Carrying all your photographic gear around can be a rather tedious task, as there are certain cameras and lenses that aren’t exactly lightweight. This is where a really good bag comes in – one that has the capacity for all your stuff, your extras and maybe a slot for a notebook or tablet as well.
Having battled with large amounts of gear ourselves, we decided to take a look at what type of camera bags are available, and how they compare to each other.
Lowepro Pro Runner 200 AW (R1 200)
Maybe small, but really comfortable
Lowepro has been in the bag-making business for a very long time, and there is a reason that they have been considered some of the toughest totes available.
The Pro Runner 200 AW isn’t the biggest bag around, but it’s actually prefect for when you just need a functional backpack to store your gear while going on a hiking trip. The main (inner) compartment is divided up into eight sections by default, but they can be rearranged or resized by shifting the padded Velcro dividers around.
The bag will be too small for high-end photographers, but it’s perfect for photojournalists and enthusiasts who don’t have long lenses and huge camera bodies. Once opened, the inside of flap has a zippered compartment for document storage, and two small pockets for carrying extra memory cards.
Even though the bag is small enough for urban use, it has a special place for tripods as well, as they can be fastened through a foldout holder and locked using buckles and straps. Planning on going to a particularly rainy area? Don’t fret, as the Pro Runner 200 AW has a special pouch at the bottom that stores a nifty raincoat that pulls over the bag, keeping it dry.
Having a large amount of gear can be rather taxing on the body, so Lowepro hasn’t skimped on the comfort – the straps are padded and the lower back receives a bit more sponge than the rest of the mesh-covered backpad. There is also a chest strap that connect the shoulders together, relieving some of the strain placed on your back.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box] “Small and compact.”[/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box] Rating: 4 Stars [/symple_box]
Tamrac Mirage 6 (R1 500)
Great amount of space for semi-professionals
If you’re not quite in the big leagues just yet, but still looking for a bag with some substance, the Mirage 6 will be perfect for you. It has enough space for a standard DSLR, a couple of lenses and a number of accessories too.
What’s nice about this particular bag, is that the camera area can be accessed from two different zips – one on the side for over-the-shoulder access, while the other zip is in the first compartment for when the bag is not being carried around, or if things need to be rearranged.
But that is not all that the lightweight bag can carry, as there is space for a tablet and a flash in the fully padded bottom compartment. There is also a secure top compartment which is perfect for carrying personal items such as keys, extra batteries or accessories. Stored inside (like the Pro Runner 200 AW above) is also a rain-resistant cover that pulls over the bag to keep all your equipment safe and dry.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box] “Big enough for most.“[/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box] Rating: 5 Stars [/symple_box]
Lowepro Urban Reporter 150 (R1 800)
Its over-the-shoulder for better mobility
A camera bag doesn’t necessarily have to be a backpack, as Lowepro proves with their over-the-shoulder Urban Reporter 150 messenger bag.
The bag has a zipped front pocket that can be used to store personal items such as business cards, a pen and small knickknacks that will make your life easier while on the job. But the main compartment is where the magic really happens.
Being a messenger bag, the fully-padded compartment is big enough to hold one standard SLR body and attached lens, but you can probably squeeze a spare piece of glass in there are well. The compartment is divided up into section with Velcro, which can be rearranged or completely removed. Actually, the entire padded compartment can be removed.
The bag hasn’t been built with size in mind, but rather a quick and easy way to safely carry only the essentials – so it’s perfect for photojournalists and those who take the occasional photo when out and about.
Behind the main compartment is a slightly hidden sleeve that can hold a standard tablet about the size of an iPad. The bag also has two handles – one to put the bag over your shoulder, while the other to carry the Urban Reporter 150 by hand.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box] “Comfortable shoulder bag.“[/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box] Rating: 4 Stars [/symple_box]
Thule Covert DSLR Rolltop Backpack
It’s one of the biggest bags we have seen
For those that have a bit more gear than your average photographer, Thule’s Covert has more than enough nooks and crannies to stuff your gear into.
Its gets its Rolltop name from the fact that the water-proof top compartment is rolled up, which makes the bag weather-resistant. The rolltop is held in place by two clips.
The camera and attachments are accessed through a zip on the side, but you can also go through the top, just sling it around from your shoulder and for immediate access. The equipment sits in what Thule calls a SafeZone removable camera pod, meaning that the entire pod can be taken out with your camera still inside.
What makes the divider in the camera section so cool, is that it was inspired by the age-old art of origami. The divider has Velcro on its ends, but it can be articulated and bended into different positions – to exactly match the shape of your equipment.
While it has more pockets than what you can shake a lens at, the Covert also has a slit in the side to store a tablet or laptop with a maximum size of (roughly) 13 inches.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box] “More pockets than most.“[/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box] Rating: 4 Stars [/symple_box]
Tamrac Jazz 83
Similar to the Mirage 6, Tamrac’s Jazz 83 bag is just small enough to carry the most essential gear, but it’s big enough to pack some extras in as well. With a sturdy and lightweight overall design, on the outer sides it has mesh pockets straps (which can be used to keep tripods and the likes in place).
The zips between the front pocket and the business end of the bag can get a little confusing sometimes, as they are the same colour and run on top of each other. But once you flip the top, it will reveal an organised compartment separated by fully-padded mesh dividers.
The compartments are big enough to fit a DSLR with a lens attached, and extra three or four lenses and a flash. The lid of the main compartment also has two sleeves for extra accessories.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box] “Small and simple.“[/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box] Rating: 4 Stars [/symple_box]
Lowepro Sport Shoulder 12L
There will be occasions where a full camera bag will be too bulky, and that is exactly why Lowepro decided to make a smaller bag that is easily carried around without being a burden.
Slightly bigger than a classic fanny pack, the Sport Shoulder 12L bag has been designed with discretion in mind, and was inspired by an outdoor lifestyle and for many uses. Don’t expect to be fitting your entire arsenal of professional gear in to the bag, as only 40% of the bag has been allocated to the camera, with 60% dedicated to personal items.
But with that said, it’s not actually designed for SLR cameras at all, but is perfect for mirrorless and compact cameras instead. Although, if you manage to rearrange some of your belongings, we are positive that you would be able to squeeze a DSLR in there. The fully-padded dividers will comfortably protect whatever you chose to store in its compartments, whether it be lunch, a light jacket or even a 10-inch tablet.
[symple_column size=”one_half”] [symple_box] “Comfortable and easy.”[/symple_box] [/symple_column][symple_box] Rating: 3.5 Stars [/symple_box]
Picking the best camera bag really depends on what you are going to use it for, and what your needs are. Sometimes you will have a lot of gear to take with you, while on other occasions you might just want to take the bare necessities. If a winner for this super test had to be chosen, and going on the above the previous criteria, the Tamrac Mirage 6 would come out tops.
The Mirage 6 is a perfect middle-of-the-road bag that will hold all of your photographic gear with ease, while it is still small enough not be a burden when being carried. A problem with bigger bags is that they can become cumbersome and extremely heavy when packed to the brim, and they tend to be rather expensive.
Value for money, design and overall camera access all needs to be taken into account when deciding on the perfect camera pack, and the Mirage 6 ticks all the right boxes.