Holdfast + Fundy Streetwise Review: A Camera Bag for the Street-Smart Photographer
Street photographers are a funny breed and have special requirements for their equipment. Ardent street photographer and owner of Fundy Software, Andrew “Fundy” Funderburg, worked closely with Matthew Swaggart of leathergoods masters Holdfast to create an uncompromising luxury camera bag specifically for those that shoot rangefinder and other mirrorless cameras and need to work light and fast. We spent the past six weeks using one ourselves to see if they succeeded in their quest.
Holdfast rose to prominence by creating the MoneyMaker leather dual-camera strap — a runaway hit in the world of wedding photography for the past few years. Recently they’ve begun introducing other pricey, but undeniably high-quality leather goods for photographers, with bags being a new flagship category that is poised to hold its own in popularity alongside the straps. Jason Vinson recently reviewed Holdfast’s large Roamographer bag and, while he cited a few minor usability wrinkles, the overall design and quality could not be dismissed. I was anxious to find out how they would fare on their next major bag release: the Streetwise.
This small bag was designed entirely with street shooting in mind, particularly with Leica rangefinders. As a Leica fanatic myself, it was exciting to find out both Swaggart and Funderburg are as well. One Leica M body and three extra lenses will fit comfortably. You can also reconfigure to fit two bodies with maybe one small extra lens. Of course many other mirrorless cameras will work, but most full-frame versions of these cameras typically still have very large lenses which may not be best suited for this bag or street photography in general. I’d guess virtually all APS-C and Micro Four-Thirds systems should fit great, though. But it doesn’t end there. I found it to be absolutely perfect for TLRs. Rolleiflex fans should celebrate if they’ve been looking for a case that will fit a 3.5F or any 2.8 body with film and accessories like a glove.
The Streetwise comes in three different color combinations including black/black, navy/chestnut, and olive/brown. The navy blue bag would be right at home with lovers of Billingham and Fogg bags, for sure. My personal inclination initially was to go with the black since it’s not only striking but also inconspicuous. But with my second thought, I have so many black bags that I decided to live a little and pick up the olive/brown. I also figured it’d be a bit more “exciting” for review and photography purposes. Upon opening the box I instantly knew I had made the correct choice. Even the wife, who doesn’t even usually comment on any of my toys, immediately said, “Oh, I love that. It’s mine, right?” Fortunately they must have modeled the “olive” color after some pretty brown olives, because there’s just the slightest hint of green that is most apparent in dim lighting. In brighter lighting conditions it’s more khaki than anything else. In any case, the waxed canvas that makes the the majority of construction contrasts absolutely beautifully with the very dark brown, heavily-textured leather that makes up the pull tabs, zipper pulls, shoulder pad, and edging. There are two logo badges and both are subtle and extremely tasteful, but some may argue they serve no purpose aside from vanity and should have been put out of sight. On top there is the Holdfast logo, and on the front right there is a small circular Fundy badge. I’m such a huge fan of the shade and look of the leather, as long as placement is balanced (which it is), I’m happy.
After coming down from my high over the killer look of the Streetwise, I moved on to kicking the tires, where I poke, prod, pull, and tug at different parts of it, feeing around for a general sense of quality and trying to pick out any potential weak links. If you own a MoneyMaker or similar strap from Holdfast, you already know what’s up since the leather, stitching, and hardware is identical. Stitching is solid and uniform with just the slightest variance in certain places to keep you abreast of the bag’s true hand-made nature. All leather edges are finished with machine-like precision, and stain is deep and consistent. The strap is attached using the older “double hook clasp” that they used on some older products before switching universally to the new ultra-heavy-duty “sailing rig clasp” for all camera load-bearing connections. As much as I love the security of the current camera class, it’s overkill for a strap. It’s already overkill for most cameras! They certainly made the right call in clasp choice here. The canvas itself is a perfect blend of beauty and utilitarianism. It’s a bit stiff out of the box, but it doesn’t impede usability and I’m certain it will soften up and become a bit more flexible as time goes on. The olive canvas also shows light wear marks pretty easily, much like a quality saddle brown would. If you’re paranoid about “pristine,” then this (and most leather products for that matter) are probably not for you. This will certainly have a very nice, subtle, weathered, and used look to it in the future; of course that is assuming it gets used as much as it should.
