PetaPixel

Review: The Ona Leather Brixton is a Bag That Won’t Cramp Your Fashion Style

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When was the last time you received a compliment for how beautiful your camera bag is? Do you dread carrying your gear to activities and events due to the fact that your bag completely clashes with your fashion sensibilities? Are you a man?

If you answered “yes” to that last question, camera bag company ONA wants to change your answer for the first two.

While most major camera bag manufacturers are focused on the utility of their wares, ONA is a company that’s just as focused on the beauty of theirs. One of the company’s latest products is the Leather Brixton, a sleek messenger bag for your camera and laptop that seems like it would be more at home in a high-end clothing store than in a camera shop.

We were recently provided with a free review unit of the bag to put through the paces, and will be sharing some of our thoughts with you here.

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The bag itself is made by hand out of Italian-tanned leather. It features a gentle wax finish that’s designed to age gracefully — the company says it “develops a rich patina” as you use it, making it more beautiful with age.

While it won’t allow you to carry a large amount of gear from place to place, it’ll be perfect for the small kit you carry around for everyday photography. The bag is designed for one camera, two to three lenses, and a 13-inch laptop.

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The inside layout is completely customizable, with four removable dividers that you create compartments with. Three of them are small dividers that span from front to back, and one is a large divider that can split your entire bag in half from side to side (or offer extra padding on the front or back of the bag).

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On the back of the bag is a compartment for your laptop, and there are four extra compartments around the bag for extra accessories — two on the front and one on each side.

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The Good

The Leather Brixton isn’t massive in its main compartment, but it’s enough. Our Canon 5D DSLR and 35mm prime lens fits nicely, but only when the large divider/padding is removed. If you use a smaller mirrorless camera, you’ll find that the bag’s size is perfect. For larger cameras, it’s not perfect, but perfectly acceptable. If you use a DSLR that has an attached battery grip (or a pro-style DSLR), you’ll probably want to find a larger bag.

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As we mentioned earlier, the inserts can be completely removed if you want to make the bag no different from many messenger bags out there, with a single main compartment that’s soft and padded. The velcro removes easily and cleanly, leaving no evidence that the bag is even designed for cameras. Adjusting the compartments for different gear combinations is also a snap.

The bag protects your gear very well. The outside of the bag is thick, the main compartment features weather flaps on the top sides to prevent rain from entering the opening, and the cover clips closed very tightly with its two antique brass clasps.

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As you can probably guess, the main selling point of this bag is its style. This is one of the most — if not the most — beautiful bag we’ve ever laid eyes on. There’s just something different about leather versus synthetic materials, about brown versus black, about soft and tacky versus cold and plasticky.

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“Gorgeous” and “eye-catching” aren’t words that we’d typically think of when considering most camera bags, but they are more than appropriate for this one.

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Bags like this one might even help slow the encroachment of smartphones on the camera market. It’s a bag that begs to be worn, which can’t be said for most. If you’ve been defaulting to your smartphone or point-and-shoot when headed out of the house simply because your camera bag cramps your style, a bag like this one can help your bigger and badder cameras see more love.

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The build quality of the bag is also fantastic. The leather is thick all around, and serious stitching keeps all the pieces bonded tightly together. This is a bag that’s built like a tank.

The Bad

The overall design and layout of the Leather Brixton is so good that we don’t really have any major complaints there. There are, however, some nit-picky things that we think you should know.

One is that the two parts of the brass tuck-clasp clatter against one another if you’re strolling about with the cover unsecured. It’s convenient to leave the cover open to make your gear as easy to get to as possible, but you’ll have to live with the fact that your steps will be accompanied by a “clack clack” sound.

Luckily each of the clasps comes with a frame-and-prong mechanism (like a belt buckle) that lets you adjust the length of the strap or to remove the straps from the upper part of the clasps entirely.

“Voila!” we thought. “We’ll just leave the clasp secured and walk around with the strap unbuckled and flapping around silently!”

