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Saturday, 19 January 2019

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Since the Billingham bags are a great value because of their versatility and long-lasting design they retain their value. There is a strong market for the used bags. I purchased a used 445 in like-new condition for £149 at a camera store while traveling in Scotland last year. I've seen much higher prices here in the US since we returned.

I bought a Billingham (a Hadley, I think) about 30 years ago, and thought at the time it was outrageously expensive. But it has been going strong since then, and is only now going into the shop to repair (what other company does that?) the back panel where it has worn through from riding on my hip. Can't say that it still looks like new, though - more like Steve Bannon's Barbour jacket.

Mike, I had to jump in here. I read the post about camera bags and thought that this will create a lot of comments. Everyone has there own preference as to bags. I happen to own two Billingham Bags, the Hadley pro and the Hadley Small. I have owned them for at least 5+ years, not sure exactly how long.? I use the larger one to carry my large Nikon FF gear when I travel, and the small one when I carry the Fuji travel cameras. I tend to think about how I am going to carry any gear that I buy before I but it. I make sure what ever I but fits in one of these two bags. I recently purchased the Nikon Z6 to replace my 4 year old D750. It actually fits in my Hadley small bag with room for a an extra lens. I may sell the larger bag after I sell the D750 and just hold on to the smaller bag. I will say both bags look as good as the day I purchased them. I simply clean each bag with dish soap after each trip. One of the things I learned from my travels is it is more important to travel light and small rather than worry about lots of gear and lenses. My favorite lens and camera is the Fuji Xt2 with the 18-135 plus one prime and the X100f. All this fits in the Hadley Small along with a small I pad. They just work. All the best Eric

Perhaps worth reminding ourselves: Veblen Good does NOT mean a good that is expensive, or poor value for the money (although these things are sometimes true.) It merely means a good demand for which rises rather than falls as the price goes up.

I don't know for sure, but I suspect Billingham bags qualify.

Be careful Mike, or they will be calling you a bagman.

[Wasn't that a Carole King song?


"When the bagman's testifyin' a faithless man believes

He can sing you into paradise or bring you to your knees

It's a gospel kind of feelin', a touch of Georgia slide,

A song of pure revival and a style that's sanctified

Bagman take my blues away;

Make my pain the same as yours with every change you play

Bagman, oh bagman...."


...Wait, maybe that's not it. --Mike
]

Back in the 1980s (Reagan era again) I was gifted a bag purchased through the original Banana Republic (when they were focused on travel and adventure clothing). For all intents and purposes it was a Billingham bag with Banana Republic branding. It was pretty capacious but still a reasonable size and weight. I used it for international travel for many years and it stood up to the third world handily.

When my job changed and the international travel went away, the bag went into the closet. I guess it felt lonely because with lack of use the canvas mildewed. I guess I had it for about 25 years.

I seem to recall that Banana Republic charged about $125 for it, and this would have been around 1983.

I bought a Billingham bag (Hadley Pro)about ten years ago, after my wife told me that, compared to a well made handbag, it was reasonable. I like it for a variety of reasons, some or all of which might not work for someone else. As I wrote in response to the first bag article, I don't understand why (if you like the bag and it works for you)an incremental hundred bucks or whatever, over the cost of another bag is enough to not buy one. I say this because, in most cases, it will be used to hold thousands of dollars of equipment. Make yourself happy.

Billingham makes a smaller version of the Hadley Pro that should work well for a small m4/3rds kit.

I think they call it the "Hadley Small Pro" ... which can make it hard to find since there was already a "Hadley Small" and a "Hadley Pro" to confuse things.

But B&H has them

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1410270-REG/billingham_bi_505002_01_small_hadley_pro_black.html/BI/2144/KBID/2882

Can't seem to find it on Amazon. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My first portable computer (1980's):


It does bring back memories.

According to this article http://www.kathrineanker.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Cool-Britannia-Billingham-Bags-Marchsmallpdf.com_.pdf from, I think 2013, when they put their prices up they sold more. So maybe Veblen with a small v.

