The new Small Havana camera bag set me thinking about obsessive-compulsive bag buying. But it’s not just bags. I have a friend who collects watches; every time he buys a new watch, his partner gets a new handbag. Most of my photographer friends, on the other hand, tend to get themselves a new bag at the same time as a new camera.
Sadly there is no perfect bag; everything depends on what you are doing and what camera(s) you are using. Recently I sold off quite a few bags, but I still have way too many. These fall into a number of categories:
- Worn Out Bags – I have a few of these, mostly Billingham bags bought in the 80s and 90s and used every day until they were too leaky and decrepit.
- No Good Bags – these are ones that you bought because they looked lovely but are so impractical that they never got used (like the beautiful leather bag which has magnet closures so powerful they’ll stop a Rolex Milgauss in 15 seconds).
- The Occasional Bag – these ones are just useful for unusual one-off situations. They are usually very large, with room for an SL2 and the 90-280, but if you carry them for more than ten minutes, your shoulder will take several months to recover.
- The Apparently Perfect Bag – these are few and far between, usually made by Fogg, and they gradually turn into 1 (until you send them back and have them refurbished).
I have loved the Rock and Roll straps since the days that they had a name which dare not now be mentioned, and so I was interested when Evris Papanikolas launched into the dangerous bag market. I got an early look at the new camera bags in Dublin last October at the LSI meeting and was cautiously optimistic. Early in December, Evris sent me a Small Havana to try out; it certainly wasn’t worn out, but would it be a 2, a 3, or a 4?
Small Havana: What can you get in?
Of course, the first thing to do was to see what I could fit into the Small Havana. It’s a small bag, equivalent in size to a Billingham Small Hadley or a Fogg B-Laika. However, it’s clearly been given a taste of Dr Who’s Tardis and seems to be able to take a lot of gear:
- three M bodies with(smallish) lenses attached
- M11 with Visoflex II attached
- notebook, phone
This is particularly relevant in that many (some much larger) bags won’t take an M11 with the Visoflex attached. Then I tried…
- SL2 with 2 APO Summicron lenses or SL2 with 24-90
- two M bodies with lenses attached
- 2 extra lenses,
- wallet, phone and extras.
I’ve been using the Small Havana for nearly three months, every day, as my main bag, generally with a brace of M bodies, a couple of extra lenses, plus my red William Hannah A6 notebook, wallet, AirPods Pro, spare batteries, pen and so forth. This is more than I can get in any of my other small bags.
The front pockets of the Small Havana are surprisingly roomy, although I feel that an opportunity has been missed to have a pen pocket on the outside of one of them. You can slip an AirTag down the middle between the two pockets, which is useful.
Small Havana: The materials
The Small Havana bags is constructed from waxed cotton made by Halley Stevensons, a company that has been producing this kind of material in Dundee (Scotland) since 1864.
The material is much softer than the traditional rubberised canvas used by Billingham and Fogg. It actually feels a lot nicer too, but I was a little sceptical to start with. However, the material has held up really well, with no sign of wear at the rubbing points, and a couple of deluges have only made the outside wet.
The inside of the Small Havana has Velcro down both sides, and the dividers are sturdy foam covered with the same waxed cotton as the outside. In fact, the whole lining of the bag is made from the same material – it looks great and feels great as well.
Small Havana: Fixings and Closure
The Small Havana has sturdy leather straps which are fixed using studs to push through holes in the leather. This takes time to soften up, but when it does it’s easy to close (you can tuck your finger behind the stud to make it even easier). There are three holes depending on how full the bag is, but I’ve found the middle one is good for all the situations I’ve encountered.
The lid of the Small Havana features a good overlap at the side to stop the rain from getting in. I’ve been out in a considerable rainstorm, and although the outside of the bag got wet, the contents remained dry. There is also very little metal around to bash against valuable lenses or LCDs.
Small Havana: Conclusion
The Small Havana by Rock n Roll is an excellent everyday bag, small enough to carry everywhere but big enough to host a decent outfit for a day’s shooting. It’s extremely reasonably priced at €243, especially considering the excellent materials and artisan manufacture.
Many thanks to Evris for sending me this bag to try out. It has been my constant companion for a few months now. If you’re interested then head over to the Rock n Roll website for more information.
Join our community and play an active part in the future of Macfilos: This site is run by a group of volunteers and dedicated authors around the world. It is supported by donations from readers who appreciate a calm, stress-free experience, with courteous comments and an absence of advertising or commercialisation. Why not subscribe to the thrice-weekly newsletter by joining our mailing list? Comment on this article or, even, write your own. And if you have enjoyed the ride so far, please consider making a small donation to our ever-increasing running costs.