Not the best idea. The reason is that the clasps aren’t very secure when the straps aren’t buckled in and pressing down on them. The two upper halves of the clasps actually came undone by themselves and fell out. We only noticed this due to the second one falling with a loud clatter on the sidewalk. When we saw this, we glanced at the bag and noticed that the first one was also missing. Luckily, it had fallen out in the office.

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Thus, live with the clatter lest you feel like ordering a replacement clasp. Either that, or always keep the cover fastened to the bag at the expense of having your camera always at the ready.

Another thing to note is that the bag has a semi-strong odor when it first pops out of the box. It’s very leathery, but can be mistaken for other things as well. “Do you smell baby urine?” is one thing we heard. Luckily, this smell disappears quite quickly once you start wearing the bag around.

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Although the bag is marketed as being suitable for 13-inch laptops, it’s a bit of a stretch — literally. When trying to stuff a 13-inch Macbook Pro into the bag, we wished that there existed some kind of shoehorn for stuffing laptops into bags. The laptop did get a bit easier to insert after the bag stretched out and loosened up a bit, but it’ll probably be nicer if you have a smaller screen or thinner device.

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Finally — and this is the con that will keep many of you from seriously considering this bag — this pretty bag costs a pretty penny. It’s obviously not a pain we felt since we were provided with a review unit, but the Leather Brixton will set you back $419.

That’s a very steep price to pay for a messenger camera bag, but ONA understands that. The company is trying to serve a very particular photography niche: photographers with disposable income who are just as concerned about their fashion image as they are about their photographic images. They make premium camera bags by hand, so you’ll need to pay a premium to join the party.

The Verdict

The ONA Leather Brixton is a feast for the eye and one that photographers can be very proud to own, use, and wear. It’s a brilliantly designed product that has very few flaws.

If you’re a fashion-conscious photography-enthusiast who is willing to shell out the price of a high-end compact camera for a bag to carry your gear around in, the Leather Brixton is one that we highly recommend.


 
  • eraserhead12

    it’s super easy to DIY your own camera bag–just sew some fabric over foam sheets and add velcro.

  • Derrick

    Domke bags FTW!

  • http://twitter.com/BenicioMurray Benicio Murray

    so easy even a numpty like me can do it :http://benicio.com.au/2013/02/diy-camera-bag-insert/

  • Marica Filipovic

    Sorry but look at the camera gear compartment and how it is oranised/divided.
    This is a many bags but a photo bag certainly isn’t.

  • Kinky Joe

    Yup, too small and cramped for most of us avvid DSLR photogs.

  • http://twitter.com/sidceaser Sid Ceaser

    A while back I was looking for the perfect shoulder bag for my Hasselblad kit; I wanted something just as gorgeous and elegant as the camera and I searched and searched for the perfect bag that would also double as my day-to-day satchel. At first I looked at Domke, but kept hemming and hawing as I couldn’t use it as my day bag. Then, while wandering around King Richard’s Faire I came across a gorgeous seller with a whole slew of leather backpacks, shoulder bags and messenger bags. The one I picked up was $180 and I hoped that there would be a camera insert that would work with this bag. I ordered the Tenba messenger insert for it and it fit perfectly. Totally snug. A perfect fit, like they were made for each other.

    I’ve had the bag for about six or seven months now, and it’s aging perfectly – becoming very soft and darkening even more than it was when I first bought it. The inside is made from sail cloth and features multiple large zippered pockets that fit everything from a laptop to an iPad to all kinds of other stuff.

    It’s absolutely perfect, it looks astounding no matter if I’m using it as my day-to-day messenger or if I have my Hasselblad kit in it. It was worth every penny I paid, and It’s probably my most favorite bag.

    Search around your local areas and I bet you can find something that is more affordable than this Ona bag, but every bit as elegant.

