I’m not really into writing reviews but thought it was about time that I did write something singing the praises of one of my favourite pieces of photography kit, the Hadley Pro camera bag from Billingham.
For those of you that don’t know M Billingham & Co (formed in 1973) is a family business from the Black Country area of the West Midlands (near Birmingham). The company originally manufactured fishing bags but discovered these were being used by New York photographers to carry their camera gear. The founder, Martin Billingham, himself a keen photographer, started making camera bags to meet what he thought might be a new market. He was right. They became so popular that by 1979 almost all production had switched to producing camera bags.
The bags are a superb example of English craftsmanship at its best. They use the very best materials in a way that takes maximum advantage of their natural properties. Their bags have solid brass fittings, top-grain leather, the best threads and fittings that can be found. Design is top notch and these bags really are built to last a lifetime.
I bought my first Billingham bag, a Hadley Pro, in 2006 and used it extensively for a couple of years including on a number of foreign trips where its small enough to carry on a plane as hand luggage.
As my gear grew in size, the bag became too small and rather than invest in a larger Billingham I explored other manufacturers offerings finally ending up with a large Lowepro backpack which, when fully laden, weighed an absolute tonne and made my back ache after carrying it for a few hours. I still used my Hadley Pro on those occasions when I was traveling light with just a single camera body and couple of lenses. Sadly however it spent more time in a cupboard than on my shoulder! Earlier this year however I had something of an epiphany whilst attending, what was to be the final, Focus on Imaging at the National Exhibition Centre near Birmingham and was blown away by the Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera. Now, as you can see below, all my gear fits in my Hadley Pro and I can carry all I need without damaging my shoulder in the process.
The Hadley Pro beats other comparable sized bags hands down for a number of reasons:
- The bag is incredibly roomy on the inside despite it outwardly appearing relatively compact.
- It’s beautifully made and looks great.
- The inserts provide great protection and can be removed if you want to use the bag as a general purpose shoulder back for a small laptop or whatever. My 13″ MacBook Pro fits in a treat.
- It’s tough and weather proof. I once got caught in a huge downpour whilst in New York but the bag remained completely dry inside.
- It uses zips and leather fasteners, no noisy Velcro.
- I think it will last forever, and certainly outlive me and, I suspect, the current contents.
I’ve been so pleased with the performance of this bag over the last year that I have now invested in its smaller brother, the Hadley Digital, for those days I want to travel ultra-light with a small rangefinder type camera (a Panasonic GX7) and possibly one extra lens.
If you want to check out the full range of glorious bags made by this company then take a look at their 2013 brochure which you can download as a PDF here (or even order a printed copy).
Finally, for a slightly more irreverent look at Billingham bags take a look at this YouTube video: