Our experts considered over 50 of the best sling camera bags before buying 8 of this year's top models and tested them side-by-side in controlled and real-world environments. We loaded, hauled, and unloaded these bags for weeks at a time to find the best for you. The sheer amount of sling-style bags available can be incredibly overwhelming and there are many factors to consider. Comfort, capacity, build quality, budget, and features are good deciding factors, and that's where we put our focus. So let our photography experts do the heavy lifting to find the best sling camera bag for your needs. Read on to find our results.If you prefer more traditional camera bags or backpacks, check out our camera bag review. Our photography pros have tested all kinds of products within the photo gear and accessory realm. Whether you need a tripod, selfie stick, iPhone gimbal, trail camera, and then some, we can help.
$33.81 at Amazon
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|Check Price at Amazon|
|Pros||Great size for a growing camera collection, interior is a bright color, affordable||Fast access to the camera, durable materials||Beautiful materials, durable|
|Cons||Uncomfortable for prolonged carries, limited organization||Maybe too small, organizational pockets are limited||Expensive, small, lacks organization|
|Bottom Line||This simple over the shoulder bag is perfect for a first camera bag||Perfect for working with a single camera and a couple of lenses||For those looking for a small camera bag with high end finishing|
|Rating Categories||Amazon Basics Large...||Domke F-5XB||ONA The Bowery Mess...|
|Camera Access (20%)|
|Specs||Amazon Basics Large...||Domke F-5XB||ONA The Bowery Mess...|
|Dimensions||15.00" x 8.00" x 5.00"||4.50" x 10.00" x 7.25"||10.50" x 7.00" x 4.00"|
|Carry Type||Shoulder sling||Shoulder sling||Shoulder sling|
|Materials||Polyester||Wax-treated cotton canvas||Premium waxed canvas and full-grain leather|
|Storage Capacity||One camera body + 3-4 lenses||One small camera body with 1-2 small lenses||DSLR or mirrorless camera body with lens attached + 1-2 small lenses or accessories + small notebook & iPad Mini|
Best Large Camera Sling Bag
Tenba DNA 16 Pro Messenger Bag
The Tenba DNA 16 Pro Messenger Bag is a fantastic, large-capacity sling camera bag for any photographer who needs to carry around or travel with a lot of gear. This messenger-style bag slings across the body with a padded strap that has a memory foam insert to provide some welcome cushion for the shoulder. For heavier loads or longer travel times, you can also deploy an included clip-on waist strap to transfer some of the weight to your waist, making waiting in long lines at the airport a more relaxing experience. These features can be very valuable because you can fit a lot of gear into this terrific bag. Our testers were able to fit a full-frame mirrorless camera body with an attached lens, four additional lenses, and a small point-and-shoot camera with an attached lens. With compartments for your laptop, tablet, and a front pocket for accessories, this bag can carry most of what you might need to get out shooting for work or play.
Stuffing this bag to the brim with accessories makes it difficult to comfortably carry around all day. Most of the other models we tested were all smaller, lighter, and easier to carry around for a full day of shooting. Although, we dig the thoughtful features of a padded strap and additional waist strap to move a little more efficiently. For photographers looking for something smaller and lighter, we suggest you read on. But for a bag with a large capacity for your camera, numerous lenses and accessories, and many great additional features, the Tenba DNA 16 Pro is hard to beat.
Best Compact Sling Bag
Lowepro Slingshot SL 250 AW III
Lowepro has been a mainstay in the camera bag realm for a while, and they prove that they know what they're doing time and time again with their lineup of thoughtful bags. The Lowepro Slingshot SL 250 AW III is an excellent, compact bag that can hold all your essentials for a day of shooting and more. The camera/lens compartment is accessible via a zipper that opens from the side, revealing a customizable interior. We were able to fit our Sony A7R III with an attached 55mm 1.8 lens as well as a 24-70 f2.8 lens into the compartment. You could also fit two smaller lenses in lieu of the larger 24-70 we chose to pack. The pack boasts an upper compartment perfect for accessories or personal items. We threw in a hard drive, extra batteries, and a light jacket in this space, and slipped an 11-inch iPad into the slot in the back. Attach a tripod to the bottom or side of the bag, and you're ready to go.