I wish to put in a word for the Digital Hadley for
its low profile and durability. With the dividers removed the bag suits my preference for carrying a camera and one lens on daily trail walks with my little dog. Since recently adding an Olympus 17mm
F1.2 lens it may well become an ideal OCOLOY bag.
Over several years the bag seems to wear like an old friend.

Bought a 445 or whatever its name was then, in 1984. Sadly not in canvas but in 'Balistic nylon' which was a option at the time. It has worn very well but not 'aged ' well
The original shoulder strap attachments wore out badly but Billingham rebuilt the bag with the current strap attachment system in the early 90's
I seem to recall having a discussion with them about 20 years ago about having it rebuilt again to take the current divider system. Don't recall if it was not possible or too expensive but did not go ahead.
Didn't use it much for a few years but with my current lap top which is a 13" MacBook pro it is used more as the lap top fits in the side pocket.

The rest of my camera bags are LowePro all of which I used extensively.

Wasn't your original post about a shoulder bag?

I've had a 335 previously but ditched it because that amount of gear really needs a backpack for my elderly frame...

I use the the Hadley Pro a lot, often with an XT1 and an XPRO2 and two primes, or one body and a couple of Fuji zooms. I usually also have an 11 Inch Macbook Air slipped down the back. Anything more and I start suffering aches and pains if I carry it around a lot

LowePro bags are really nice but too many I have owned and use get the plastic zippers messed up too easily.

Years ago, buried somewhere in photo.net’s Leica Forum, a traveler recounted how he had just arrived in some remote S/E Asian village, and as he was handing his luggage up to the boatman, the guy said “Billingham bag - Leica inside”.

Well in truth, any kind of shoulder bag suggests that there's something inside worth stealing - when I do use a bag, it’s usually a Surplus Canadian Army Butt-pack with a shoulder strap.

Three observations:

First, those who buy bags that don't look like photography bags are fooling themselves if they are thinking thieves will overlook them. After 40 years in law enforcement, believe me when I tell you thieves will steal anything. They don't care what it is or what is in it. They don't even know what is in it, but if the opportunity arises, they will steal it. Buy what you want, be vigilant and remain situationally aware.

Second, some people seemed to be really sensitive when the "hipster" label was temporarily attached to their bag of choice. Interesting. Who cares what others say about anything you buy? Buy what best fits your needs. Use it, enjoy it, wear it out after years of making photographs and don't worry about what others say.

Third, Mike the perfect "bag" for you that fits all of your criteria is a...drum roll, please...a mesh photo vest! I'm surprised no one mentioned it. Stephen Sharf showed an image of one but didn't elaborate. A vest is not too big nor too small. It is as big or small as you want. It will hold all of your gear and your neighbor's as well, if you invite him along on a photo outing. It fits nicely against your body, which in my case, is nicely padded so I don't think gear bouncing around is problematic. The front pockets are huge so putting your G9 and the 12-35 in one is a perfect fit, even grip up. A mesh photo vest fits over your shoulders so, in a fashion, it is a shoulder bag. Straps that don't fall off your shoulder? Photo vests don't have shoulder straps. But you could even consider vests as two giant shoulder straps so falling off or falling forward when you lean forward is not a worry. Too many pockets? Not at all. They are mesh and "see through" so you shouldn't have any problems finding your stuff, no matter what you cram in little nooks. No "get in your way" flaps necessary to hide the gear from the drizzle. Just wear your jacket open and zip it up if it drizzles. If it rains, put on a rain coat! I'm telling you, Mike, this is the solution to your every bag concern! You'll never have to buy another bag and, if you have to make a trip up to the farmer's market, you'll have room to pack some fruit and vegetables into some spare vest pockets. How eco friendly is that? He writes while *chuckling*....

Good luck. I have about 20 bags in a closet and all were at one time perfect for my needs and all just didn't seem right after about 6 months use.

