I could probably write at least 90,00 words on the topic of products to carry camera gear. I have tried lots of them over the years and always searching for the perfect set up. But this is a photography blog where I typically count on the premise of “a picture is worth a thousand words” for my content. So I will cover a few of my favorite set-ups for specific tasks and hopefully do it with a minimal amount of scrolling on your part.
The first thing to realize is that there is not a single best set up. Just like the science of exposure itself, it’s all about trade-offs. The bag needs of a wedding photographer can be vastly different than that of a landscape or even a sports shooter. Even if they carry the exact same equipment, other factors include:
- How quickly can you change lenses
- Can you carry for a long time
- Does it offer your gear adequate protection
- Many more.....
The products I will mention are by no means the only solutions. They are simply what I like and have real life experience using. There are countless other products that may be just as good, but I am focusing what I know and use.
The Hobbyist - single body and lens
Walk around town, vacation, family gathering....
Well that’s easy, right? All cameras come with a neck strap. They sure do and most are the most uncomfortable straps available. Some believe that having a brand/model plastered all over the strap is also a good way to draw attention to your nice, expensive camera and increase the chance of it getting ripped off. I’m sure Nikon and Canon love the free advertising as you walk around - but you can do better. So unless they are paying you to do so - check out these alternatives:
The UPstrap is a shoulder strap that simply does not slip off your shoulder. Sounds silly but that is what it does and does well. Most other shoulder straps will almost always move around and you constantly have to fiddle with it. Not this one, it works as advertised.
Link - UPstrap Website
If you prefer to wear your camera around your neck - than I would go with a thinkTANK camera strap. A very simple and strong camera strap. It is reasonably comfortable, easily compressed for traveling and super durable. But the kicker for me is the metal rings on the strap. They can be used to attach to backpacks. More on that later.
Link - thinkTANK camera strap
The idea here is that you will have multiple lenses, may not have a place to set anything down and should be comfortable enough to carry for a couple hours.
My choice is a modular belt system along with an R-Strap. The belt system will allow you to add individual bags the the belt to fit your needs based on the qty and size of the gear. You will be able to quickly change lenses without setting anything on the ground. Caution - You will also look the part with this set up so it’s not for anyone trying to blend in.
My favorites belt systems are from thinkTank photo and from Lowepro.
Link - thinkTANK Photo
Link - Lowepro
The second part of this solution is the R-Strap by Blackrapid. This thing is awesome. It works very well in concert with a belt system to access all of your gear while the camera is strapped across your chest. You can quickly raise the camera to your eye without taking the strap off your body and then having it securely hang while your not grabbing a frame.
Link - R-Strap
We will assume this is for longer periods of walking, you will most likely have a tripod and need extra protection of your gear from the elements. My vote is for a camera backpack. Unlike the the belt systems, it doesn't substantially make you any wider :) You will be more nimble getting through cramped spaces found in nature. It will also allow you to carry equipment longer with less fatigue as your shoulders are the main support for the bag.
My favorites backpacks are made by Kata. The quality of these bags are exceptional and come in a variety of configurations. They are well designed for the real world. Many other brands are made well, but functionally they sometimes fall short when you actually use them. Whether it is a zipper in a hard to get to place or an inefficient compartment design, Kata has figured all that out. Their background is in creating military equipment and it shows.
Link - Kata Bags
For a larger backpack, I prefer the StreetWalker Pro from thinkTank. This thing will hold a ton of gear and also makes for a great “carry-on” while flying. I especially like this backpack because it integrates with their camera neck strap so well. With a few accessory hooks you can attach your DSLR to the shoulder straps of the backpack. This allows you to shoot while it’s still fastened to the backpack.
The benefit of attaching directly to the backpack is that there is no additional weight on your neck from the camera. It actually balances out the the whole backpack to have a little weight on the front.
Link - StreetWalker Pro
Link - Camera Support Straps
For this scenario there is typically little room in the photo pit and you need to be mobile. You won't need a lot of bag space as you may only use a few lenses.
My choice is the Boda Lens bag. This handsome bag doesn't look like your average gear bag but is a great choice for the event photographer. You fill it with your gear and work directly out of the bag. It has all the compartments you would want and light enough to not cramp your style.
Link - Boda Lens Bag
So the moral of the story is that don’t expect your next bag or camera strap purchase to be your last. As you do different types of shooting - you may find what you like about a certain setup can become less desireable when your interest change. The good news is that there are plenty of options available for us all.