This thing has pockets and storage in spades, which is especially important and impressive for a bag that is of its size. The top cover doubles as a zippered pocket, and it is the only zipper on the entire bag. It’s definitely heavy duty and instills supreme confidence in use. It has that right amount of resistance to let you know it’s not going to break on you, and each side has leather finger pulls to assist in opening and closing it. One hand pinches the zipper pull itself, and the other hand pinches the opposite side’s leather pull tab to prevent any snags or uneven closure. The side and front pockets have snap button closures that are require quite a bit of force to open, and even more force to close. While I absolutely appreciate the security this offers to the pockets, they aren’t the easiest thing to manage. The side pockets are fairly wide. They’ll actually hold an Instax Printer perfectly. You’ve got to poke your fingers deep into the pocket to access the back of the button in order to get the leverage to snap it closed. I have short fingers and that’s already tricky. If the pocket is occupied, then it’s additionally tricky and you pretty much have to just use whatever’s in the pocket as your leverage. If you’ve got anything fragile in there, be careful. The other little issue I see with the side pockets is that due to how the flaps are designed, they don’t entirely cover the pocket. Each side leaves a hole for dirt, dust, or moisture to get into those pockets. The rest of the bag is pretty weather resistant, but I could a potential issue with those side pockets under certain circumstances.
The front pocket is a bit easier to manage because there’s no flap, but you’ll have to stick your hand through the main compartment to put leverage behind the button. While the buttons are not a deal-breaker, I would really have liked to have seen nice heavy-duty neodymium magnets instead of button snaps, even if they do go against the rustic “throwback” vibe of the brand. On the other hand, the back pocket that rests against your side in use is totally open with no method of closing. This was a fantastic design move because that means no button or zipper to snag on clothing or irritate your hip.
The main compartment is secured using a large leather pull tab that attaches to a metal stud. At first I was a bit on the fence about this method since it required a bit of fidgeting to get the tab fully seated on the stud when closing it, but after regular use I found that I was only really securing it when the bag wasn’t in use. On the street I never had to mess with it anyway. If it was closed, a quick pull down of the tab instantly “unlocked it” and that was what was truly important anyway. Also, the leather began to loosen up over the weeks making it easier to close anyway. The pull tab itself can be adjusted to pull down on the top lid more tightly using a buckle, but I found the stock position to be perfect.
Peering inside you are greeted with what appears to be an ugg boot, and in a sense it actually is! The entire lining is organic sheepskin. It’s not just a choice for beauty; it’s a truly great material for the safety of your camera as it is naturally very soft, water resistant, and flame-retardant. The only real downside is that it will likely get pretty dirty over time. Shooting in dusty or sandy conditions will likely speed up said condition, and either a trip to the dry cleaners or a date with a handheld steam cleaner will be necessary.
The truly clever and unique feature of the interior is the divider system. Most camera bags these days have the movable Velcro dividers which, if you ask me, are a huge blessing and an even bigger curse; sure you have virtually unlimited configuration options, but they’re pretty annoying to adjust deep inside most bags and they’re not exactly beautiful. Holdfast has provided a custom insert made out of the same canvas and leather as the exterior that snaps into the bag in three locations. While you’re stuck with the button locations as designed, you can experiment with unbuttoning and collapsing the divider to create different sized compartments. With all buttons and the divider totally expanded, you get one main compartment and three small lens-sized ones. If you collapse the divider you get an even larger main compartment and you keep two small ones. You can unsnap the middle button to create a medium-sized compartment in addition to the main one. In practical terms, that medium compartment fits a Leica M with a pancake-sized lens (think 35mm Summicron) with no problem. The main compartment would fit a Typ 240 with a Noctilux. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the configuration options are unlimited, but there are definitely several to play with. The divider also has a little mesh pocket to store some very small accessories. Unfortunately it’s divided into two so each mesh pocket is only wide enough to fit two fingers; something like a Lumu light meter fits fine, but it’d be far more practical to me if it was one bigger pocket. I’d like to put some lens filters in there without having to get my fingers all over the glass.
And then there’s the false bottom. Yep, the bag comes with a canvas bottom panel that can be completely removed. It can be used either as additional top padding if desired, or as-designed, to
hide store sensitive goodies out of sight and mind. Maybe you like to travel with a utility knife but some places look down upon such things. Maybe you are traveling with your passport and want additional protections from pickpockets. If you work with a mini printer, this would be a great place to safely put prints so they don’t get damaged. It’s a really nice touch to include it as an option and it can be completely removed if you find no use for it or want a little extra “headroom” in the bag.
I always admire a company that lets products stand on their own while still being a part of a bigger picture. Holdfast made the MoneyMaker more than just a strap; they made it a system. They make several accessories designed to clip onto the straps during use, and along with the Sightseer, this one of the full-sized camera bags that does it. Unfortunately I don’t have a MoneyMaker to try it out on (yet), but it’s a pretty snazzy way to store a couple lenses while you rock a dual strap. The modular setup doesn’t stop there. The brand new Explorer Wallet was designed with the Streetwise in mind and fits perfectly with the side pockets.
