Wotancraft Thor (Urban Classic)
Last updated May 25, 2015
This is a full review of the "Thor" 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 Thor is among the largest of the bags in the Wotancraft lines - think of it as a leather version of the Ranger. One you'd choose when heading out with a camera (or two) and two to four lenses. Throw in all the little things like batteries, SD cards, cleaning supplies, light meter, a cell phone and wallet - with comfortable room to work out of. 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 : 1-2 RF/EVIL bodies, 2-4+ lenses and accessories
- Size (Exterior) : 49(W) x 21(D) x 27(H) cm
- Size (Interior) : 31(W) x 11(D) x 19(H) cm
- Strap Length : 116-130 cm
- Outer Bag Material : Vegetable tanned leather (cowhide)
- Inner Bag Fabric : Velveteen fabric, high-density foam padding, three microfiber dividers
- Weight : 1.66 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 makes up the outside and inside. The smoother and glossier brown leather is a nice offset - and is used for reinforcement patches, straps and zipper pulls. The shoulder strap is made of the same brown leather, with a black leather (cushioned) pad. 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. Unlike most messenger bags, the flap doesn't quite cover the entire front. It does however hide the top opening and inside pockets - the latter you can still access somewhat when the bag is closed. To each side are pockets with their own flaps, secured with snaps. These pockets aren't padded nor very secure - while they're big enough to hold a lens, depending on your surroundings, you might want to store things like a light meter, a pack of smokes or some filters in them instead. The most visible feature is the main closure strap.
Taking a closer look at the main closure strap, you can see it's very simple - and very quick to access. There's no need to mess with a buckle. It's as simple as a snap - but far more secure, as it won't accidentally open. There's no adjustability to the strap; the length is what it is. Though we didn't find there to be any real need for adjustment since the dimensions of the bag won't change much whether it's full or empty.
Once the closure strap is undone and the flap lifted away, it folds down neatly across the back and out of the way. Now you can see the two outside pockets which are rather capacious. The tops are elastic... But not very "springy" in that they don't stretch too much. It gets the job done, but we felt it could've been a bit more elastic. We might also have preferred there to be flaps or snaps on these pockets since they can still, somewhat, be accessed with the bag closed. But nothing will fall out of these pockets certainly. Great for cleaning supplies, batteries, a flash and other doo-dads.
Here you can see the elastic cinch opening of the pockets a little better, along with the nice leather pulls on the zippers. The YKK zipper is nice and robust - and silent. As you're probably aware, it will break in very nicely and just get smoother and smoother with use.
Before we delve further into the bag, let's take a quick look at the side. You can see the size of the side pockets, which are of a nice size. What you can't quite see is how "deep" they are; they go down, almost underneath the bag. Though they also taper off in depth as you go down. The flaps are sewn in such a way as to be a bit "3D" or sculpted, and are secured with a single snap, which is of an antiqued metal finish.
The smooth, brown leather strap that goes across near the top lets you cinch down the thickness of the bag. Though really, you're limited by the insert within if you're carrying camera gear. It's more useful with the insert removed.
You can also see here the heavy duty D ring and leather patch that's both riveted and sewn, holding it attached to the bag. This is where the shoulder strap attaches... And it's not going to budge. It's further reinforced by the adjustable strap that runs through it. Very robust and secure!
A quick look at the back of the bag reveals... Pretty much nothing. Well, except for the logo patch. We might have preferred to have a nice, large pocket here and/or a loop that can slip over carry-on luggage handles. However, both would have cluttered up the back of the bag and made it look less upscale. If you need more rugged, travel-friendly features then perhaps the City Explorer line's Ranger bag might be a better choice. What is nice about the smooth back side of the bag is that it does not rub weird or interfere with clothing - be it a suit, nice shirt or overcoat.
Here's a closeup of the logo patch, which we felt was important to emphasize. Note how small and understated the logo itself is; very much like every Wotancraft Atelier bag. It does not call attention to itself, nor scream "camera bag!" We wish more manufacturers would embrace this path.
Looking at the bottom of the bag, you can see two adjustable leather straps, fashioned from the same smooth brown leather used on the other straps. This is a very handy feature that allows you to lash a tripod, umbrella or even a jacket underneath. Granted, it will affect the ability to set the bag down to varying degrees, but it allows otherwise unused space to be utilized for carrying more stuff!
Here is a closeup of the inside back corner, under the main flap. It shows the reinforcement of the zipper ends and overall superbly clean construction of these bags. It also gives you the first glimpse of the divine, "royal" purple velveteen interior that's yet to come. The flap itself as a whole is very pliable. It's plush, it's soft... It's really something else.
So let's dig into the bag proper. With the top flap opened and folded back, you're presented with the leather top which is secured by a heavy duty YKK zipper. You can choose to zip it around completely in one direction or meet in the middle. The latter is the best option as with only a little space for your finger to slip into, you can give this second flap a tug and the zippers will move smoothly out of the way - providing quick access. You'll also note four round discs, sewn into the flap... What could they be?
