Best Bag For Leica Q, M, SL, CL
Are you trying to find the best bag for your Leica Q3 or Leica M11 camera? There are lots of nice bags for Leica cameras available but here I share my replacement to my Billingham camera bag and Lowepro camera backpack. Today we cover Wotancraft camera bags for Leica cameras and which of their bags may be the best fit for your specific Leica camera lens combo. (YouTube video also linked below).
My first Leica camera bag
When I first got into the Leica camera ecosystem over a decade ago (when I setup the MrLeica blog) I did probably the same as every other newbie. I bought a Billingham bag as those are the bags Leica owners should use right? (When you go to a Leica store the camera bag brand you most commonly see is Billingham).
My Billingham Hadley Digital bag lasted me many years and was used heavily with as many as 4 small Leica cameras inside it. Billingham bags are excellent but they look like a “please take me and the valuable content” bag. After the incident in Lisbon earlier this year it was time to buy a different bag as my EDC (every day carry). Hear what happened in Lisbon in this video.
Ona Bowery camera bag for Leica
I loved the size of the Billingham Hadley Digital bag for Leica cameras so I was on the look out for something of a similar size. I bought an Ona bag for Leica cameras called the Ona Bowery. The size was good and the bag was made of nice materials. Sadly the open access design of the bag meant it barely got used. Someone could easily put their hand into your Ona Bowery bag with the clasp closed and take a lens out in a busy environment, say the London Underground.
Receiving premium leather straps for my Leica cameras
As a YouTuber I receive emails most days from different companies asking me to review their new products. If it’s something I’m interested in I say yes but usually it’s a no thanks. (I say yes to perhaps 1 in 30-40). A company called Wotancraft reached out to me and offered to send me two of their premium leather camera straps to try out. One Wotancraft wrist strap and one leather neck strap. Both camera straps had my initials embossed on them and I thought that was a lovely personal touch. I wonder if they make camera bags I thought!?
Wotancraft camera bags for Leica
I visited the Wotancraft website and sure enough they make a range of black or khaki camera bags called their Pilot bag range. The smallest Wotancraft Pilot bag is 2L, then 3.5L, then 7L and finally a 10L. I tried to do the maths as to what Leica cameras would fit into which sized Pilot bags. From my sums I thought that a small Leica iii camera would actually fit into one of their accessory pouches. I asked them to send me this Wotancraft pouch (one of many pouches available), a 2L Pilot bag and a 3.5L Pilot bag. From those I made the video that I linked above.
Loving these Wotancraft bags
After receiving my Wotancraft bags I’ve been nothing but impressed by them (and the brand in general). I love shoulder bags or sling bags for Leica cameras as some call them but ideally only as my small setup. For when I want to carry more cameras (or gear) in general I much prefer to use a camera backpack. For years I’ve used Lowepro backpacks for cameras (or rucksacks as some call them). I can’t remember the model of my first Lowepro but the straps eventually wore through from overloading it. Next I got a Lowepro Photo Sport bag which became my small (under the seat) bag for air travel. It got filled with heavy yet compact small Leica cameras and lenses as this bag never gets weighed at airports. I then use a larger LowPro camera bag for my official 10kg carry on luggage.
Lowepro camera backpack replacement
The Lowepro Photo Sport backpack is like 1/3 camera bag and 2/3 an every day active backpack. As I’m a camera geek and tend to carry 90% cameras and 10% non-cameras I wanted a full on 100% camera backpack. As someone that often travels into London to teach my Leica workshops I was very aware that bag design has moved on a lot in recent years. There are many very stylish backpacks walking around the city and it never hurts to look smarter than not. The hunt was on for a Lowepro bag replacement, ideally very practical, designed for cameras yet doesn’t shout camera bag at you and stylish.
Just as a note, if you only dabble in photography and want a dual purpose camera rucksack I can still recommend the Lowepro Photo Sport AW300 II. It served me well.
My new Leica camera backpack
Luckily for me my timing could not have been better. I reached out to Wotancraft and enquired about their camera backpacks to be told that a new model was soon to be released. They sent me the specs details and it looked fantastic on paper. I was keen to get hold of one! Not only did it look cool, it was fully waterproof. No more faffing around with semi-waterproof backpack covers (especially in our ever changeable UK weather).