Although the Lowepro Slingshot features water-resistant fabrics, it does not entirely pass our drench test. The zippers are vulnerable to seepage, and we would not recommend walking around with this bag confidently in a downpour. Fortunately, it does come with a waterproof cover which contributes an extra layer of security against the elements when deployed. All in all, this is a fantastic compact sling camera bag designed with a photographer's everyday needs in mind.
Best Bang for the Buck
Amazon Basics Camera Sling
The Amazon Basics Camera Sling is not only a good-looking, affordable bag, but rivals some of the more expensive shoulder bags out there with its comfortable sling, adequate padding, and decent storage capacity. This bag is meant to be worn over the shoulder similar to a comfortable, one-strap backpack. Its clever design allows you to swing the bag around to your chest, whereby the main compartment is then at the right angle for you to zip open easily and access your gear inside. This design makes it a breeze to grab your camera or change lenses over your bag's compartment for less stressful transitions. Our testers also liked the simple and sleek look of the bag, which makes it look a lot more expensive than it is.
The only major downside to this great sling camera bag is its lack of extra pockets or compartments for accessories. While the interior has many adjustable and removable padded inserts for your camera bodies, lenses, flashes, and other small accessories, it lacks a pocket for a notebook or iPad. While there are a couple of small mesh pockets on the inside flap and a small zipper pocket on the outside of the bag, we wish there were more storage compartments for our filters, lens cleaning accessories, batteries, and memory card wallets. But you really can't beat the price of this excellent, affordable shoulder sling.
Best Camera Sling Bag for Street Photographers
Chrome Industries Niko Camera Sling 2.0
The Chrome Industries Niko Camera Sling 2.0 comes from the reputable streetwear brand Chrome. With its high-quality, water-resistant materials and stylish look, it's our pick for the best camera sling for street photographers on the go. This cross-body bag can be thrown over the shoulder as you bike around the city looking for compelling shots. It can also be worn around the hip as you walk around, giving you fast access to your camera.
There were a few limitations our testers found with this bag, mostly due to its limited capacity for camera gear or accessories. It could fit our Sony mirrorless camera body with an attached 24-70 f2.8 lens, but that only left room for two more very small lenses. If you wanted to pack an average-sized lens like a 16-35 f4, you wouldn't be able to fit another. Also, our 70-200 f4 lens wouldn't fit vertically in the bag and, if packed horizontally with a camera body, takes up the entire bag, limiting your options. The pockets in this bag are also limited, making it hard to bring anything but the smallest extras like a memory card wallet and a couple of batteries. But when you're moving fast in the city, you usually don't want a full kit of lenses anyways, and this bag is a great choice for just the essentials.
Best for Small Cameras
As a longtime workhorse brand for photojournalists, Domke has been making durable, trustworthy bags for decades. The Domke F-5XB sling camera bag maintains its well-built, simple, understated design and gets its durability from its thick, waxed canvas. 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 caring for this bag, they send you a container of wax, which is nice. You have two choices in how to wear this model: either over the shoulder with a strap or 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. Two drop-in pockets 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 first, inside 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 wanted to. However, we wouldn't necessarily recommend doing that with no padding on the outside of that pocket. We opted, instead, to store a notebook and pen in that pocket.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our team of professional photographers, Jason Peters and Miya Tsudome took the lead on our sling camera bag review. Combined, they have over 25 years of experience wrangling 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 well 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 both our real-world and controlled testing of each model.
We tested each bag head to head, scoring and ranking them within our five testing metrics, which include comfort, ease of access, capacity, how they stood up against the elements, and their various handy features. To ensure accurate results, each bag faced the same tests in the same conditions.
Analysis and Test Results
A lot of sling camera bags have many of the same features and similar appearances, but not all of them perform as well as others, and they can vary quite a bit in price. Each sling was put through the same tests in the same conditions to be evaluated on our five performance metrics. Below is our summary of the top products in each metric.
To help you find the best value, our testers considered each model's performance and standout features and compared that to each product's price. Standing out for its simple and spacious design that functions very close to our other high-end competitors at a much lower cost is the Amazon Basics Camera Sling. This model gets top marks for its great all-around performance for hobbyists or pro photographers looking for a great daily camera sling at a very affordable cost. Also providing great value is the Caden Camera Bag Sling Backpack. Although its design doesn't meet all of our tester's standards for usefulness, this bag has many features that still make it a great camera sling at a much lower cost than its competitors.
How comfortable a bag will be is both body-dependent and subjective. To best account for that in our testing, we had people with different body types test and give feedback on each bag. We walked 1.2 miles on courses of pavement and trails with each kit loaded to full capacity to see how comfortable each model is while carrying the amount of gear it's designed for. We evaluated the padding or lack thereof on their shoulder straps and gave extra points for bags with thoughtful details like padding on their backs for extra comfort against ours.
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.
The Lowepro Slingshot makes a good compromise between size and comfort; big enough to carry what we need for a diverse day of photography but not so big as to be unwieldy and uncomfortable. This model carries tight to your body and feels agile, contributing to its comfort.
Our testers were also impressed by the sling bag from Amazon Basics. Although the material throughout the bag is noticeably thinner and less padded than other bags with higher-quality models, the padding is perfectly adequate for an average load of camera gear.
The Tenba DNA 16 was the most uncomfortable fully loaded over our long walk, but that's mainly due to its high capacity. Since you can load this great bag with at least five lenses and two camera bodies, plus a laptop and tablet and accessories, it can get pretty heavy pretty quickly. The optional waist belt does help take some of the load off your shoulders, but it's still not as light as the other, smaller bags we tested.
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 determine 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 to complete common transitions. Specifically, we measured how long it took to switch from carrying the bag in transport to getting the camera out, and the bag resecured.
With a simple, accessible design, the Chrome Niko 2.0 was the fastest to open and access in about 2 seconds, allowing you to take out your camera and start shooting in under 10 seconds. We attribute this fast time to its simple, user-friendly design with one zipper on the top to quickly access the main compartment. Some of the other small bags we tested have a zipper opening for the top as well, but the zipper is concealed underneath a front flap that would require undoing. This adds extra protection from the elements but also takes extra time to open and access your camera.
At 5 seconds to open and access, the Domke was the second-fastest. This is due to its large size and the simplicity of the velcro closure. With only two items at your fingertips, you don't need to think much about what to take out of the bag. 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 with the zipper unzipped.
The surprise of this test is just how well the Tenba DNA 16 fared. We assumed that the bigger bag was going to be less nimble, but that was proved wrong with a time of 6 seconds to open and access your camera. The large zipper located on the top lid allows fast access to gear. The access zipper and placement of the camera promote fast deployment and is generally faster when located in the center of the pack.
While it is easy enough to access one compartment of the Caden Camera Bag, its unique triangular design makes it hard to access what you may have stored in the compartment on the opposite side, making it lose points in this category. And while the latching mechanism to open the front flap of the ONA The Bowery Messenger Bag is seemingly straightforward, it is still not as intuitive or easy as using a zipper and can take some extra seconds to undo the latch which hides under a buckle strap.
Capacity helps define the uses a bag is suitable for. Ultimately, capacity is a straightforward 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 16 falls into and wins the "everything but the kitchen sink" category. With considerably more room than its next competitor, the DNA 16 is the clear winner. It offers tons of dedicated space 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.
The sling from Amazon Basics also has a surprisingly large capacity, with a roomy interior that can fit a camera body plus three or four lenses. However, it doesn't have the pockets and extra organizational features of the Tenba, and our reviewers were disappointed in the lack of room in its two extra pockets. But as far as interior capacity goes, this bag meets the mark.
