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| p.1 #1 · ONA Union Street Bag Review - Bats, Ruins, and Adventure Oh My! |
Hey everybody! I recently bought an ONA Union Street, and decided to do a little review on it complete with some images of it in the field. I noticed there wasn't very many pictures of the Union Street actually out and about, and only a couple reviews, so i decided to change that by taking it with me on an adventure through the wilderness and over to some ruins by moonlight. I'm a wedding/engagement photographer, but in my spare time I enjoy doing landscapes and adventure.
The review looks swell on my website with the white background at: http://www.erickjosephphotography.com/ona-union-street-review/
I also posted it below in case you don't feel like clicking!
It's not a man purse, it's a satchel.
Indiana Jones has one!
Before we begin, allow me to give you a bit of background on myself so you know where I'm coming from in this review. I'm a professional photographer specializing in wedding and engagement photography, and in my spare time I enjoy landscape photography and documenting adventures in the wilderness with my camera. I bought the only color of the Union Street that mattered (Ranger Tan!) and use it on my wilderness adventures and at more formal or particularly organic weddings, where my Think Tank Speed Belt just wouldn't fit in. Every try to wear a belt system and a three piece suit? Yeah, it doesn't work. Needless to say, I needed something that could blend in at a black tie affair and also handle the rugged demands of the wilderness and other such adventures. It would be be a bit hard to take review samples and pictures while at a formal wedding, so I decided to take you all along for an adventure in the wilderness, complete with ruins, moonlight, and bats. Lots and lots of bats. I figured it would only be fitting for a bag that looks like something Indiana Jones would proudly endorse.
If you're anything like me, the first time you set eyes on the ONA Union Street, you were immediately impressed. Stylish, Sleek, Sexy. It screams class, all while looking more like a quality briefcase than a camera bag. In fact, the first time I saw it, I assumed it was a briefcase. Imagine my delight when I went on to discover it was a camera bag, and that it could also hold up to a 15 inch laptop. Color me impressed.
First, allow me to be forward. This is one expensive camera bag. Retailing at $289, this isn't going to appeal to everyone. This bag is a niche product, for a niche market. If you're in that niche, this bag is absolutely amazing. If you're looking to take everything you own, the kitchen sink, and a tent, this isn't the product for you. More on that later.
The bag itself is made of waxed canvas and leather. Ah, the smell of the 70's in the morning. And no, it doesn't actually smell like anything, so don't go sniffing it when you get yours! If you've never felt waxed canvas, it has a rough feel, yet smooth at the same time. It beads water, making the bag mildly water resistant. Its certainly not waterproof and water would soak through eventually, but the waxed canvas provides a nice little moisture barrier. Just don't go standing under any waterfalls. It's hard to describe the material, but it definitely feels like it would last a lifetime. Speaking of which, waxed canvas gets better with age. If you like the rugged, worn, and aged look, then this bag is right up your alley. It doesn't take abuse well, the material scratches easily, and it wears with time...and that's exactly what makes this bag so great. Like a fine wine, this bag becomes better with time. After years of use, it will look like that faded baseball hat you've had for years, but refuse to throw out. It may be faded and have a few scratches, but that's what gives the Union Street character, and character goes incredibly well with the "Ranger Tan" version of this bag. Speaking of which, I wanted to see just how easily this bag scratched, so I ran my fingernail across it. It left a nice bright white scratch mark, that faded into a perfectly off color character mark when I brushed it with my finger, which looked swell with its already rugged appearance. Call me crazy, but I'm actually looking forward to abusing this bag!
Moving on, there are various leather appointments, including the main straps used to close the bag and the carrying handle. As a nice little touch, there's also a small piece of leather on the inside, complete with velcro style backing, that goes over the laptop compartment and keeps the laptop in place. It's the little things that matter and differentiate a luxury product from a more mainstream one, and it's clear that ONA was paying attention in the design process.
Coupled to the leather closure straps are antiqued style brass hardware for the buckles and quick release clasps. Yes, thats right, the bag does have quick release clasps. ONA doesn't make this terribly clear, either in their own photos or description, but they are in fact there. All one has to do is simply press the quick release button on each strap and the clasp slides out, allowing relatively quick access to your gear. Not lightning fast, but fast enough. Much better than fumbling with belt buckle style straps, at least.
The main strap used to carry the bag seems to be made of a nylon type material, and is incredibly similar to that of a seatbelt, both in feel and appearance. The only difference is that the strap is a little narrower than a seatbelt. Attached to the seatbelt-esque strap is a leather shoulder pad. It is neither too thick nor too thin, and I found it to be absolutely perfect. The underside of the should pad has a thin layer of padding, while the top is the standard leather material. I've found that it's comfortable both over my shoulder and across my neck, and flat against my chest when I'm carrying it messenger style behind my back. I've found when using it simply hanging off the shoulder the same side the bag is located on, it doesn't feel terrible secure and as though it could slide off. That doesn't terribly bother me, however, as this is in fact a messenger bag, and is really meant to be carried messenger style, meaning on the shoulder across from the side you're carrying it on, with the strap across your neck and chest.
A nice touch is a slim pocket built into the back of the bag. It operates with a small magnet located in the center of the top of the pocket, which keeps papers or magazines from flying out. Keep in mind, though, that it's just one magnet in one area, so rain and moisture can still get in to the pocket relatively easily.
The bottom of the bag is well padded with thick leather that definitely looks like it could take a beating. Speaking of which, this padded bottom section is one of the best features of this bag. Because of the rigid padding, the Union Street stays upright and maintains it's form when placed on the ground. This may not sound like a big deal, but as anyone whose dealt with a camera bag flopping over or looking like a bag of soup when placed on the ground can tell you, this can make all the difference in the world.
