different compartments. The bottom one has dividers for camera gear, while the top compartment is a single open pouch. It is useful for clothes on an overnight trip, or extra gear when the camera compartment gets full. By far my favorite feature on this bag, though, is the centrally-aligned tripod holder. With a bag this small, that is such a boon.

Typically, I use this bag when doing short overnight trips, or when I’m using my Wista 4x5. For an overnight trip, I can put a small amount of clothing in the top, a couple of X-T2 bodies and three or four prime lenses in the bottom. Then I can slide my laptop in the front if needed and strap on my tripod. With the 4x5 camera, it works really well as I can put the camera and two lenses into the bottom section, then have my film holders, loupe, and cable release in the top. Of course, the tripod gets strapped on at the end. 

There are a few similar bags in Lowepro’s Flipside Trek and Photo Sport ranges, but none offer all of the features of this bag combined.

F-Stop Gear Literoom Roller

F-Stop Gear may be known for their rugged backpacks and modular system, but my most used bag from their range is the now discontinued Literoom Roller. The reason I still include it here is that most of the reasons I love it can be found in alternatives. 

Like most of F-Stop Gear’s bags, the Literoom is an empty shell. You can then add their ICUs or configure the bag however you like. I use this bag when I travel as my carry-on luggage and for jobs in the city where I need a larger flash kit. As a carry-on, it allows me to get through airport security with minimal fuss as the bag fits within the size limits for most airlines. In the city, it allows me to take the strain off my back, meaning that I start my shoots much fresher than if I had to carry all the gear. 

So, what makes it different from any other carry-on suitcase? Simply put, it’s the durability. This thing has been hauled up and down stairs with 25 kilograms of gear in it. It has been wheeled through sandy villages in Myanmar. It’s been through a typhoon in Taiwan, up and down mountains in India, on the back of a motorcycle in Laos. In short, it’s been through everything I have, and there’s not a stitch come loose. I really hope that F-Stop Gear starts making this again, as I’d like to have another in case it goes missing.

You might want to look into Think Tank Photo’s Airport series if you just need bags to take your gear. Another option would be to pick up a good quality cabin roller and add one of F-Stop Gear’s ICUs to it. 

F-Stop Gear Loka UL

I’ve owned a lot of backpacks. None of them have fit my needs better than the F-Stop Gear Loka UL for traveling. If I’m going somewhere where I won’t be taking my roller, this thing is coming with me. I can grab the ICU of gear out of my roller, drop it straight into this bag, and throw everything else in on top. My tripod only mounts to the side of this bag, but the straps are so well balanced that I don’t even notice the extra weight after I’ve adjusted it. One other thing I love is that the bag opens on the side that is touching your back. That means you have to take this thing off to open it. The zips won't get caught on anything and nobody else can open the bag on you. 

Like most of F-Stop’s bags, it’s made from rip-stop nylon. It’s extremely durable, and again, I haven’t lost a single stitch over the years I’ve been using it. Once I get it home, I can just hose it down, spray a little Febreze, and it’s good as new. I do wish it came in an all-black option, as the blue accents are obnoxiously loud. Otherwise, this is a well-built, well-balanced bag that won’t leave you tired at the end of the day, no matter how much you stuff into it.

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it, my favorite bags. Years of swapping, changing, buying, and selling have led me here. These are my bags for now (until I find the perfect bag to rule them all, of course). How about you guys? Have a bag you love? Tell us why and share with your fellow photographers.

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14 Comments

Brett Turnage's picture

For me, it's Lowerpro ProTactic 450 AW. It's amazing how much this back holds-two DSLRs with battery grips, portable strobe equipment, sound equipment, and lots of lens.

Ryan Mense's picture

I had that bag a while back, and what surprised me most about it was how long it was comfortable to carry heavy loads. It really doesn’t seem like it would be with the thinner straps and back padding.

Chip Kalback's picture

I know it's not technically a bag, but I've been in love with my Pelican 1510 since I bought one a few years back. Certainly not the most portable solution compared to a F-Stop pack for example, but it's pretty indestructible, fits perfectly in the overhead compartment, and it's easy enough to get around with.

Michael Dougherty's picture

I had the experience of destroying the auto focus mechanism on a long lens in a roller as I pulled it on a boardwalk. The vibration of the boardwalk on the bag and lens cost me around $1,200. The wheels on the rollers are just to small to absorb the vibrations. Just something to be careful about.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Good stuff, I like backpacks because they don't hurt my shoulders

I still use my Lowepro Magnum 35 that I bought in the 1980's; it has room for my Canon A-1 or New F-1, three lenses (wide angle, normal, telephoto zoom), handle mount flash, filters, and film loops for carrying film. I also repurposed a Subzero insulated lunch bag for carrying either my A-1 or F-1; its small size fits in the size requirements mandated by the Augusta National Golf Club for The Masters practice round. Then, there's the Canon camera bag that was part of the kit I got with my Canon 5D III.

I'm trying to find a bag that doesn't get my back all sweaty. When I travel, I try to keep it light with a single DSLR and one lens, but I've yet to find a bag where it fits everything comfortably and won't make my back hotter than a sauna. Anyone have any luck with such a thing?

Shawk Parson's picture

a highly active freelance photographer doing almost all kinds of photography would need all these bags plus some other ones, depending on the job at hand ...

the only problem would be, there's not 'one bag fits all applications' out there really, unless we have a 'modular' one perhaps ... still not the ultimate answer! have learned NOT to look for such an answer after doing photography for nearly five decades and tearing/wearing more than a dozen different kinds of bags ... that's why i have a collection of them now ... :-)

Shawk Parson's picture

btw, there's a certain model of LowePro 'discreet' shoulder bag with a zipper on top i've been using for more than 6 years now, which is not IDEAL really, but has been good enough not to want me to switch to another one - yet ...

it looks like a beach-bag btw and can be used as such too, if you want to remove the velcro-attached compartment inside ... and you can still carry one small to medium size body and lens as well ... sorry doesn't have a model name printed on so i could name it here; couldn't find it online either, to share a link ... probably discontinued then ...

it's quite lightweight when empty, yet sturdy enough i carry it around almost everywhere ... it's not too large either, but i put 2 APS-C bodies, each with a lens on, and stuff it up with a number of other items (sometimes an extra medium size tele-zoom lens for example) and it does the job ... hope it'll last for years to come as i truly like it and want to keep it even after i get one of the sling backpacks that i prefer more ...

Peter Gargiulo's picture

LowePro Fastpack BP 250 AWII. Holds my D850 with a 70-200, with room for other essentials, plus an area for non-camera stuff and a 15" laptop. Chest and waist straps are comfortable.

Just got this bag for Christmas. I like having a bag that I can pack a little bit of everything in. I have a smaller Lowepro sling for when I'm looking to travel lighter.

I have 2 Calumet Roller cases Calumet RC2065 and RC1188. The airport carryone size smaller one (RC1188) has a zipped front compartment to make an area twice as big as the bag so you can slot a tripod / lightstand bag into it. I can take 2 monolights, seamless backdrop roll, 6 stands, 2 dslrs with 6 lenses speedlights and triggers etc, laptop and tripod in two roller bags in one trip. The larger one is also sturdy enough to sit on. My back would have gone a long time ago without roller cases and that much kit used day in day out! Also fake Peli cases from trifibre (UK) are very good and a fraction of the price of real Peli cases.

Thanks for the mention! Simon / ThinkTank

No worries. It's a great bag!