Why Use a Holster Camera Bag?
There are many different types of camera bags on the market. How do you choose the one that is right for you? Well, let’s be honest here, most people are not going to choose just one camera bag, are they? Different styles of camera bag are useful for different situations. On some days, with some gear, a backpack is the right solution. On other days a shoulder bag might be the right call. Sometimes, though, a camera holster is exactly what you need! Here’s two reasons why:
Ease and Speed of Access
Holster are sometimes called toploaders because the camera access is always on the top. If you wear the holster on a belt, or the front of a camera pack, this gives you fast and easy access to a camera with an attached lens. Particularly when you’re hiking, you will find that you take far more photos when you have your camera accessible in this way. There’s no stopping to take your pack off when you something catches your eye.
Camera Protection In a Backpack
Although holster-style camera bags typically have many ways to externally attach them to your body, one of the other great uses of them is to protect your camera inside another bag or backpack. In some cases you might want to use a specific bag that isn’t a camera bag, but you still want to take a camera and a lens with you on a day out. The most common situation is people who have a favourite hiking pack, or a sport-specific bag such as one designed for mountain biking or skiing.
In those situations, a holster camera bag is the perfect way to protect your camera and organize a few small accessories. With some careful packing, you can usually position your holster at the top of your bag so that the camera is easily accessible. While I always use a dedicated camera bag when I’m working, I often carry a camera in this way when I’m out on the weekends with my family and don’t want to be burdened by my larger packs.
Best Camera Holster Bags
Shimoda Top Loader
The Top Loader holster from Shimoda Designs is a sleek-looking bag made from durable, weatherproof nylon and priced at $64.95 (discount available below). There’s a single, slim accessory pocket on the front of the bag that is suitable for a couple of spare batteries and a memory card wallet.
This holster is perfectly sized for a mirrorless camera without a battery grip. It comfortably fits a mirrorless camera with an attached L bracket, too. A non-gripped DSLR will fit, but things get a little tight if it has an attached bracket. The bag will absolutely not fit any kind of pro-sized gripped body – DSLR or mirrorless.
In its regular form, the size is perfect for an attached 24-70, but a zippered expansion will allow something slightly longer such as a 100mm prime lens or a 24-70 with the hood attached. In expanded form, the bag will carry an attached 70-200 f/2.8. The expansion could also be used to carry a small second lens tucked at the bottom, if you wrapped it up in a protective case like the Tamrac Goblin.
The Top Loader has a wide rear mesh loop for attachment to a backpack hip belt. This works particularly well with Shomoda’s Action-X pack series as the belt padding is designed to perfectly match the Top Loader. It can also be worn on your shoulder with the included shoulder strap or attached to the front of a pack using optional straps and four d-rings on the holster. If you want more details and photos of this holster, you should also take a look at my detailed Shimoda Top Loader review.
Think Tank Digital Holster 150
Think Tank’s Digital Holster series actually spans seven different sizes, but the 150 is a real standout and deserves a specific mention in this guide. The Digital Holster 150 is the largest model in the series. It sells for $109 and is able to comfortably accommodate a pro-sized body and a telephoto zoom lens such as the Tamron or Sigma 150-600mm, the Sony 200-600mm, the Nikon 200-500m, the Canon RF 100-500mm or any 100-400mm.
The size of this holster makes it a unique offering on the market. I love using it to carry a Sony 200-600mm lens attached to my camera when I’m driving around national parks on the lookout for wildlife. In the past, I have written about how important it is to have a telephoto lens accessible at a second’s notice when searching for wildlife, and this Digital Holster 150 is perfect for the job. It even has a pocket for your teleconverter and two more for miscellaneous accessories. On the outside, there’s a pocket and straps to carry a monopod or attach additional gear pouches. For more details on this bag, read my ThinkTank Digital Holster 150 review.
Related Post: 8 Easy Tips for Photographing Wildlife from Your Car
MindShift Outbound Holster
The Mindshift Outbound Holster used to be called the Multi-Mount Holster. When it went through this name change, it also went through a change of colour. The version I own is the old green Multi-Mount. The newly named Outbound Holster is grey and not green. All the features are the same, although strangely you can only buy the Outbound Holster from B&H Photo. It is not available directly from the Mindshift website.
The Outbound Holster comes with a shoulder strap, a lightweight belt and all the straps you need to mount it onto the front or rear of your pack. This is a nice bonus because some of these strap options are extra purchases with other holsters.
Wandrd Route Pack
The Route Pack from WANDRD was released alongside the Fernweh backpack in their very successful Kickstarter campaign. If you haven’t caught it yet, I suggest you also take a read through my WANDRD Fernweh review.
Much like the Shimoda Top Loader, the Route Pack has an expandable design that allows you to accommodate a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a 24-70mm in its regular mode, or up to a 70-200mm f/2.8 attached in its expanded mode. The Route Pack is built from the same durable, waterproof materials as the Fernweh backpack, and costs $69.