Wotancraft Ryker Bag Gets a Little Leica-Centric Brother: A Review

Wotancraft Ryker Bag Gets a Little Leica-Centric Brother: A Review

By now you are likely no stranger to Wotancraft and their incredibly delicious camera bags. We've reviewed a slew of them here on Fstoppers over the past few years, and I was not shy about remarking that their flagship Ryker is one of my favorite shoulder bags of all time. When I found out they now have an even smaller version perfect for even the smallest mirrorless rigs, I was thrilled to check it out and see if it could improve or change what I've come to expect from the Ryker. I was happy to receive a small Ryker from Wotancraft to review and compare to a full-sized Ryker. As always, these are no-strings attached and I will be giving my completely unbiased and fair take.

What's the Same?

Ultimately, this is the same leather Ryker they've been crafting for nearly a decade by hand using vegetable tanned full-grain leather that is designed with mirrorless users in mind. If you're not familiar, be sure to read our full take on that bag first. Just like the original Ryker, this small one eschews Wotancraft's general utilitarian World War II vibe for a more luxurious leather-clad experience that would look just at home on a high-powered CEO's suit as it would on a casual street shooter. The design is remarkably plain and simple with a subdued two-tone leather combo. This particular sample has a base of black treated leather with tasteful dark brown accents which will certainly go with any outfit and any camera (that fits — more on that later). While you can argue any camera bag looks like a camera bag, I truly think the Ryker looks far more like traditional leather messenger bags han anything.

General functionality is mostly identical. The main compartment has a plush-lined zip cover and then an additional magnetized flap. The idea is that you leave the zipper undone while shooting and use the flap to keep rain, dust, and prying eyes out, but then you can zip it up for travel and additional security. The front has a large zipper pocket and then a smaller unzipped "document" pocket on front of that. With the smaller size there has been a single sacrifice in pockets and that is the rear zipper pocket that would normally rest against your body in normal use. While not a deal-breaker, that's a bit of a shame since that was the most secure, hidden pocket — perfect for a passport or other important papers.

But fortunately, smaller doesn't mean a sacrifice on quality. They are still made by the same half-a-dozen-or-so artisans in Taipei, Taiwan. It is hard not to gush with excitement when you first pull it out of the protective canvas bag it ships in. To borrow from my own early remarks, it absolutely oozes quality. Even nearly three years later and after using nearly another dozen leather bags, none has exceeded my Ryker in apparent feel and quality. And oh, that beautiful leather smell that hits you like a fastball to the face — it never gets old. And yes, that vegetable tanning process still produces a leather that is exceptionally soft and broken-in from day one. And of course the small Ryker still has all that wonderful little attention to detail from the tiny Wotancraft-branded rivets, to the zippers that fold outwards when undone to prevent scratching equipment, to the leather anchor tabs that make closing the zipper snag-free.

As with most modern camera bags, the inside is built to be modular using Velcro-ready microfiber. It's basically a cavernous blank slate and you can add and adjust dividers to suite your exact needs from day to day or shoot to shoot. The bag ships with three dividers which is one more than probably anyone will need. Especially being a smaller bag, two dividers gives you three compartments and I don't know what you'd fit with four small divisions. Wotancraft has switched up the interior colors from time to time, but currently the black smaller Ryker has maroon microfiber while my regular black Ryker has a purple interior. I genuinely cannot tell you which I like better because they both look fantastic. I suppose the slightly lighter red interior makes it slightly easier to see small accessories that may have fallen to the bottom. In any case, it's a nice design risk to go with a colored interior as opposed to a safe choice like black.

What's Different?

Let's lead off with the obvious: It's a smaller bag. And by that I mean it's primarily shorter which was one place where I thought the Ryker got a little overwhelming when shooting with my little Leica rangefinders and some of those tiny compact lenses. The small Ryker is only 1cm (0.4") shallower, and 4cm (1.6") narrower, but it's a full 8cm (3") shorter. It's now basically the exact height of a Leica M when fully inserted sideways.

Not only is it easier to access and stow gear with the smaller size, but I find that the bag doesn't bloat and stretch when fully loaded so the magnetic flap latches without having to pull down unnecessarily hard on it. Additionally, the smaller flap also means there's no need for the horizontal leather "tuck strap" to help secure the flap and they have completely done away with it. This was probably my biggest criticism of the regular Ryker. That main flap would sometimes put up a fight when the bag was full, especially if you tried to stuff a DSLR, a ton of film, or some larger lenses in there.

As mentioned above, the backside is a bit different as well. It's pretty much just plain leather and Wotancraft's embossed logo. I really would have liked see a zipper pocket even at the smaller size. The larger regular Ryker has a luggage handle slot, too. I acknowledge this isn't nearly as practical on a bag this size, though.

