Best Camera Messenger Bag
The first camera bag I ever bought to carry all my photography gear was a camera messenger bag from Think Tank.
Over the years, I’ve owned many other brands. Some have been better than others, but one thing I can say for sure is that I love the messenger style.
Carrying cameras in a shoulder bag offers quicker access than a backpack, while still allowing you to keep both your hands free.
You can choose to wear your camera messenger bag with the strap across your body, or with the bag hanging by your side off one shoulder: either way, it’s a convenient and practical way to carry your gear.
Whether you like the look and feel of leather or the durability and light weight of nylon, there’s a great bag here for you.
So let’s have a closer look at the seven best camera messenger bags of the year so far.
Table of Contents
Best Camera Messenger Bag in 2021
|Peak Design Everyday Messenger||View Price →|
|Tenba Messenger DNA||View Price →|
|Domke F-2||View Price →|
|ThinkTank Photo Retrospective||View Price →|
|Billingham Hadley Pro||View Price →|
|Peacechaos DSLR Messenger||View Price →|
|Wotancraft Trooper||View Price →|
1. Peak Design Everyday Messenger (15″)
Dimensions: 40 x 13 x 5 cm (15.7 x 5 x 2 in.)
Weight: 1.3kg (2.9 lbs)
- Attractive minimalist design
- Durable and weatherproof
- Comfortable to carry
- Highly customisable thanks to the flexi-fold dividers
- Priced on the higher side
If you’re in the market for a camera bag that’s both highly functional and aesthetically pleasing, then Peak Design’s 15″ Everyday Messenger bag is definitely worth a closer look.
This bag has two versions, the second of which mostly updates the first with features such as a luggage loop, upgraded flexi-fold dividers, more durable linings for the internal pockets and improved weatherproofing.
The Everyday Messenger is quite large as far as camera bags go, so you can expect to fit a good amount of gear into it. Officially, the Peak Design website claims that the bag can take a DSLR and three lenses but, with careful positioning, it certainly can take more than that.
Aside from the generous amount of space available for your photography equipment, the designers of this bag have also made provisions for just about everything else. Storage spaces for small essentials like batteries, SD cards and chargers are built in, along with compartments specifically meant for laptops and tablets.
There’s even space for a tripod, believe it or not (check out the full Peak Design Everyday Messenger Review).
The bag’s padded main compartment comes with a couple of origami-inspired flexi-fold dividers that you can manipulate in order to get the best fit. This arrangement gives the bag a lot of flexibility as it can be configured to accommodate the gear that you need to bring with you.
A laptop is just as important as your photo gear, so you’re going to want to have it with you when you go out on a shoot. With the Peak Design Everyday Messenger, this is easily done as the bag has a dedicated compartment that will safely fit laptops that measure up to 15″.
As mentioned earlier, this camera bag is designed to fit a tripod. This is done by slipping one leg of the support in a sheath just under the main flap. A thick elastic band that comes with the bag will then be wrapped around all three legs to ensure that the tripod stays in place.
As far as portability goes, the bag can be conveniently carried thanks to the wide, comfortable quick-adjust strap that allows you to use the bag in a couple of ways. Depending on your preferences, you can wear it either as a sling bag or as a shoulder bag.
If you’re carrying a lot of gear, the bag works best when arranged as a sling because it spreads the load better. If you’d prefer a looser fit however, you can just extend the strap and use the Everyday Messenger like you would a normal messenger bag.
One notable component of this camera bag is its easy-to-use strap that can be cinched tight or loosened with just a pull. This allows you to dial in the comfiest fit as you snug it across your torso but also allows you to remove it just as quickly.
If you’re travelling and have rolling luggage with you, you can easily secure the Messenger V2 to it using a loop at the back of the bag. This saves you the trouble of carrying something on your shoulders and therefore allows you to save your strength.
Practicality and usability aside, the Everyday Messenger also happens to be a looker and will complement your aesthetic very well. Colors available are tan for version 1 (which is still available at a discount) and charcoal and ash for the improved version.
With so many features built in, don’t expect this camera bag to be cheap. At around $250, this isn’t exactly the most affordable option; but, if you can stretch that far, you can rest assured that you’re getting something of superb quality that will last you for many, many years.
