The Billingham Stowaway Compact Review

The Billingham Stowaway Compact:

Let me start out by saying that I am a huge Billingham fan.  I’ve used bags from Tenba, Tamrac, and Domke but I’ve always come back to Billinghams.  In fact, I have a Hadley that I’ve been using regularly for over 18 years.  So when I got the chance to review a new Billingham Stowaway Compact bag (found here at Amazon or here at Adorama), I jumped at it.

Quality:

Solid construction, high quality materials, classic design, and long life have built a solid reputation for Billingham bags.  The Billingham Stowaway Compact is no exception.  The Stowaway Compact is built to the same standards as more costly Billinghams.  There is ample use of fine leather, brass parts, and enough padding to make anyone get that nice and warm feeling that their camera equipment is perfectly safe.  Pictures of this bag do not do it justice…if you are serious in purchasing one of these bags, I urge you to go and see it in person.  The quality is amazing.

Another great thing about Billingham bags is that they are waterproof.  I’ve been caught in many intense rain storms and downpours with Billinghams, and the interiors of those bags ALWAYS stayed dry.  There wasn’t even a hint of wetness.  In my experience, Billingham bags are as waterproof as you can get!  These bags are designed for one thing in mind, and that’s to protect your gear.

What Will The Billingham Stowaway Compact Fit?:

This bag is designed for any small compact or rangefinder camera such as the Leica M9 or the Fuji X100.  It’s designed for days when you want to bring the bare minimum but with the same protection that bigger billinghams bags provide.  The Stowaway Compact looks small but it can easily fit a rangefinder with a lens mounted, and another lens or small flash along with a variety of accessories.

↓ The accessories fit in the many small pouches found in and around the bag.  A large opening in the back can easily fit a brochure or some important papers.

↓ There are also small pouches on both sides of the Billingham Stowaway Compact.

↓ On the front of the bag, there is a small section that has a zippered pouch that can fit things such as memory cards.

↓ If you open the flap, which is held down by a brass and leather buckle, you will find a pouch that can fit something like a cell phone or a lens hood.

↓ There is another zippered pouch on the side of the bag that allows you to fit bigger items such as a Gepe Card Safe Extreme case (which I reviewed).

Conclusion:

I think the Billingham Stowaway Compact is one of the best bags in it’s class on the market.  It’s supremely well built, and any camera gear you put in it will be thoroughly protected from the elements, and any other possible dangers.  The cost of one of these bags is not cheap: The price is anywhere from $120 to $130.  However, if you want the best in protection, I highly suggest this bag. they can handle being thrown around or bumped.  Some people say that these bags are a little too expensive but if you have a sizable investment in camera gear, it might pay to get a bag with a little more added protection.  Also remember this; Billingham bags are made to last forever so in the long run, IMO they’re not as expensive as one thinks.  If you would like to purchase the Billingham Stowaway Compact bag, you can purchase it here at Amazon or here at Adorama.

Specifications for the Billingham Stowaway Compact:

Material

  • Exterior: Stormblocker dual laminate waterproof canvas bag
  • Interior: High density closed cell foam

Compartments

  • Padded main compartment

Pockets

  • Large zipper front
  • Zippered pocket on outside of flap
  • 2 Outside slip pockets
  • Rear slip pocket

Type of Closure

  • Zipper
  • Solid Brass clog bolt and harness leather locking system

Exterior Dimensions

  • 6 1/4 x 2 1/2 x 8 1/4″ (15.88 x 6.5 20.96 cm) (W x D x H)

Interior Dimensions

  • 6 x 2 x 7.5″ (15.24 x 5.08 x 19.05 cm) (W x D x H)

Weight

  • 0.66 lb (300 g)
43 comments… add one
  • michael c breen

    Dear Patrick i have a M3 leica with Kern Macro Switar lense attatched 50mm 1;9 from back of camera to front of lense is 10cm. Height is 9;25cm. width is 15cm. do you think this camera would fit in the Compact Billingham Bag ? Many thanks for interesting and useful article

    • Patrick

      Hi Michael,

      Thanks for the nice comment! I put my Leica M6 and a 50 Summilux ASPH in the bag, and it fits great. It is approximately 9.5cm from the back of the camera to the front of the lens. Here is a picture of the bag with the camera and lens in it.

      http://findingrange.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/L10209651.jpg

      If you put the camera in this way, you still have plenty of room left for a longer lens. You can also put the camera and lens in this way:

      http://findingrange.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/L10209611.jpg

      But it’s a little tight if you put the camera in this way. I hope this helps. If you have any other questions please feel free to ask! Thanks for visiting!

