The ONA Bowery is a handsomely-crafted bag created by the guys at ONA, purveyor of fine bags and accessories founded in 2010 and based in New York City.
Camera bags weren’t the first thing on my mind when I went down to Singapore in the first week of October 2016. I was there for an event – The Leica Days of Inspiration, held at Marina Bay Sands from 1st to 4th October. Knowing my obsession with all things bags, it is not entirely surprising that I ended up with a new bag for my cameras. This new bag is The Bowery by ONA.
I found myself at TK Foto located at Plaza Singapura one afternoon and was smiling inside my heart when I saw the range of camera bags displayed on their shelves. Bags truly excite me to no end.
I took about 45 minutes going through their entire range, from Sirui to Think Tank, putting my cameras in and having a feel for the way the cameras move in and out of the bag, checking how the colours match my style against one of the full-length mirrors in the shop…and finally decided that The Bowery by ONA Bags was going to leave the store with me.
The ONA Bowery is versatile, such that it serves as a camera bag when the included strap is fitted as usual, or as a camera insert without its strap. This may be a plus to some, but it wasn’t exactly a feature I would be using, or appreciate. At least for now.
Aside from the expected closed cell foam padding and single removable partition within, what’s great about The Bowery is that it is made of high quality water-resistant waxed canvas on the exterior, which will keep the contents safe in wet weather, as I do find myself in at times.
It will probably handle a drizzle pretty well, but heavy rain and thunderstorms could be a different story.
The canvas flap opens and reveals additional covering on the sides that folds in and keeps the camera protected from water droplets and small splashes. The canvas is thick – thicker than some materials you’d find on shoes – but not too thick as to make opening and closing the bag cumbersome.
The Bowery is detailed on the front and sides by full-grain leather, which is further accented by antique brass hardware for the latch and strap hooks that gives the bag its overall old-world charm.
The single latch at the front is strong with a push button that makes it easy to disengage, and the hooks at both ends of the strap are designed to be simple to unhinge with the thumb, without unhinging themselves unintentionally.
I cut short pieces of a plastic straw and place them as low-friction spacers between the brass buckles and the leather loops, to prevent wearing out the leather part prematurely, though it will be a very long time before that will happen even without the straws. Added engineering, if you will.
Despite its deceptive diminutive size, The Bowery is designed to house a dSLR with a lens or two, and I found that it houses both my Leica Q and X Vario very nicely, even with an external EVF mounted on the X Vario. The cameras sit within without being too snug, and removal is smooth and easy for these two cameras.
The two side pockets keep the spare batteries for the respective cameras on each side, and the front pockets fit a Lamy pen, a Lens pen, cleaning cloth, a lighter, and a cigar tube.
The fact that The Bowery is made in the Dominican Republic aptly fuels the matching with the Montecristo No.3 within.
The rear pocket is good for tickets and folded documents, and during this trip, I kept my passport in there. The rear pocket may be a little too shallow for comfort for an important document such as a passport, but it is deep enough to contain the entire passport and snug enough that it won’t slip out easily. All pockets on the front, rear and sides are tight and keep their contents within securely.
On Days 3 and 4 of my trip, I test drove The Bowery for full days of street shooting, including going to Gardens by the Bay and the vicinity of Marina Bay Sands, and covering the entire Orchard Road from end to end.
While I would have loved to have a shoulder pad on the strap, the wide strap felt exceptionally comfortable on the shoulders, and it didn’t feel like the bag was weighing down on them – not surprising, for a bag this size holds only two cameras at most. Or a camera body with two lenses.
It could be because that the nylon strap is smooth and without any rough texture like a car seat belt, and a padding could have otherwise made it unexpectedly uncomfortable.
The Bowery retails for US$149 on ONA’s website at time of writing, and I was happy to find that the shop in Singapore I was at had a special and sold it at S$159 (US$115) from its usual price of S$189 (US$138).
The Bowery is highly recommended as a camera bag that keeps more than it suggests, and is comfortable on the shoulders for the entire day even without padding.
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