Fstoppers Review: The Absolutely Stunning Leather Union Street Camera Bag by ONA

Fstoppers Review: The Absolutely Stunning Leather Union Street Camera Bag by ONA

It goes without saying as photographers we prefer gear to be highly attractive in both form and function. Usually taking a hit in one department or the other due in part by price or depth in features, it's never a flawless combination. These two things for many companies is difficult as they balance high-end product design with outstanding thought in function all while fitting it inside an appropriate price point. Enter the perfect blend of both with the Union Street Camera Bag by ONA. It's not just another accessory in the world of camera gear, but rather a perfect pairing of design and functionality that I can truly stand behind and wear with distinction.

Having used this bag every day for the last few months it truly has become my favorite, even replacing my previous go-to choice of an old Incase Sling Pack I had for years. Though that bag was great for on the go, it wasn't quite fitting for my particular style and didn't speak to my true creative background. As I push further in my career and begin to bring in clients of a higher standard, I decided I wanted an everyday bag that could speak more to that naturally without being too over the top or too low-end. Yes, this bag has a steep price tag but with it comes incredible hand craftsmanship you don't find often with any other bag, let alone a camera bag.

The bag is made of a handcrafted, naturally-milled Italian leather with a pristine nod to the modern day photographer. When I first received the bag, I had doubts about its overall feel as it was stiff to the touch. Though with just a couple weeks, the leather began to form and stretch to my daily tasks. It's a messenger bag with a large over-the-top flap with leather straps and antique brass tuck-clasps which took some getting used to, but are super easy to open and then lock closed. With time, the leather begins to feel smoother and more pliable to get in and out of both the bag's primary and secondary compartments.

On the outside you have a few pouches for storage, two on either side horizontally which are tighter but can hold batteries, cables, or pens (these get slightly easier to get in and out of with use). On the back is a larger pocket with a magnetized closure built into the leather that can hold a sketchbook or paperwork. Just above the back pocket is a folded leather handle that acts as another option for carrying, almost like a briefcase, but with it situated in the back it can make the bag front-heavy when filled with lots of gear.

The interior offers plenty of space for photographers' essentials and then some. While the leather exterior will develop a rich character with time and age, I do warn you it takes time to see this weathered look. The Leather Union Street is designed to carry a 15-inch laptop, a camera, up to four lenses, and small personal items. A zippered front organizer pocket provides additional space for small accessories like cords, headphones, and more.

I personally keep a small outfit with me while shooting, usually carrying a camera body and two lenses. In this case I was able to fit a Canon 5D Mark III with an attached 50mm L, a 24-70mm L, and a 40mm pancake lens. On top of that I always carry a film option with my 1950s Ikon Zeiss rangefinder. The additional pockets on the side, back, and inside front zipper hold batteries, cables, SD cards, pens, and basic accessories.

One fantastic feature of this bag is its versatility. The inside is lined with a thick protective microfiber padding with removable compartment pieces. That means each piece you see inside the bag can be removed and placed in any order to fit your specific gear. Even the laptop sleeve can be removed to make more room for those not wanting to bring along a larger computer for shorter, more intimate shoots. These small details make or break a great camera bag for me and it's a nice touch to see its true potential to mold to any photographer's gear preference so easily.

One of the best details found in the bag is in the front zipper pouch. To the right you can see four slots perfect for storing SD or CF cards which can easily be accessible while out on a photo shoot. At first these slots were incredibly difficult to get in and out of to grab the cards, possibly because the size of the SD card's overall height. Though with time this became much easier as the bag began to wear in.

Visualized above you can see the majority of the gear I carry on a daily basis and am able to store in the bag comfortably.

What I liked:

  • Absolutely gorgeous leather look and feel
  • Wears well with time and use
  • Beautiful look and style for more than just a camera bag
  • Perfect combination of form and function
  • Wide array of pockets and storage options
  • Customizable inserts help with many gear options

What could use improvement:

  • Price (Currently at $489 it could be slightly less to attract a larger audience)
  • Shoulder strap lacked padding for longer days of use
  • Side pockets are somewhat difficult to get to in comparison to the rest of the bag

Overall the Union Street Camera Bag by ONA is by far one of the best camera bags, or any bag, I have ever used. Its simplicity and pure focus on the everyday photographer is on point with the high-end gear market. Beautifully unique, but not obvious it's holding thousands of dollars worth of camera gear, it's sure to catch some creative eyes. I would highly recommend this bag or any of ONA's styled bags for someone looking to add a bit more style to their daily routine.

Special thanks to the one and only Roberts Camera here in town for allowing me to borrow and use various Canon gear to test in and out of the bag over the last few months! It gave me the freedom to play with my minimal gear set paired with using top-of-the-line equipment that most shooters will relate to using.

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Tam Nguyen's picture

DAFUQ? That price costs more than some of the lenses I own.

Chris Knight's picture

Their bags are amazing, though. I've got a Brixton...it's sensual.

Sean Shimmel's picture

Not to become the contrarian, but... it's borderline-embarrassing that leather bags have to buttress the visionary vision of a photographer's photography.

No thanks.

I'd almost choose an oversized Ziplock just to stand my ground.

Chris Knight's picture

Eh to each their own. Can't say that the bag defines the photographer, but considering I carry a bag with me everywhere (it's a European Carryall), I appreciate that it also doubles as a camera bag while being really good-looking.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Like Chris mentions below, to each their own and I agree with you to a point. I see this as an investment in something I use every single day and will bring a higher standard to myself as a photographer and the things I put my time and money into. Its a brand I can truly stand behind. Now with the oversized Ziplock bag being a sarcastic comment, I hope, I highly doubt many clients when they see you rolling up packing gear in a plastic bag will see you as a serious contender in the marketplace. Not saying the bag makes the person by any means but it will create a persona and an overall look that clients will see as more serious about what you do and how you take care of yourself and equipment. It goes beyond just an expensive bag that I decide to spend money on. Thats my opinion.

I agree and I disagree with the above.
When talking about appearance or perception of a professional photographer - a stylised leather shoulder bag doesn't say "professional" to me - but more hipster with a camera.
Of course there may be sectors where it fits in, but not ones I've experienced.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Yea, I am not wanting to get into the realm of ''if you buy this bag, you will be a professional photographer'' or similarly by saying you will snag better clients but its definitely something you want to keep in mind when going at any business professionally. You want to be seen as someone that cares and someone that truly has an appreciation for what you do. Storing your camera gear in a trash bag with pillows when traveling (yes I have seen it done) and carrying it in a leather bag specifically fitted for photographers and to your style and daily use is much more effective and can be seen as so. I can DEFINITELY see the hipster side of it all too Haha! I think that is partly because the bag looks and wears as if you could care less about it but in reality you spent a large amount of money and its craftsmanship shows.

Sean Shimmel's picture

1. It's a stunning bag for sure and if I had one, I'd enjoy its usage.

2. Yes indeed, I'm wise cracking about the ziplock... kind of.

3. But I'm way, way past image making in my career as an image maker. Beyond basic professionalism, I'd as confidently show up in a gorilla suit and high heels (with the ziplock) as I would with a fine leather bag.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Its a steep price but as Jaron mentioned last year with his review of a the smaller Brixton its like buying furniture. You are buying it for the longevity and it will last years. My previous bag, and one I still use for longer shoots or hikes is the Incase slingpack but its completely fallen apart and cost me $100. I think the Brixton, with just a few more options in zipper pouches or something it could be a solid bag at a reasonable price point.

These bags don't target the professional market. Commercial/Ad guys are going to use hard cases. Wedding photogs are either going to use hard case, photo backpacks or a combo. Photo J's sure as hell won't buy a $500 leather bag.

Please explain to me what working photographer is able to get away with a single shoulder bag please?

Jason Switzer's picture

Agreed. They're great for people with mirrorless cameras or people with little gear to carry around. Otherwise, they're just overweight stylish hipster bags. Very poorly engineered if weight is a consideration.

Chris is right - while expensive, Ona tends to put out incredibly high-quality bags. If you have the money to put down on it, it's worth the price.

Not sure why you think this is high end. Let me tell you I own some high end handbags and you can tell at first glance that the leather is much much better quality. Men and their cheap toys... Leave it to us girls to know about quality and style... It took me two years to teach my boyfriend about style and he still makes mistakes, I even made him build us a walk in closet to motivate him but he just doesn't get it!

If you are looking for nice camera bags, then Billingham is pretty decent but you could just buy a better non camera bag and pay someone to add velcro for dividers or something.

The Billingham bags may be built in very well quality... but unfortunately they have extreme ugly look for me :D

It very much depends on the bag and the color you choose. They're summer or warm weather camera bags. I wouldn't be caught dead with one during the winter. It'd be like wearing socks on the beach.

