The lusting after bags is as addictive to photographers as the lusting after new gear – GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) is a disease without treatment! A photographer can never have enough cameras, lenses, lighting, and of course - bags. Finding the perfect bag is part of the photographic experience, much like the quest for the perfect photograph.
Enter the Oberwerth Freiburg. Possibly the most expensive bag in it’s class and upon first impressions, it would be normal to question why such a simplistic looking bag could (rightfully) command such a high price. I decided to give this bag a very good run through for the last 3 months to really see if it could take the top spot as the no.1 camera bag in this market segment.
You may have read my review on the Wotancraft Ryker , which I absolutely love, but it did fall a little short of perfection due to it’s weight, so it I was keen to see if the lighter Oberwerth Freiburg could (literally) give it a run for it’s money.
What about this brand – Oberwerth?
Oberwerth is all about the highest quality manufacturing to the highest of German standards. Having used this bag for the last 3 months, I can tell you that the quality of this bag is the same as you’d expect from any Leica camera – also 100% handmade in Germany.
What Oberwerth says...
"Oberwerth is not just a bag. Oberwerth is an idea. A statement. A belief. High quality, stunning craftsmanship and sustainable, responsible production are the values that drive us. This is why we combine the finest materials, the most intelligent design and the highest quality of finish to create a product that pleases, impresses and inspires across the board.
The difference between a good bag and an excellent bag comes down to the smallest of details. Every detail on Oberwerth bags is exactly where it should be. They are simple, clear and sometimes surprising"
Design, size and weight
If you’re familiar with common compact rectangular-shaped bags like the Wotancraft Ryker, Domke 5Xb, ThinkTank Retrospective 5, you’ll feel at home with the Freiburg. All the sizes are very similar, suiting a Leica M and a coupe of lenses…..or in my case I’ve been using it a lot with the Leica SL and the Vario-Elmarit –SL 24-90mm lens, with dividers removed.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Friburg is the way the main front flap attaches to the front of the bag. There are two clips that join onto the pins on the front and once they lock in, they’re tight and virtually unbreakable. It’s a very clever system, and unlike any I’ve seen before on camera bags. In use, they are very fast to attach and remove and as secure as you could possibly want.
The Friburg is a very compact bag, and due to the combination of leather and super tough Cordura, the bag isn’t as boxy a some others, and makes for a possibly the lightest bag in it’s class - weighing in at only 700 grams with the inserts.
Build Quality and Longevity
In the last 7 years with the popularity of cameras like the Leica M sky-rocketing, we’ve seen new bag manufacturers emerging with some pretty slick products. Oberwerth, in my opinion, has taken this to a whole new level with this bag and the others in their collection. While they do make full leather bags, their decision to combine Cordura with leather gives them a unique position in the marketplace, offering products that have all the right combination of benefits – quality, security, comfort, lightweight, usability and longevity.
To achieve longevity, the process starts with the manufacturing standards employed, and from my experience of using the Freiburg, I can confidently conclude that Oberwerth take this very seriously. Looking at the bag in close detail, you can see they have taken perfect care with every stitch, which is all applied by hand, not machine. Each piece of material is of the highest quality and finished off perfectly.
I’ve been using the bag in the hottest of weather in Bangkok and around Asia-Australia and the leather tends to heal itself very well after taking marks and scratches when used out in the field. This ensures that the leather becomes worn in without showing all the scratches that occur from daily use. Even the padded shoulder strap attachment has worn beautifully and super comfy.
In regards to security, the strap is non-detachable and attached firmly to the bag via a super strong stud and reinforced into the sides of the bad. It’s also cut-proof, making it anti-theft. I assume this means there is some kind of metal going through it, but you’d never notice it.
A really nice feature is the addition of leather side flaps. There ensure that water doesn't penetrate the bag from the sides and keeps your gear nice and dry in wet weather. If you're no keen on them or don't need them, they can be easily tucked away.
The weight of a bag is so import to comfort and this is where the Freiburg truly excels. The Cordura material is super strong, yet quite soft in feel so it sits nicely on the hip without ever feeling hard or boxy. The strap with it’s anti-theft system makes for a very comfortable strap and is easily adjustable, and uses sturdy buckles to ensure everything is secure at all times.
The one main thing that many camera bags lack are zippered compartments. Although I wish the Freiburg had more, I love the fact it has one on the back, and one on the inside of the back as well, which is perfect for storing very important items. While the under-flap has SD card holders, they are open, and could potentially fall out, so they are a bit redundant to me. I prefer to store them inside the zippered section for added security. Next to the inside zipper is an open slot which I use for business cards.
The inside compartment is much the same as other bags except the material is of first class. It’s lightweight, soft and the right thickness - just enough for basic protection, without taking up too much space. Two dividers are provided, enabling up to three compartments, for the body/lens, and two extra items like small lenses or a small flash.
The front of the bag has a nice section when I often store my Bose Noise-Cancelling headphones in the case, and iPad in between the inside compartment and the outer case. It’s quite amazing what you can fit into this bad, and the best part is that the weigh enables it to remain relatively light-weight, even when completely filled.
The rear zippered compartment is the one main necessary and I’m glad Oberwerth included it here. That’s where I store all the things I need to access quickly when travelling like my wallet, passport and loose change. The zipper itself is of the highest quality with a very smooth operation, and I’m confident I’ll never have an issue with it.
What could be improved?
Are you kidding me? Hmmm, maybe add one more zippered compartment, and just a fraction bigger? Other than that, it just comes down to style.
The quest for the perfect camera bag is an exciting one. From using the Freiberg for the past 3 months, I know I’m one-step closer to finding my ‘grail’ bag. The Obertwerth Freiburg truly embodies the core values that a luxury bag should have, yet it also manages to remain functional in use with incredible security, wonderful comfort and to top it all off, I think the mix of Cordura and leather make for a perfect blend of contemporary design with classic style and class. At a price of 499,00 €, this bag won’t be for everyone – but for those seeking the best combination of features, style and quality, look no further. The Oberwerth Freiburg is well worth the price of admission!