Since being founded in 2010, ONA has made a huge splash in the photographic community with their high end camera bags. I used The Berlin II for Leica bag everyday for the last month and these are my thoughts.
I previously used a larger Domke bag, which was good for carrying an SLR and extra lens. Carrying my x100s and Leica M3 with me everyday, I wanted a bag that better suited those cameras. The Berlin II took a little adjustment to carry all my peripherals. I had previously left them loose in the main pocket of the Domke. The Berlin II is more refined, more organized with a place for everything.
After using the Berlin II for over a month now, I can’t see going to any other bag. While it’s not large enough to fit a laptop, the iPad Air fits quite nicely in the back pocket. The front compartment has great spaces where my business cards, pens, notebooks, and various other items live. I’m not exactly sure what the little leather sleeves on the far left are for, but they seem to hold SD cards and my Summicron lens cap quite well. There is also space for my kindle behind the camera and lens compartments. Speaking of that, you can fit a Leica M body and 3 lenses in the fully customizable interior. I don’t have the any other lenses yet, but I rock the x100s, moment lenses, and a disposable camera instead. My iPhone 6+ also fits perfectly in the side pocket.
Using this bag every day for the last month has become natural. The gunmetal buckles are easy to undo with one hand to access your gear. Shooting street work in downtown offers unique challenges which the Berlin II solves. The clips aren’t too easy to access by a potential thief like Velcro on other bags. The interior provides great padding when you inevitably bump into a door frame or fellow pedestrian. The accessory pocket sports a hefty zipper to keep all your goodies from falling out.
The signature red felt interior is as stunning as it is in the display cases of Leica stores. The strap is very thick leather with a nice shoulder pad. On the front you'll notice the signature red again on a single rivet. This collaboration between ONA and Leica came together to celebrate 100 years of Leica photography.
What I liked:
The overall quality of the bag is superb from the leather to the hardware
The more you use it the better it looks, developing a rich patina over time.
Designed specifically for use with the Leica M system
Comfortable enough to use everyday for extended periods of time
What could be improved:
I wish the front pouch had a little more extra space for various loose items.
The claps are difficult to tell when they are clipped back in, I’d like a little more audible or tactile feedback
Unlike the Bowery, the strap is not removable, so if you aren’t a fan of the strap, you’re still stuck with it.
The problem with using high quality gear, is that you can never go back to using more economical options. I’d suggest this bag to anyone, especially my fellow Leica shooters. Your baby deserves a good home. If the Berlin is too large for your tastes, you’re in luck. As of last week, the ONA Bowery for Leica shoulder bag is available for purchase. While the Bowery bag has been available, the special edition designed specifically for Leica systems has not. The bag is designed for the Leica M-System as well as Leica Q, Leica T, Leica X, and newly released Leica SL cameras. The Bowery is the little brother to the Berlin II messenger bag. The insert is customizable for use with one body and up to two lenses in addition to five exterior pockets. The bag can also be used as an insert into larger bags when you remove the straps, though I don’t know why you’d ever hide this thing inside another bag.