The Best Sling Camera Bag of 2020
With over 40-years of making camera bags, Tenba is a brand known for quality. The Tenba Messenger DNA 15 lives up to that reputation. This bag is built well and features good weather resistance. We didn't find any moisture in the main compartment of the bag after a heavy 5-minute shower, and that's without using the included rain fly. This bag is cavernous, with a capacity that rivals a lot of backpacks we've tested — it can fit two cameras with lenses attached plus two or three spare lenses. Its depth is enough for a 70-200 with a DSLR attached. While carrying all your camera gear, there's still room for your 15" laptop, tablet, and everything else you need for your mobile office. There are also pockets everywhere on this bag; we counted 22 in total, including two water bottle pockets. This gives every user options to organize their bag how it makes sense to them. This bag gives you two ways to access your camera, first is by lifting the flap that is held by velcro. Normally, velcro is quite loud to open, but Tenba brings a technology they call Whisper hook. This allows quiet opening by pulling down on the hood then opening it; we love this detail. If opening the hood is too slow, they offer a zipper at the top that lets you bypass it. A nice final touch is that the camera organization is removable, giving you the option just to have a big messenger bag.
While this was the most comfortable shoulder bag we tested at this capacity, when fully loaded we found this bag strenuous to wear on long days. We found the number of pockets could be overwhelming at times, making it easy to forget exactly where we stowed that lens cap. We couldn't find a convenient way to carry a tripod with this bag. We could store it under the main flap of the bag but then it was clumsy and time-consuming to get into the bag.
We found the Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L to be the goldilocks of sling camera bags; it's not too big, nor too small but just right. Being big enough to shoot out of all day, while not being so big that we wanted to bring everything we own and be weighed down all day. The Everyday Sling carries tight to your back but with a quick-release strap adjust. It's easy to loosen and pull around to the front of your body. This bag has minimalistic stylings, with only two external zipped pockets and clean lines. The first of those pockets takes you to the main camera compartment, which comfortably carries a medium-sized lens with a camera attached, a 70-200, and another medium lens. This bag only comes with two internal dividers. That being said, they are the most clever dividers we've seen. Offering origami-like folding capabilities gives you many options for storage. Inside the top flap of this pocket is an organization pocket that is perfect for storing your batteries. Also in the main compartment is a tablet sleeve. The second external zipper leads to an expanding organization pocket. When we say expanding, it goes from lying flat to being able to hold a 1-liter Nalgene bottle. That pocket includes soft-lined organization pockets that are great for sunglasses or a phone. Do you find yourself stuck in the rain more than you would like? This bag is a top performer in our rain stress test.
It's important to stress that this bag is on the smaller side — you cannot carry everything in this bag. We found the biggest drawback of this bag is that it's a little too small to fit a 13" MacBook pro comfortably. Sure, you can just squeeze it in, but we don't recommend it. Instead, we opted for carrying a tablet. Some of our testers found the strap a little too thin and underpadded to be comfortable with heavier loads while other testers found it just fine.
The AmazonBasics Large Camera Bag is a great bag for those just getting into photography or those who don't plan on taking this bag long distances on their shoulder. Featuring classic top-loading access to your camera, which is quick and simple to use while simultaneously allowing you extra protection by zipping the compartment closed. With the price tag of this bag, we didn't have high hopes for it being weather resistant. Those doubts weren't founded; this bag did well in our 5-minute shower stress test, where we found no water in the camera compartment. This bag has a bright orange internal liner, which makes it easy to see all your dark camera gear. Four bright orange dividers batch the lining and make it easy to organize your gear how you need too. This bag offers basic organization pockets and a tablet sleeve that we found to be big enough for small tablets
Unfortunately, this bag isn't tall enough to hold a standard sized 70-200. While it'll keep a 70-200 lens attached to a mirrorless body lengthwise, with that setup, there is no additional room in the bag for other lenses. We found the most significant drawback to this bag is its lack of comfort. We walked over a mile with this bag fully loaded and slung over our shoulders, and our bodies weren't happy about it. This bag's construction gives us some pause. Using flimsy plastic buckles and single stitching keeps the cost down, but also makes us think it won't last as long as other bags we tested. This bag has minimal space for accessories outside of the photography compartment. While this bag does feature straps for a tripod, we found the extra weight made this bag even more unwieldy and preferred to use those straps for something like a jacket instead.
The Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15" has the simple, sleek look that Peak Design is known for. They have thought through the details of this bag, and that's one of the biggest reasons that we find it so easy to live out of. From the magnetic closure of the main compartment to the quick-adjust buckle on the strap, these details make everything easier. The main compartment of the bag can carry a DSLR with a medium lens attached, another medium, and a large lens with room to spare. That main compartment comes with three origami folding dividers to keep your equipment protected and organized. A zipper on top of the flap allows you access to your camera without opening the flap. Inside the main compartment, there's another drop-in pocket perfect for a memory card wallet or sunglasses. The front organization pocket features eight stretch mesh pockets that promote "a place for everything and everything in its place" thinking. This bag features the most comprehensive load stabilizing straps of the bags we tested. It can be worn as a waist belt or worn from a corner of the bag to the shoulder strap to suit your style. Either way, we found that these helped tremendously to stabilize the bag while riding a bike. Peak Design has an ecosystem of products that can all be used independently but are all designed to work together seamlessly.
The strap is 2" wide and has integrated padding, and while we like the look and idea of this pad, we found it a little bit flimsy for just how much weight you can put in the bag. This bag features a tripod carry under the main opening flap of the pack. While we appreciate the option to carry a tripod, when you do, you significantly interfere with how easy the bag is to access. For that reason, we found ourselves leaving the tripod home when using this bag. While 15" laptops fit fine, our 16" Macbook Pro is a tight fit, and it is harder to get out of this bag then we would have liked.
As a longtime workhorse brand for photojournalists, Domke has been making durable, trustworthy bags for decades. The Domke F-5XB gets its durability from its thick, waxed canvas and is well-built while maintaining its simple, understated design. Domke believes, as do we, that if you care for this bag correctly it will be with you for years. To set you off on the right foot for caring for this bag, they send you a container of wax. This bag gives you two choices in how to wear it, either over the shoulder with a strap or, you can ditch the shoulder strap and wear it on your belt. We found that we used this bag when we were out with just one camera and needed to carry a couple of extra lenses and some accessories.
This bag is simple to the point of having almost no organizational pockets. There are two drop-in pockets that run the full length of the pack. The first one is under the Velcro flap on the front of the bag. The second is right behind the beginning, this time just on the inside of the bag, between the padding of the camera compartment and the waxed canvas. That pocket is big enough to slip in an iPad Mini if you were so inclined. However, with no padding on the outside of that pocket, we wouldn't recommend it. We opted, instead, to store a notebook and pen in that pocket.
The ONA Bowery is a simple yet elegant bag made with beautiful materials. Waxed Canvas with genuine full-grain leather trim with brass hardware gives this bag classic styling but also incredible durability. This bag is well-padded, including the bottom, which has a rigid plastic core for extra protection. With proper care, this bag will be protecting your gear for years and years to come. This bag offers you a simple 1.5" webbing shoulder strap that is comfortable for the size of this bag. We found this bag great for cruising the city with a camera and a couple of lenses. This bag has five external drop-in pockets. The two on the front of the bag are 5" wide and 4" tall. There is also one on each side of the bag and one on the back that runs the full length of the bag.
The Bowery's external pockets are flat, don't offer much space, and are also hard to remove items from, making them less useful then we would like. Although the brass buckles are beautiful, we didn't get used to the clasp that closes the lid of the camera bag and ended up leaving the bag unclasped. Despite its minor flaws, we thing those looking for a small, luxury sling camera bag will love the fashion and function of the Bowery.
Why You Should Trust Us
GearLab's team of professional photographers, Laura and Jason, took the lead on our sling camera bag review. They have over 25 years combined experience torturing cameras and bags from the city streets to desolate landscapes. Our lead tester, Jason, worked in one of the busiest photography rental houses in Los Angeles and estimates he's packed camera bags over 4000 times. Over that time, he honed in on what goes into a great camera bag and where others tend to fail. We've taken those years of experience and implemented those lessons in our real world and controlled testing of each model.
To compare and rate each sling camera bag and find the best one for you, we tested each product head-to-head so we could score and rank them all within each of our testing metrics. The metrics we tested were comfort, ease of access, capacity, and how they stood up against the elements, among many other factors. Each bag faced the same tests in the same conditions to ensure accurate results.
Analysis and Test Results
Each sling was put through the same tests in the same conditions to evaluate them on our metrics. Below are the top products in each metric.
How comfortable a bag will be is both body-dependent and subjective. In our testing, we did our best to account for that by having multiple body types use and give feedback on each bag. We walked 1.2 miles on the same course of pavement and trails with each kit loaded to full capacity to see how comfortable each model is for the amount of gear it's designed for. All three of our top bags got the same score for comfort.The Domke F-5XB and the ONA Bowery felt identical while wearing them, to the point where we did another test walk with both bags on to see if we could feel a difference --and we didn't. They are both beautifully balanced for small camera kits and we wouldn't mind wearing either of these bags all day.
