Wotancraft Raven (Urban Classic)
Last updated March 5, 2015
This is a full review of the "Raven" camera bag, which is part of the Urban Classic line by Wotancraft Atelier. You might be asking yourself - who? They're relatively small; four people in fact - and located in Taiwan. Their name is a bit misleading but entirely international. "Wotan" is German for Odin - the Norse god and "Atelier" is French for workshop. True to the name, each product that they offer is handmade by the artisans themselves.
They actually make a variety of products, but the camera bags encompass two lines - City Explorer and Urban Classic - and they also make several accessories for them. Unlike the former, which is more utilitarian and has a decidedly WWII aesthetic, the latter is more upscale - made entirely of black and/or brown leathers with royal purple velveteen interiors. True to the definition below, the black leather of the Urban Classic line has a rich black color that's highly grained with a glossy sheen. In the photos below, we kept the exposure a bit on the bright side so that you can see all of the details and texture of the leather.
The Raven is among the smallest of the bags in the Wotancraft lines, even smaller than the Scout, as it is designed as a nimble shooter's bag. One you'd choose when heading out with a camera and two (or three) lenses. Throw in a cell phone and wallet, perhaps - and you're done. If you're a chronic over-packer or just want to hit the town unencumbered, this bag is the one you want. And being of the Urban Classic line, it's primarily constructed of fine leathers, so it'll blend in at pretty much any occasion.
The specifications (via Wotancraft) for the bag are:
- Capacity : 1 RF/EVIL body, 2 lenses and accessories
- Size (Exterior) : 25(W) x 11(D) x 18.5(H) cm
- Size (Interior) : 21(W) x 10(D) x 15(H) cm
- Strap Length : 100~112 cm
- Outer Bag Material : Vegetable tanned leather (cowhide)
- Inner Bag Fabric : Velveteen fabric, high-density foam padding, three microfiber dividers
- Weight : 0.7 kg
The bag itself isn't tossed into a plastic bag for shipping. Oh no. It has its own "cotton dustproof bag" tied together with black rope. There is nothing cheap feeling here and you just get the distinct impression that you're unveiling a high-end leather good. From the initial unboxing to exploring the bag itself and its many features, subtle touches and smart design elements, the excitement level remains high. The smell of leather permeates the air. Rather than a large logo - medallion or silk screened on - there's instead a discreet, embossed leather tag sewn onto the bag. Going into this, we're already impressed. It's just a cool looking bag with nice, eco-friendly packaging. From the name to the color scheme to the overall design and individual touches.
The dustproof bag is heavy duty and can be used on its own as a sort of tote or storage bag; though it lacks proper handles (which they used to have) you can use the rope. Either way, it makes the typical plastic bag found wrapped around most camera bags appear simply bourgeois by comparison.
The bag is made of two different styles of leather - the primary material is a super-pliable, highly-grained black cowhide leather and goes from front to back, outside and inside. The heavier, smoother and glossier brown leather is a nice offset - and runs from one side of the bag, underneath and up the other in one seamless piece. The shoulder strap is made of the same brown leather. The bag feels wonderful; clearly high quality leathers were used. It also goes without saying that they fill the nose with that heavenly scent that only leather can. The beauty of leather is that you can easily maintain it with conditioner or mink oil for that deep luster, or let it age as it may... Which will give it a well-broken in look that would go well with jeans - looking like an old companion.
Now let's take a tour of this fine bag, starting with the outside. In the picture below, you'll see the bag from the front - noting that it's a clean, simple, messenger style bag. One interesting thing to note right off is the lack of any straps, buckles or other visible hardware to keep the flap closed... More on this later. Aside from the stylistic, sewn-in creases at the top, there really aren't too many details visible, such as pockets and flaps and things.
Taking a look at the back of the bag, one can see that it's equally as simple. Again, no pockets, zippers or anything else that might rub or get caught on clothing. The only thing of note then, is the small brown leather logo patch that simply says, "Wotancraft." This makes for one smooth and classy looking bag.
Looking at the smooth brown leather sides of the bag - you can see the only visible feature - the heavy duty D rings to which the shoulder strap attaches. They're subtly stamped with the Wotancraft logo and attached to the bag via a heavy leather loop that's double-riveted to the bag with a heavy patch behind (internally). It feels very robust and more than capable of handling anything you put in the bag. The hardware is all a silvery, antique-looking finish similar to the hardware used on other Wotancraft bags.
On to the good stuff! Give the large, single flap a gentle tug and it seems to magically release - silently. It folds over completely (and flatly) down the rear of the bag - but does extend beyond the bottom a bit. Should you want to set the bag upon a table, this extra bit (which is leather on both sides) can tuck neatly underneath. Under the rest of the flap is your first glimpse of the inner, fabric material - in all its royal purple splendor. It's a plush, deeply saturated purple velveteen that feels very much like velvet, or suede leather. Upon closer inspection, you'll see how the flap is held closed... Four sewn-in, large diameter magnets. They close with an almost silent, satisfying "clack."
There are two pockets to be had under the flap. One is open at the top and larger - the other is zippered at the top and a bit smaller overall. Though the pockets are about as large as the bag itself, they're made for decidedly thin items. A cell phone, a wallet or a passport and travel documents, for example. Since the main flap doesn't "secure" closed with a buckle or zipper, we might suggest keeping important things in the zippered pocket - just in case.
