(As most school-aged children do) I carried a backpack throughout K-12 grade school. However, my first year of university at FSU, traipsing miles across campus in the 90 degree Florida August had me sweating like a pig, and soon I had my eye on some sort of shoulder/messenger bag. Soon thereafter I picked up a large, black, zippered Ogio briefcase/shoulder bag. It was wonderful — it carried ALL of the crap I could possibly imagine, was durable, and kept my bag GLORIOUSLY sweat free.

When I began photography in 2014, in to 2015, I used more traditional camera cases. However, after two or three camera case purchases, I grew weary of things like no laptop sleeve, being too small, inaccessibility as a result of being a backpack…and ultimately around spring of 2016, I began shoving whatever gear I needed for a photo shoot into the black Ogio. It solved the laptop issue, all the gear I needed for any shoot fit in the bag, and it was always accessible because I rarely if ever zipped the top closed.

But over the life of that bag, I had one strap fail completely, spilling laptop, and camera equipment out onto the asphalt after a basketball game, and then several months later with a brand new replacement, I lost the strap again in a slightly different manner walking out the door to my house. In addition, the nylon bag had begun to wear and had visible baby holes around some of the seams and the zipper…the final blow was when I started an engineering internship and needed something dressy to take with me every day.

Thus I began my search for a new bag, with a few (albeit relatively specific) criterion:

  1. It needed to be slightly smaller than the old bag
  2. It needed to be “classier” without being snobby: I carry my bag every day, with dressy outfits, to running shorts and shoes and a t-shirt on the pool deck
  3. It needed to have a laptop sleeve big enough for my 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pro
  4. It needed to fit at least my full pro-body Nikon D4, and the standard workhorse telephoto 70-200; while with the old bag I could do that with the lens attached to the body, but resigned myself to the fact that in a smaller form factor bag I would not be able to do that.

Finally, after much deliberation, I ended up with this:

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ONA Union Street in “Field Tan” 

It’s made by a high-end company called Ona, that makes camera-specific bags that don’t look like camera bags. It featured a laptop sleeve, inserts to hold and separate equipment, and was available in a variety of colors (including leather, which I avoided!).

After thoroughly researching it, and reading reviews, (and even approaching a local waxed-canvas bag maker about creating a custom bag for me…I try and shop local!) I ended up taking the plunge and splurging to buy it.

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Close-up of a buckle, taken with my new iPhone 7

When it arrived, I was disappointed at it’s size: I’d hoped for a bag a little bigger. But after that initial thought, I realized it would be good for me, and look even better. In the past several weeks since it shipped in, I’ve taken it to and out of town swim meet, where it was packed with: a pad of paper, my Boogie Board writing tablet, a D7100 crop-sensor camera with 50mm lens attached, a large 40oz insulated metal bottle, and various pens/pencils/phone/wallet/detritus. It’s been carried to and from school/engineering internship/and the pool deck, with: a laptop, a water bottle of varying size, papers, writing tablet, pens/pencils/stopwatch/detritus. This past weekend I carried it into the woods on a photo shoot — its first “real” one — and stuffed it with: my D4, two relatively large flashes, a 70-200 lens, batteries, remotes, connecting cables…and it was GREAT! And because of it’s construction (waxed canvas) it’s heavily water resistant!

It was a pretty penny to buy it. It’s a pretty bag, And so far, I like it and it’s been pretty useful. Since it’s come in, I’ve spent some time trying to justify the purchase to myself, and actually came up with an “argument” that I think is really quite reasonable, and applicable to more people than myself.

Even for men, an every-day-carry (EDC) bag is a fashion accessory. And surely my bag is an every day carry. I always have it on me. I carry it to class, to the coffee shop, to my internship, to the pool, to photo shoots; really to anything where I need a bag, and I can stuff my stuff into a messenger bag instead of a backpack. It’s a large enough accessory that it’s likely the first part of your outfit — your style — that will be seen and judged, thus, why not have one that looks good? A high-quality bag should last for a long time: my last one managed 2.5 to 3 years of hardcore use and abuse. Hopefully this one will last at LEAST that long, if not longer. And for me, very importantly, a bag is something to touch, feel, and be proud of. Like many things in life, if it makes you happy looking at it, touching it, or using it, the designers have done well.

And while this “review” is going on barely two weeks, I’d heartily recommend Ona and their bags, and am hoping the longevity of this bag matches my initial impression, and makes it worth the price.

-Colin

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