ONA “The Union Street Camera and Laptop Bag” Review

Best In Class

9 Build Quality
7 Value
10 Ease Of Use
10 Style
9

In the years that I’ve been pursuing the art of photography I’ve had my share of camera bags…  I’ve tried everything from backpacks to messenger bags to burlap bag.  Finding the perfect camera bag is a personal thing, everyone has their specific needs based on their individual lifestyles and finding the bag to fit can sometimes seem like trying to fit a round peg into square hole.  Admittedly, I’m generally looking for something inexpensive for my camera bag but when I first saw the ONA bags I fell in love with the simplicity and style.  I like a camera bag that does not look like I’m carrying thousands of dollars of camera gear around.

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The Details

  • Handcrafted out of waxwear
  • Genuine leather accents and base
  • Antique brass hardware
  • 5 dividers including removable laptop divider (fits most 15″ laptops)
  • Room for a DSLR and up to 3 lenses (but really only two lenses and a small prime lens in my experience)

Build Quality

The camera ships in a nice ONA box (almost like a shoe box) and you can tell the company takes pride in their product.  The bag itself feels like it was built to withstand a beating, it’s not delicate and begs to be treated like a much less expensive bag.  The bag is firm, not so firm to be uncomfortable but firm enough to not collapse together when you take your DSLR out of the bag on the fly (meaning you can slip the camera in your bag using just one hand).

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There are a couple of flaps on the sides of the bag that fold beneath the main flap when you close the bag, I believe these are to keep the weather and debris out of your bag.  On my recent trip to the beach the bag performed wonderfully, not one grain of sand sneaked into the bag (can’t say the same for my clothes).

As for water resistance, I didn’t have the bag out during a downpour but did spend a couple of hours in a drizzle and everything inside of the bag stayed dry.

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The stitching all around the bag is solid, it’s one of the first things I check when purchasing a bag (or really anything with stitching).  After 5 months of pretty heavy use everything is still solid and there is no fraying or loosening.  There were early reports that the small handle at the top-back of the bag was not sturdy…  I’ve not found this to be the case.  It looks as though ONA addressed the issue as the small handle seems to be secured very well to the bag.  Nevertheless, I don’t make a habit of carrying the bag by the tiny handle when it is full of my gear, that is what the main strap is for.

The only small complaint I have is the antique brass fasteners on the main flap are sometimes a pain to fasten.  Don’t get me wrong, they are built well, it’s just that if you have the strap set on the furthest hole they can be tough to slip into the brass clasp because the leather strap wants to bend.  Is this a huge issue?  No…  In practice you’ll find that while your walking around snapping photographs of playful squirrels and what not you’ll leave the straps unfastened so you can quickly access your gear.  Being able to walk around with the straps unfastened and quickly access your DSLR and gear is one of the key reasons to own a messenger bag as your camera bag.

The main shoulder strap is comfortable and fat enough that it doesn’t feel as though it’s digging into your neck.  You’ve got plenty of room to adjust the length for your height or activity.  I regularly adjust the strap shorter when I’m riding my bike and don’t want it to flop around.  Adjusting the strap longer is great for walks where you want to casually grab gear out of your bag without jacking your shoulder up.

Ease Of Use

It’s a bag, just drop your crap in and go…  The included dividers are similar to the dividers you’ll find in any other camera bag, they use Velcro to secure each side to the walls of the bags interior.  Love it or hate it, Velcro is the standard and adjusting the dividers is just as much a pain in the butt as any other bag out there… No more, no less.  What’s nice is the bag is spacious enough you don’t have to be a contortionist to bend your wrist and fasten the dividers where you’d like them.

The computer area includes a small leather fastener to keep the computer from falling out in the off-chance you’re doing head-stands with your bag.  You may have gathered from my sarcasm that the strap isn’t really needed, it’s more of a hindrance than a benefit.  If it bothers you rest assured that a sharp pair of scissors and a steady hand can resolve the issue in mere seconds.

0314_untitled_019-2-2Even the birds like my bag.

What It’s Ideal For

Messenger bags are great for everyday photography, carrying your gear around the town or city, even short day hikes.  Longer hikes or extremely difficult terrain (traversing boulders) demands a more secure camera bag like a backpack.  You can take your camera to work with you in the ONA bag and nobody would be the wiser, it’s one of the only bags that could pull this off stylishly.  What’s more is you can feel comfortable that you won’t be making yourself a target carrying the ONA because most people won’t even know it’s a camera bag (this is ideal if you’re a traveler).

Conclusion

Three hundred bucks is a lot for a camera bag.  The ONA is more than just a camera bag though, it makes a great computer bag as well as daily briefcase bag.  You can pull the dividers out of the bag and create a versatile messenger bag you can use for just about anything.  It’s stylish enough I’m comfortable carrying it to work in my suit during the week…  How many camera bags can pull that off?

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