Monday, 9 June 2014

WotanCraft Ryker (Urban Classic 001) Review

Image Courtesy Wotancraft Atelier
I seldom review products that I don't use or haven't used myself...but one of the very few (possibly the only one) I did review in that fashion almost two years ago was the Urban Classic 005 Safari camera bag manufactured and sold by Wotancraft Atelier.

This time, the Taiwan-based manufacturer of high-quality camera bags (amongst other leather luxury products) sent me two bags to test and review: the Urban Classic 001 Ryker (pictured above), and the City Explorer 006 Scout (which I reviewed in India).

On my way for a bit of street photography in New York City with the
Urban Classic 001 Ryker camera bag and a Leica M9
The two camera bags were delivered by Fedex to my front door, and the first thing I noticed when unpacking the large box was that each were in their own individual cotton bag. Clearly, there's an ethos of quality in making sure that the bags were well wrapped during their shipment. The second thing I noticed while untying the strings, was the whiff of real leather!

It's the same sensory sensation one gets when sliding into the seats of a luxury car...the smell of quality leather and its tactility. Soft and pliable...everything with this camera bag screams "well-made and detail attentive. I tried hard, but failed to find a single errant strand of stitching, a knot or anything that seemed out of place. It's extremely well-made, and quality control at Wotancraft must be handled by an eagle-eyed individual(s), with no tolerance for any defect, no matter how insignificant.

Crammed the Ryker with my street photography equipment: a Leica M9, a Fuji X Pro-1,
a Voigtlander 40mm lens and a Tascam DR40 audio recorder

It's size is initially appeared small to me, but I managed to cram a Leica M9 with an Elmarit 28mm, a Fuji X Pro-1 with a Fujinon 18mm, a Voigtlander 40mm lens and the Tascam DR40 audio recorder with no difficulty. Schlepping it with all this gear on my street photography walk in New York City last Saturday, I kept the M9 dangling from my neck as I usually do, and had easy access to the rest of the rest of my gear. I could have carried my iPad Mini in the bag's integrated pocket if I wished to, but I never take it on my street photography routes.

This particular model of the Ryker is made of black and brown leather, which makes it virtually invisible when wearing dark colored clothes as I mostly do, so it doesn't stand out at all. Its purple microfiber inner lining is soft, and safeguards the finish of the stowed equipment, which is a very smart idea. Both of my cameras show some wear and the softness of the inner compartment is probably superfluous in my case, but will surely be appreciated by photographers with new cameras and lenses.

The bag is stylish, and feels very comfortable. It easily holds my Leica or my Fuji X Pro-1, and 2-3 lenses as well as my iPad mini. . It feels secure across the shoulder, and its inner compartment is well padded. It's made of soft leather which every time I used it, smelled like the interior of a brand new Jaguar or Bentley.

Image Courtesy Wotancraft Atelier
There are no Velcro fasteners on this bag...not one. Instead there are invisible magnetic snaps in its main flap, which is a nice touch since these make opening the bag totally silent. The inner compartment has removable pads to divide it into sections for the cameras and lenses....and these pads are affixed to the walls of the inner compartment with Velcro.

The curved removable shoulder strap is comfortable, with a non-slip shoulder pad. Since the Ryker was laden with my heavy gear, it stubbornly remained on my shoulder with no slippage. I don't know if that would be the case if it had been lighter. The strap's buckles are heavy duty, and feel well made and solid.

So who is the Ryker for? First off, it's not at all for DSLR-totting photographers because of its size limitations, but it's ideal for those who work with rangefinders, whether Leicas or similar rangefinders (or rangefinder-like cameras such as the Fuji X Pro-1, X-100, X-100S et al.) As I mentioned earlier, its low profile is perfect for the street photographer with a need for a camera bag whilst walking around.

On the way to the subway with the Ryker in tow.
I imagine that the Ryker's design, aesthetic and its price point of US$379, make it an interesting accessory to Leica (of Fuji X Series) aficionados. It's a camera bag well suited for photography in urban centers such as New York City, Paris, London, Hong Kong etc., but it was not designed for, nor would it be suitable for, photographic expeditions, treks and adventures in non urban centers or in unsavory neighborhoods...and that's why its name is Urban Classic.

I must also mention that Wotancraft Atelier generously made a City Explorer 006 Scout available as a contest prize during my The Sacred Cities Photo Expedition-Workshop in India in March. It was won by Charlotte Rush Bailey, and you can read all about it in this post.