Wotancraft 18L Pilot camera backpack
Here is my new Wotancraft 18L Pilot backpack. I love it! Just little things like it is free standing (stands upright without support making it easy to pack). Let’s make a list of features that I appreciate. (Some will be recapping the above) –
- Dedicated camera bag but looks like a fashionable backpack
- 18L capacity – Can carry all the Leica cameras you need
- 100% waterproof (Love this! No more worrying when it rains)
- Removable padded waist strap (Makes it smaller for flying)
- Chest strap, padded shoulder straps and back support – Very comfy
- Robust build quality – I load it with heavy cameras and no issues
- Modular design let’s you customise your bag for each outing – See below
- Tripod straps for slinging a tripod (or coat) under the bag
- Padded laptop compartment – Easily fits my Apple MacBook Air
- 2 elasticated water bottle pockets
- Side strap to attach a compact light stand or similar
- 3 padded camera compartments (Left, right and top)
- Removable padded inner to make room for a 3.5L Pilot bag – See below
- Access to all pockets from the top (with insert removed)
- Discrete side pockets to reduce risk of theft
- Carry on camera backpack size* – See below
Carry on camera backpack – hack
If like me, you often fly for your photoshoots it is important that your camera bag meets the airline carry on bag dimensions. I needed a Leica camera backpack to fly with. If you check the dimensions of the Wotancraft 18L backpack on their website, you’ll see that the bag is a little too tall to fly with. Don’t worry I found a work around solution.
Wotancraft 18L backpack + 3.5L combo
As the Wotancraft 18L camera bag arrives off the shelf, it is too tall to travel with and too rigid to fold down. My solution is to remove the padded top compartment insert. This makes the bag more flexible. I then replace the insert with the Wotancraft 3.5L Pilot bag. This makes the bag flight-legal (more or less) and once I arrive at a destination I now have two camera bags instead of one.
For a short walk I carry just the Wotancraft 3.5L camera bag (see below) and I have the backpack when I need more. I often carry both bags at once and use the top section of the camera backpack to store a coat or food inside. Works like a charm.
Best camera bag for Leica cameras
OK, on to the main point of this article. Which Wotancraft bag will suit you best? Leica cameras come in all shapes and sizes so not one bag will suit everyone. As I own one or more Leica camera from each series, Leica Q, Leica M, Leica SL and Leica CL (+ film Leica cameras) I can tell you with confidence which bags work well with each cameras. Let’s go from smallest to largest.
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Best small Leica camera bag
If you’ve discovered the small and beautiful Leica iii cameras you’ll probably agree that you want a camera bag to match. For years I had my tiny Leica Barnack cameras flapping around in bags too big for them. Then I discovered the Wotancraft pouches. Wotancraft were not sure if these Leica cameras would fit in their camera bag accessory pouch so I was to be the guinea pig. I ordered the large camera bag pouch that comes with a strap and looks like a fashionable man bag. It looks so damn good in khaki too.
I bring good new to all fellow Leica users. Well those of you that love small Leica setups. It fits!
Leica iii camera bag
I’m happy to confirm that the Wotancraft large pouch with strap (or similar size pouch) is the perfect discrete Leica iii camera bag. It’s the perfect small bag for Leica street photography as it doesn’t look like a camera bag but more like a fashion man bag.
The Wotancraft pouch will also fit the following Leica camera lens combinations –
- Leica iii camera (any model) + small lens*
- Digital Leica CL + Leica Elmarit-TL 18mm f2.8 lens
- Leica M camera (any model) + small lens*
What lenses are classed as a small lens?
I did the testing so you don’t have to! Please follow the blog if you appreciate these reviews (and collect your free eBook). So that you know what bag to buy I tested different lenses on each camera to see what the maximum size limit is for this bag. For the Leica iii cameras you can use a Canon 50mm f1.8 LTM size lens (without hood) and the camera will fit in the bag sideways.
Leica Q3 camera bag
If you own a Leica Q3, Leica Q2 or the original Leica Q you’ll know that these are fixed lens cameras. Unlike most other Leica camera setups, the dimensions of Q cameras never change. This means it’s important to find a camera bag that fits perfectly. If I was buying a Wotancraft product my camera bag for the Leica Q series cameras would be their Wotancraft 2L Pilot bag. If you remove the padded insert your favourite Leica Q3 will fit snugly inside with the lens hood attached and camera strap.
Removing the Leica Q lens hood
Personally I prefer to have my cameras as small as possible. The Leica Q lens hood looks great but it’s not really required for image quality unless you are shooting in the rain or snow. I replaced my Leica Q lens hood with a 49mm-52mm step up ring to make it more compact. I can then attach common size 52mm ND filters and mist filters as needed. With the lens hood removed you can fit both a Leica Q camera and a bottle of water inside the 2L Wotancraft Pilot bag.
Camera bag for Leica M
If you are on the market for a Leica M11 camera bag things get a little more complicated. Leica M camera are designed to be small but then it depends what you add to them afterwards. Let’s assume that you focus via the rangefinder and don’t add any extra grips. I tested various Leica M lenses for you to see what would fit inside the Wotancraft 2L Pilot bag that I recommended for Leica Q users.
