As photographers the search for the right equipment is one that is exhausting, expensive and seemingly never-ending. There is not exception when it comes to camera bags. In my time in photography I have spent thousands of dollars acquiring over a dozen bags in search for that perfect bag, the one that makes me never to want to buy another…ever. To help me in this quest for the elusive perfect bag I reached out to several companies to review and compare their bags. Today I would like to talk to you about the greatest messenger bag ever created (get ready to be shocked, I was).
Over the last couple of months I have extensively tested 4 messenger bags; Tenba’s Large Messenger, Kelly Moore’s Kelly Bag, Ona’s Leather Brixton, and Copper River’s Sonoma bag. I used all of these in variety of situations and really examined all parts of the bag to find out which bag really was the best. They all had really great parts and not so great parts and while today I will be mostly focusing on the best bag (other reviews to come) I wanted to do a brief overview of each bag to give you a small glimpse. I compared the bags on functionality, style, cost, and quality.
The Tenba Messenger bag is good for cameras with easy to adjust compartments, a great laptop holder, and a good warranty. Now let me say that this is the only bag that wasn’t leather so it was a little different than the others. While it was nice it wasn’t great and it screamed camera bag (which I really hate especially when traveling). Overall an inexpensive bag but nothing great to make it stand out.
The Kelly Moore bag was the first one I received to review and at first I really loved it. It seemed nice, very fashionable, and had several little compartments and pockets for extras like batteries and memory cards. The leather quality on the other hand seems pretty cheap (more on this later). The biggest problem with this bag is there is no way to securely close the top flap. It has internal magnets but if someone wanted to access the bag they could easily do so at any time, which totally eliminates it from any kind of photography bag I would recommend.
The Ona Brixton is the “cool” that I had heard a lot about. It has really nice leather, a couple of extra pockets for accessories and a nice internal adjustment unit for switching things around. I really like this bag; I really hate the price tag, $400+. This is great if you have tons of money, but if you are constantly buying other camera gear it can be a tough pill to swallow. Also the bag was not super wide so my D4s and D810 with a grip didn’t really fit.
The Copper River Sonoma bag clearly had the nicest quality leather. It felt like a bag that is going to last another fifty years without any problems. It was big enough to fit all the necessary gear however it didn’t have extra pockets on the outside for accessories and the insert for camera gear wasn’t my favorite.
This bag is seriously amazing! I had never heard of this company until about a year ago when a friend of mine purchased a briefcase from them (and then never stopped talking about it). So when doing this review I decided to call them up and see what all the fuss was about. I was first surprised when after talking to them I was told it would take a week or so for them to hand make my bag. Seriously! Who cares enough about their products to hand make anything these days? Instead of importing it from China like everyone else these fine folks hand make their bags in the US, which is really just amazing to me. The greatest thing about it being handmade is that the price is VERY reasonable, only $250!
When I first got the bag I was once again surprised at the look and feel. I am no leather expert so I had to look it up and even have them explain it to me. They use “stone oiled, full-grain leather” and after a quick Google search I have learned that is the highest quality of leather there is. It looks and feels like an amazing piece of leather craftsmanship. Like I said earlier, I have no doubt that this bag is going to last me 50 years!
That’s all good to have a bag that looks and feels good but if it doesn’t do the job it’s useless, right? Well that is where I was surprised yet again. I exclusively used this bag on a two-week photo trip through the Rockies. It held all my necessary gear with a little configuration brainstorming (I have a lot of “necessary” gear), was extremely comfortable, and I felt just as good carrying it around Jackson Hole as I was camping in Montana. Additionally I really like the straps and buckles to close the flap, which allowed for good security but easy access when I needed to quickly grab my camera for wildlife shots.
Now let me say that this bag does have its shortcomings. First off the insert for your camera gear is just that, an insert (and honestly it wasn’t the best one I’ve seen). This is great if you want this bag to double as a briefcase but not great if you want it to exclusively be a camera bag. Also, it didn’t have extra pockets on the outside for accessories, which is a big bummer.
Even with the small shortcomings this bag still blows me away. It is functional, stylish, and durable…everything we picky photographers need when selecting our gear. So go check them out here, they are pretty amazing!
(in case you missed the other links here it is again)
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