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Ona Camps Bay DSLR / laptop backpack review

Ona Camps Bay DSLR / laptop backpack review
Darren Murph
Darren Murph|November 4, 2011 1:45 PM
Look, when it comes to hunting down a pack for your gadget collection, you've got options. Plenty of options. But not too many options like this. Ona -- a high-end purveyor of handcrafted camera bags -- first caught our eye last year with the markedly functional Union Street, but at the time, we felt that there was an even bigger gap in this universe that could only be filled with a like-minded backpack. So, here it is. The Camps Bay is the outfit's first full-on, back-worn pack designed to carry both a laptop (up to 17-inches, no less), a DSLR and a plethora of lenses and accessories. %Gallery-138241%
In fact, this here bag holds a downright astonishing amount of kit, while looking decidedly unlike every other backpack that you've ever laid eyes on. For quite some time, Kata's brilliantly constructed 3N1-33 (review) was our go-to multi-mode bag; it's largely a perfect combination of laptop sack and camera organizer. But we always found ourselves hung up on a couple of issues. For one, it wasn't capable of swallowing 17-inch multimedia rigs. Secondly, shoving a full-frame body in there (Nikon's D3S comes to mind) isn't exactly easy when you're also toting a 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 -- two (huge) hunks of glass that any self-respecting pro almost certainly has access to. Read on for more of our thoughts.


That, friends, is why the Camps Bay makes sense. Somehow or another, Ona has managed to construct an absolutely beautiful bag that easily houses a 17-inch MacBook Pro (with ample padding, if you're curious), up to seven or eight lenses, a full-frame DSLR and a few other things you may not think to normally make room for. Things like a lens brush, a Giotto Rocket-air, a wallet, business cards, a smartphone, a couple of flashes, a few ink pens, Advil, chewing gum and a stress-relief ball. If you shoot for a living, you'll know that the aforesaid list isn't too far from what most folks actually have to have within arm's reach. We spent the last week using this bag in place of the Kata, and (perhaps unsurprisingly), this one's without question the superior of the two. Particularly if you aren't willing to give up the screen real estate on your 17-inch mobile workstation.

Internal construction

The same Velcro-laden movable padding pieces found in the Union Street are found here, too, enabling every user to customize how big each padded section should be. It's bloody brilliant, and we always felt that our lenses were well corned and well protected. There's a top, zippered portion underneath that flap up top, and while there's plenty of rooms for odds and ends, we actually found it large enough to stick a backup DSLR (a D90, specifically) with an 18-200mm lens and a SB-600 in there. In other words, this bag is seriously large enough for pros to carry their main rig and a backup, all in one container strapped on your back. There are a pair of side pouches as well, and if we had to gripe at all on the overall design, we'd say that these side pouches aren't "elastic" enough around the lip. Truthfully, we'd prefer an expandable lip that would allow a full-on lens to sit on each side. We would've loved to have our two most frequently needed lenses outside of the bag for easy reaching in the heat of a shoot.

Carry capabilities

The reality of the matter is that no camera bag can hold both an absurd amount of equipment and make every one of those pieces available in a flash. If you're carrying around a third of B&H's warehouse on your back, you can't reasonably expect to be able to grab everything in there in a millisecond. But, we have to say, the Camps Bay does a fantastic job of making as much of that equipment as possible easily accessible. In situations where we didn't need the D90 riding up top, we found it advantageous to remove the "floor padding" entirely and open up a direct line of contact with the bag's heart, right from the top. This enabled us to easily grab the 70-200mm f/2.8 monster lurking in the center, as well as two lenses on either side of it. If we could add a pair of easily-accessible lenses on the side pockets, that'd be five lenses in a bookbag within arm's reach, without any annoying zippers or layers to crawl through. As it stands, we counted drop-dead easy access to three.

If you've got an extra second to whip the bag off and open up the "heart" section (a zippered front pocket that's partially covered by the top flap), you'll have easy access to everything else. There's just a single layer here -- it's not like looking for Christmas ornaments three floors underneath. Thankfully, the flap itself has extendable latches, so you stuff an unrecommended amount of gear into the bag, and still have it all covered up from the weather. Speaking of which, the waxed canvas / leather construction is simply drool-worthy. It's the same type of fabric as found on the Union Street, and it's designed to both look amazing and protect your gear from the elements. It'll shake off a fair bit of rain, and while it's thick enough to protect from most punctures, it's actually highly pliable and lightweight. Even when we loaded it down, the padded straps kept everything feeling nice and comfortable on our back; way more comfortable than loading down a messenger bag and tossing it over a single shoulder.


This is almost the perfect DSLR / laptop combo pack. Seriously. It's perfect, except for two things. One, those side pockets need to be able to hold a lens apiece, and two, this thing costs $429. To put that in perspective, the aforementioned Kata 3N1-33 is right around $130. Yes, the Kata is mass produced, looks completely forgettable, holds less and can't stomach a 17-inch laptop, but it's also $300 cheaper. The Camps Bay serves an exceedingly narrow niche, but if you're in that group, you'll be hard-pressed to find a backpack that does everything this one can, while looking this freaking good. Nothing screams "pro" like a waxed canvas / leather bag, and in a business where appearances matter, we can understand why some highfalutin' photogs may see the value in splurging.

The long and short of it is this: for professional photographers who are traveling to client sites or shooting weddings, The Camps Bay is probably worth the loot. Especially if you use a 17-inch laptop, which makes your potential alternative pool fairly barren. For the average Joe or Jane, this is way too much bag for you. It just is. We're thrilled that Ona has stepped in to fill a need in the high-end market, though, and we're cautiously optimistic that critical mass could be achieved if production volume increases and prices stoop down a bit. This bag is worth every penny if you're in the target market; if not, we'd recommend against trying to justify the MSRP.

P.S. -- This guy just started shipping, and you can hit the source links below to get your own in 'Smoke' or 'Field Tan.'