There is a combo of three things that gets me incredibly excited about camera bags: Horween leather, waxed canvas, and “Handcrafted in the USA.” After this, you pretty much have me on the hook. There are a few companies in camera bag world that do really well with some of these pieces. Ona Bags is probably the most famous one and what they do is now a golden standard. There is also Tanner Goods, whose casual camera bag is an awesome addition to their lineup of other products. And now there is also Black Anchor, who is a new company on the market and they’re finding their sweet spot right now.
Black Anchor did a Kickstarter campaign a few months back and didn’t fund to a needed amount. I spoke to Stephen in late spring and so I was keeping my eye on how they’ll be doing. So far they have one bag and a camera strap on the market. I got my hands on the camera bag and have been using it for about two months now. Here is my review.
Let me get a few things out of the way now. The bag is not a Pelican Case and will not offer the same level of protection as very technical bags. If that’s what you want, this bag is not it. The price point on it is also pretty steep. The bag retails right now for $375. I feel like Matt from Holdfast Gear kind of prepared us for these price tiers. Matt’s Money Maker and his pretty sweet American made bags also have an impressive price tag. So Black Anchor is now part of the expensive bag club.
For the enthusiasts who love handmade goods, this bag will definitely be a treat. It’s quite small, simple, somewhat protective for cameras, and is freaking awesome to the touch. I love leather and canvas, I can’t help myself. It’s my thing. When you open the package, the smell of real Horween leather will captivate you. It’s probably sounding very strange and weird, but this is the best smell of leather there is. Horween is the legendary Chicago-based tannery that is the best leather you can find on American shoes, bags, wallets, and other hand made products.
Onto the bag itself now, you’ll find a lot of similarities with Ona and Tanner Goods, but yet still this is a different maker and you can clearly see some personal decisions in this bag. I like how raw this bag is. I mean it’s made really well, but some things that Black Anchor does are not really a mass produced kind of features. The front lock and the back handle are probably the price examples. Also how much of the leather is used on this bag is pretty impressive.
The shoulder strap is slim, light, and does the job. You won’t fit much into this bag to make it too heavy anyway. I was able to carry my Sony a7RII with 24-70 FE lens and on the photos you can also see how Sony a6300 with 50mm Zeiss Loxia fit inside. Add a wallet, notebook, glasses, and a few other personal items and that’s about as much as will fit inside.
I began to appreciate more this concept of less is more, so it’s kind of nice to have such a small bag on me. This is the smallest bag I’ve ever used, outside maybe of the Topo Designs hip pack. Carrying more gear means you don’t need to prepare as well and are kind of ready for everything. It’s almost the same feeling when all you have with you is a 35mm film camera. You’re limited but yet can focus on the shoot rather than choice of gear. That should’ve happened at home. Or at least that’s the theory we all like to question.
Black Anchor has been on the market for a few months. I like where they started, but they need to find their spot in our minds and hearts. A lot of people might turn away after looking at the pricing, but I bet a lot of the cost comes from using so much leather and manufacturing in the USA. It’s easy to get used to this bag. It’s a very nice daily companion that can also carry your single body and a few lenses. That’s mostly all you need anyway.
After two months with this Black Anchor Camera Bag, I can say that it is a very well crafted, pretty expensive, casual camera bag for people who’re willing to trade money for a piece of handmade work made of the best materials out there. I feel there is a lt of heart behind this brand, now we just need that set of unique features that are priced right to open our wallets.