Beginners, do you really need a camera bag?

Dec 11, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

Beginners, do you really need a camera bag?

Dec 11, 2019

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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If you’re just starting out in photography, chances are you’ve bought a camera with a kit lens and added a memory card and a strap to it. And now you need a bag to carry your new gear around. Or do you? In this video, James Popsys discusses why you may not need a dedicated camera bag after all, and why it could be clever to skip buying it, at least in the beginning.

YouTube video

If you still have relatively little gear, James suggests you go for a regular backpack instead of buying a camera backpack. First of all, it will save you some money and you can invest it in a new lens or a trip. Another advantage is that a regular backpack won’t draw too much attention. You can turn any bag into a camera bag with a few accessories, and it could be a better solution for a start. Plus, you can also fit other items along with your camera.

Alternatively, you can go with a dedicated camera bag but choose a small shoulder bag. It will be enough for a camera and a lens, and you could add a few more personal items in it. There are some stylish models that don’t look like camera bags (such as this one), so they won’t draw much attention. On the downside, a bag like this won’t be of much use if your gear collection grows. In this case, you’ll need to get another, bigger camera bag with time. However, I think you can still use the smaller one when you want to pack light, or just take a casual walk with your camera and one lens.

Finally, there could be a need for you to buy a dedicated camera backpack. As I mentioned, your gear collection might grow, so you may need more space to carry it. But also, if you immediately buy lots of gear, this is where it also makes sense to immediately buy a large backpack to carry it. Now, it could be quite a challenge to pick the perfect one. But perhaps you can find some inspiration and help here and here.

Now, do you need that camera bag? You might, in some cases, but James’ general advice for beginners is – don’t get a dedicated camera bag. It won’t help your photography, and it’s an extra cost in the beginning when you already spend a lot of money on gear.

Personally, a camera bag was one of the first items I bought along with my first camera and a kit lens that came with it. It was around $30 if I remember well, and when it got all shabby, I bought another one exactly the same. It’s the one in the photo above. Yes, I still have it, and still use it, because it comes in handy when I travel with just one lens, or just take a casual walk with my camera. The downside is that I can’t fit anything else in it, but it’s so small that I can put it in the backpack with my other stuff. Sure, I also have two larger bags for when I carry more gear, but honestly, in my case, that happens once in a blue moon. So, for me, this small camera bag was a perfect choice. It still is.

Still, objectively speaking, I also think you might not actually need one if you’re just starting out. At least not a large one. You can easily go with a small camera bag like the one I have, or even just a divider or a pouch you’ll put in your regular bag. I recently got one, too, and I plan to use it.

So, what are your thoughts on the topic? Was a camera bag one of the first things you bought when you started doing photography? Or you bought it later? If you’re a newbie, what’s your plan when it comes to buying a bag? Let me know in the comments, I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

[Do you NEED a CAMERA BAG? via FStoppers]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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20 responses to “Beginners, do you really need a camera bag?”

  1. Franco Kailsan Avatar
    Franco Kailsan

    It came free with purchase. Then I bought a better one when it was on sale around Xmas.

  2. Steve Lafleur Avatar
    Steve Lafleur

    I bought a used one shortly after being given my first dslr. I’ve upgraded several times since, but that first bag was important.

  3. John Downes Avatar
    John Downes

    I never understand some of the thinking…buying an expensive piece of camera equipment and then not spending a bit of decent money for a good protective bag???

    1. Johnny Martyr Avatar
      Johnny Martyr

      For me, I use bags to organize gear on bigger shoots moreo than to project a single camera/lens during a daily carryaround. A bag just slows one down for some work and an expensive camera can handle a scratch or two!

  4. W Douglas LeBlanc Avatar
    W Douglas LeBlanc

    I’m a fan of Think Tank Digital Holsters, padded lens cases, stuff sacks for accessories, and some straps, and carabiners to attach the holster in various ways to my backpack, daypack or my person. I like the pragmatic lifestyle. ???

  5. Alexandre Ayoubi Avatar
    Alexandre Ayoubi

    Starterd with one with sidedoor but didn’t like the attention. I later found out that a small soulderbag would fit snuggly in the bottom of my eastpack.
    Later I bought what looks like the inside lining of a camera bag for 5$ on dealextrem and replaced it in my east pack. This combo been my camera bag for the past 7years.
    I go pretty much unnoticed and have space to put more crap on top.

  6. Huge Dom Avatar
    Huge Dom

    If you have just minimum gears when starting out, you may be able to get away by using inserts and put that into other bag.