Of all the bags I've ever owned, I consider Billingham the most functional. I own three models right now, the oldest being a Hadley Pro that is about 15 years old. It's a comfortable bag that molds to the wearer. My most recent bag is an F1.4. It's about the same size as the Hadley Pro but with a more square cornered design that makes it easier to get the gear in an out when wearing it. Maybe my favorite is the sweet little L2 bag. It's a perfect compact bag for a pair of Fuji bodies with lenses attached or one body and 2-3 extra compact lenses.

Over the years, I've used a couple of LowePros (the zippers broke...always), several model Domkes (they were cheap at the time but the canvas wore through pretty quickly), a couple of the original Leica bags (they were lightweight but they had zero padding), a couple of ThinkTanks (well made but with some odd design quirks) and several other brands. All of them were decent to really good bags that did the job, at least for a while. But the three Billinghams I have used have been the most comfortable, most durable, most weather resistant and best designed of all in my experience.

I bought a 335 used, but looking like new, several years ago and while I loved the look of it, it was just too hard to fully open it and move gear in and out. I sold it and now stick with two sizes of the Hadleys, though like you I prefer just to carry one or two cameras and no bag when I’m out shooting.

Perhaps it turns out to be that camera bags can do the trick that cameras no longer can but sometimes pretend to be able to do. That trick is 'buy a really expensive, really well-made one and it will be the only one you ever need: you will leave it to your children and they may leave it to theirs'. This trick is appealing because it means you get both to justify a really beautiful and very expensive object and to feel like an aristocrat (because this kind of long-term thinking is what has defined aristocrats for the last century or so).

This works for things where the underlying technology does not change very fast & is long-lived: I have furniture which has been in my family for at least a century and perhaps much more and will last hundreds more years. Once, it worked for cameras ('the M3: an elegant weapon for a more civilized age'), & of course certain camera companies want you to believe it still does. But they are lying to you: when the electronics in your digital camera gives up it's a brick, and the electronics will give up. Don't buy it lying to yourself that you will pass it to your children: buy it for the few years it will last.

Like Trevor Johnson, I don't consider Billingham to be Veblen. I use Ona and Billingham, and as we've discussed before, Ona in leather is definitely Veblen, but not Billingham IMHO. To me, Veblen = luxury, but Billingham = quality of construction. You get what you pay for and if you want the quality and practicality of Billingham, you have to be prepared to pay what they ask. Top quality costs.

I will always take my Billingham Hadley Small (waxed cotton) when travelling or when there's risk of rain. It's water-proof and rugged and very well made and easy to use and doesn't scream camera bag. It fits a Fuji and lenses and a modest number of accessories. Ticks all your boxes I think, other than removable strap.

I use a Deuter 8 Twist. Light and does not look like a camera bag. Follows me all over the world from Barcelona to New Zealand.

I have a Hadley that I bought (un)used and it still looks new. But of all the bags that I have bought, I have only worn out one: A Domke J-803

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/218284-REG/Domke_701_J83_J_803_Digital_Satchel.html

And if you wore it out, that means you used the heck out of it, right? I like the small size for day out without a sore back. And when there was a rumor that Domke was discontinuing the model a couple of years ago, I bought two just to keep in the back of the closet.

I have a small LowPro backpack for travel, but I tend to use it to 'port gear between locations and then load up the little Domke for the day.

I have a "Photo Hadley," purchased secondhand of course, and can report that it's a perfect fit for a Hasselblad 500 and three lenses.

I don't understand the need for bags designed to hold laptop computers with your camera gear. When I'm out with my camera, I want to be as far away from my computer as possible!

[I just needed mine because I was traveling, and had to take my computer with me. I wanted to carry everything on to the plane in one bag, not two, that's all. --Mike]

I wish I could afford one, 'cause I'd have it in a second.

But I wonder if we could not get a company that would come up with a sorta poor man's Billingham. It would be designed to look like a Billingham at first glance, although of cheaper, lighter weight materials while still being sufficient for the purpose. Flaws could be labeled as cute “quirks” by some reviewers. And it could include some unique technical innovations (say X-snaps fasteners with a non-random, random molecular structure) to (somewhat) solve problems that mostly did not exist. These technical innovations could be called special “magic” by “influencers” so often that some would start to see the special magic too. When asked to define this special magic even the best, including scientists, could not do so other than claim that if you could not see it that you were some sort of cranky nut.

