My Billingham Hadley Pro…

…and why I am selling it.

I have tried to love this bag. The web is awash with write-ups and reviews about how wonderful Billingham bags are, and they are. But one of the most used lines often sound like; ‘they don’t look like camera bags or that they are holding expensive camera equipment’, the problem is THEY DO!!

They positively scream expensive camera equipment now. They didn’t, then they became popular, and now every thief in every country knows what carrying a Billingham means. It means the person has money, probably a western tourist. Why? Because they are expensive, good quality bags, that are popular with amateurs and professionals who have invested significant money in their equipment. In the UK I have been followed until I snuck into a shop where I knew the manager and hung out for a while. For a woman, alone, this is particularly worrying.

They are wonderfully water-resistant, although the newer ones are not as good as the old ones at beading the water droplets I have found. They protect and hold a good amount of gear, and provide moderate access (not as easy as many, or as conveniently as some).

The trouble is, they are now so well known, they attract their own issues and the very people we all thought they’d deter because they didn’t look like camera bags.

But there are some other issues;

I have never liked the use of leather, for ethical reasons, and also because it creases and becomes loose. I have also found that there aren’t enough pockets. Once the main compartment has your camera in it then you have just two pockets for everything else. That is everything such as filters, batteries, cards, pens, cleaning bits, etc etc, all lumped in together. This isn’t convenient. And then you put your purse/wallet and phone in one and you’ve lost another space. Perhaps men don’t, but women do. Then there is the need for somewhere to put my medication, women’s products (don’t ask if you don’t need to) and all the other things a lady carries.

I could get a bigger one. The trouble is, by the time I have put my MacBook Air in, my D7100 with its 18-300, my Tokina 12-24 and the aforementioned sundries, I can’t lift the thing anyway. Well, I can, but after around 20minutes my neck hurts, my shoulder is protesting, and the really wide strap and shoulder pad are actually making it worse (I’m only little).

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The back pocket is not big enough for my laptop (and its the 11″ Air version), and because it conforms to the body, I can’t use it for notes or paper.

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The central space is velcro hell, in fact anything with a slight rough edge will snag on it. If that weren’t bad enough, its not actually deep enough for my camera and lens combination that I use most. Its almost there, another cm would do. But not quite.

The poppers on the pockets are almost impossible to do up unless the item inside is flat and you can press against it. Put pens in, you’re stuffed. And don’t put your nice iPhone in there and expect NOT to scratch it. They aren’t padded, or even lined, which means the stud (which is lovely brass) rubs on anything in there.

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I have tried to love you Billingham Hadley Pro, I really have, but you ticked me off once too often. So, on to eBay you go.

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5 thoughts on “My Billingham Hadley Pro…

  1. To each their own, but I find your rationale a bit odd.

    You sell the Hadley because it’s an expensive, high quality, popular, instantly recognizable designer item and attracts the wrong kind of attention. And then replace it with a Peak Design messenger which is… well… an expensive, high quality, popular, instantly recognizable designer item bound to attract the same kind of attention. If you’re afraid of being mugged, you should get an old army surplus bag with a custom insert.

    Also: 40.000+ hits in Google on the phrase “doesn’t look like a camera bag”. Unless you need to cross a war zone or some very unsavoury parts of town to get to your photography destination, discussing the resemblance of your bag to whatever it is that people feel “looks like a camera bag” is just folly. As soon as you take your camera out (which I assume is why bring your bag to begin with), the issue is moot.

    I also don’t understand why you even bought this bag if you have ethical objections to its use of materials.

    Then you claim you need more pockets, but wouldn’t want to carry the weight of what you would fill them with. As for needing to carry your purse and toiletries in your camera bag: I doubt that many such bags are designed for that. Certainly not the Hadley which again makes me wonder why you purchased this bag. The same applies for your comment about not being able to fit your gear into the bag.

    The back zippered pocket is designed for (quoting from Billingham’s product page) “storing airline tickets or maps”. A laptop is never mentioned, so I can’t imagine why you expect it to hold one. It does fit an iPhone quite nicely though, which solves your concerns about scratching it in one fell swoop.

    To close the popper, just stick your thumb under the lid and behind the button inside the pocket, then press from the front with your fingers.

    Like I said, to each their own. One bag can’t please everyone, and you can certainly outgrow a bag once your priorities, shooting style or gear collection changes. But being “ticked off” because the bag doesn’t meet requirements you could have verified before purchasing it seems strange to me.

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  2. Thanks for your comments. What I should have perhaps have mentioned is that I have made substantial changes to my kit on more than one occasion whilst owning and using this bag. I should also perhaps have mentioned that I have twice been mugged and therefore, as a result of these experiences and having to fight off the assailant (successfully) both times, I now do not wish to attract attention. I would not get my camera out if I felt it was unsafe to do so, which is another reason why I want a bag that doesn’t shout camera gear. Sometime I have to travel through unsafe areas, at unsafe times of the day, to get to and from shoots.

    My updated post on the Peak Design messenger also now states that I have actually sold that one too, because it no longer suited my needs. Everyone can change their minds, and everyone finds different things suit them, and often at different times. I am one of them. I wrote the article the day I sold the bag because I wanted to write a comment on what worked for me and what didn’t. This is my opinion at that specific point in time. I have found reading other peoples blogs and reviews useful to my shopping experiences and wanted to help others, but it is just my single opinion.

    As women clothes often do not come with usable pockets, unlike mens clothing, it is sadly a requirement of any bag that I can carry my purse and toiletries. Funnily enough, there is an article on the Guardian’s website only today about this very issue.

    At the time I purchased the Peak Design bag it was not well known, and I would argue that this is still a relatively new company, and relatively unknown, in comparison with the likes of Billingham, Tamrac, and indeed Lowepro.

    As I am sure you will know, and you mention yourself, you can outgrow a bag. Most photographers have many, some they use, some gather dust, and some get written about.

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  3. My comment was prompted by the punch line of your post:

    “I have tried to love you Billingham Hadley Pro, I really have, but you ticked me off once too often.”

    That to me implies that you blame the bag for your dissatisfaction with it (“you ticked me off”) and never really connected with the bag from the beginning (“I have tried to love you”). This is what I found odd in light of the issues you mentioned that led up to this conclusion.

    I sincerely sympathize with your experiences being assaulted. I certainly don’t hope to ever end up in a situation like that. That being said, unless you acquired your Hadley a decade or more ago (it has been a popular and recognizable bag for quite some time) and have concrete indications that you were in fact targeted specifically because of the bag, I don’t quite see how your misfortune relates to your dissatisfaction with it.

    As for the use of leather, that was there when you bought it. And the number of pockets, their storage capacity, the zippered compartment and the poppers haven’t changed either.

    Do you see where I am going with this?

    Like I said, you can certainly outgrow a bag or change your mind about it. What I find odd is how you seem to hold that against it. At least that is the impression your post left with me.

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    1. Thanks for your comments and your reply. I certainly take on board what you have said and will consider these points in my style of writing. It is often difficult to relay a jovial friendly sense in the written form that might be more evident in a face to face conversation and I will consider this in future posts. I try not to be dry and boring, but sometimes I realise my style may not convey my intention to everyone in the manner in which it was intended.

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      1. Thank you for your courteous and open minded attitude. It is a quality that seems to be in short supply these days, particularly when communicating under the anonymity provided by online watering holes.

        And for what it’s worth, informal communication without any sort of ambiguity while catering to everyone’s whim is an exercise in futility and frustration. Best stay true to yourself, roll with the punches and ignore the odd flame warrior.

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