  7. Michael Bray Avatar
    Michael Bray

    I own 3 camera bags but really only use one daily, but plan on eventually ordering the Peter McKinnon X Nomatic camera backpack

  8. Juan Martin Gerardi Avatar
    Juan Martin Gerardi

    Stupid arguments… My bags are older than my gear… I have different bags for different works and 1 of them is +20years old

    1. Johnny Martyr Avatar
      Johnny Martyr

      “Stupid” is sort of an ugly word for the person throwing it.

  9. Alasdair Leng Avatar
    Alasdair Leng

    Yes the Answer is Yes. This is just a stupid question it’s like saying does your car need a roof.

    1. Johnny Martyr Avatar
      Johnny Martyr

      What about convertibles? I very often carry my cameras sans bag, if you’re actively shooting, they can just get in the way. The article makes good points also. Maybe you should read it ;)

    2. Alasdair Leng Avatar
      Alasdair Leng

      Sticking with my response I’ve had SLRs since the late 70s early 80s and I always use a dedicated bag. That doesn’t mean the Camera stays in it all the time but while out in the mountains the camera stays in the bag until it’s needed. While at airshows it stays out but I have the spare lenses them. Sans Bag is fine is some situations but not in most.

  10. Richard Joseph Avatar
    Richard Joseph

    When I started, all (serious) cameras came with a case (what they call ‘ever ready’ case now). As I gathered more lenses, flash units, filters, etc, I had to buy a proper gadget bag, and it continues still, with various kinds of bags for different bodies/lenses, occasion, etc.

  11. Carter Tune Avatar
    Carter Tune

    Myself, I’m more a fan of neoprene lens/body bags that can be carried in any old backpack. Any one with a branded camera bag is in effect hauling around a “steal me” sign.

  12. Johnny Martyr Avatar
    Johnny Martyr

    I carry a 1930 Leica or similar camera with me daily. It’s got a neckstrap installed but I don’t carry it in a bag. I found that keeping a camera for daily use in a bag just slows me down when getting fast, unexpected shots. It adds to bulk and discourages me from taking the gear in the first place. Keeping a camera unbagged and ready to shoot is key to documentary type photography.

    Additionally, when you have a bag, you’re likely to put other things in it. A spare lens etc, instead of just using what you have, you complicate things.

    And yes, one outgrows bags. Though, to be fair, I have many size/type bags for different uses.

    I couldn’t go on a 10-12 hour wedding shoot without a bag of course, but yeah, I can see when I was starting out and even today how a bag can be useless and even counterproductive.

  13. david@smartsheep.co.uk Avatar
    david@smartsheep.co.uk

    I think after 40 years of photography I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as camera bag you like. They are like mistresses you think that this one will finally be the one only to be seduced into buying another

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Oh, I don’t know. I think there can be camera bags one likes. I think the problem is that there’s no perfect camera bag for every scenario. I’ve got one here that I love and use all the time now for general day-to-day stuff (Manfrotto’s new Advanced2 Hybrid Backpack). I’ve got another (Lowepro PhotoStream SP200) that I only use for train/flight travelling situations. I’ve got 2 more (Lowepro ProTactic BP450AWII and a 15-year-old Tamrac Cyberpack 6) that I switch between (still haven’t decided which I like more yet, heh) when I’m out in the wilderness with a little more gear.

      I have about another dozen that are basically just gear storage and only ever leave the house on a big shoot where I need the gear they contain.

      For me, bags are about being fit for purpose, and not every bag is fit for every purpose. :)

      1. david@smartsheep.co.uk Avatar
        david@smartsheep.co.uk

        For me, bags are about being fit for purpose, and not every bag is fit for every purpose. I feel the same way about my mistresses. ?

  14. Vittorio Ambrosetti Avatar
    Vittorio Ambrosetti

    I immediately purchased a bag just as I got my first reflex camera. I never thought of bringing my camera anywhere without a bag for storage and protection.
    After having used lots of models I have settled on just a few bags that I choose depending on where I am going to and how much gear I am bringing. The ones I like most make it quick to extract the camera and can fit also a few “non photographic” items (water bottle, book, hat…).
    My favourite ones are a Kata backpack (perfect for hikes) or a messenger-style Tamrac bag, which I use when I am walking around cities.
    As for branded bags, I am a Pentax shooter so the risk of theft is negligible. Me and my 2009 K-7 are probably not going to be parted anytime soon.