Seen a German make - Oberwerth - that seem to do a cross between an ONA and Billingham.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Its high end look and feel is obvious to me as a photographer and a creative in general. The simplicity is what really caught my eye. Its made outstandingly well but not obtrusive when out and about and could be seen as just another bag rather than the Billinghams vintage world war look which I feel is a bit more trendy and not quite for the long run. I could be wrong. I also think with a camera bag I would rather not have pieces bulding to catch on anythign when walking. The slim frame of all the ONA bags is just great for me and I feel it would be perfect for many street shooters or every day shooters like I ahd mentioned above.

I own the Brixton .. had to buy it 2 times as it was stolen on the canarian islands during vacation... and would buy it a 3rd time if i loose it again :D
Absolutely worth the money... if it's a little expensive you don't have to go for the leather edition.. the waxed canvas is also very nice :)
Wish the Brixton would also have a few zippers..

Andrew Griswold's picture

I loved the Brixton, though it was a little limiting from the pics they had provided on the site I wanted something just slightly bigger to grow into rather than using something I already had the size for.

Those bags also don't scream "PHOTO GEAR INSIDE" while looking fucking good on any person decently dressed.

Are they fashionable? No.

Will their style outlast most clothes I own? yes.

Buy it once then use it until it looks like it's 50 years old. Then sell it as vintage. Profit.

Ok, so ONA has done a good job marketing to photographers with leather bags, but for the price I'd much rather sink my $$ into Billingham, Saddleback leather, Domke or Filson and enjoy the leftover cash. Removable padded inserts are the best of both worlds, which I would expect this price range to offer.

Andrew Griswold's picture

I agree they have done an unreal job pushing to a market of photographers and beyond the last few years. Building followings on social and really maximizing on it. Super engaging. I think that is what attracted me to them over Billingham and Filson specifically. They didnt seem to have the unique factor I wanted and the customer service was crazy! Just talking to the guys at ONA I could see the passion and love for what they do and create.

Kendra Paige's picture

I've heard great things about ONA bags, and they definitely have that 'incognito' factor that is great when walking around with expensive gear. Well done review!

Lee will be wearing this for his next hipster video. :)

I have this bag and love it. I have been carrying it every day with my fuji kit in it. It was stiff at first but now that it is broken in it is great. I wish the strap was a little more comfortable though.

Jason Switzer's picture

Let me be the cold water to be splashed in this author's face. I own this bag in the waxed canvas version. It is beautiful to look at and touch. It also holds a lot of gear, including large lenses like my Canon 70-200L ii. That being said, this bag is probably one of the least functional bags I have ever had the displeasure of using. Let me elaborate:

1. My waxed canvass bag weighs 4 pounds when empty. The leather version weighs more. Any photographer who hauls their gear around for more than an hour will tell you that weight is the enemy. ONA really needs to come up with a stylish LIGHTWEIGHT (think 2 pounds or less) option that can hold the same amount if gear, if they want my recommendation of money in the future.

2. While we're on the topic of comfort, as the author previously eluded to, the shoulder strap is basically worthless. There is zero padding to speak of; just a piece of leather covering the seatbelt strap that is supposed to sit atop your shoulder while wearing the bag. Here's a tip, ONA... Buy a Tenba bag, deconstruct it and steal their shoulder strap design. It's easily the most comfortable and well-padded shoulder straps, I've used.

To summarize, ONA (unfortunately) makes bags for photographers that want to look hip. They do not make bags that are designed for all day comfort. If you have a mirrorless system, you might be ok with a 4 pound bag. If you still use a DSLR and carry around several lenses and maybe a flash, there are most certainly better and lighter options available to you.

P.S. I don't hate ONA. They make very pretty bags. I just don't dig the "form over function" model that they have going on.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Yea, I never said the bag was perfect but overall I think its a great bag on each of the points I covered. It hit the form and function aspects I was looking for and I think it would for most shooters. I would agree strongly the strap is a bit slack in the support but I think you're missing the point of the bag. Its not mean to be a full day shoot bag. More of a commuter or small shoot carry round bag. Its meant to be for the street or daily shooter which most likely would be using lighter gear like a 6D and a prime or two. Thanks for your thoughts!

Rob Wiersberg's picture

I own this bag. My only complaint is that the top handle is small and is not centered on the top of the bag which makes it awkward to carry. That's the only thing that I would change.

The bag looks amazing! Love the color and the feel of good quality leather :-)

Might be worth checking out these leather bags from ryoko : http://ryokobags.com/collections/travel-lite

Using the cleveland currently and absolutely love’em!