Camera bags — there are hundreds, if not thousands, of choices. But what are the best bags for street photography?
Do I Need a Bag for Street Photography?
Strictly speaking, the answer is no. In fact, the camera bag can actually be a hindrance to good street photography. When I’m actually photographing, I normally carry my camera on a shoulder sling. That keeps it readily available at my side. As I mentioned in previous posts, with street photography, your subjects are rapidly changing. A street photographer needs quick access to his/her camera to capture those moments.
The sling I use is an Altura Photo Rapid Fire. It is available from Amazon for $19.95.
That said, every photographer should have a good camera bag to store their primary equipment. My recommendation actually includes two bags. I have one, a backpack style, where I keep the majority of my regularly used equipment. It is pretty much ‘ready to go’ to get my equipment to whatever location I want to be. This includes public transportation travel such as airlines.
I also recommend a second bag which I found to be a good adjunct to the camera sling.
For my primary storage bag, I was looking for something that would carry most of my equipment. In addition to a camera and two or three lenses, I wanted to be able to carry accessories such as a flash unit, filters, and a tripod. Ideally, I want to be able to carry my laptop computer in the bag.
After looking at several bags, and even trying two or three, I settled on the USA Gear Model S17 DSLR Camera Backpack. I have now had this bag for a little over a year and I am very happy with the choice. The overall size of the bag in 18″ x 12″ x 8″. It weighs a mere 2.47 pounds.
The S17 has a configurable padded storage area for camera gear. While this is a fairly standard feature of backpacks dedicated to camera storage, I like the size of the compartment in the S17. It is a generous 11″ x 10.5″ x 6″, with padded dividers which can be easily repositioned.
In normal usage, I carry my Nikon camera body with my Tamron 18–200 mm lens attached. My shoulder sling also remains attached to the camera. In addition to the top surface pocket flap which allows loading the area, the camera itself is readily accessible from a side pocket zippered flap. This is handy because you can configure the S17 to be carried as a sling bag as well as a backpack. It’s a bit heavy for the sling application when fully loaded but can be used that way.
In this main camera compartment, I also normally carry a speed light, two additional lenses, and my PlatyPod*. Additionally, the cover for this compartment contains several pockets with Velcro protective flaps for storing filters.
A top storage compartment contains plenty of room for additional accessories. There is a dedicated pocket for the fitted rain cover which goes over the entire backpack if needed. Additionally, there is a zippered pocket and an additional side pocket in the top area. The central area is great for storing miscellaneous items as you feel necessary. I use it to store a remote trigger, a leveling cube, the ball head for my PlatyPod, and a TetherTools® cable. That’s used for connecting my camera to my laptop for tethered shooting.
Also on the front surface of the bag is a small compartment with dedicated storage pockets for memory cards. It also has a small zippered pocket which I use for a spare camera battery. Another zippered pocket is on the side of the bag. It is handy for quick access to small items.
The S17 features a laptop storage area sufficiently large to carry a 15 inch laptop. This is handy for me because I like to be able to edit my photos when I’m traveling. In my case, it also keeps my laptop handy if I want it for tethered shooting.
Finally, there is a pocket and security strap on the side which can be used to carry a tripod or water bottle.
While the loaded S17 is a little large and heavy to use as an everyday walk-around camera bag, it certainly fits the bill as an overall storage and transportation bag. It is currently available from Amazon for $49.95.
Walk Around Storage
Most of the time when I am walking around taking street photos, I have my camera at my side with a cross body shoulder sling. However, in times when inclement weather may be threatening — not an unusual occurrence in Kentucky — I need something that provides ready access to my camera but also weather protection.
I’ve been happy with my Andoer Caden K1 DSLR Camera Shoulder Bag. The small —12.2″ x 9.45″ 4.72″ — triangular-shaped bag is ideal for this use.
You can access the main pocket from either side. You can also divide it with the included padded and Velcroed dividers. When I’m using this bag, I normally divide the main pocket with a vertical panel. I keep my camera and my Tamron 18–200 mm lens in one side pocket. While I have carried my camera in this bag with the shoulder strap attached, normally I replace the shoulder strap with a wrist strap when I use the K1. The flap for this compartment also has two storage pockets with Velcro safety covers for storing filters.
On the opposite side I keep either a speed light or an extra lens, depending on the situation. If you choose to carry a larger lens attached to your camera, you can eliminate the center divider so that the entire storage area is available.
A small front pocket provides storage for memory cards, additional batteries, and a few other accessories. It is large enough that I can use it for my PlatyPod Ultra.
Two adjustable straps on the bottom of the bag allow carrying a tripod. The K1’s custom fitted rain cover stores in a small pocket behind a padded panel which sits next to the body.
The choice for an ‘ideal’ camera bag is a continual search for the photographer. Through some trial and error, I have discovered two bags that work very well for me. I hope this article helps you in your choice.
*I will address the PlatyPod in a future post.