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Accessories Gear Reviews

The Holy Grail? – Choosing a bag for your Fuji

· 15.April.2015

For any photographer, the Holy Grail, as its often called, is surely that of finding the perfect camera bag! Indeed, I know some photographers who now own more bags than cameras, in their forlorn quest to find the perfect one. So let me help you decide by taking a look at two bags that I have chosen to use on a daily basis.

All the Fuji range are very compact cameras, so whichever one you were to choose, you would not need a large bag. For my own use as I shoot mainly street photography, I also require one that is inconspicuous and doesn’t shout photographer to the general public. It also needs to be lightweight, as I will often be carrying it all day, yet at the same time strongly constructed.

I looked at many makes including Billingham, Domke and Lowepro. However two bag makers stood out for me: one was Think Tank and the other Ona. It’s these two brands that I am reviewing here and let me start by saying that each bag was bought with my own hard earned cash. I have no connection with either manufacturer and was not paid by them to write this review!

So let me start with the Think Tank Retrospective range, the smallest of which is the Retrospective 5 (the image above), which retails for around £100. This is produced in three colours: slate blue, pinestone (olive green) and black.

I went for the pinestone canvas finish which, as with the other two colours, has a water repellant coating. Despite this coating, Think Tank also generously provides a collapsible waterproof bag, which can be wrapped over the canvas bag.

The bag is very well padded, so offering lots of protection for your valuable gear. It also has lots of pockets for storing pens, SD cards and batteries etc. The main flaps have great Velcro fastenings, making for very quick and secure access. If the Velcro ‘rip’ sound, when you open the bag to retrieve an item, is too conspicuous (for example, street or wedding photography), then you can even silence them!

The bag easily holds my X100 or X-T1 (or even both!), charger, spare batteries, SD cards, bottle of water and can even just about squeeze in my old version 1 iPad. (A mini iPad will fit comfortably.)

I bought this bag back in 2011, just after I bought my Fuji X100 and have used it regularly ever since. I can honestly say that, after almost four years, it still on the whole looks just like new. The fabric is extremely hard wearing and I suspect will last for many more years to come. The shoulder strap is really comfortable, even when the bag is full and has been over my shoulder for many hours.

Pros

  • Very hard wearing and durable
  • Lots and lots of secure pockets
  • Great non-slip padded shoulder pad

Cons

  • Quite bulky for it’s small size
  • Utilitarian in looks

Specifications

  • Interior Dimension: 9.5″ W x 7.8″ H x 4.5″ D (24 x 19.5 x 11.5 cm)
  • Exterior Dimension: 10″ W x 8.5″ H x 6″ D (25.5 x 21.5 x 15 cm)
  • Weight: 2.3 lbs (1.0 kg)

 

ona bag

Ona Bowery

 

The Ona Bowery is a more recent acquisition of mine. I bought this bag because, as much as I like the Think Tank, I wanted a bag that had a smarter look. Great for occasions when I needed to take it with me to business meetings, without the bag looking out of place. It’s also less bulky than the Retrospective. Again, Ona produce the bag in a few different colours: tan, black and smoke, that retail for £115. There is also one in full leather, admittedly at the much higher price of £235. I chose the black canvas version with the brown leather strap, which I feel looks very smart and, as I said earlier, doesn’t look out of place whether I’m casually dressed or wearing a suit.

The canvas is water resistant and the bag has side flaps for further weather protection.

The bag has a large flap that is fastened with a snap buckle. So both fairly secure and fast to open and close. Also, on the outside at the bag is a pocket that runs the full width of the bag. It doesn’t have a zip or other fastening, so don’t go putting anything valuable in this pocket. I must admit I would have preferred it to have a zip.

The shoulder strap is nicely made and can easily be removed if required, although I don’t know why anyone would want to, as there is no other way of holding the bag? However, the shoulder strap has no padded shoulder piece to help secure it on your shoulder.

Once you open the bag, you are greeted with another full width pocket at the front. This one, however, is stitched down the middle so forming two pockets. Again, these have no way of securing the contents, other than this time the large flap that covers all the case. Inside the bag, which is nicely lined, you are supplied with one adjustable separator. It would have been nice if the bag had been supplied with two, thus giving you more choice. However, if you really need another one, they are available at extra cost!

ona bag

Ona Bowery Interior

 

I carry my either my X100 or X-T1 in the larger area, with a spare lens or other accessory in the other compartment. Spare batteries I keep in the front pocket. The bag itself is very light. I have owned this bag since last November and again it’s so far wearing very well.

Pros

  • Very smart looks
  • Small in size, in width particularly
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Pockets not secured by zip
  • Shoulder strap has no padding
  • Would have liked a hand strap

Specifications

  • Exterior Dimensions 10.5 x 7.0 x 4.0″ (26.7 x 17.8 x 10.2 cm)
  • Interior Dimensions 10.0 x 6.0 x 4.0″ (25.4 x 15.2 x 10.2 cm)
  • Weight 1.6 lb (0.7 kg)

Summary

So which is best? In my mind both are great bags and either would make an excellent choice and companion for your gear. I guess your choice ultimately will be defined by how you want to use it. Alternatively like me you could always buy both!

Gary Perlmutter

Award winning photographer Gary Perlmutter has been a professional photographer since leaving full time education. Starting his career as assistant photographer, which led him to be photographer for a number of leading London studios. Gary then went on to set up his own company, Gary Perlmutter Photography, in 2009 specialising in wedding, event & portrait photography. When photographing events Gary loves to capture the moment with his photojournalistic style, which has been honed through his passion for street photography. He now runs street photography workshops. He has also had articles and images published internationally and also exhibited at various galleries in and around London.

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