We buy and carry camera bags for one reason — to take pictures! With that in mind, accessing the camera is of the utmost importance. We wanted to assess how fast and easy it is to get to your camera while keeping everything else secure in your bag. With a stopwatch, we timed how long it took us to go from wearing the bag regularly to having the camera out and bag secured again.
The Domke was the fastest at 5 seconds. This is due to the simplicity of the velcro closure and, frankly, the size of the bag. You don't need to think much about what to take out of the bag when there are only two items at your fingertips. We love the multiple ways this bag can be closed, from fully zipped up and velcro flap closed to having both the velcro flap open and the bag unzipped. We tested this bag with the velcro flap down but the zipper unzipped.
The surprise of this test is just how well the Tenba DNA 15 fared. Our assumption was the bigger bag was going to be less nimble, which was proved wrong with a time of 6 seconds. This is due to the large zipper on the top of the lid of the bag that allows fast access to your gear. The success of this access zipper is predicated on the position of your camera in the bag; it's faster if it's in the center of the pack.
With a similar design and size to the Domke, it's no surprise that the ONA Bowery is nipping at its heels, being just over a second slower. We attribute this fast time to its simple, user-friendly design with only one buckle and flap between you and your gear. The slower time can be linked to the beautiful brass buckle. That brass buckle is protected by a leather strap that you must navigate to unclasp the bag and open it. We found ourselves ignoring that latch all together in daily use, and closing the top lid but not buckling it. When the bag is used like that, it is just as fast as the Domke.
Capacity is a straight forward metric — we are simply looking to see how much a given bag will hold. We looked at capacity from three perspectives: camera gear, accessories, and non-photographic gear. Those three aspects combined give us our overall score. Our testers had different ideas of what they were looking for with capacity, and the same is certainly true for you. One of our testers had this to say, "It's a little weird, but, if the bag doesn't have a water bottle pocket, it's a deal-breaker." So keep in mind what you are looking for specifically and let that influence your decision.
As far as sling bags go, The Tenba DNA 15 falls into and wins the "Everything but the kitchen sink" category. With considerably more room than its next competitor, the DNA 15 was the clear winner here. It offers tons of space dedicated for your gear, two water bottle pockets, a spot for your laptop and a large tablet, and a mind-boggling amount of organization pockets. If you are looking for a high capacity sling bag, look no further.
We found that the Peak Design Everyday Messenger was a great size for taking to the office and being able to bring a camera and a couple of lenses as well. It also does well on more photo-dedicated missions, holding one camera with a medium lens attached, two more small or medium lenses, and one large lens.
For a day out shooting, we found the Peak Design Everyday Sling 10L to be a perfect size. It is big enough to hold your essential gear and has extra room for what you need to get some work done at a coffee shop. While not big enough to hold all of our professional photographer's gear, this bag made us consider what we put in it, and we like that quality. Although you can squeeze a 13" laptop in it, we don't recommend it.
We had our eye out for a few critical aspects during our durability testing. The first aspect is an indication of the lifespan of each bag. We were looking for signs of premature wear, what materials were used, and the construction techniques employed. Our second aspect is how well a bag will protect your camera from daily life. Can it handle moisture? How well is padded? The results were close in the top three!
Edging out the competition is the Tenba DNA. Using durable materials with attention to construction, we were impressed with the overall build quality of this bag. It also performed very well in our rain stress testing. What made this bag a step ahead for us was its included rain cover. That small feature is much appreciated and not something any other bag we tested offered.
Just one point behind was the Peak Design Everyday Sling. With a streamlined and straightforward design realized with top-notch materials, there is little room to fault this bag on build quality. That simple design leaves less moving parts to break. We love the hydrophobic zippers and durable shell materials that were wonderful at keeping the rain at bay.
Just one step back from the Everyday Sling is another bag from Peak Design, this time the Everyday Messenger 15. Like its sister product, this bag uses excellent materials that show no sign of slowing down any time soon. It also has hydrophobic zippers that do well at shedding water. The reason this bag comes in slightly lower is due to it not closing entirely, like the Everyday Sling, leaving a greater chance for moisture to sneak in the bag.
You've worked hard to acquire your photographic gear so you can get out and shoot. The wrong bag can deter you from doing that, so make sure to invest in the right camera bag for you! We hope our testing results have helped you find a bag that fits your needs and will serve you well for years to come.
— Jason Peters