There are outer pockets on the sides of the bag, but they're so tight and horizontally challenged, that I haven't actually figured out a use for them yet. You could probably fit a backscratcher in there, or something equally useless.
One thing I found rather dissapointing immediately upon opening the box and trying it on was the strap length. I'm not a huge guy, but I'm not a small person either. I'm about six feet tall, not fat, not super skinny, but I found the strap to be a little short. Well, it's not so much that its short. At its longest setting, its actually perfect, and hangs at just the right spot (which puts the top of the bag right around the level of the top of my belt) when carried across the chest. But thats as big as it gets, and that's somewhat troubling for such an expensive bag. The fact that I can't make it any longer if I want to do so irritates me, if only for the fact that I know I can't. I doubt I'll have a need to make it longer, but its something that would have been a nice option to have.
Another small gripe is the second, smaller, carrying handle. A short loop at the back of the bag, it really only exists as a handle for moving the bag short distances. When you attempt to use it, it results in the bag awkwardly tipping, with the top leaning out and the bottom leaning in. This makes it hard to walk with, and causes your legs to bump into it constantly. I'm not so sure ONA could have done anything differently due to the overall design of the bag, but its a gripe nonetheless. I'll stick to using it solely to move it short distances, and using the main strap for general carrying, as it was meant to be.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the Union Street was the interior lining. It was thick, well padded, and soft. Frankly, it was luxurious. It comes with four dividers, two tall, and two short. I didn't need two short dividers, so I stacked them on top of each other to create another tall divider of sorts. The laptop compartment is roomy enough, and fits up to a 15 inch laptop. That being said, there isn't tons of room, so the thinner your laptop, the better off you will be. An iPad does even better. You can also remove the laptop divider completely and fasten the dividers directly to the back wall of the Union Street if you so choose. Personally, I don't usually bring a laptop with me, but I leave it in anyway. I don't find the laptop divider to take up that much room, and my lenses actually fit more snug and secure with the divider in than out, plus a little extra padding never hurt.
In my daily use, I carry a Nikon SB-910 Speedlite, a Nikon 24-70 or 24mm 1.4G (not both) with hood mounted, a Nikon 70-200 VRII with hood reversed, and a Nikon 50mm or 35mm 1.4G (not both) with hood mounted, and everything fits securely and snug. Not too tight, not too loose. Just perfect. I don't usually keep a body in it, but that's because its always in my hands, along with one of the above mentioned lenses.
On the front of the bag, underneath the flap when the bag is closed is a zippered pocket. Pull on the leather zipper tab, and a pocket roughly the length of the bag opens up. I've read other reviews of the Union Street before I bought mine, and they all mentioned that the front pocket was incredibly tight, and nearly useless as a result. I don't know how they came to that conclusion, but I didn't find the front pocket to be nearly as bad as they made it seem. The front pocket is a little bit tight, but I'd prefer to have it a little tight, and maintain the slim profile of the bag, then have it loose and have a sloppy mess of loose material. I don't keep a lot of stuff in the front pocket, but I think I keep enough in it. I have a stack of business cards, an extra camera battery or two, a couple ND filters in their cases, and a few cables. I'm still able to get stuff in and out easily enough, and I certainly don't find it to be the scratch causing torture device other reviews made it seem like. I wouldn't overload it, but the Union Street is really not a bag designed to carry everything with you. Again, more on that later.
Another nice touch is the side flaps. Somebody at ONA was paying attention when they included these in the design. Built into the top and side of the bag, these flaps of extra material fold in towards the inside of the bag when closed. This provides protection from the elements and prevents rain and errant hands and fingers from reaching your gear. Both could get in eventually, but it'd be a heck of a hassle to do so.
ONA also inserted a tastefully placed leather logo on the inside of the main flap.
The ONA Union Street is an excellent camera bag. I've really enjoyed it, and find the quality, style, and general feel to be excellent. My endorsement comes with a warning, however. As I mentioned earlier, the Union Street is NOT a camera bag meant to carry everything you own, and its really best for actively shooting. The Union Street is simply not meant to be a high capacity camera bag, its meant to carry the essentials, and carry them well. As a working professional, I find it a joy to work out of. I have another camera bag I bring to venues that carries all the little things, extras, and the kitchen sink that I store under a table somewhere or in the trunk of my car, then load the things I actually need into the Union Street. The other bag acts as home base when needed, while the Union Street is my working bag. I love that it fits in everywhere from a beach wedding to a black tie affair in the city. I'm thrilled that ONA stepped up to the plate in a niche market with a niche product, and really knocked it out of the park. If this is the bag for you, you'll know it. If not, no big deal, you're probably just not in this niche of the market. If this bag was for everybody, it wouldn't be such a specialized product. Keep scrolling for some adventure pictures featuring the ONA Union Street...
Now that we have some time and that's out of the way, I promised you ruins, excursions, and adventure. So here's some more pictures of the ONA Union Street looking stylish while in the field.
Even the graffiti cartoon man wishes he had a Union Street, instead of that bland black bag he's carrying now.
Moving deeper into the ruins, I stopped along the outer wall to capture the mood.
Once passed the outer wall, things got a little bit creepier. Its hard to tell, but these were taken by moonlight, which didn't help the creepy factor at all.
Now, you're probably wondering whats past that door, much like I was. Well, I'm not sure what was there originally, but I can tell you whats there now. Bats. Lots and lots of bats. The sun had just set, so they began pouring out to begin their nocturnal hunt. They were swooping all around, but I still managed to pull off a couple more shots before they got too out of control.
Thats all for now, thanks for stopping by. I look forward to using my Union Street for many years to come!