New for 2018 across the entire Ryker range is the strap design. While they are still adjustable, leather, with large comfortable padding, gone are the traditional metal buckles and in is a leather loop & stud. I have to admit I'm a huge fan. It takes a couple seconds longer to put on and take off, but it looks amazing and provides a very satisfying and secure connection. Those metal clips are a well-known point of failure on all bags. Wotancraft suggests this was done not just for security, but also to reduce weight — the regular Ryker is 20% lighter overall than it was before 2018 and part of this has to do with getting rid of excess metal components.

Wotancraft has doubled-down on their modular accessory system ever since the Trooper back in 2017. There is a whole range of modular accessory add-ons on top of lens dividers and pillows. One of my other notable complaints about the Ryker when I first reviewed it in 2016 was the lack of dedicated spots for things like pens, batteries, chargers, and other common accessories, but now if you want a spot for something, you can just simply by the appropriate module attach it anywhere you want in the bag. Thy have modules with elastic bands for lens caps and cables, modules with pockets perfect for earbuds and batteries, and modules with slots perfect for business and credit cards. There is also a lens stack add-on if you want to put two lenses on top of each other. The curved compartment includes a flip-up pad you can put between two lenses.

My favorite new optional feature on the small Ryker, though, is the optional leather grab handle accessory. I'm typically not a strap guy. I like wrist straps for my smaller cameras, and I tend to just work straight out of a messenger or backpack with my DSLRs. I like being able to grab and go, so having a handle on my rangefinder bag is perfect for me. I haven't tested it as such, but it also appears you could use this strap as a luggage strap to stow it on top of your rolling suitcase or carryon.

None of the accessories are particularly pricey with even the most expensive being exceptionally well-built leather handle being USD $45, but admittedly these can add up fast. Throw on a handle and three modules and you're looking at around a 25% increase to the base price of the bag even with the discount you get on modules for ordering them with the bag.

Who's This For?

The original Ryker was certainly designed with the mirrorless shooter in mind, but the world of mirrorless cameras is pretty varied with some approaching SLRs in size — especially lenses that have to be large due to flange distance. Your average Sony a7 or Nikon Z user is probably going to want the regular size even even just to handle additional and larger lenses. It's also worth considering the regular Ryker if the idea of being able to handle an ungripped DSLR and a couple smaller lenses and even an iPad-sized tablet in a compact leather shoulder bag appeals to you as well.

So who is this smaller bag for, exactly? The Leica M shooter — that's who. Obviously any cameras and lenses of similar size will fit, but Wotancraft unapologetically designed this particular version specifically for Leica rangefinders with no compromise. This doesn't just mean small compact camera bodies, but this is also considering the Leica M lenses being substantially smaller than typical autofocus mirrorless lenses across the rest of the photography industry. The small Ryker is the exact height of an M rangefinder on its side, and it's the exact width to handle two bodies mounted with two lenses. You can even order an optional "lens pillow" that will perfectly support wider "Lux" lenses when stowed away. If you're rocking more compact lenses such as Summicrons and the like, this isn't necessary, but I'm sure one can appreciate any little bit to protect lenses that cost as much as my car.

If you're looking for a small no-frills leather shoulder bag with unrivaled construction and material quality, and you have a Leica M or very similar setup, the small Ryker should be on your short list. Wotancraft takes customer service very seriously and strives to put a personal and flexible touch on every order because they understand the general uncertainly many people have of buying overseas. If you have questions or requests before ordering you can talk to them. I even heard a story of someone wanting a handle on a bag where one didn't exist and they installed one custom! And if that's not enough, they offer a three-year guarantee of free repairs for any bag used as intended. Even if you need a repair after the warranty period, shipping is free when you pay for repairs.

What I Liked

  • Raw quality of materials and workmanship
  • Thoughtful, practical, attractive, and timeless design
  • Incredible attention to detail
  • Full-grain treated black leather maintains its "new" look
  • Small and discrete size perfect for small cameras on the go
  • Main compartment zippers fold out to prevent scratching gear
  • Open, configurable, modular main compartment with thick, protective lining
  • Fast shipping, despite coming from overseas
  • Price before accessories

What I Didn't Like

  • Very singular in purpose. Versatile for it's small Leica-designed application, but not much else.
  • The modular nature lends itself to accessories which can increase the price fast.
  • Small size won't fit an iPad.
  • No more rear pocket

Not much has changed in that the Ryker is still an impressive bag that, while not cheap at USD $329, is more than worth it for a bag that will last a lifetime with proper care. Just now there are more options depending on your exact needs. If you're a Leica M shooter exclusively, this is your bag. If you need more flexibility, go with the regular size. In any case, you can get yours at wotancraft.tw.

Sean Molin's picture

Sean Molin is an award-winning photographer out of Indianapolis who specializes in weddings, portraits, travel, and live music photography. He has had work featured in galleries and in magazines ranging from Popular Photography to Rolling Stone.

Coming from web development and IT, he's as much a geek for the gear as he is for taking photos.

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