As you know, I don't usually do equipment reviews on my blog. There are entire websites dedicated to reviewing cameras and lenses and I don't intend to compete with them, nor do I want to convince my readers that my choice would also be right for them. However, at times I come across a piece of equipment that is not so much in the mainstream as the latest CaNikoLeica, yet I think it deserves some exposure. One of these items is the Oberwerth München camera bag.
More than a quarter of a century ago, in summer of 1991, I switched from the big and heavy SLR system I had used to what could be called a mirrorless system, the rangefinder cameras made by Leica. These cameras and their lenses were far smaller and more lightweight than their SLR counterparts. Consequently, my existing photo bag and the new system didn’t really match very well.
However, this was a problem that could quickly be taken care of. I discovered bags, made by a British company, which seemed to have been designed for my new camera system. Being narrow and quite tall, their layout was very different from that of the bags I had used before. They hugged my body much more comfortably, didn’t stand out too much and allowed for carrying two lenses (or a camera body and a lens) above each other. Over the years I bought several of these bags in different colors and slightly varied configurations. Apart from a few small things I was very happy. After moving to another camera system (Fujifilm X-Series), everything still fit very well and the bags provided excellent protection for my gear. They are watertight even in very heavy rain, which is not much of a surprise considering the manufacturer started with making fishing bags. To this day, the design of the bags makes no secret of this fact.
In late summer of this year, a friend pointed out the Oberwerth bags to me. The München model immediately caught my eye as its size and its general layout are very similar to that of the British company’s model I had used so far. Still, the München leaves a strongly different impression. Oberwerth chose excellent materials and put a lot of thought into small and useful details. Also, the bag is extremely well made. Examining and handling it, you will realize right away that it is a high-quality item.
Being made of Cordura and leather, the bag is somewhat more rigid than my other camera bags, which are made of canvas, yet it is far from being hard. The carrying strap (which features a built-in cut-resistant wire!) is comparatively stiff, which has an advantage over cotton straps insofar as the bag doesn’t swing that much back and forth when you move.
There are some small details I really like about the bag. For instance, there is a small inside compartment that can be closed by a zipper and holds smaller items or paperwork. At the back of the bag you can find an almost invisible strap that can be used to securely attach your München to the handle of a trolley.
The München bag is held close by LOXX fasteners. They look great, have a very precise feel to them and work perfectly. And, most importantly: other than Velcro fasteners, which some photo bags have, they work silently. There is nothing worse than fasteners that ruin the moment when the photographer opens his bag. However, the arrangement of the fasteners could be the matter of an argument. I prefer the concept with straps that are sewn to the bag at their lower end and have the fastener near the upper one. This way, the fastener can be reached more easily. Also, the bag doesn’t get pulled down when closing it. I have voiced my opinion to the Oberwerth people. Let’s see if future designs will have a different arrangement.
Stowing your equipment and enjoying the look and feel of a photo bag are important, yet the main questions are how well the gear will be protected and, even more importantly, how comfortable is it to carry the bag. The last question is really critical for me as I have my cameras with me almost every day.
In terms of protection I can say that even during an intense rain shower no water entered the bag. Even the leather looks like new after I let it dry slowly (just don’t put it in front of a heater if it’s wet).
The real surprise for me is how pleasant it is to carry the München. Although it is 200g (that’s about 6.5 ounces) heavier than my previous bag, it actually feels lighter after hours of carrying it. I’m not sure how this comes about. Most probably the very well designed shoulder pad, the right flexibility of the carrying strap and the fact that the bag is more rigid all play a role here.
In a nutshell: an excellent bag, especially for mirrorless systems (if you get additional dividers), a pleasure to carry and very well made. Maybe a little too nice to be used in the jungle, but certainly fit for bad weather.