ONA Astoria Review
As much as I love backpacks, there are times where nothing beats a messenger bag. I think every photographer should have at least one in their camera bag arsenal.
Despite brands having a side access point on modern backpacks, you still have to take one shoulder off to slide the backpack around your body. It’s much slower and provides a risk of losing a photo at a critical moment.
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With a good messenger bag, it’s just a case of sliding your hand inside at where it hangs – you don’t even have to look away from your camera while doing it.
The bag we’re looking at today is one that has been around for a little while, the , available in one colour, field tan.
Let’s see if it’s the best camera messenger bag of 2020.
ONA Astoria Review Specs
- Handcrafted with premium waxed canvas
- Secure antique brass tuck-clasp closure
- Full-grain leather accents
- Discreet luggage sleeve also acts as a slim back pocket
- Exterior Dimensions: 16” L x 11” H x 7” D (
- Interior Dimensions: 15.5” L x 10.5” H x 6” D
- Weight: 3.68 pounds
Build & Appearance
ONA has built a reputation for the style and quality of their camera bags, and I think it would be hard to argue that they haven’t met that brief with this one.
It’s also one of the first bags that I had to steal back from my wife after she assumed it was a new laptop bag I’d bought for her. The usual “what’s mine is hers and what’s hers is hers” mantra applies in our household.
I think the field tan is the nicest of the waxed canvas colours. I also think the choice of material shows the bag is targeted a little more at commercial photographers.
The waxed canvas is more suited to shooting in variable conditions and doesn’t require the same levels of extended maintenance as leather. Waxed canvas bags hold their shape longer when loaded up. Leather messenger bags tend to soften and fold in a little after an extended period.
The bag folding in on itself isn’t a problem for personal use, but makes it little more restrictive for commercial or event shoots where you have weightier pro glass in your bag.
Construction is impressive on the . The canvas used is thick and would probably be around long after I am gone. This is what I would consider a ten year plus bag, something you could hand down to one of your kids.
The quality of materials extends to all the fitments on the . The front buckles are brass, and the accents are leather. The quality includes the wide leather padding on the shoulder strap.
The only gripe about the construction on the bag is the empty weight. At nearly 3.68 pounds (1.7 kgs), it’s heavy by anyone’s standards.
They’re big enough to be real pockets. Often on some camera bags, you’ll find pockets that are too small to carry anything more substantial than a mobile phone or wallet. There are only so many phones or memory cards you can take with you.
You’ll also find a zipped pocket which extends across the full length of the bag, along with two side pockets that would fit a narrow metal water bottle or a speedlight. They are tight and require a little stretching.
On the rear of the Astoria, it includes what I initially thought was another pocket until I discovered it serves two purposes. Unlike the rear pockets on my Prince 2, this one has a zip to unzip the bottom so you can attach it to luggage, which is a valuable feature for travelers.
For carrying, you’ll find the usual messenger-style shoulder strap and a leather grab handle. The shoulder strap is wide, about the width of a seat-belt.
If you have owned an ONA Bag before, these dividers are their standard type, i.e. soft and well-padded. I consider them some of the better quality dividers on the market.
They also provide sufficient dividers to allow for smaller and larger lens types. Often you get a bag where mirrorless APS-C users aren’t catered for, but not in this case.
The laptop section fits a 13″, but it can also fit some of the newer and more compact 15″ models . My 2018 Macbook Pro 13″ fits with room to spare. It shows you how much laptops’ sizes have shrunk since the bag was released.
ONA state the Astoria is the largest camera messenger bag they make, and it shows. The storage in this bag is massive.
There are very few messenger bags I’ve seen that hold a laptop and two gripped full-frame cameras. Yes, that’s not a typo. Two gripped full-frame cameras with lenses mounted and a Laptop.
Technically, that means you could fit two gripped full-frame cameras with a 70-200mm f/2.8 and a 100-400mm at the same time if your shoulders can handle it.
From my perspective, it means I can carry two large portrait lenses like the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 ART and the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 ART, mounted on separate bodies to avoid lens changes.
Both of these lenses are 1kg+ beasts that could class as weapons in many countries.
The downside with dual bodies is that it limits the number of lenses you can carry unless you carry smaller lenses that fall below the top of the dividers.
Ease of Use/Comfort
From an ease of use perspective, I always think camera messenger bags score high, in part due to accessibility. They’re at your side, so they’re easy to access. It has to be a poorly designed bag to score badly on ease of use.
On the converse, the exact item that makes ease of use score high becomes the Achilles heel for comfort…
Most shoulder bags are fine as long as you aren’t loading 10kg’s worth of gear into them for an entire day’s shooting, which is pretty easy with pro glass.
I think ONA have done a great job of providing shoulder padding on the . Where they, unfortunately, fall short a little is the heaviness of the bag when it’s empty. It’s already the weight of a 70-200mm lens empty, so when you start loading lenses, you’ll feel it.
However, I think that this is the price you pay for using a good quality waxed canvas bag. After all, you’re carrying a bag that will last a lifetime.
Value for Money
The pricing of camera bags is like any product. You have budget, mid-tier, premium and luxury. ONA’s pricing puts the Astoria in the premium to the luxury end of the market.
While some people will look past bags like this due to the price, I think you also have to consider whether it’s the kind of bag that will still be on your side in 10 years. This one definitely will.
Ultimately, you get what you pay for, and in this case, you’re paying for style, quality and longevity – check the latest price here.
ONA Astoria Review | Conclusion
In a world where photography accessories have a shelf life of 5 years, the isn’t just relevant, it’s still one of the most stylish and well-constructed messenger bags on the market.
Despite the 2014 release date, the isn’t showing its age. With the exception of its weight, there aren’t too many things that need changing, which is probably why nothing actually has changed over the years.
While I have managed to maintain possession of the bag, it remains under the watchful eye of my spouse, and I live under the constant threat of its repossession. I would recommend you hide yours under lock and key in your household as well.
- Construction Quality
- High capacity
- Heavy empty weight
- Uncomfortable when heavily loaded (like most messengers)
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.