2. Tenba Messenger DNA (15″)
Dimensions: 38.1 x 26.7 x 17.8 cm (15 x 10.5 x 7 in.)
Weight: 1.3 kg (2.9 lbs)
- Super tough
- Easy-access patented magnetic clips
- Plenty of pockets
- Comfortable padding
- No tripod strap
If you’re in the market for a quality camera bag that provides ample strength and storage, then the Tenba Messenger DNA 15 is what you want. Constructed with 600 denier Helix fabric and ripstop nylon, and fitted with YKK zippers, this bag is tough enough to use all year round in just about any kind of weather.
It features heavy duty stitching to ensure that it won’t come apart no matter what you put it through, and the materials used to create it provide a high level of water resistance that will keep your gear safe in wet conditions.
It even comes with reversible weather wrap to provide extra shielding should you find yourself caught in a downpour.
Aside from increasing the usability of the bag during wet days, this reversible weather wrap also features a highly reflective side which is very useful for maintaining visibility if you’re on, say, a bicycle or motorcycle, and a dark non-reflective side for times when you’d rather not call attention to what you’re carrying.
As far as capacity goes, you’ll find that the DNA 15 has quite a bit to offer. In fact, it has enough well-padded space to fit a full-frame DSLR, three lenses and a flash, as well as a 15″ laptop and a tablet. And, if you happen to be using a smaller mirrorless system, you’ll find that you can fit even more equipment into the bag without any problems.
If you’re carrying other things or need to maximize space, you can rearrange the layout of the DNA 15 thanks to its removable dividers. These come in very handy if you need to bring clothes or other items or if you simply want to fit in as many pieces of equipment as you can.
The bag also has more than enough pockets to store accessories like straps, remotes and transmitters as well as sundries like batteries, storage media and lens caps. You can even place a water bottle or two in the mesh pouches on either side.
Keeping you gear covered is a flap that’s secured with the Whisper Hook closure system. This allows you to open the DNA 15 very silently and not draw any attention to yourself as you access its contents.
The flap is further protected by patented Fidlock magnetic clips that make it possible for you to open and close the bag with just one hand. These clips let you secure the flap blindly and can be removed just as easily because they’re designed to simply slide on and off their mounts.
If you’d rather not open the flap of the bag, or if you need to grab your camera in a hurry, you can simply undo the zipper on top. This feature lets you reach your gear much faster so you can be up and ready to shoot before the moment passes.
To keep the bag securely on your shoulder or around your torso, Tenba equipped the DNA 15 with a heavy duty, adjustable shoulder strap that’s fitted with a shoulder pad. This comfortable strap clips onto sturdy steel D-rings thus assuring that the bag will stay in place no matter the situation.
If you’re travelling and have rolling luggage, you can save yourself the trouble of lifting the DNA 15 by making use of the pass-through loops at its back. These loops fit nicely over the handle of the luggage, thus allowing you to pull it along with the rest of your stuff.
Despite being able to store a lot of gear, this bag manages to maintain a slim profile that lets it stay relatively tucked in. As such, you can expect to have good mobility and not look overloaded whenever you’re on the go.
As far as aesthetics go, the Tenba Messenger DNA 15 happens to be quite a looker and should enhance the visual appeal of any well-dressed photographer. It isn’t garish or loud but is instead elegantly subdued while exuding sophistication. It comes in cobalt, graphite, dark copper and olive.
While there really aren’t any cons as far as the functionality of the Tenba Messenger DNA 15 is concerned, some may balk at its retail cost of around $175. Then again, for what it is, you aren’t exactly getting a bad deal.
Plus, if you’ve already invested a substantial amount to acquire your gear, it only makes sense to get a bag that’s worth putting it in.
3. Domke F-2
Dimensions: 45.7 x 25.4 x 30.5 cm (18 x 10 x 12 in.)
Weight: 1.36 kg (3 lbs)
- Distressed look cotton canvas
- Weatherproof and rugged
- 12 compartments and pockets
- Removable padded inserts
- A little snug for DSLR systems
- Chunky shape
If you don’t usually take all of your gear with you when out on a shoot, and are looking for a bag with a bit of character, take a minute to check out the Domke F2.
