Over the last year, I've been searching for a nicely designed camera messenger bag. I looked at all the major camera bag brands, and while they have some great functional bags, they all leave a little bit to be desired in terms of design aesthetics. Only the Billingham and Ona bags stood out as being attractive to me.
I almost bought a Billingham bag a few times over the last year but a few things bug me about them. For starters, the Hadley line's buckles and design looks too much like a ladies hand bag for me. The more masculine Billingham bags like the 5 or 7 series or even the f-stop series have other issues for me such as being too big and bulky (in the case of the 5 or 7 series) or not having a grab handle (f-stop). At many times, I thought I could compromise with one or more of these issues but ultimately decided that's not what I wanted.
In my research for Billingham alternatives I came across Ona Bags. They make a variety of mens and women's leather and waxed canvas bags. I liked the size of the Ona Brixton which is very similar to the Billingham Hadley Pro I had been eyeing. When I came across a couple Ona bags at my local camera store, I was convinced that was the bag I wanted. It has all the functionality I wanted such as a grab handle, shoulder pad, enough space for my 5D3 and a couple of lenses, a pocket for my MacBook and/or iPad if needed, some degree of weather resistance, and an understated but refined look.
Here are some photos.
A note about the photos... I used the Brixton to test my hand at some off camera flash with my new 600EX-RT and ST-E3-RT controller so the photos are not the greatest (for example, I could have used a bit more DOF in some shots.
The bag has a great seat-belt type shoulder strap with a nicely padded shoulder pad. It's a bit stiff at first but I assume the leather will mould over time to my shoulder.
5DM36155 by Chris-McCormack, on Flickr
There are a couple of pockets at each end that are great for slipping a lens cap into or a filter when you want a place to put something small on the fly...
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/n5DWDY]
5DM36182 by Chris-McCormack, on Flickr
The leather and stitching is just beautiful. As other owners have noted, the grab handle is not extremely robust, but it's not meant to be the primary means by which you carry the bag. It is extremely handy, and works equally well whether the bag lid is clasped shut or not.
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/n5DXc1]
5DM36167 by Chris-McCormack, on Flickr
Here you can see my 70-300L with hood attached (about 9.5") next to the bag...
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/n5Cd2z]
5DM36172 by Chris-McCormack, on Flickr
Here' you can see that the 70-300 with hood attached fits perfectly in the bag. This is important for me, as I always shoot with the hoods attached, and being able to stow them in the bag with their hoods in the ready to shoot orientation is critical. You can also see my Retina MacBook Pro (13') in there.
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/n5CdBn]
5DM36162 by Chris-McCormack, on Flickr
Here's a top down view, you can see I purchased the optional "tall" dividers. My 24-105 with hood attached in shooting position is in the far pocket. The middle pocket provides enough width and length for my 5D3 and I can have pretty much any lens attached with the hood in shooting position (except the 70-300)... that includes my 25-105 or any of my primes. I can actually pack my 70-300L as shown, my body with my 24-105 attached in the middle and a pair of my primes in the far pocket (although I won't do this normally, it is possible). Again, you can see the Retina MacBook Pro 13" in the full-length pocket.
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/n5CesF]
5DM36163 by Chris-McCormack, on Flickr
The rear pocket has a magnetic clasp at the top that keeps it closed and it's perfect for putting an iPad or some documents or whatever there (iPad Air shown). I cannot fit my MacBook there... it's just a tad too wide for that pocket.
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/n5Cf1z]5DM36168 by Chris-McCormack, on Flickr
And just in case you forgot who makes this bag, everytime you flip the lid open, there's a reminder. (Note that the lid does fold nicely between the bag and your body for quick access to lenses when shooting which is another important feature for me).
[IMAGE'S LINK: https://flic.kr/p/n5C92H]
5DM36175 by Chris-McCormack, on Flickr
Overall, I'm super pleased with the materials, craftsmanship, design, aesthetics, and functionality of this bag. I suspect it will be with me for a long time.
If anyone has any questions about the bag, I'd be happy to try and answer them.