  • Matej

    Dear Patrick,

    I have Fuji x100 with lens hood, EF-20 Flash plus additional batery and cable remote. Do you think I can put al this in Compact bag or is it a little tight. Should I buy Pola instead?

    Thanks

    • Patrick

      Hi Matej,
      Thanks for spending the time to read my review. I just put my X100 with lens hood on (with the base of camera towards the bottom of the bag) and there’s still some space on top (maybe enough for about a second X100). So in my opinion, it should fit but it might be a little tight for some. The width of the bag is perfect, and in my opinion the depth is a really nice fit but if you do want a little more depth (because of the hood), go for the Pola. You can put the battery in one of the zipper compartments with the cable release. I hope this helps. If you need anything else, feel free to contact me. Thanks for stopping by!

      • Matej

        I will go for the Pola then, because I like a litle more depth.

        Thanks.

      • Patrick

        Great choice. Hope you enjoy it.

  • michael c breen

    Patrick im some months late i replying ! i thought it was coming by in my email address ! im going for the Pola. Many thanks very helpful, Michael

    • Patrick

      Hi Michael,
      No worries! I’m glad you found my post helpful. Good luck with the Pola. Take care and come back soon.

  • tungh

    Hi Patric,
    I’m finding a bag for my MP mounted Summicron 35mm pre-ASPH lens with original hood, and ofcourse, some 35mm film rolls. But I’m wondering if this bag could fit my gear or not? Please tell me some advices about this bag or another! I love small enough bag, not too big…
    Thank you and waiting for your reply!
    Best regards,
    Tungh

    • Patrick

      Hi Tungh,

      Thanks for your comment! Sorry for the late reply, I had a pinched nerve for these couple of days that prevented me from doing pretty much anything but it’s getting better. Yes, this bag can fit your MP with 35 cron, and a few rolls of 35mm film but you’ll have to put the film in the same compartment as the camera. Although now that I’m thinking about it, you might be able to put a couple of rolls in one of the bigger compartments. Another bag you might want to consider is the Billingham Hadley Small (check out my review http://findingrange.com/2012/05/28/billingham-hadley-small-review-great-hadley-features-in-a-small-size/). I hope this helps. Please feel free to contact me if you have further questions! Thanks for stopping by, take care!

  • David

    I’m using one of these as general purpose bag in summer when I have no jacket. It takes sunglasses, money, a compact Nikon Coolpix P300, business cards, tickets, etc…
    It is not cheap, but is made in England, by real employees, with real materials, and sooo much … low-tech.
    I also use 2 Billinghams for “shooting”: a Hadley Digital for light equipment (Nikon D300 + 18-135 + 12-24) or a 306 (discontinued) for full equipment.

    • Patrick

      Hi David,

      Thanks for your comment! It sounds like you have a great bag! The two Billinghams are nice too. I think I had a 306 back in the day…carried everything lol. Thanks for stopping by,

      Patrick

  • Richard Loh

    Hi Patrick,

    May I know if this bag fit the Sony RX1 with EVF and the original Sony lens hood ?

    Great review, thanks.

    • Patrick

      Hi Richard,

      Thanks for reading my review. I haven’t tried an RX1 in the bag but it does fit an M camera with a 50mm lens, and my X-Pro1 with the 18-55mm zoom. I’m guessing that it should be no problem. My guess is, if you leave the EVF on, you’ll have to put the camera in so the LCD screen is lying against the back of the bag. Therefore, you might not be able to leave the lens hood attached to the lens because the bag has a small width. But you could always put the lens hood in the smaller pocket. If you put the camera in side ways, you’ll have plenty of length, so you’ll have no issues leaving the lens hood on but I’m not sure if you could leave the EVF on. I hope this helps,

      Patrick

  • Richard Loh

    Hi Patrick,

    Have been using a D700 for quite sometime and carrying it around is not an easy task..until I discover this little gem, the RX1 with only a fraction of the size and weight of the D700. The image quality is really out of this world compare to the D700. Albeit, I do not have the best lens for the D700 🙂

    However, I do think that the autofocus speed could be better, hopefully that is correctable by a firmware update.

