Ona Bowery Camera Bag....Mirrorless Marvel

June 08, 2014  •  1 Comment

I have been on the lookout for a small, no frills, camera bag that would allow me to carry either anFuji X series body and 2-3 lenses or 2 X bodies with lenses attached, while also having that feel-good factor to go with the cameras.  I have stacks of camera bags but as we all know, there is always something else that is ideal for a particular task, especially when you use a couple of camera systems. 

 

Bags for lower end SLR systems are sometimes OK for use with mirror less cameras as they have quite small compartments and dividers.  Many bags have lots of dividers, rain covers, memory card pockets, internal zip pockets etc.  I really wanted something that cut things back to basics and could used as a small day bag either on a trip or just out and about for the day.

 

The Ona Bowery had caught my eye some time ago.  Ona bags are designed to be functional but to give enjoyment and pride of ownership.  It seemed only right to have a bag to take the X cameras out that created similar feelings to those I experience when using the cameras, so  I wanted something unlike the effective but anonymous Cordura bags seen everywhere.

 

Initially I wanted a Bowery in full leather but to be honest, the price in good old rip-off Britain just took another hike to £230, which was too high for me to justify for a small camera bag.

 

Having done my research I ordered one in smoke waxed canvas and I am delighted with its appearance.  The mid grey fabric looks lovely and is nicely complemented by significant, eye-catching trimmings of red-brown leather that include the strap attachments and reinforcements, main fastening buckle and the edge trim of the main compartment.  The metal clasp and strap fasteners are all in solid antiqued brass that looks great, while the actual strap is in similar material to seat belt webbing, so its likely to be strong and hard wearing.  To be honest the waxed canvas bags look a bit of a bargain at £110 looking at the build quality.  Everything looks as if it should last many years.

 

This is the bag straight out of the box with Ona label attached.

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The bag retains its appearance and the integrity of its shape when loaded up, as in this image.  I do not like bags that buckle under the weight of contents as access becomes hard and stuff moves about inside....totally unsuitable for photographic kit.

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The canvas is waxed and so has a feel and appearance a bit like a Barbour jacket.  The surface marks in contact with harder objects, which may appeal or annoy depending on outlook, but a quick rub restores the original appearance and it can be retreated easily with a suitable fabric wax.  I think it looks nice as it picks up a few marks.

 

Construction is very simple with a main compartment closed by a large, folding flap and secured with a brass tuck clasp that is concealed behind an adjustable leather strap and buckle.  The side panels extend upward onto the main flap to give some weather protection to the main compartment as they crease and fold inward upon closing.

 

Protection for kit in the main compartment is provided by closed cell foam built into the structure, the robust external canvas material and a good thickness of padding along the bottom of the bag. 

 

At the front are 2 useful, open-topped pockets, that together cover the full width of the front of the bag and are concealed by the main flap.  These will easily take spare batteries, cleaning cloths, lens caps, filters etc but are not gusseted for greater capacity, so stuff tends to stay in place rather than rattle about.  At each side is 1 very small pocket that is quite tight and partly obstructed by the strap fastenings, so they have limited usefulness.  They may be useful for pens, keys or similar objects and at least add another layer of protection to the bag.  At the rear is a simple open topped, slip pocket that runs the width of the bag that is useful for maps, leaflets, notepaper or a small notebook.

 

The strap is fastened with very substantial brass clasps, which if anything feel somewhat over-engineered and add somewhat to the weight of the bag.  The idea of the clasps here is that the strap can be detached so the bag can be used as an insert in a non-camera bag, which could be useful.

 

Inside, the main compartment is lined with a soft, brushed grey material suitable for the attachment of velcro dividers.  Only 1 divider is provided but to be honest adding more tends to waste space in such a small bag.  My preference is to pop spare lenses in small, protective pouches to protect them.

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In the next 2 images the bag has been divided into 2 with the divider and is loaded with an X-T1 body with 60mm macro lens one side and a X-E1 with 27mm pancake lens the other.  There is plenty of scope for larger lenses as the same arrangement can take the bodies with 23 and 56mm primes, which are among the largest of the XF lenses.  The front pockets contain the body cap and rear lens cap for each camera/lens and a spare battery for each, plus a micro fibre cloth.  The bag does not feel in any way stuffed or maxed out.

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Here the bag is loaded with the X-E1 body with attached 60mm macro lens one side and 3 lenses (18-55, 23 f1.4 & 35 f1.4) all in pouches on the other side.  Some XF lenses will fit across the bag front to back rather than side to side, which may increase the number of small lenses that will fit.

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The canvas feels sturdy and has a degree of stiffness that will probably mellow.  Interestingly, this is one of those bags that somehow seems to conform to your body and movement as you walk along and wear it, rather than feeling like an awkward add on.  It simply feels good to wear and even when loaded with 2 bodies is fine (for me) to walk around with all day.

 

In use the clasp opens and closes easily enough and getting the camera out is a simple process.  I tend to refasten it as there is always a risk of tipping a small bag as you squat or move through obstructions, which could cause stuff to fall out.  Also the unfastened clasp tends to click in time to your step as you walk along.

 

The waxed canvas seems to repel water effectively as some I dropped on the bag while hanging out some micro fibre cloths to dry, beaded off the fabric.  I would not worry about being in a shower, especially as its easy to cradle a bag like this against you or even under a jacket.  I wouldn't want to use any bag with a flap closure only in a dusty environment, but for that I would use a functional, zipped nylon bag and leave the stylish Ona at home.

 

This isn't a bag in which you can carry all the accessories you need to support the camera and lenses on a trip away, such as chargers and cables but it isn't designed to be...I have other bags for that.  It is a great day bag with a high quality and simple design that to me looks lovely and complements the joy I get from using the X series cameras. 

 

Positives:

Superb quality of materials and construction

Great, stylish appearance

Simple, functional design

Good protective padding and structure

Good capacity considering external size

Conforms well to body and is comfortable

Retains shape well even when loaded

Seems quite water resistant

Strap is detachable to allow use of bag as insert

Good value in waxed canvas

 

Negatives:

Strap clasps seem a bit heavy on a small bag

Main compartment flap would not protect fully against dust ingress

Leather option is serious money (in UK)

 

I am well impressed with this lovely little bag so far!

 

 


Comments

John Laninga(non-registered)
I really liked my Bowery but sold it because of the following:

1. No top handle. Makes the bag somewhat inconvenient when you want to pick it up.
2. I found the pockets too tight, and the surface take the shape of whatever you put in them. For example, put in a square filter box and you can see the outline outside... and it stays after you take the item out.
3. The latch on the strap looks good but the tabs used to open them catch and the strap can come off. Happened several times until I replaced it with another strap using a more robust closure system.

== John
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