Compared to choosing a camera body brand, model, and lenses, a camera bag may seem like a simple decision. If you’re lucky it might be, but over the years I’ve bought, used, and sold various brands, models, types, and sizes of camera bags: CaseLogic, Crumpler, LowePro, Tamrac, Timbuk2, backpacks, fanny packs, shoulder bags, and sling bags until I found the bags that work for me. Adding to or changing your gear can also necessitate needing a new camera bag.
I’ve settled on four bags, all from LowePro. For a super light shoulder bag to just carry an M camera body with 1-2 lenses, then the Lowe Pro Adventura SH 110 II is a handy bag. It’s only $19 on Amazon so not a lot of money. I keep one of my extra bodies in this bag.
To carry more gear including a water bottle, I love the Lowe Pro Passport Sling. The Lowepro Passport Sling is now in its third iteration and retails for $65. I would recommend buying on eBay for $20-$50. The first version has a little pocket for your SD cards that version II and III don’t have. There are no notable differences between the versions other than color so get Version 1 if you can find it.
Two modifications to this bag are absolutely required.
- The supplied strap is absolutely terrible with no padding so I replaced it with this strap from Amazon. Once you find the right length, you never have to adjust the strap so why have an adjustable strap?
- The other required modification is to add handles. These are requisite changes if you plan to travel with it or take it on hikes several miles long. I had my local dry cleaner/alterations shop do it for $15.00
This bag is the best shoulder bag once you’ve made the required modifications to it. This assumes that you want to carry 3 EF-M lenses, maybe a flash, iPad mini, etc. It has an external water bottle pocket and two external side pockets for energy bars, and other stuff. I collapse my tripod and put it inside in the tall section of the bag. (insert pic) You can also carry a DSLR in this bag with an extra lens but it gets a bit heavy to carry on the shoulder. For a short hike it’s okay, but I’d recommend a back pack for DSLR or hiking with the M. Why? Large DSLRs, Canon 5D, 7D, Nikon D500, D800, D810, D850 with 2 or more lenses will overload this shoulder bag. The weight on one shoulder will be too much after even a short hike. If the hike is moderate to difficult, shoulder bags will shift back and forth when hiking so a backpack would be much more convenient.
For the backpack, I use a Flipside 300 AW II that sells for $90 on Amazon or lower on eBay. It fits my Canon 6D Mark II, 24-70 f/4, 17-40 f/4, 70-200 f/4 and other stuff. There is a water bottle side pocket and tripod holder that works well. The smaller Flipside 200 is too small for a full sized DSLR but for mirrorless it would be fine.
Fanny pack bags were popular in the 90’s not just for camera gear but just for general use. LowePro recently made two excellent “waist packs” as they call them. The Inverse 100 AW that is no longer on their website and the larger Inverse 200 AW for $104.95 that is listed as out of stock. I’m guessing they may no longer be in production. The 100 is an amazing bag. For an M system the Inverse 100 AW is a perfect fit and is my favorite pack right now. It has a handle, SD pockets inside, a zippered external pocket, a large unzipped pocket, a left side external water bottle pocket, a right side smaller external pocket, a well padded belt, compression straps, shoulder strap, and carabiner straps. An amazing deal for $40-$80 on eBay. Amazon is currently pricing it at $221 so buy it on eBay. Waist bags don’t shift around like shoulder bags, carry the weight low and close to the body. 1/7/2020 update: So if you load up this bag until it’s full of all your EF-M gear, it doesn’t sit right on the waist. It tips down so far it’s almost horizontal with the top of the bag pointing straight out. I’ll insert a pic soon, but I can’t recommend this bag anymore 😦
Question: “Instead of trying all these different bags, why not just go to the store and try them?” Answer: This is called “show rooming” and is difficult since there are not that many brick and mortar photography stores around anymore. Additionally, you need all your gear with you to load it up. You then need to go out on several shoots to see if it works. Buy it online from someone who has a good return policy like Amazon. Leave the tags on and keep all the packaging. Try out the bag and see if you like it. If you don’t, return it.