The main compartment and the star of the show, is secured all around with a zipper. You can grab each of two leather zipper pulls and open it up, or leave a finger-width gap... The action of the heavy bronze YKK zipper is such that you can smoothly give a few tugs on the leather flap and open it up for access. The inside of the main compartment is the same purple velveteen that was mentioned earlier. If you gently squeeze the walls of the bag, you can feel the roughly 4-5mm high density foam padding that protects your gear. Not too much or overbearing, it's just the right amount and perfect for a bag this size and keeps the weight to a minimum - and the space to a maximum.
Since the velveteen is not Velcro compatible, there are patches of the loop-side sewn onto each side of the bag. This is great should you decide to use the bag completely empty (sans dividers) for whatever reason; no scratchy hook-side. This way you can attach the three included dividers however you see fit. The craftsmen at Wotancraft pay attention to every detail... The two larger dividers also have patches of loop-side Velcro sewn on such that you can attach the smaller divider to one side of them. Once your interior is setup, there's no hook-side Velcro exposed anywhere. And yes, the Velcro halves are the same deep purple color as the microfiber dividers (and velveteen interior)!
Why not just use a fabric that's Velcro friendly throughout, to begin with? The Wotancraft Lightweight Inserts found on the City Explorer bags do. So using them as an example, we can say that it makes positioning the dividers more difficult, since they want to stick to literally everything. The material, being a deeper pile (forming the necessary "hooks") is a bit harder to keep clean and since this bag is much smaller and of limited configuration possibilities anyway, really doesn't need to be. But we're probably over-thinking things here... The real reason is probably because this material feels incredible. It's so soft (and doesn't catch on rough skin like Velcro friendly fabric does). Between the leather exterior and this velveteen interior, you almost want to roll around in a big, giant pile of it. But we digress... Here are two close-up swatches - so you can get a better sense of what the materials look like:
Just a quick look at the adjustable-length shoulder strap. It easily adjusts from 100 to 112cm (39-44") via a single buckle. At each end are very robust (they weigh more than the rest of the strap combined) spring clips. As mentioned earlier, all fashioned from the same silvery, antique finished metal. There's no shoulder pad on the strap, and honestly, you don't really need one. Even chock full of the heaviest Leica kit, this bag will never be that heavy. Finally, the loops are all folded over and double riveted. You could probably tow a car with this shoulder strap, and combined with how the D rings are fastened to the bag itself... Rest assured that this bag will not accidentally separate from you even at high speed on a motorbike, tooling about the countryside with it over your shoulder.
Unlike most other Wotancraft bags which have oodles of hidden features and pockets, the Raven strictly follows its stated design goals - simplicity and elegance. There's nothing more to discuss, no hidden features or pockets.
In practice, the bag was a great size and even fully packed, not a drag to carry at all. The front pockets were just the ticket to hold a cell phone, wallet and a spare SD card and battery. We found that using both of the larger dividers and smaller lenses - the bag could actually hold a body and three lenses - though officially it's specified to hold only two. See, we're over-packers at heart!
You could also configure it to hold a body with the Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 ASPH mounted (or in waiting) with another lens handy. Look at it this way; trust the specifications and stick with two lenses for the best experience, but know that in a pinch you can take three. Here's a size comparison with a Leica M9 fitted with a Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH and an Elmarit-M 90mm f/2.8 lens to the side:
For those shooting EVIL cameras like the excellent Fujifilm X-T1 for example, you can easily stash the body and two zoom lenses like the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS and either go wide with the 10-24mm f/4 R OIS or long with the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 LM OIS, and have most bases covered. You could even go with just one zoom, such as the latter and a fast (but smaller) prime, such as the 18mm f/2 R or 27mm f/2.8 - or the former and pretty much any of the rest, even the 56mm f/1.2 R. Here's a size comparison with the Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS, 35mm f/1.4 R and 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 LM OIS lenses:
The configuration is very flexible but definitely does force you to make some hard decisions on lenses to bring along. This is not a bad thing! Leaving the main compartment unzipped, access was super easy thanks to the magnetic closure of the main flap. This was much appreciated when out shooting. There's not too much else to add as far as actual use, really. The bag performed wonderfully and "does what it says on the tin." A great bag to grab for those jaunts where you don't want to be bogged down.
Unlike the more utilitarian City Explorer line, the Urban Classic bags - specifically this one - is just a simple, beautifully crafted bag. It is fashioned from high quality leather and velveteen, perfectly padded and designed to carry just the essentials. Its clean design ensures that its looks will be timeless and feel equally at home when wearing a pair of jeans about town or in a suit at an upscale event. The details are well thought out and the craftsmanship such that there is not a single stray thread, crooked seam or other blemish to be found anywhere. This bag should easily last a lifetime, if not a couple - and rest assured that should the materials or workmanship fail, it's backed up by a three year warranty.
This bag is just what the doctor ordered to cure us of our heavy bag carrying ways and we highly recommend the Wotancraft Raven! You can pick yours up from the Wotancraft Atelier website or one of their many dealers for $279 USD (250 €).