Just in case
Buying camera gear for the photographer in your life can add up. If you'd like to surprise a friend or family member with gear they'll really appreciate (without breaking the bank), try one of these cool and unexpected camera bags.
Stylish camera bags (that look nothing like camera bags)
Most camera bags are black. And nylon. And while they may do an amazing job of protecting your gear, they aren't exactly making a fashion statement. Photographer Kelly Moore makes leather bags for men and women that fit the practicality of a traditional camera bag inside colorful purse and satchel designs.
B-hobo bag (top): $159
Kelly Boy Bag (bottom): $199
Serious messenger-style camera bag
TimBuk2 is known for making customizable heavy duty messenger bags. Its latest product is a gift to the photographers in its fan base--the Snoop Camera Messenger. The external design is similar to the other messenger bags TimBuk2 makes, but inside is a modular cushioned camera wonderland with room for a DSLR body, some lenses, an external flash, and a MacBook. The padded dividers are removable, and the bag comes in red and cement, or black and gray.
Compact cameras need cases too
It's tempting to just drop your point-and-shoot into whatever bag you're carrying, or slip it into your jacket pocket. But when the crumbs and dirt weasel into your camera's crevices and lens, and your keys and spare change scratch up its shiny surface, you'll be sorry. Show your compact or ultra-compact camera a little love and put it in one of these handsome neoprene cases.
Built compact cases: $12-$16
Rugged with built-in stabilization
Clik Elite makes camera bags for serious outdoors and adventure photographers. Its BodyLink Telephoto Pack adds a little something extra to its sturdy design—an aluminum frame that can be used to help keep your camera and lens steady while you're shooting in the field. The frame works with your body to stabilize, and it has a standard mount on the top that attaches to any ballhead. The front of the bag can also be flipped down to create a mini-mobile work station.
Camera bag if you're a spy or just shy
You don't have to be a P.I. to appreciate the clever Cloak camera bag. This simple case straps in one DSLR with a lens 6-inch or shorter, lens side down. Once the camera is secure, you can open the bottom of the bag, slip your hands in the secret openings on each side, and start snapping. The water resistant case will conceal your gear while giving you access to the important parts. Passersby won't have any idea that you're taking photographs, but they might think you're hyperventilating or looking really hard for your spare change.
Keep it loose with a sling
Camera bag maker Lowepro is one of the first places serious photographers look for dependable and utilitarian camera cases. One of its lighter offerings is the Passport Sling bag. The Passport is a comfortable way to carry a bit of gear around when a full kit isn't necessary. It goes cross-body and keeps your camera within reach so you can grab it quickly and start shooting. Available in black, light blue, and gray, the bag has an optional structured insert (right) to keep your gadgets secure. If its too petite to fit all of your equipment, the bag can be expanded by unzipping the front compartment.
Structured, but not for squares
The SLR camera bags from Etsy store Stash are a perfect combination of structure and style. The bags are made from a variety of attractive and sturdy fabrics, like upholstery weight wool or tweed, and lined with water-resistant canvas. The bags come in small or medium sizes, and are available with removable padded inserts and dividers to keep your gear from moving around in the bag.
Stash camera bags: $115-$160