The Lowepro Slingshot is a similar size to the Amazon Basics sling bag, yet it has two separate compartments for camera gear and accessories or personal items, making for a better-organized pack. We were surprised with how much we could fit into this bag, and it definitely has the highest capacity of any of the compact bags we tested.
Among the smaller bags we tested, the Chrome Niko 2.0 is slightly more roomy than the ONA and the Domke with an interior volume of five liters and a nice, stiff structure to keep the bag easy to pack.
Our durability testing was targeted toward a few critical aspects. The first aspect is an indication of the lifespan of each bag. We looked for signs of premature wear, materials 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 many layers of protection does it provide between the elements and your expensive camera?
Edging out the competition is the Tenba DNA 16. 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 offered by any other bag we tested.
A close contender was the Chrome Niko 2.0 with its tough, 1000-Denier TPE tarp exterior which proves excellent at repelling water, is abrasion resistant, and also sports high-quality YKK zippers.
Some of the bags also come with rain covers that can be deployed when the weather really gets bad. These models include the Tenba 16, the Lowepro Slingshot, and the Caden Camera Bag Sling.
The ONA messenger bag scored low in the durability test because of one major flaw — the only closure on the bag is its front flap, which opens up to reveal the interior. Many of the other bags also had a zipper top underneath their front flaps to provide an extra layer of protection from dust or moisture. Although this sling is made of high-quality materials with attention to detail in the stitching and build, this bag left our camera feeling vulnerable and exposed which is not a desirable trait.
While the most important aspects of a sling camera bag are comfort, capacity, and ease of camera access, the extra features a bag has can really make or break a purchasing decision. As professional photographers, our testers appreciate a camera bag that is really made with a photographer's needs in mind — with extra pockets for batteries and memory cards, straps for tripods, and enough space for some personal items as well.
The Tenba DNA 16 again takes the cake with its many features that make organizing your many camera accessories a breeze. A quick-access top zipper makes it fast to grab your camera without having to open the front flap of the bag. Compartments for a laptop up to 16 inches and a tablet up to 11 inches ensure you can travel with your essential gadgets all in the same bag. A spacious front pocket allows plenty of room for small hard drives, cords, a battery charger, filters, and whatever other small camera accessories you may need on the go.
The Caden Camera Bag Sling Backpack comes in second with some unique features of its own. The sling itself is adjustable and can be worn on either the left or right shoulder. The back has a section of breathable mesh padding with a hidden pocket. The front of the bag has a "bumper strip" of rubber that may provide some slight shock-absorbing qualities. There are mesh pockets on either side of the bag, as well as a large pocket on the front. Straps on the bottom can hold a small tripod.
The Lowepro Slingshot also has a good number of features for a compact bag, with its separate compartments for camera gear and accessories/personal items, its laptop or tablet sleeve, included rain cover, and tripod straps.
The smaller bags naturally have fewer features, opting for more simple designs with space for a camera and maybe a pocket or two for some accessories/personal items. The Chrome Niko 2.0 and the Domke are tied for the most features of the small bag selection, with the Chrome having a few pockets and the ability to strap a tripod underneath its front flap, and the Domke having the ability to convert from a shoulder bag to a waist bag as well as coming with some wax treatment to keep the exterior of the bag looking nice and assisting in its water-repellent properties.
The ONA and the Amazon Basics Camera Sling have the least amount of features besides a couple of small pockets. The Amazon Basics Large DSLR Gadget Bag has more pockets than its sling version, as well as a tripod strap on the bottom of the bag.
A common feature of all the camera bags we tested is their removable and customizable padded foam inserts. These little squares can be configured in your bag with velcro attachments to accommodate the size and shape of any camera or lens, allowing you to customize your bag to your exact gear needs.
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.
— Miya Tsudome and Jason Peters
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