A few years after this bag is introduced and it turns out to be a decent bag for the money that even non-believers of magic could like, fans could say that their poor man’s Billingham-look bag (which no real poor man or woman could afford) was superior to initially imitated original.

The first Compaq portable computer weighed almost 30 pounds, and was only portable for any length of time by people with strong arms. But since it had a handle, it was portable.

35 years ago, in the summer after graduating from high school, I flew out to California to visit a classmate whose father moved the family as soon as graduation was over. My friend had a part time job in a camera store in a mall and I bought a little, box-shaped, padded camera bag from his store (I think it was $20 new, but with his employee discount it was something like $13). The plastic brand badge (I think it's "Phoenix") has broken. The zipper pull has broken and been replaced with a paper clip. It's been vacuumed out a few times, and I lost the insert for it, so there are no compartments, relegating it to be stuffed full of chargers and cables, most of the time.
I guess I'm wondering if anyone really needs to worry about camera bags wearing out.

I bought a Billingham laptop bag as a present to myself almost 20 years ago, and it is so perfectly made I haven't had the nerve to use it yet.

To paraphrase what you said a long time ago, Mike, any conversation among photographers, sooner or later, turns to the all-important subject of bags.

To honor that observation, and these two excellent posts by you and the comments that follow, may I (humbly) provide a link to some necessary accompanying music by Miles Davis, composed by none other than Milt Jackson, aka "Bags."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg5n2KQHAMs

Quite honestly I've had the same bag for over 30 years and I'm still in love. I can ask for a lens and she hands it to me.
She just turned 60 and is still cute as a button.

I bought the original Hadley back in the 1980's, replaced the insert last year, I love it so much that I will now only buy gear that fits it. My big DSLR plus lenses goes in a huge Lowepro that sits on the back seat of the 4wd and never ever goes on my shoulder. I also have another huge lowepro for my 5x4 outfit and that definitely never goes on my shoulder.
This week the Hadley has my M240 Leica and a Hasselblad SWC with two lenses for the leica in the front pocket. Last week it had my M4-p and M6 with two extra lenses for an event, who knows what will be in it next week, could be the SWC together with my Rolleiflex 3.5E3, it's happened before.
If it doesn't fit in the hadley, I waon't take it on a walk......

Like many, my search for the perfect camera bag seems to be a never-ending quest. I purchased a Hadley Bag about a half-dozen years ago. Yes it was more expensive than some other bags but I find that it is extremely well constructed and still looks like new. In the interim since buying the Billingham bag I purchased at least 4 other other bags which collectively cost a bit more than the Billingham bag and yet the only two bags to remain in my use are the Billingham and a Think Tank sling bag. So while the Billingham may initially be more expensive I would say it is worth it. Years ago I also met Mr. Billingham briefly at photography trade show, he seemed like a very nice chap and was rightly proud of his products. I expect that my bag will still be functional and look good long after I am gone.

Amazon shows various cheaper satchel-style camera bags that are similar in overall shape to the Billinghams, although not exactly the same.

On the other hand there is also this, which looks like true knockoff: https://www.amazon.com/CADeN-Messenger-Waterproof-Shockproof-Compatible/dp/B07FVJVPGV/

That Billingham bag is beautiful. Actually, all those Billingham bags are beautiful. I have a love/hate thing with bags. I like window-shopping, which means surfing the web for them (and I like window shopping for cars too: build-your-own!), trying to find the right one and all that. But when I'm actually out with my camera I can't stand having anything heavy or too large or anything that looks like a camera bag. I always end up with the camera on my shoulder (upstrap) and the smallest possible messenger bag with maybe one other lens and some accessories stowed away. Even better is the camera on the shoulder and cargo shorts and no bag at all.

When I travel, I have a messenger bag that I carry on the plane with the gear I'm bringing, but I have the small bag packed away in my suitcase. I don't bring a huge amount of gear, camera and 2 or 3 lenses at most, so don't need a Think Tank roller or what not.