This rugged bag makes use of cotton canvas fabric that is specially treated with non-solvent waxes to give it excellent resistance to adverse weather. The waxes used also give the bag a distressed, weathered look and a timeless appeal.
To keep the bag looking great, the Domke F2 package includes a tin of refinishing wax that can be used to restore the bag’s original look every now and then.
The F2 comes with a removable four-compartment padded insert and is supposed to be able to fit a couple of DSLRs and three or so lenses. However, the fit can be a little snug, so you may want to pick and choose instead of trying to cram everything in.
Then again, if you’re working with a smaller mirrorless or film system then this is all the bag you need, as it will readily take in a couple of bodies and lenses along with a flash and your other gear.
For storing small items, the Domke F2 does a great job. With its 12 compartments and pockets, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding space for things like batteries, storage media, chargers and lens caps as well as for other items like paperwork and even a tablet.
If you’d prefer to keep the Domke F2‘s layout open, you can opt to remove the padded compartments and padded bottom stiffener in order to transform the bag into a free-form carryall. Of course, if you choose to do this, you have to be aware that your equipment will shift quite a bit as you move around and things may rub against each other.
Like many other messenger-style camera bags, the F2 has a flap to cover things up. For this bag, however, the flap doesn’t extend all the way down, so it’s easier to open, thus giving you faster access to your gear.
The cover flap is held in place by a Velcro pad and a couple of adjustable straps fitted with metal swivel hooks. These clip onto metal D-rings incorporated into the bottom of the bag, making for a secure fit that will not come off accidentally.
The bag is kept securely on your shoulder with a non-slip Gripper strap so you don’t have to worry about it sliding out of place while you’re on the move.
Also, because the strap is adjustable, you can tailor the fit to your preference thus ensuring comfort and balance even when carrying the bag for longer periods.
For times when you just want to pick up the F2, you can simply grab it by a shorter grab strap that’s built into the top of the bag. This makes it more convenient for you to carry it around if you can’t or don’t want to sling it over your shoulder.
Priced at around $125, there certainly are cheaper bags out there. But, if you want something that’s as useful as it is tough, then the Domke F2 is a good choice. Given its usefulness and the quality of construction, the bag is definitely built to last – so it isn’t something you need to think long and hard about.
4. ThinkTank Photo Retrospective
- Large storage capacity
- Sound silencer tabs
- Durable and ages well
- Low profile design
- Side pockets a little cramped
- Seperate waterproof cover needed in tough conditions
Dimensions: 40.6 x 26.7 x 17.8 cm (16 x 10.5 x 7 in.)
Weight: 1.5 kg (3.2 lbs)
If you’re looking for a camera bag that can fit an enormous amount of gear without looking too conspicuous, then the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30 is the one to get.
Constructed out of tough canvas, the Retrospective 30 is a durable camera bag that can be expected to last you for quite some time. Because it is soft and flexible, it will not deform in any way from normal use, and given a reasonable amount of care, will look just as good several years down the line.
Depending on how you configure the removable dividers, the bag’s main compartment is capable of taking in a couple of gripped pro DSLRs with lenses attached along with up to three or four other lenses. Two large pockets in the front can also fit DSLR bodies, pro flashes and smaller lenses as well as other gear.
The bag features a zippered pocket inside the main compartment that will fit most tablets (or possibly a smaller laptop) as well as a zippered outer pocket that can hold your documents as well as other small items.
On the sides of the Retrospective 30 are deep pouches that can store even more gear. However, these compartments are a bit cramped so you’d be limited to smaller items like batteries, chargers, remotes and the like.
Like any other messenger bag, the Retrospective 30 has a wide flap that serves as the cover for the main compartment. Being made from the same canvas material as the rest of the bag, this Velcro-secured cover is easy to move out of the way if you need to grab your gear.
If you need to keep the noise down or be inconspicuous while shooting, the bag comes with sound silencer tabs on the flap. What these do is cover the Velcro patches so that they won’t stick to the ones sewn into the body of the bag.
The Retrospective 30 is kept securely on your shoulder by a very heavy-duty adjustable strap made with densely woven cotton cord. To increase comfort and security even further, this strap is fitted with a long shoulder pad with rubber grippers to keep the bag from shifting and sliding as you move.
