- Buyer's Guide
Hawkesmill Marlborough Camera Bag :: Drive By
Photographer and food lover Marty Maras, tests and reviews…
Hawkesmill offer a variety of luxuriously crafted camera bags from small to large sizes. They are distinctly styled and each named after a particular street in London. This review in particular will be set on the Marlborough Camera Bag – Moss in colour.
The bags are uncompromising in quality. The Marlborough is made in Scotland; the quality of fabrics and leathers will surely last a lifetime.
Before we get into the review, I’d like to say that everyone has different perspectives on value and using expensive items. For reference, this bag is £549 (approx. $705 USD) – making it a bit absurd to some. The bag will obviously serve the same functionality as a $100 camera bag but the difference is in the quality, construction, how long you’ll use it and when you’ll use it. I am totally okay with spending more on items that I intend to use over the next couple of decades rather than couple of years, especially if they serve a certain purpose. This bag, if kept well, is one of the items to last the test of time.
I also received the classic styled Borough leather camera strap for the review which found its home on my Fujifilm X-T2 straight away.
It’s a rare sight to see a messenger bag so luxuriously crafted. The Hawkesmill Marlborough combines the traditional English-styled messenger with a protective and securely fastened padded insert to create a safe, well-constructed camera bag experience.
This isn’t going to win any awards for innovation and shouldn’t be compared to many of the other utilitarian messengers on the market. There are other well-crafted messenger bags around, but Hawkesmill make really well-crafted bags. Designed to look and feel traditional, sophisticated, sturdy and well-made. The messenger is definitely intended to be used for photography work but also to be used by a certain individual who admires the quality and style of their bag over the extra functionality.
The Marlborough offers three layers of security. The middle nickel turning knob is a simple mechanism for locking and quick access. The left and right leather straps secure the bag further. These straps are stiff at first, but over time (or with a good leather conditioner) will become much softer and easier to use.
At the top of the bag is a suitcase handle which is very well built and comfortable. The shoulder strap offers excellent padding and is not obtrusive. There is a steel bar running on the underside internally, adding an extra layer of strength for the handle.
Within the bag you will find two internal low-profile front compartments and a slot for a 15-inch laptop. The padding is attached to the frame of the bag via nickel buttons, so it is definitely removable. The padding is quite solid and has removable internal inserts via the good ol’ Velcro strapping system.
At the back of the bag is a full-width pocket and snap-in organizer with a zippered pocket. Suitable for all your miscellaneous documents and items.
The bottom of the bag features four removable nickel feet to prevent the base from scuffing. It’s a small addition but definitely welcome for prolonging the life of the bag.
The Borough leather camera strap is made of Horween Chromexcel. Durable, extremely soft and doesn’t stain your shirt. It’s priced at £115 (approx. $147 USD), putting it in the more expensive market of camera straps.
The strap functions extremely well. It has adjustable lugs and can be used on both full-frame and smaller mirrorless cameras. The straps are small and easy to hold and fold down nicely in your bag. I have used a lot of leather straps over the years and this is by far the best I’ve come by in sheer usefulness, quality and looks. Other leather straps have stained my shirts at weddings or were too stiff to fold down into my bags; this strap has been perfect from day 1.
What good is a camera bag that you won’t be using for photography work? I’ve taken the Malborough around for a while and it has always received compliments from my peers.
In real life photography situations, it is useful but there are compromises. It won’t be as flexible as other camera bags, so pre-planning should be considered.
Weight, space and functionality are key for a bag like this. The bag can accommodate a wealth of full-frame gear, lenses and a 15-inch laptop but I personally wouldn’t take too much as the weight would become too great for a long, full-day wedding.
The situations where I have used this bag are in pre-engagement sessions, events, client consultations, working in an office and needing my camera and laptop, short trips, smaller weddings (when I would only use one camera), and shooting with mirrorless systems.
You should be able to easily take a full-frame camera, two lenses and have enough room for a water bottle, book, and small laptop and have it close perfectly. That would be the limit before making your shoulder sore as the bag weighs over 2kg by itself.
In situations where you need speed to swap lenses, the bag’s sturdy shape makes it easy to pull things out, especially since the bag won’t tip over on the ground like other messenger bags.
Who It Suits
A photographer who admires a well-crafted product made to last. Someone who likes to dress up, prefers a classic style and has a refined taste (and serious bank). Traveling with 1-3 lenses because they know what they want to shoot.
Who It Doesn’t
Not ideal for the photographer who wants to carry all their gear at once and favors pockets/utility over style or a frequent lens swapper. This bag is quite large to keep in front of your body. It is also heavy so it won’t be the right bag for long walking trips depending on what you are carrying.
As mentioned, the bag offers amazing build quality, with no compromises on materials. The weather-sealed materials and design are solid, the replaceable nickel studs at the base of the bag are useful, and the lifetime warranty offers good peace of mind. The Marlborough is subtle as a camera bag, impressive as a messenger bag, and sure to draw admiring glances. The deep pockets come in handy for longer lenses, and the added benefit of fitting a 15-inch laptop inside is also appreciated.
The Not So Good
The leather strapping system could be made differently to make it faster to secure gear. In addition, when not buckled down the front straps stick out. You may also struggle to close the bag when it’s particularly full. In terms of aesthetics, the bag can feel boxy on a smaller framed person and looks out of place with the wrong outfit so you need to consider this ahead of time. It’s also worth mentioning the bag is more green in real life than what’s displayed on their website.
As stated above, the cost is also certainly going to be a drawback for some, as is the weight as this bag is heavier than a lot of other messenger bags on the market.
Would I recommend it? Sure, if it’s a bag that suits your sense of fashion and lifestyle and you’re okay with spending the big bucks. It would be a nice addition. In terms of an everyday bag though? Probably not. It’s amazing in its own regard, but I would honestly use this bag for more formal events, meetings and work related situations. It stands out if you don’t dress up.