Style And Function: Fashionable Shoulder Camera Bags

There’s a new trend in camera carriers that appeals to photographers who want to look chic while still maintaining the core functionality of the bag. In terms of style they are at polar opposites to rugged backpacks or gear-laden roller bags, yet even the most stylish camera bag has to carry gear in a practical and organized fashion. That includes being built to withstand the rigors of being jostled or bumped in crowds, and being constructed to protect against spilled drinks, or rain at the very least. At the same time, the ideal bag should be built to carry everything we may need on a shoot, and then some.


In terms of functionality the bag should have a padded interior and, being a camera bag, should offer some sense of modular interior spacing, just so the camera and lens(es) don’t get jostled around. There should also be pockets for all the other assorted gear we carry along, and maybe even a sleeve for a laptop, though it’s not easy to look fashionable with a laptop dragging the bag down by its weight.

No one says that a backpack or roller bag can’t look trendy in appearance, but that’s not our focus here. Instead, we’re looking for bags that, while functional, are definitely about making a fashion statement, that could be said to be sleek, stylish, and sophisticated in appearance, although perhaps understated. This bag should be something you can wear unobtrusively and that isn’t so large you have to check it at the door. Admittedly, within our selections we will encounter some exceptions, notably in “working” bags designed for the photographer on the job, but our focus remains on stylish, soft-sided bags—excluding anything with the semblance of luggage.

The bags we chose include shoulder bags that provide a typical shoulder strap (and likely a hand strap as well); shoulder bags and handbags with straps typical of a lady’s handbag (either conventional or elongated hand straps); and messenger bags which may be worn sling-fashion around the neck and diagonally across the chest. Fashionable bags can also be as simple as zoom bags designed to hold a camera with lens attached for grab-on-the-go convenience, and even bags resembling a bowling bag. And keep in mind that while style is great, functionality should always play a key part in your camera bag selection. With that in mind, here are some stylin’ bags that caught our eye.

(Please note: the bags shown represent one product line/style and one size. Other styles/sizes may be available, so please contact the respective manufacturer for more information. Materials listed apply to the outer shell of the bag; all bags are padded and weatherproofed to some degree. These bags are largely designed to hold a D-SLR with zoom, plus an additional lens and flash or a compact or subcompact interchangeable lens camera with extra lens/flash. Even a bag for a Micro Four Thirds mini-system can hold a D-SLR with zoom, if not much else. Only the larger bags may be suitable for pro-size cameras. Handbag-style carriers may qualify as a “personal item” on domestic and international flights, but verify before boarding.)

*Emera Circle Print Messenger
( Choice of circle print or green canvas; modular interior, numerous pockets, notebook/iPad sleeve, padded shoulder strap; 10.5x9x4.5”, 1.75 lbs; $129.

Acme Made Union Photo Messenger
( Black Bombshell technical fabric; modular interior, numerous pockets, shoulder strap; 8.75x13x6.25”, 1.4 lbs; $59.

Billingham Hadley Pro
( Choice of black, black/tan, khaki/tan, or sage/tan canvas-like nylon/leather; modular interior, outer pockets, shoulder strap + handle; 135⁄8x45⁄8x95⁄8”, 2.4 lbs; $248.

Clik Elite Magnesian 20
( Choice of black diamond, blue sapphire, serpentine, titanium, trillium, or ruby nylon; modular interior, numerous pockets, notebook/iPad sleeve, padded shoulder strap; 9.3x13x7.5”, 1.5 lbs; $140.

Domke F-831 Photo Courier RuggedWear
( Choice of black canvas or brown waxed canvas; modular interior, outer pocket, shoulder strap; 13x5x12”; $145.

Epiphanie Clover
( Choice of black, camel, gray, pink, or red synthetic leather; modular interior, several pockets, notebook sleeve, padded shoulder strap + handles; 18x6.25x13”; $185.

Giottos Lefoto (large)
( Choice of black, green, or khaki canvas/leather; modular interior, outer pockets, shoulder strap + handles; 15x8x10”, 2.8 lbs; $105.

Jill-e Designs Everywear Gadget Bag
( Nylon/leather (various color schemes to be announced); modular interior, multiple pockets, iPad sleeve, dual carrying handles; 11.8x6.5x10”, 1.5 lbs; $99.

Jo Totes Rose
( Choice of black, bronze, marigold, moonbeam, moss, pewter, raspberry, sugarplum, or teal faux leather; modular interior, multiple pockets, sling strap + dual-purpose hand/shoulder straps; 163⁄4x11x6”; $89.

Kelly Moore Mimi Bag
( Choice of black, gray, or lavender faux leather; modular interior, multiple pockets, iPad sleeve, padded shoulder + hand straps; 13.5x7.5x9”, 4.2 lbs; $199.

Manfrotto Stile Unica V Messenger Bag
( Choice of black, brown, or white; numerous pockets, laptop sleeve, padded shoulder strap; 7.5x12.2x16.5”, 2.2 lbs; $89.

National Geographic Africa NG A8240 Large Tote Bag
( Brown canvas with leather accents; partly modular interior, laptop sleeve, several pockets, shoulder + hand straps; 17.5x7.6x13”, 2.5 lbs; $99.

Photojojo Classic Leather Satchel
( Two-tone brown leather/nylon; outer pockets, laptop sleeve, padded shoulder strap; 14x5x10”, 2 lbs; $190.

PorteenGear Old World Brocade and Leather DSLR Camera Bag
( Warm-tone waxed canvas/leather; modular interior, outer pockets, padded shoulder strap; 12x6x8.5”; $125.

Tamrac Rally 5 Camera/Netbook/iPad Bag, Model 3445
( Choice of black or brown/tan Polytek; modular interior, outer pockets, laptop sleeve, padded shoulder strap; 133⁄4x71⁄4x101⁄4”, 1 lb, 10 oz; $69.

Tenba Vector: 2 Shoulder Bag
( Choice of black, blue, green, or red nylon; modular interior, numerous pockets, padded shoulder strap + hand strap; 9x7.5x7”, less than 1 lb; $59.

The Joy Bag Glee
( Nylon in numerous colorful print patterns; essentially a zoom bag; shoulder strap + handle; downward tapered 9x8x5”; $64.

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5
( Choice of Pinestone distressed canvas or black nylon/polyester weave; modular interior, numerous pockets, padded shoulder strap + hand strap; 10x8.5x6”, 2.3 lbs; $137.

Vanguard Nivelo 18
( Choice of red or black jersey/polyester; modular interior, outer pocket, shoulder strap; 85⁄8x53⁄8x71⁄8”, 0.64 lbs; $49.

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