There is also a shorter strap running across the top of the bag that can be used to lift it or set it down. This feature gives you more control and lessens the chances of a mishap occurring due to handling.
Additionally, there are loops sewn into the sides of the bag that will let you mount supplementary pouches. Made from the same material as the main strap, these loops will be able to take the weight of extra gear or a water bottle quite easily and you won’t have to worry about anything falling off.
If rain is expected and you’re shooting outdoors, you can protect the gear in the bag with the included waterproof cover. While the bag itself will offer some protection, extra shielding will be needed should things get really wet.
The Retrospective 30 isn’t the smallest bag around but, for what you can fit inside it, it isn’t all that big either. It also doesn’t look like a camera bag which is ideal because you can keep a low profile and not draw too much attention to it.
Another thing going for the bag is that it looks good. It comes in black and pinestone and is sophisticated enough that it won’t seem out of place in formal shoots such as weddings.
It also does a great job of disguising the enormous amount of expensive equipment you’re carrying around.
Retailing for around the $150 mark for the pinestone version and a little more for black, the Retrospective 30 will definitely not break the bank. The fact is, for something coming from a well-known brand that can take in so much gear, it’s very affordable – so there shouldn’t be a need to agonize too long about whether or not to get it.
5. Billingham Hadley Pro
Dimensions: 35 x 28 x 12.1 cm (13.8 x 11 x 4.8 in.)
Weight: 1 kg (2.2 lbs)
- Classic, sophisticated design
- Versatile – great for events & daily carry
- Premium, hand-built product
- Easily removable inserts
- No feet to protect bottom of bag
If you’re looking for a gorgeous, good-sized camera bag that can pull double duty as a carry-all messenger bag, then the Billingham Hadley Pro is just the thing.
The Hadley Pro offers quite a bit of space and features a removable padded liner that you can customize to suit what you’re bringing along. It will easily take in a full-frame DSLR with a lens attached along with two or three other lenses, depending on how you arrange your gear.
For added protection, this removable liner has a padded flap that folds over the compartment. This feature not only helps cushion your tools, but also shields them from unwanted attention.
There are two large covered pockets on the front of the bag that provide space for other essentials like flashguns, batteries, memory cards, remotes and even a smaller mirrorless camera. There’s also a zippered compartment at the back of the bag where you can store your paperwork.
You can even easily fit in a 13-inch laptop between the bag’s outer shell and the removable liner, though this feature seems to be incidental rather than deliberate.
If you want to use the bag for other things or even as a travel bag, all you have to do is pull out the removable insert. Doing so leaves you with a lot of space for clothes, books or just about any travel essential you want to take with you.
As far as aesthetics go, the Hadley Pro is definitely a looker. Available in several colors and accented with genuine leather trim, you can pick one (or more) to match your style. It also helps that it doesn’t really look like a camera bag so you can remain discreet and not look like you’re carrying expensive photography equipment.
It comes with an adjustable shoulder strap that’s fixed to the bag and a fiberglass-reinforced carrying handle. These features allow you to comfortably transport your gear without worrying about dropping and damaging it.
The bag’s leather-trimmed cover flap closes completely over the compartment and is held in place with leather straps that attach to brass fittings. This arrangement eliminates the need for noisy Velcro fasteners and is therefore appropriate for wedding shoots and other events that require a photographer to work silently.
Despite not having side pockets, capacity can be expanded with the use of separately available AVEA pouches. These mount onto the sturdy leather panels that are stitched onto either side of the Hadley Pro.
One thing to take note of though: the bottom of the bag doesn’t come with feet – so the canvas material will come in contact with the ground if you put it down. As such, you’re going to want to be careful where you place the bag to keep it from getting dirty or damaged.
These bags are hand-built using either three layers of waterproof canvas or three layers of FiberNyte material as well as full-grain leather and brass fittings. This means that you’re getting a posh, extremely premium product should you decide to pull the trigger.
Of course, for such quality, you can expect to pay more for the Billingham Hadley Pro. With prices that start at over $200, this camera bag certainly isn’t cheap; but it is exceedingly well made, so this more than makes up for its hefty price tag.
6. Peacechaos DSLR Messenger
Dimensions: 38 x 30.5 x 13.2 cm (14.9 x 12 x 5.2 in.)