The great news is that the Leica M240 (fatter than the Leica M10 and Leica M11) with the Leica Summicron 90mm f2 Pre-ASPH (big M lens) attached fits. This means that you can use the 2L Pilot bag for almost any lens on your Leica M camera.
So to recap, I feel the Wotancraft 2L camera bag will suit the following Leica cameras –
- Leica Q3, Q2, Q
- 1 Leica M camera + Almost any Leica M lens
- Leica CL + M/LTM lens via adapter, TL lens or L lens (Lumix 50mm f1.8)
- 2 Leica iii cameras with small lenses attached
- Leica SL + M/LTM lens via adapter (Leica Summilux 50mm f1.4 ASPH)
Do you carry one or multiple cameras?
For the Leica camera bag recommendations so far, I’m assuming that you want to carry minimal camera gear. If you prefer to carry multiple cameras and lenses keep reading as I will cover those next. Personally I often carry multiple cameras as a hybrid shooter. I use film cameras for me and digital cameras either for YouTube testing or for client work (including my model photography).
Leica SL camera bag
OK, the next size category is the Leica SL series cameras. Do you need a camera bag for a Leica SL2-S, SL2 or the original Leica SL? For normal Leica SL users, ie. those that use L mount lenses, the SL will not fit into the 2L Wotancraft bag. You need the next size up. The great news is if you shoot with M lenses on your Leica SL it will fit in the 2L bag. Just.
My most used Wotancraft shoulder bag is their 3.5L Pilot bag. The 3.5L bag works great for the SL series cameras with L lens mounted. It also allows you to carry multiple smaller cameras and lenses, say if you are using Leica M cameras.
The Wotancraft 3.5L Pilot bag is perhaps their best do everything shoulder bag for Leica cameras. You can fit all types of Leica cameras in the 3.5L Pilot and often multiple bodies and a selection of lenses too. Here are some camera-lens combinations you could try.
- 1 Leica M camera (fully loaded with fast prime lens, Visoflex and hand grip)
- 2 Leica M cameras + 2 or more lenses (depending on their size)
- Leica SL + Leica 24-90mm lens (or 2 smaller L mount lenses)
- Leica Q + Second compact camera
- Digital Leica CL + 3-4 TL lenses (easily)
- Leica R film camera + large lens
- Hasselblad 500cm w/ WLF + 80mm lens + larger lens (say 120mm)
Multi-lens Leica SL camera bag kit
If you are a Leica SL camera user that carries multiple large Leica SL prime lenses lenses I think you’ll struggle with the 3.5L Pilot bag. The next size up is their Wotancraft 7L Pilot bag. Photographers who like to carry multiple camera systems or perhaps additional lighting equipment will love the larger size 7L bag.
The 7L Pilot bag is large enough to carry almost any combinations of cameras and lenses (within reason) but personally I prefer to switch to a camera backpack when carrying a lot of equipment. If you’ve watched any of my monthly what’s in my bag videos on Patreon you’ll know I often carry a lot of camera gear.
Super-size your existing Wotancraft bag!
For me, one of the stand out features of the Wotancraft Pilot camera bag line is their modular add on pouches. First you can completely customise your bag so it looks unique. This is especially true for the Wotancradft 18L camera backpack where you have webbing straps on the front and side panels to attach additional pouches. I love the round pouches to store my lens filters. They will easily fit 77mm filters. You can then use the different pouches to make you overall camera bag capacity larger.
2L bag grows closer to 3L
Using the 2L bag here as an example, I do the same with my Wotancraft 3.5L bag too where I add additional pouches. (See the YouTube video linked below and my Vegas walkabout setup). I use 2 pairs of Wotancraft pouches to increase the size of my smaller Pilot bag as needed (omitting the need for the 7L bag).
Smaller pouches will fit 2 Leica M lenses inside or a Leica iii camera with a compact lens attached –
Larger pouches will fit a Leica M camera with compact lens attached. The drawstring pouch is brilliant to carry a water bottle or even a mini umbrella! You can use it for longer lenses too and it would be ideal for this. Place the front/ bigger end of the lens into the bag.
Recommended camera backpack for Leica (or any brand)
So in summary, if you need a carry on camera backpack for Leica or Hasselblad or any brand the Wotancraft 18L is the best bag I’ve used to date. To see the full details of the Wotancraft 18L backpack visit their website.
Watch the full Wotancraft review on YouTube
Here is the full camera bags for Leica video on YouTube –
So that is my mini rave review of the Wotancraft camera bags I own. Wotancraft do make more bags (and camera straps) than those detailed here so please check their website for details.
Note. As with all my reviews, whether camera reviews, lens reviews or in this case bags, I just share my honest opinion. I don’t get paid to make reviews but sometimes I receive free products to test. Wotancraft kindly supplied me with the camera bags but I would have bought them anyway. They are that good. It was just lucky timing.
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