Today, I have the great pleasure to review a legendary bag. A bag that will bring back similar memories from the days you use to wear, or perhaps still do, an old favorite pair of jeans. That classic look, you know the type, the type that just matches with everything, it creases on the right spot, and just gets better with time. Its almost magical the way it just wraps around your body and simply does it job. Its job is simple ― protect your precious gear with decorum and of course great usability. Folks, please welcome the Billingham Hadley Small, in my opinion, one of the best camera bags in this size division. When I first opened the box my eyes simply could not stop looking at the Hadley Small. The Black and Tan is simply stunning. In my opinion, a bag has to have a certain number of attributes if its going to be added to my collection.
First, it needs to its job well. What’s its job, again, protect my gear. In my case, a Fuji X series kit comprised of a Fuji XE1, the Fujinon XF 18-55mm, and the jewel of Tokyo Midtown ― the Fujinon XF 35mm 1.4 and my compact of choice the Ricoh GR. Second, it needs to be able to adapt to my various shooting scenarios. I’m a firm believer that no one bag can do it all. Its kind of like shoes folks. You wear your dress shoes when those situations arise and other times, a good pair of sneakers does the job. Well, the same goes for bags. The Billingham Hadley Small comes from a famous family and an introduction to those that are new to this brand is well warranted.
UK camera bag manufacturer Billingham is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and its new 2013 catalogue highlights the development of its products released from 1973 to the present. Billingham was founded in 1973 in the West Midlands, in England, and originally manufactured fishing bags. Billingham only moved into camera bags in the late 1970s, after the company noticed that many photographers were using its fishing bags to carry their cameras around.
Here’s the Billingham Hadley Small in all its glory, its utilitarian in nature and aristocratic in demeanor. The bag itself is a messenger type of bag with a great open and close system with no velcro attachments. This feature is especially nice when you need to go about your business of making pictures and not alert anybody else by a screeching noise of pulling a velcro tab. You know the noise well. I so love this about the Hadley Small, its silent to open and very easy and maneuverable to close as well. Its a got two tabs which as you can appreciate from the images below thread to through the little metal stud and closes, all quite easy in practice on the field.
Then, let us move now to the two prominent front pockets. These pockets are quite spacious and are expandable by unbuttoning two buttons, one of each side to make the actual pocket bigger in its dimension or ability to just stuff more things in those pockets. What fits in those pockets? Well, I usually put 3 extra batteries in one of the pocket which are cased. I can fit a set of flash triggers as well. Often times, I even carry my cell phone charger, you never know when you run of out battery with these smartphones. What else, I can fit a set of gels, keys, cell phone itself, perhaps a protein bar or your favorite snack, its all doable.
Can you fit a lens? I suppose something like an Fujinon XF 18mm or 27mm will surely fit comfortably. Remember you can also use them without unbuttoning them and they’ll fit less according to your hearts content. Now, lets move on the the actual camera bag compartment. The Billingham Hadley Small has a cushion compartment that can be removed and the Hadley Small can also double as a regular messenger bag which does have it benefits as well, at least you get the choice folks, and that can only be a positive feature in my book. The protective cushioning is just the right amount of thickness and you I don’t have any qualms about putting my precious gear within the compartments. Of course you can customize the the vertical inserts as you fit much like any other bag, so you do have choices.
Personally, I have a dual compartment bag setup at the time and usually I just carry the following at the time. My XE1 with XF 35mm mounted and the XF 18-55mm on the other side, the smaller side, remember I had compartmentalize so the camera fits nicely on the bigger side, thus leaving a smaller side on the left. When I don’t take another unmounted lens, I can easily fit my GR and a strobe on that side and it fits quite well. Remember since the main compartment is an insert you now have a front space and a rear space which for me doubles as two more additional compartments to fits more accessories. I can stuff a flash stand and flash bracket with ease, a gel kit, more SD cards in their case, a lens cleaner cloth, and just about anything that is relatively thin like the things I just mentioned.
Overall the Billingham Hadley Small is a trooper in my book. I normally use it when I’m out on a photowalk. Recently, I took it to various events where I was shooting officially and I decided to bring only a small kit, yup, just a small kit nothing crazy. I brought the XE1, XF 18-55mm, an SB28, flash bracket, a set of Radio Poppers Nano and I was just doing my things with no issues. For that event I chose to wear a very classic latin piece of wardrobe the famous “Guayabera”. I looked stylish and dress accordingly for the event and the Hadley Small just felt like another piece of wardrobe. It was just right, actually I even struck a few conversation about it [Hadley Small] over a few Mojitos I drank while photographing.
“It has a fully removable insert and features adjustable Quick Release straps into brass buckles, bellowed front pockets with press-stud fastenings and a darted main flap which covers the mouth of the bag when closed protecting it from rain and weather elements.”
People were generally interested in what camera I was shooting with and the bag as well. I think the Billingham has struck gold with the Hadley Small and its fits nicely in anyone’s kit. As I say, “a photographer can never have enough bags”. Is it worth the price entry to be a Billingham carrier, you betcha, this bag looks and feels like its going to age just fine and not to mention its backed up by the Billingham warranty which you really need to read to appreciate. So who’s this bag for? Anybody that is looking for a nice bag to use on a daily basis and it will fit comfortably a Fuji Xseries kit with 2-3 lenses and various variations of a simple kit including a strobe, a small compact like the Ricoh GR or other and basic accessories.
All in all, I highly recommend this Billingham Hadley Small to anyone who’s in the market for a classic looking bag that doesn’t scream camera bag and looks the part, they have various color combinations and again, you really have to try one to fully know all that I’m saying, its one of those things similar to Fuji Xseries image quality that you must see in order to say ― wow.
The Billingham Hadley Small is available here via their United States distributor at RTS