Weight: 1.2 kg (2.7 lbs)
- Very affordable
- Removable, padded interior pouch
- Elegant design
- Extremely durable given the low price
- Simple functionality compared to other options
- Waterproofing is questionable
If you need a reliable bag to carry a good amount of camera gear, but are unwilling to splash out for something that’s uber-expensive, then the Peacechaos DSLR Messenger bag should do the trick.
With prices that start at around $27 and max out at just over 40 bucks, you’d be forgiven for thinking that these bags are substandard and aren’t worth your time.
Despite the very low price, these bags are surprisingly well made and have the sort of high-end feel to them that you’d expect to find on a much more expensive bag.
Made with high-density cotton canvas and real leather, the Peacechaos DSLR Messenger bags are as sturdy as they look and will perform very well when used as intended.
This DSLR messenger bag has a removable, padded pouch that serves as storage for your gear. It also comes with adjustable dividers so you can customize the fit and a cover that folds over the top of the equipment space. This cover provides a measure of weather resistance while also serving as additional protection against unwanted attention.
The pouch is also supposed to be waterproof, though this isn’t something you should intentionally test.
The removable compartment can accommodate a gripped full-frame DSLR with a lens attached along with another lens or two. There’s also a lot of space for other equipment such as flashguns, remotes, batteries, chargers and storage cards in the bag’s two large front pockets, two side pockets and the zippered pocket in the camera pouch.
Another reason to go for the Peacechaos DSLR Messenger is that it isn’t limited to carrying camera gear. If you need to use it as an everyday carry-all, all you need to do is to pull out the camera pouch and you end up with a deep and spacious bag that will hold all the stuff you usually bring on your daily commute.
Keeping the bag on your shoulder is a sturdy, adjustable canvas strap that’s attached permanently to metal rings on the side of the bag. The strap also comes with a fixed shoulder pad which will help keep it from sliding out of place.
The canvas flap that closes the bag has genuine leather straps sewn onto it but, these are more for show than security. These straps connect to buckles with metal fittings, which in turn snap on to magnetic clasps incorporated on the front pockets. The side pockets have the same arrangement as well.
Additionally, the bag has a zipper on top, but it’s designed to close only when the padded compartment isn’t in the bag. For times when you are using the bag for your photo gear, this zipper can be easily tucked out of the way.
Aesthetics wise, the Peacechaos DSLR Messenger incorporates vintage styling that exudes subdued sophistication. As such, it helps enhance your look especially for shoots where you have to be dressed up.
It’s also very quiet to use thanks to its magnetic clasps, so you won’t be calling attention to yourself every time you open the flap to access your gear.
Overall, the bag isn’t as refined as those offered by well-known brands but then again, for what it will cost you, the Peacechaos DSLR Messenger bag is a very good deal.
In fact, it does what it’s supposed to do quite well and makes you look good without having to burn a hole in your pocket.
7. Wotancraft Trooper
Dimensions: 42 x 27.5 x 16 cm (14.9 x 12 x 5.2 in.)
Weight: 1.4 kg (2.7 lbs)
- Very stylish design
- High-quality materials
- Hidden side pockets
- Modular organisation system
If you’re looking for a bag that’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is versatile, then the Wotancraft Trooper series is something you’d want to check out.
Coming from Taiwanese company Wotancraft, the Trooper is placed squarely in the premium segment and is priced accordingly. Of course, for the amount you have to shell out, you’re going to be getting a great bag that will last a very long time.
The bag is constructed with water-repellent canvas and genuine leather. This means that it can take a bit of weather without you having to worry about getting your things soaked. However, don’t take this to mean that the bag is waterproof because it certainly isn’t.
Looks wise, the Trooper is deliberately distressed and subdued and is reminiscent of military satchels from the first half of the 20th century. In fact, this is why it’s called the Trooper as it wouldn’t look out of place on a WWII soldier’s loadout.
While many messenger-style camera bags are built for one purpose, the Trooper is designed with flexibility in mind. This means that aside from being able to safely carry your photo gear, you can also remove its internal dividers to end up with a decent-sized bag that can hold all your stuff.
The main compartment of the bag is lined with a microfiber-like material that the different dividers attach to with Velcro. These include a laptop divider, dividers for lenses and camera bodies and even a variety of separately available modular Velcro pouches.