    Thanks a lot for the images, you are always so helpful !

    • Patrick

      Hi Richard,

      That’s nice to hear. I’ve heard nothing but great things about the RX1. They’ll probably update the autofocus like you said in the future. You’re also welcomed for the images. Let me know how it works out for you!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Raphael

    Helpful review.
    Recently purchased rx1r and really right stuff base/Lplate/grip
    Purchased the Billingham compact stowaway
    Great fit
    The camera bag is just the right size and is very professionally constructed
    Love it

    Raphael

    • Patrick

      Hi Raphael,

      Thanks! Thanks for taking the time out to read it! Nice camera btw.

      Billinghams are a bit more expensive but they last forever. I’ve had my Hadley for I believe over 18 years, and it is still going strong. The leather is peeling off, there’s a lot of wear and tear, and the color has definitely faded but it still protects my equipment just as well, and it’s still weather proof.

      Btw, How do you like your rx1r?

      All the best,

      Patrick

  • Raphael

    Patrick,

    Have just begun taking shots with the rx1r;
    Really impressed with the Zeiss lens.
    I have been tied up with work and have not had the opportunity to
    dedicate some serious time to taking pictures.
    There is a bit of a learning curve in familiarizing myself with menu etc.; also,
    Just switched to Lightroom 5.

    Raphael

    • Patrick

      Hey Raphael,

      Yeah, it’s a great camera. I was playing with it at my camera dealer’s and I was quite impressed. Hope you get some free time soon to shoot with it!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Alan

    Hi Patrick, I’m divided between this and the billingham stowaway pola. I have a leica MP + 35 summilux ASPH that I intend to fit like your photo here:
    http://findingrange.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/L10209651.jpg

    I was wondering if I do get another lens down the road, so the 50 summilux ASPH, would it be able to fit in the stowaway compact, in the little space that is remaining when the camera is positioned that way on its side?

  • Alan

    I just wanted to add that I had have a hadley pro, but with the camera insert, there is little room for books as a daily messenger bag. Hence, I want to use the stowaway compact both as its standalone camera bag and also as a bag that I can toss into my hadley pro without insert.

    My current plan is to have the MP + 35 lux ASPH on its side with three rolls of film stacked on top of each other on the side, which, judging by the photos, should fit. But my main concern in future expandability and in the event that I need to carry more than 3 rolls of film.

    However, I’m a little put off by the size of the pola, which seems to be over 50% the width of my hadley pro, hardly compact.

    • Patrick

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. It’s going to be a pretty tight fight with your MP, 35mm Lux ASPH, and 50 Lux ASPH. In terms of film, I’m sure you can carry three if not more rolls of film. I don’t have the bag with me right now but when I get back tomorrow, I will check on both of these for you. I just wanted to respond now, so I don’t leave you hanging. I agree with you on the Pola…that’s definitely not compact. Also, if you would like, I actually have a Hadley Pro that I’m reviewing, so I can post up a photo of the Stowaway Compact in the Pro for you. I’ll get back to you when I get the Compact back in my hands,

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Alan

    Hi Patrick, that would be simply fantastic! Will check back soon.

    Best,

    Alan.

    • Patrick

      Not a problem, Alan. I just hope I can help you out.

      All the best,

      Patrick

  • Alan

    And yes, I would greatly appreciate if you could picture the compact and pro together. I’ve been a long time lurker here and your images and reviews have been extremely helpful in determining the balance of my bank account which, at the very least, has suffered due to the acquisition of an Artist and Artisan ACAM 280 strap 😉

    Cheers!

    Alan

    • Patrick

      It’s not a problem at all, Alan. I’m more than glad to do so. I might not be able to post to you till later tomorrow night but I will definitely have all the info for you plus pics. It’s also great to have you here! Feel free to continue to look around quietly, comment or even send me a message to me from time to time. Sorry about your bank account btw ;). If it makes you feel better, my bank account suffers greatly from this hobby as well lol.

      By the way, how do you like your ACAM 280 strap?