Why, they're magnets! A feature that's found on several Wotancraft Atelier bags; a signature feature if you will. They allow you to fold the flap in half so that you don't always have to zip it up or open it for access. You can just zip the flap closed about half way, and the magnets keep the folded over half nice and neat.
With this flap folded over the back completely - or tucked into the bag itself - you now have access to the main compartment. Almost. You're now confronted by the insert's top flaps. We find them a bit superfluous except for one reason - this is where the padding for the top of the bag is found. Arguably, it could be placed in the flap you just folded out of the way, but then a) you wouldn't be able to fold it as you can, and b) it would make that flap bulkier, which when folded down the back of the bag would've been bulkier. Much like that top flap though, you can also fold these flaps into the space between the bag and the insert as well. With the bag configured this way, all flaps and tabs moved out of the way - the top is as open as can be - and a real joy to work out of! Few bags are this nice in this regard.
This is the inside of the insert. The very core of the bag and where all the gear resides. Being completely lined with microfiber, it's extremely Velcro friendly - allowing you to configure the inside to your heart's content. Unlike some manufactures, which insist on using smooth nylon on major sections (and as a result, severely limiting layout possibilities). From left to right is a Leica M body, another Leica M body with lens mounted and finally, four more Leica M lenses. That's two bodies and five lenses!
Like most Wotancraft Atelier bags, the Thor uses an insert, which of course is provided. Unlike those in the City Explorer line, there's obviously no Waterproof Insert option. However, like other Urban Classic bags, these inserts are a tad more upscale than the simple Lightweight Inserts of the City Explorer bags. The exterior is a more durable canvas type material; though the interior remains microfiber throughout, which is very Velcro friendly - ensuring extreme configurability. The Thor insert has two unique features; pockets. One is on a top flap and is long and narrow, secured with a zipper. This is a great pocket for storing SD cards.
The other pocket is on the outside of the insert, with a leather surround. It does not have a zipper or Velcro to secure it, and as such is very fast to access its contents when your bag is open. Great for travel documents, passport or a cell phone.
With the insert removed, you can see the lovely purple velveteen interior in all its glory! What's nice about using an insert is that you can use the Thor as a camera bag or a regular around-town messenger bag and say, toss in a single camera/lens combo or whatever. This makes the Thor very versatile. Of course, you could also use the insert in another bag as well - and not have to actually juggle the contents.
With the insert removed, it's easier to see the two interior pockets. The first is the laptop pocket, which has a flap that's secured with a small patch of Velcro (so as not to have a zipper that can mar your laptop or tablet). The flap itself can be folded into the pocket to remain out of the way and provide fast access to the contents (see above photo). It's large enough for a 13" MacBook Pro... We tested it with our own 13" MacBook Air which naturally, fit with aplomb. The pocket is slightly padded.
On the other side of the interior is a zippered pocket, with the zipper hidden beneath the flap. It's quite a bit smaller than the laptop pocket and perfect for things that need to be extra secure within the bag. Things like travel documents, money, cell phone, etc. Unlike the laptop pocket, the flap is larger than the zippered opening and thus cannot be folded into the pocket itself.
The shoulder strap is quite heavy duty, made from the smooth brown leather used on other bag straps and accents. The shoulder pad is made from the black leather of the bag itself and lightly padded. To attach to the bag, it utilizes two heavy duty clasps in an antiqued metal finish. In practice, they do not squeak or jangle. The strap adjusts from 116cm to 130cm in length, which we found works well just off one shoulder as well as around the neck and over the shoulder diagonally. Even fully loaded, the bag was quite comfortable to wear, thanks to the shoulder pad... And since it's not fixed in place, you can easily swing the bag around to the front to access the contents, or swing it around to your back when shooting.
Lastly, here's a picture of the Thor bag from the front with a Leica M9 camera for scale. As you can see, you can easily fit other mirrorless cameras, even a DSLR in the bag complete with at least a couple of lenses.
The Thor is a very nice, upscale bag for when you need to haul a good amount of gear. The nice thing is that even fully loaded, one doesn't feel like it's a burden. We field tested the bag on an international trip over to England for a weekend shoot and had the bag loaded with two bodies, five lenses, a 13" MacBook Air, chargers and cables, batteries, SD cards, cleaning supplies, travel documents along with a passport, wallet and cell phone(!) and while heavy - it was an easy carry. The bag didn't feel too cramped and could still be worked out of... Though we did lighten the load once we arrived at our destination.
The Thor is probably our second favorite travel bag... The first being the Ranger from the City Explorer line. Though perhaps by a small margin and really, comes down to your requirements and your choice of destination. The latter offers an optional waterproof insert for the ultimate in protection and has a more understated look, and with its choice of materials - able to be abused (and take it) without worrying about the leather as is the case with the Thor. Even without the waterproof insert, it's also more water resistant in general, thanks to the W.A.L. (water resistant, abrasion resistant and lightweight) canvas. Both have essentially the same design and layout, with minor differences.
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 sure to impress in materials, construction and carrying capacity - we highly recommend the Wotancraft Thor! You can pick yours up from the Wotancraft Atelier website or one of their many dealers for $849 USD (770 €).