There’s one bonus feature that’s included with the Streetwise that could absolutely be a premium up-charge feature and that’s the strap slider. They’ve included what is essentially the marquee $185 Sightseer Sling camera strap for free. There are two caveats, though. The first is that you have to wear the strap across your body to be used as designed, and that may or may not be the style you normally like to wear a bag. The second is that it requires the optional and fairly expensive Accessory Clip that screws into the camera’s tripod socket. Even if you already have a MoneyMaker strap, the two that it comes with are likely in use on your DSLRs already. At nearly $30 a pop you’re going to have to buy more for your rangefinders. It’s sort of a tease and a shame that they include absolutely all of the hardware for using a camera with the bag this way (including the usually optional Safety Catch) but they leave out the part that actually connects to the camera itself. And before you think you can get away with using a BlackRapid FastnR for half the price, you can’t. I tried. The hole doesn’t come close to fitting the sailing rig clasp. The FastnR-T1 does work, but it sticks out pretty far from the camera even when screwed in all the way. Do yourself a favor and get the Holdfast version. You do get what you pay for, but if you have no desire to use the slider for whatever reason, it can be removed with moderate effort.
A note on the safety catch: I genuinely cannot fathom the need for it. It’s really nice that they include it, but the main clip is so insanely heavy duty and requires real effort to release, the extra safety line is total overkill and only for the exceptionally paranoid. I’d remove it, personally.
With regards to actual real-world use of the bag I have very little to say, and I think that says a lot. The Streetwise did exactly what it was designed to do without forcing me to adapt to any funky workarounds or character traits. The size was downright perfect for my Leicas and Rollei. The side pockets are expansive enough to hold plenty of analog goodness. When shooting with the “dead cameras,” I’d use one side for unopened film and the other for exposed film. The top cover never got in the way or seemed like an inconvenience to open, and I felt comfortable leaving it unsnapped during shooting. There’s also a really convenient leather loop for picking up the bag without using the shoulder strap. I don’t like picking up bags off the ground by the shoulder strap. It’s hard to explain or justify, but that extra 8 inches of bending down seems to make a difference. Unfortunately because I do not have the Accessory Clip, I was unable to test out the strap slider. I would have really liked to, because the idea is that you can leave a camera outside of the bag at all times and it’s even faster to access. It also frees up space in the bag for lenses if you want to use two bodies.
The Streetwise is $425. No, it’s not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. Four hundred dollars is four hundred dollars. But when you compare it to bags of similar size, quality, and features it is truly very reasonable and in some aspects I’d say a bargain. If you shoot Leica, this is actually one of the cheapest bags on the entire market designed with the brand in mind. My other all-time favorite bag for Leica and other small cameras, the Wotancraft Ryker, is almost the exact same price. Being 100 percent leather and a bit larger with a more luxury chic “high brow” design, they definitely fill different niches. The Ryker is an incredible bag but it doesn’t have the strap slider system, the MoneyMaker integration, the canvas build, the sheepskin interior, nor is it made in the U.S.A. That’s right. All Holdfast gear is made right in the heart of the Midwestern United States. That may not mean much to you, but it means a lot to many.
- Beautifully designed
- Varied color choices for different tastes
- Top-notch quality all around with fantastic attention to detail
- Ample storage for its small size
- Sheepskin interior provides fantastic protection
- Includes camera slider system
- Integrates with existing Holdfast products
- Competitively priced
- Made in the U.S.A.
- Doesn’t include tripod socket connector for strap slider
- Buttons are a bit difficult and cumbersome to snap
- Side pockets can’t be completely covered, reducing water resistance
- Sheepskin has a propensity to attract dirt, dust, and sand
- Interior divider mesh is separated into two sections that are too small
The few concerns I have with the Streetwise are outrageously minor in light of the big picture. They’re less problems and more wish list items. I’m a fan of the looks. I’m a fan of the size. I’m a fan of the quality. I’m a fan of the day-to-day operation. If you fit the target market for this bag I can only highly recommend it makes it to the top of your short list when deciding on your next bag purchase, because let’s be real: bags are awesome and we should collect them all. The Holdfast + Fundy Streetwise has gone one step further beyond just being a great bag, though. It’s sold me on a brand and a system. Swaggart at Holdfast has been so immensely kind, patient, and communicative with questions I’ve had during the past several weeks. I love their commitment to their employees and keeping production near home. I’ve been neutral to Holdfast products for the longest time because I’ve been happy with my BlackRapid straps for over five years now, but this bag has downright convinced me that it’s time to jump ship to a MoneyMaker. I’m intrigued by the system, but I also just want a strap built with the same love and care as this magnificent bag.
Want your own Holdfast + Fundy Streetwise bag? Pick one up directly from Holdfast.