When it comes to bags and backpacks, ONA isn't known for making anything cheap. Their premium bags have caught the attention of many photographers, myself included. I was very pleased when ONA sent me The Prince Street to review because aside from a few minor issues, this is without a doubt the best messenger bag I've ever used.
For many photographers having a good functional messenger bag is very useful. The problem with functional or practical messenger bags is that for the most part they're not the most premium feeling or looking. Fortunately, the ONA Prince Street messenger bag might be the perfect balance between being practical and stylish. This is something I noticed about ONA as a company, they seem to strive to develop products that are not only premium but also practical for working photographers.
The exterior of the bag is almost completely made of a very high-quality, supple leather. ONA uses full grain leather in their bags which is the best type of leather in terms of the various grades. This gives the bag a look and feels that's simply sublime. The solid brass fittings also add to the overall quality and carrying this bag around really does feel great. This I feel is appropriate considering the company name is derived from a Swahili word that means "to feel" or "to experience". There definitely is an experience when using this bag. I might be overdoing it here a little but that's just how it made me feel when I was walking around with the bag.
The issue with carrying a messenger bag that feels and looks this premium is that people will notice and sometimes it may not be with the best of intentions. For the most part, however, it's been quite a good conversation starter, especially on commutes.
Now we know the materials used by ONA are extremely good, but, what's the Prince Street like in regards to usability and design? Well, aside from the minor points which I will be discussing, I found it to be pretty good. The shoulder strap comes with a padded section that can be adjusted which is useful because some messenger bags require you to purchase the padding separately. The issue is that the shoulder pad isn't easy to move when you're carrying the bag which means any adjustments on the go require you to set the bag down. Not a major detraction by any mean but just one of those little things.
Also, the brass clips, they are fantastic in quality and feel great. The click sound they produce is very satisfying to hear. Unfortunately, one-handed use is very difficult. With some other bags I can very quickly and easily open and close them with one hand and I don't need to pay full attention to the bag. With the Prince Street, closing the top section always seemed to require two hands and this meant I was fumbling with the bag instead of taking the shot I wanted.
The only other negative I found about this bag was that the shoulder strap isn't as thick or wide as I would have preferred. Even with the padded section, it's not the most comfortable strap I've ever used. Sure the quality is exceptional and the leather feels amazing in the hand, the problem is the weight distribution. Due to how slim the strap is if you put in one lens too many, it quickly becomes very uncomfortable. Personally, I never like to put too many things in any bags or backpacks I use, I've started to become more efficient in what I need. Based on that I find the Prince Street actually helps in that regard. I will always question that extra piece of gear and how important it is for me to carry.
Even still, I can carry a good amount of gear that I actually need, comfortably. For the most part, I'll carry a small mirrorless camera like the Fujifilm X100F or as the image above shows the Leica M10-P with the 75mm f/2.0 APO. I also always have my iPad with me and the magic keyboard, the Instax SQ6 with extra film and something to enjoy any downtime.
Price is something that many of us are going to be interested in and you may be expecting me to say something about how it costs too much. Actually, I think this is really well priced. This might not be a popular opinion, but, I think this bag in full leather is very reasonable when it comes to the price. The quality of the leather, the overall design, and craftsmanship that goes into developing these bags really does warrant the $389.00. I mean there's just no getting away with how beautiful this bag is.
What I liked
- Quality wise this is second to none.
- The leather used is some of the highest quality available.
- Relatively hard wearing.
- Offer a comfortable amount of space to carry equipment.
- Reasonably priced.
What Could be Improved
- The shoulder straps need to be thicker.
- The fastening clips require a little fiddling if you're closing the main compartment.
- The front smaller pockets don't offer a huge degree of space.
- Leather requires more care than many other materials.
- Has a cost for maintaining.
"Buy cheap, buy twice", that's the thought that comes to mind for me when I'm considering bags and backpacks. They carry our cameras and lenses, which for many photographers cost far more than what this bag does. Premium products made with high-quality materials come at a cost. Sure, you might be able to point out some alternatives but there's a reason ONA bags are consistently considered one of the best options. They make extremely high-quality bags for photographers that are not only stylish but very practical too. You may be tempted to get a larger bag that can carry more equipment, but, what I love about this bag is that it makes you more efficient. Carrying a ton of equipment gets very tiresome very quickly. On that basis, this bag is the perfect size, it's not too small, and it's not huge.
Ultimately, aside from some minor design issues and the shoulder strap, I have to say this is one of (if not) the best messenger bag currently available. You can purchase yours using the link here.