    Cheers,
    Sid

    Here is a picture of my bag:

  • Bob Dobbs

    I was looking for a bag a few months ago and was particularly keen on the Brixton “Smoke”. But, as I have smaller micro 4/3 gear I wanted more compartments and/or the ability to stack compartments vertically. Buying a few more dividers added ~20$ to the cost (I think), and didn’t help with the vertical stacking. Also, they don’t have a Canadian distributor (or didn’t at the time), so shipping added another ~50$, which I don’t think included duty. In the end, I figured the total cost of the 269$ bag would have been close to 350$, so I didn’t buy it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/igor.kennn Igor Ken

    I spent months wondering wether to get a ONA bag. I was considering the backpack which would cost me above 500$ shipping included. ONA bags do look like God’s gift to photographers with fashion requirements to their camera bag, but upon a closer look you will see that design wise, they aren’t the perfect solution either. I hope it’s a market that will see a growth in the next years (I still can’t chose a proper bag and go around with an canvas old military bag converted to a camera bag, or a Canon brand bag which is ugly as hell)

  • Becca Gulliver

    Ewwww, I’ve cheaper camera bags that look far nicer than that. I don’t like the placement of the top handle and the way it leans to one side when you hold it either.

  • http://twitter.com/richardford Richard Ford

    Queer eye for a straight guy peta pixel? Seriously who could possibly care in the slightest what a bag looks like or why? Seriously is this april fools post? Please don’t post crap like this again. It lowers your site credibility. And makes one question masculinity too.

  • J

    …what on earth does this have to do with “being a man”? This is a MANLY BAG, for MANLY PHOTOGRAPHERS?
    People of any gender and more money than sense might want to shell out for a leather bag with a couple of inserts that any sensible person could make themselves.

  • gochugogi

    Most photogs do care, especially those in fashion, wedding and event fields, but probably not enough to spend $420 on a small bag. The exception being street and travel photogs tend to use diaper bags to remain incognito. But judging from the abundance of Billingham, Crumpler, Thinktank, etc., that sell, style is fine was long as it’s functional and reasonably priced.

  • Rob Stofa

    Id say get a billingham bag instead.. just as beautiful and probably a bit more functional.. although probably just as expensive.

  • http://www.jiriruzek.net/photography-courses/ Jiří Růžek

    My favorite camera bag is Domke F2. This one looks good for occasions when you have to look good too. But the price …. There are many other bags…

  • Dee

    Before even knowing about this brand, I bought the exact same bag with synthetic leather on eBay for $40 with the shipping included!

  • misterkofa

    You guys are missing the point. This is not a bag for everybody. It may seem overpriced for some but for others it’s completely reasonable. There will always be cheaper alternatives to everything. It’s a nice bag and I’m considering picking one up but I gotta make sure my laptop fits.

  • Bianca

    Is there anymore – please send me the link! :)

  • Jonny

    These bags aren’t for losers like you. Have fun with you fake leather bag, fake Rolex and Rebel T1i. And I saw the fake leather ones on Ebay, they look like they’re plastic and will not last a year.

  • Jonny

    Have fun with your homemade bag…idiot. LOL

  • Jonny

    This bag is for those of us with style, money and pride. I want the best and I don’t mind spending a little extra for it. It’s the same reason why I drive a 2013 Mercedes and you drive a 2004 Toyota. It’s the same reason why I shoot with a 1DX and Zeiss Otus and you’re okay with a Rebel and kit lens. In a world where every idiot and stay-at-home mom is now a “professional photographer”, I want to stand out from the rest. When clients book us, they’re not only getting the best wedding images but also a stylish and fun team. This bag isn’t for everyone and we prefer it stay this way;)

  • whyno

    Look, if you’re buying this bag, you aren’t looking for a bargain. I could make my own bag, sure, but do I want to? No. Could I find something else to spend almost $500 on? Eh, probably, but this bag is in my budget, and it’s perfect for my M3 or NEX 7 and about two or three lenses, depending on how tightly you want to pack and, of course, their size. There’s still room for my 13″ MBPr and an iPad Air fits perfectly in the back pocket. Super high quality… I don’t regret the purchase in the least.