Camera holsters, or toploader bags, are usually items we come back around to in our photography careers. Basically meaning, we start with one of these small carry cases, progress to a large camera bag, then buy a quality camera holster for short trips. In scenarios where you want to travel light with minimal gear is where these bags become most useful.
Just like their gun-toting counterparts, camera holsters usually hang around the side of the body, providing plenty of protection and quick access. They can be carried with a strap or attached to a waist belt. They can feature additional pockets and storage compartments or even be a small version of your large-scale camera bag.
Either way, these small carry solutions should offer your camera gear full protection, while also providing access to your kit at a moment’s notice. There are a few considerations to bear in mind, such as the internal dimensions:
- Will your chosen camera and lens adequately fit inside the holster?
- Does it have a neck strap, belt attachment, or carry handle?
- Does it provide good security and easy access?
- Are there additional pockets and areas to store accessories such as spare batteries and memory cards?
We will cover all the above areas in our shortlisted offerings. All the included camera holsters are ideal as lightweight carry solutions.
1. Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 20 V2.0 (Overall Winner)
The Think Tank Photo Digital Holster 20 V2.0 is a very well thought out design. It’s affordable and comes with a bunch of accessories. There are a variety of different sizes in the range, with the ’20’ version being large enough for a good-sized DSLR and medium zoom lens. The internal dimensions come in at 18.4×20.3–29.2×12.7cm, with inner zippers to extend the size and internal partitions.
The design is sculpted to snugly fit a camera and lens. Think Tank’s camera holster features a large front storage pocket, Velcro sealed pockets in the top flap, and side pockets. The bag can be carried with the top handle, the neck strap, or attached to a belt. It also comes with its own rain cover for added protection.
This solution hits our top spot as it has the best balance between cost, protection, build quality, and design.
If you’re after a camera holster that leans more on the luxurious side, then the Billingham 72 Camera Bag is a good option. The bag itself is made from waterproof canvass or synthetic FibreNyte, with leather accents and brass fittings. The black version shown here is made from canvas, with other colors and materials available.
Internally, the dimensions come in at 11x9x14cm and the bag weighs roughly 460g. There are no external pockets, but there is a high-quality shoulder strap, belt loop, and quick release front cover. Inside the bag are removable dividers which in total can fit in a mirrorless camera body and medium-sized zoom. Inside the main compartment is an accessory pocket, which can be accessed by lifting the top flap.
This bag provides excellent protection for your camera gear, and while it’s let down by no external pockets, it’s an extremely well-made solution that looks fantastic.
Lowepro has always made quality rucksacks and the Lowepro Adventura TLZ 30 II is no different for build quality. This version comes in two different sizes, with this example having internal measurements of 14×10.2×18.4cm. The black and orange color scheme looks very discreet, with rubber paddings on the bottom and sides for added protection.
The bag benefits from a strong and detachable neck strap, a rear belt loop, and a top grab handle. The sides of the bag have their own accessory pockets, with storage compartments in the opening flap just big enough for memory cards or spare batteries. The top flap zips fully from the front face and extends slightly forward, which acts as either easy access or to create a bit more room inside the bag.
Overall, the Lowepro Adventura TLZ 30 II is a very well made solution. It’s durable and could even work as a daily use carry bag.
The Manfrotto MB MS-H-IGR Street Camera Holster comes from the company’s ‘Street Collection,’ with the internal dimensions of 13x10x16cm being just about big enough for a small camera and lens. If this solution is too small for your own use, then there are plenty of other sizes in the range.
There is no faulting the build quality on this holster, featuring the ‘Manfrotto Protection System,’ solid outer shell and easy access top flap. There are no external pockets, but inside the large top flap are additional pockets to fit spare batteries and memory cards.
Brass clips are securely attached to either side of the holster, with double rear belt loops and a padded shoulder strap included. This makes the Manfrotto MB MS-H-IGR a very durable solution which is very effective as long as you are traveling with minimal gear.
We mainly picked the National Geographic NG 2342 Earth Explorer Small Holster because it looks so cool and makes us feel like we are international explorers. In reality, this is quite a small bag, with internal dimensions of 12.5×12.5×16.5cm. It’s just large enough for a mirrorless camera body and small lens.
Inside the main area is a divider with room for a strobe or other accessories. While on the front of the holster is a reasonably sized zip pocket. The main the top flap can either be secured by Velcro pads or via the zipper and also features a cool design of a world map.
There is an included shoulder strap, but it’s not removable, but there are belt loops and a grab handle on top. It’s also not the cheapest on this list, but for the sheer coolness factor, you can’t go wrong with this solution.
6. Tamrac Jazz Zoom 23 Holster Bag v2.0 (Budget Winner)
Lightweight, cost-effective, and durable are the calling cards of the Tamrac Jazz Zoom 23 Holster Bag v2.0. This camera holster has internal dimensions of 13x13x14cm and is extremely lightweight at 130g. The insides are just large enough for a DSLR and small lens, with adequate padding for general use.
Externally, the holster has two netted side pockets, attachments for a shoulder strap, a top carry handle, but no belt loops. There are also no internal pockets, which limits the versatility of this solution. But, if you want a basic carry solution that is cheap, the Tamrac is worth a second look.
Summary of the Best Camera Holsters
It’s always a great idea to have a camera carry solution with loads of pockets and accessories, but in the case of camera holsters, they can be as basic as you like. Predominantly, they should offer quality levels of protection for your camera gear and be convenient to carry for hours on end.
Holsters are also great camera accessories for strapping to the outside of a rucksack or other carry gear. Plus, as most are very affordable solutions, there’s no reason to not own one of these when you want to travel as light as possible.