Depending on which size Trooper you choose and how you arrange things, you’ll find that there’s room for a decent amount of gear. This is especially true for the M and the L sizes of the bag, so you can easily bring a DSLR as well as a few lenses with you – check out the full Wotancraft Trooper review for more info on this.
Adding to the main storage space are pleated side pockets that expand as they’re filled up, a zippered document compartment at the back, and a couple of generous pockets up front. Together, these spaces can fit things like flashguns, batteries, chargers, remotes and any other gear you need to bring on your shoots.
Keeping things covered is a lip and flap arrangement that protects your equipment against prying eyes and weather, as well as keeping it safe.
The lip on the top edge of the bag folds partially over the main compartment, thus preventing your camera and lenses from spilling out and getting damaged. The flap, on the other hand, has built-in magnets that clasp onto the lip of the bag for easy, silent opening.
It’s also built longer on the sides to keep rain from seeping into the bag and potentially ruining your equipment.
The Trooper makes use of genuine leather straps that are as functional as they are attractive. The ones running in front of the bag, for instance, not only accentuate the distressed canvas very well, they also keep the flap of the bag closed by hooking onto fittings attached to the front pockets.
There are even adjustable leather overlays on these straps that will let you fit a tripod, a jacket or any other thing that can be cinched down.
Despite their gorgeous appearance, these bags do not call attention to themselves. Form wise, they look just like normal messenger bags and won’t let on that they’re carrying thousands of dollars worth of gear. Even the zippers on the side pockets are inconspicuous, making them harder for potential thieves to target.
If you’re traveling and are using a rolling bag, you don’t have to carry the Trooper on your shoulder as it has a pass-through loop at the back that will let you slide the bag over the handle of your wheeled luggage.
When you do wear it, a sturdy, removable canvas strap fitted with swivel hooks keeps the bag perched on your shoulder and your comfort is further enhanced with a long, removable shoulder pad that prevents the bag from sliding out of place.
Priced around the $300 mark, the Wotancraft Trooper is by no means a budget bag. However, for that price you’re getting something that’s worth the investment. So if you value quality over price, then you won’t have to think too long about getting one of these for yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a messenger bag better than a backpack?
While both messenger bags and backpacks can get the job done, there are a few things to consider before you pick a bag for your equipment.
Backpacks, for instance, are very good at carrying a lot of gear because they spread weight over a larger area. However, they are harder to access so they may prove unwieldy – especially if you have to access your gear in a hurry. They’re also more informal so they may not go well with your outfit if you’re smartly dressed.
Messenger bags, on the other hand, generally have a smaller capacity and may be harder to carry over long periods. That said, they’re also easier to access and allow you to get to your camera with a minimum of fuss. Also, they’re more aesthetically pleasing so they will complement a well-dressed user.
What are messenger bags good for?
Aside from carrying camera gear, messenger bags are also great for everyday use. When not being used on a shoot, these bags can usually be converted to carryalls by simply removing their dividers and inserts. These bags are also usually very stylish so they should enhance the look of any user who makes it a point to dress well.
Do messenger bags look good on guys?
In a word, yes. While shoulder bags have typically been associated with women, messenger bags are something else. These bags are designed to be stylishly gender neutral so they should look very much at home on a guy’s shoulder or across his torso.
How do you carry a messenger bag?
A messenger bag can be slung over the shoulder, but its strap should be adjusted to allow it to be comfortably close to the torso. This lessens motion and makes it easier for the user to access his or her things. Alternatively, messenger bags can also be draped around the torso and pulled over to the user’s back for more security and better weight distribution.
Camera Messenger Bags | Final Words
So there we have it – everything from stylish leather camera messenger bags to high-tech nylon numbers and plenty of other options in between.
While your style and personal taste will be the initial guiding factor when choosing a new shoulder bag for your camera gear, have a good think about how you intend to use it, as well as what exactly you plan to pack into it.
Personally, I prefer to a smaller sized messenger bag such as the Hadley Pro over the larger 15″ options, since this encourages me to pack light with only one camera and one lens.
What’s your favourite bag? Leave us a comment below.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.
Don Machuca is a writer and professional photographer/videographer from Manila, Philippines who specializes in landscapes, events and product photography.