I had one of the first Billinghams.... the “Series One”. Now being used by a friend. Must be about 40 years old. Still functional after a lot of heavy use.

They are great if you have to work in heavy rain. Billingham started out making bags for fishermen, and moved into camera bags because all the press photographers used them when shooting football matches. Rather like seeing all the white telefocus lenses from Canon, people started asking what those bags were on the sidelines at matches.

I bought a Hadley small a year ago for my Fuji X-T2 and a couple of Fujicrons. I purchased it straight from the Billingham website, and the khaki and brown leather version was significantly cheaper than any other color combo. I think I only paid $150 with free shipping to the US. I find it often surprising that the manufacturer’s own website is sometimes where the best deals can be found. It won’t carry a laptop, but it’s a perfect bag for a body and a few lenses plus accessories. It even has room for a Leica table top tripod and ball head.

You want a padded waterproof bag with a nice padded surface to rest your gear on whilst changing lenses etc.? With all sorts of compartments and straps to hook it onto other objects like a cart?

Go to amazon and search for men's diaper bags

About 10 years ago, I went to a yard sale late in the afternoon in Boulder Colorado, and figured since it was so late it was probably closing up and everything was gone, but I saw some camera bags that looked interesting. I asked about them and the seller said they were really expensive bags and I said how about $30 for the three of them, one was a Billingham Hadley Small, one was a Billingham Stowaway (like Eliott Erwitt uses), and one a 10" x 9" X 2" Billingham bag, almost like a document bag or a purse. He said they go for so much and I knew nothing about them and he took the $30. I still use them today.

Similarly, I was out at a Boulder thrift store and being familiar with their bags now, I looked across an aisle and I saw one, also a Hadley Small, for $9. I didn't wait until the weekend for their half-price sale. The curse is now wherever I go, whenever I see used bags I have to look through them and I've never found another one. Did find a nice Domke once, in brand new condition, for maybe $10. (Why do we say brand new instead of just new?)

After years of coveting Billigham bags, I finally got one. It was used, but looked nearly new. I think someone gave it to me, but I might have bought it, I don't recall. Anyway, I had great respect for the thing but carried it only once or twice. It just wasn't my style. It was big and heavy and announced its presence from a great distance. If it were a car it would have been a Bentley. Bentleys are nice but I'd never buy one, and if somebody gave me a Bentley I'd sell it in favor of a sporty two-door coupe of some sort. To each his own.

Mike,

I read your "Blog Note" about your grammar and usage pet peeves, then ran across this sentence in your Billingham Bags post: "If I was 35, I'd buy one."

(Cringe!) Subjunctive tense, where art thou?

Wow, $280 for a bag back then? My first (used) car cost around half that amount. And it was less than 10 years old at the time.

I probably wouldn’t buy a current Billingham as I’m not sure they are as robust as they were.

My ‘99 vintage Packington was superb and looked almost like new when I got rid of it. However the more recent Hadley Pro is, in my humble opinion, both poorly designed and built. 2 years on the daily commute killed it. Key issues being the canvas over the zipper on the back starts to go almost immediately and, at a slightly slower rate the strap wears through the top flap at each end. The (expensive) pad for the shoulder strap also fails fairly rapidly.

For users like me, Billington translates to near torture. On principle I cringe when in the vicinity of "prestige" items, despite many failed attempts to resist. Money's just too hard to find these days. Yet I find myself delighting in my Hadley Pro and more recently acquired Billingham S4. Simply sensuous pleasure. Now, at age 76, I'm trying to outlive them. Good luck with that.

I bought a 335 when I was 23. I am 50 now. Nylon version, rugged, heavy, waterproof. I took it to the south american jungle and all the leather fittings went mouldy in the humidity. Alcohol wiped on the leather took the mould off and no lasting damage. Solid bag, but as previously stated...heavy. It lives in the attic as I use backpacks now. I would never get rid of it and now that it is in my mind I might start using it again. It always reminded me of the bag my Dad used to carry his fishing tackle in but much more robust.

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