The Ona Bolton Street Is The Best-Looking Backpack A Mac-Toting Photog Can Buy [Review]

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Simply put, Ona makes some of the nicest, most fashionable camera bags that Cult of Mac has ever had the pleasure of testing, and the Bolton Street camera backpack is no exception. But unlike their line-up of messenger bags, Ona’s Bolton Street is a bag for the kind of fashionable, London-trotting photog who can only carry his gear around by putting it on his back. It’s an expensive bag, and has a few niggles, but we love it. Read on.

The Good

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Like the Brixton before it, the Bolton Street is made of some incredibly high-quality materials. The exterior is made of water-resistant waxed canvas, and the entire backpack is highlighted with ruddy, full-grain leather straps and accents. There’s something that tends to be a little bit pathetic about backpacks — they evoke a slovenly kid walking up the hill to school with a backpack full of books — but the Bolton Street is a backpack that Daniel Craig’s James Bond would be happy to wear.

It’s inside, though, where the Bolton really shows it’s chops. The padded main interior pocket is fully customizable with velcro-inserts, which allow you to array a full chamber full of camera gear according to your specifications. An inner pocket allows you to stash away pens, sunglasses, an iPhone and other small items with ease. Below it, to the left and right, two side-accessible pockets allow you to stash away lenses and the like you might need to access more easily. Finally, the back pocket is big enough to stash up to a 13-inch MacBook.

This is a serious camera bag for the on-the-go photographer. There’s not only enough room in here for a day (or weekend’s) worth of professional gear, but you can easily stash your editing computer in there too. But you don’t have to use the Bolton Street as a camera bag, which is why we really love it: pop out the velcro inserts, and it makes a fantastic weekender backpack, or even a great bag to pack a (wrapped) picnic.

This is an easy bag to love, as long as you love backpacks (and if you don’t, Ona has equally amazing bags for the messenger bag set).

The Not-As-Good

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While I love the Bolton, my girlfriend who borrowed it didn’t quite like it as much. She loved the look and construction, but didn’t feel it was made for women, even after a weekend walking around with it.

The issue, she says, is one of structure and padding. On a woman’s shoulders, even with adjustment, it feels improbable, as if it wasn’t made for her. Considering the fact that Ona advertises the backpack with a female model, this should give ladies pause.

Another issue is just how long the backpack straps are, after adjustment. It’s good to have enough strap to loosen or tighten a backpack as much as possible, but the Bolton’s straps are actually a little too long, flopping down past the waist in some configurations. It can be a little ridiculous.

The zippers also have some issues. It’s a good thing the pulls are so large, because they are very difficult to maneuver. They’re covered up by the fabric of the bag, which is handsome aesthetically but a gigantic hindrance to actually opening and closing the bag, because you really have to fold back the fabric every time. It’s a two-handed job, and a job that requires fiddling.

These are all niggles, eventually, but given the price of the Bolton — $359 — they are niggles you’ll want to be aware of, especially if you’re a woman.

Conclusion

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Like the Brixton before it, the Ona Bolton Street is one of the nicest and most fashionable camera bags we’ve ever tested. It has a few niggling design issues, and probably isn’t a great choice for ladies, but if you are a man and can afford one, this will be an heirloom bag you will love for life.

You can buy the Ona Bolton Street for $359 here in smoke, black and dark-tan.

Cult of Mac rating: Excellent

  • VirtualVisitor

    $360! OMG!

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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