Carry Your Camera Incognito: Discreet Camera Cases

This one is for all you shutter bugs out there. Cameras, especially high-end ones, are both expensive and fairly fragile; they aren’t a piece of equipment you just want to chuck around, but definitely ARE one you want to have close at hand, rain or shine or rough terrain, to catch that elusive magical shot. The solution is pretty simple: a camera bag. The problem is, most camera bags are pretty conspicuous, and for a camera you spent the big bucks on, conspicuous might not be the best idea. So if you’re looking for a camera case for an SLR or DSLR that won’t scream steal my stuff! I’ve compiled a list of great incognito camera bags that will keep your camera safe from the elements… and from the criminal element!

M-ROCK Appalachian SLR Compact

M-ROCK Appalachian SLR Compact Camera Bag

The problem with your basic camera bag isn’t that they don’t work, not by any means. In fact, your average, standard camera case – like this M-ROCK Bag – is designed to fit the exact shape of your camera (with lens attached) so it sits snugly in the padded form. It won’t get jostled, and the assembled camera is easily accessible via the zip top. The problem is, that specific shape is very distinct: you can tell at a glance that this case has a big expensive camera and lens inside, which might not be what you want to advertise.

Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag

Lowepro Passport Sling Camera Bag

On the other end of the spectrum is this Side Satchel, which looks like it might be carrying a college kid’s notes, a leaky pen, and maybe a banana peel. In fact, inside the casual courier chic is a padded insert that looks about like the inside of a standard camera case. Once again, your camera is accessible from a simple unzipping of the top, and the bag hangs at your side the same way a regular case would, without screaming for unwanted attention.

Sony Alpha Designer Tote Bag

Sony Alpha Designer Tote Bag

For the ladies (or, I suppose, a bold gentleman), there are designer camera cases made to look like their equivalent designer purses. Because of their somewhat more compact size, like this Designer Camera Tote, DSLRs and SLRs fit into these purses side-by-side with a detached lens.

Jill-E Designs Small Camera Bag

Jill-E Designs Small Camera Bag

If you can’t quite imagine it, this Jill-E Designer Bag should give you a better idea. Carriers like this aren’t great for whipping out your camera for a quick shot, but are a good way to discreetly tote around your digital camera and camera lens together in a case that, from the outside, doesn’t look like it could hold either.

Acme Bowler Bag Red Camera Case

Acme Bowler Bag Red Camera Case

This Bowling Bag style camera case is sure to draw attention from fashion lovers without blipping the radar of any potential camera snatchers. While it retains the basic shape of a camera case, it looks more likely to house a bowling ball than even a point-and-shoot. Unlike other designer carriers, the top of the bag opens easily in the event of an unexpectedly good shot, but it unfortunately doesn’t have enough room for a zoom lens, either.

Expandable Sahara Camera and Laptop Backpack

Expandable Sahara Camera and Laptop Backpack

Though this Expandable Camera + Laptop Backpack isn’t great for places you want to grab and stow your camera often, but it’s perfect for traveling, especially if you have multiple lenses. The insert is fitted to perfectly to pad your camera and all its lenses and other accessories, and it slides easily in and out of the larger backpack – which can also easily and safely fit a laptop computer, as well as other odds and ends. The best part? Looking at it, you’d never guess how much valuable equipment it’s storing. Camera backpacks are especially good for day hikes or bird watching trips; if you like snapping shots in the wilderness, you might want to add a waterproofed one to your camping supplies.

Pacsafe Camesafe Camera Insert for Duffelsafe Bag

Pacsafe Camesafe Camera Insert for Duffelsafe Bag

This Packsafe camera case is a whittled down version of the backpack above. If you like the idea of a nice, padded foam carrying case, but want to be able to pick your own bag (or have more than one bag to switch between), this is probably the kind of thing you want to look for. The foam pads are adjustable, so you can make sure that whatever you want to put in it is secure, whether its a DSLR and spare lenses, or a film camera and a few extra rolls of film, an insert like this will keep it padded and secured in just about any bag. You can also buy camera case dividers for an existing bag, but keep in mind that these are a little less stable without a frame around them, and might not protect your camera quite as well.

California Sunbounce Sun Sniper Waist Bag For Triple Press Harness

California Sunbounce Sun Sniper Waist Bag For Triple Press Harness

If you’re willing to look like you just stepped boldly out of the 1990s, this Waist Bag is, perhaps unfortunately, probably the best way to keep your camera safe and close at hand. It would be pretty hard not to notice anyone creeping up on your camera with it strapped to your waist, and the easy zipped top means you can remove, point, and shoot with ease. The adjustable foam interior means you can stow your camera with or without a lens (though probably not with them assembled), and there are enough small pockets to tote around a spare SD card, charger, cords… and hopefully a get-out-of-fashion-jail free card.

Ultimately, any bag can work to store your camera discreetly, but the ones that do the best job of it are the ones actually designed to store them. The most important things you should ask yourself before you buy are:

  • Do you need to transport the camera or be able to use it on demand?
  • Do you need a lens? More than one?
  • Does your need for discretion outweigh ease of access?

It’s easy to get a pretty case or a nice bag, but make sure the one you buy meets your needs for how, when, and how often you want to use it. Do you have a favorite case, or are you looking for something in particular? Let me know in the comments, I might be able to help!

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