This bag is by far the nicest looking bag I have ever seen or owned. A bag that looks this good is bound to have its trade offs and I assure you it does. The Camps Bay backpack is the beautiful book smart person who just lacks most street smarts. I know that analogy is a complete failure but what I mean is that this bag is the epic battle of form over function.
Form Over Function
The bag does look great and I have always wanted a backpack that Indiana Jones would wear. I picture him storing his whip or maybe some kind of priceless antique into the bag for safekeeping. The bag doesn’t just look good, it smells good. Ron Burgundy would replace the rich mahogany smell of his apartment with the scent of rich Camps Bay. This is where the bag is strongest, it has the best looks out of any camera bag I have seen to date. All the bags I use are designed by photographers and these bags are designed to be efficient. This bag was designed for a movie set or the hipster generation to carry around old film cameras.
This also leads to, in my opinion its greatest downfall, the bag just isn’t that functional or efficient. Let me walk you through using the bag to grab a simple lens or camera out of it. First, you have to set the bag down to remove an item from it, either on your lap or onto the ground. Second, you have to undo the two clasps on the front of the bag. Then thirdly, you have to unzip the “n” shaped compartment; the reason for setting down the bag is because this compartment opens outward and depending on what you are packing it may fall out. Now you may remove a lens or camera from the bag. This can be quite a hassle especially because you have to zip and clip the bag back up after an item was removed.
So as you can probably predict I am not going to recommend this bag for street shooters or anyone who needs lenses ASAP. This is just like most other backpacks so the inconvenience isn’t much different from the traditional backpack but the Camps Bay just doesn’t make it easy for you nor does it seem to attempt to.
I know I have complained quite a bit but let me put it this way, there isn’t a single bag out there that looks as good as this one that just happens to be more or close to as practical. The Camps Bay just cannot be thrown into the same ring as all of the other backpacks because it has some real practical uses.
This bag does have a place in my life, it may not be used all the time like my other bags but when I take out this bag it means one thing: special occasion. Special times or trips where I would prefer more design and a better looking bag over something that is built for speed.
I have brought the bag out in a couple of situations like client meetings and events where I wanted the backpack to be as dressed up as I was. In these situations the brown leather and waxed canvas outsides get some looks and comments. Sometimes I leave it at home because I just didn’t want the bag to outdress me ;).
These are the times where this bag is chosen instead of a Think Tank or Lowepro bag, they just don’t blend in as well. Also the fact that the bag just doesn’t scream “Hey look at me! I am filled with precious gear!”. Instead thieves may possibly look at the bag as if it were the high dollar item.
The cameras straps on the outside aren’t too padded but are enough so that weight doesn’t haunt you the next day. The Camps Bay has two pockets on either side and these are the only easily accessible pouches on the outside. If you undo the two clasps on the front of the bag it will expose the main compartment as well as a smaller horizontal zipper that will reveal a smaller accessory area. This area for me held my film (film because digital is so mainstream) as well as my wallet and a few other items. It could easily hold several batteries, a cell phone and SD cards in the slots made for them.
The material of the Camps bay is a waxed canvas with certain leather parts including little tabs here and there, linings of pockets, straps and the thick bottom part of the bag. The bag in my opinion can be a little stiff but I believe that it will loosen up after a bit of time and use but what do I know about leather (nothing besides don’t get it wet!).
In the main compartment there is quite a bit of room and ONA says that you can fit an SLR and up to 7 lenses, I concur with them. I was able to easily fit my D800 a couple of lenses and my Mamiya M645 in the bag without a problem.
Under the front flap on the top of the bag is a compartment for some organic whole food snacks or additional camera gear. This little shelf can also be removed so that you fit additional gear or longer lenses into the bag. Also towards the back of this pocket there is a slip for a laptop or tablet in which it can slide back behind all of your gear.
I know I have already ranted about the time it takes to switch lenses with this bag but in real world casual low stress photo environments this bag is actually really nice. In times where I am not running between my subject and my gears resting place and I’m actually being calm for once this bag is just cool. It’s a hip bag with a unique look, it won’t be mistaken with all of the other backpacks out there and it really does make you an individual when its worn.
The straps although they could be a bit beefier are perfectly adequate for the weight that you could pack. This is coming from me and I am a notorious over packer of gear, the mesh back of the bag is quite comfortable. When loaded up on a hot day this backpack will definitely make my back sweat, it was especially noticeable since this summer was warmer than usual.
If you are traveling into the wilderness and are looking for a bag to take this isn’t for you. There isn’t an included rain cover nor do I think this bag is weather proof in anyway (also the leather wouldn’t play nice). For an outdoor excursion period this bag isn’t for you unless it’s being a prop on a model for an REI ad. If you are a casual slow paced well dressed individual and who may also be a fan of Harrison Ford this bag is for you! Although I fear that the price of $429 will scare away most of ONA’s potential buyers for this bag but this was not made for the mainstream. It was made for a niche group who may prefer design over function. I myself being someone who has missed key shots because I was using an older camera backpack a few years ago now shies away from gear that prevents me to efficiently and quickly get the shot.
In summary the backpack is undeniably beautiful but is so at the cost of some function and efficiency. If you have all the functional bags out there but are looking for a dress up bag this one is for you.
If you would like to read more about the ONA Camps Bay backpack please check out their site here.
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