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Alan

    Thanks! I bought it new in January this year and it has been great. Since the MP weights so much, I forgo a wrist strap and just use the ACAM280 around my neck. It has seen some pretty heavy use in extreme climates, from sub-tropical-like weather in southern China to desert-like environments in Tibet, to extreme cold here in Canada. Generally, it has aged pretty well, with the part that touches my neck flaking a little, likely due to sweat. Although seams are still tight, the end of a thread on one side has started to show. I was debating to snip it off, but I thought I should probably just leave it and keep an eye on it.
    My biggest concern, however, is the strength of the leather itself. I have seen old leather straps ripping and I wonder if it’s going to happen to this strap over time, despite it’s sewn edges. I guess only time will tell.

    Overall I’m very happy with it, and if it breaks (if ever), I would consider buying another one.

    • Patrick

      Hey Alan,

      Wow, it sounds like you really put that ACAM280 to good use! I’ve been using my ACAM280 for a few years now, and it’s still doing pretty good. It’s currently on my X-E1. Have you tried the ACAM301 strap?

      Btw, here is the photo I said that I would post up for you with the Stowaway in the Hadley Pro:

      http://findingrange.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Billingham-Stowaway-Compact.jpg

      I hope this helps you out.

      In terms of the MP, I think it would be too tight if you had both the 35 Lux and the 50 Lux in there. But you should be able to fit more than 3 rolls of film easily. Also, if I’m understanding correctly, you’re saying the nub where the leather straps attach to spins when you twist it with force, right? I tried the bags that I have here, and I haven’t had that issue.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions,

      All the best!

      Patrick

  • Alan

    Just curious, does your hadley pro or any of your other billingham bags have brass clots (the nub that the leather straps attach to to close the bag) that spin? Mine turns with some force, and I was wondering if this was normal.

  • Alan

    Thanks for the pic, Patrick, that’s really helpful! I’ve just gone ahead and placed an order for a stowaway compact, black with black trim + nickle finish from the UK. I couldn’t find a place in North American that carried this color combo so I’m paying a hefty premium for it. No matter, as long as it’s put through good use, like my sage/chocolate Hadley Pro 🙂

    Looks like I will be in touch with billingham about the nubs…

    Alan

    • Patrick

      Not a problem, Alan. I’m glad that it was helpful! Well, you might’ve had to pay a bit more for the color you wanted but my philosophy is, if you’re paying a decent price for a quality product, you should always get exactly what you want. I would’ve done the same. I love the Billingham bags. They’re expensive but they are also so rugged. I’ve had my original Hadley for I think over 20 years…it went through everything.

      When you contact Billingham about the nubs, let me know how it goes.

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Alan

    Hi Patrick, I got my response about the brass nubs from billingham, they said the Brass Clogballs are hot glued onto the thread that they screw onto, so under some force they will sometimes turn and is hence completely normal.

    As well, I asked if the Hadley Pro can handle 20lbs of daily carrying by the top handle bar instead of the shoulder strap. They also said that should be no problem at all.

    I hope this helps anyone who experience the same things!

    • Patrick

      Hi Alan,

      That’s good news that it’s normal! Also, 20lbs…wow, I didn’t know the handle could carry so much daily. Thanks for sharing the info with us! Please keep in touch!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Alan

    Hi Patrick, I’ve finally received my stowaway compact and for people who are considering it as both a standalone bag and as an insert within a bigger bag (e.g. hadley pro), here is how I will be carrying it most of the time:

    http://s1.sftp.cc/imagedump/Clipboard_Image11-21-2013_2-56-08_PM.jpg
    http://s1.sftp.cc/imagedump/Clipboard_Image11-21-2013_3-06-18_PM.jpg

    This is my Billingham Hadley Pro with everything I need on a daily basis:

    Main compartment:
    Leica MP + 35 Lux ASPH + ND filter + 3 rolls of film within the black stowaway compact;
    my 800ml water bottle,
    my pencil case left of the water bottle,
    my work related stack of papers 3 inches thick,
    my 11 inch Thinkpad x120e netbook.

    Front pockets:
    a flat green bag with cables, USB, adapters, extra batteries, etc;
    a small wireless mouse
    a pair of in-ear headphones within it’s compact case
    a pair on sunglasses in the right pouch with extra room for the power brick of my laptop.

    Back pocket underneath main compartment flap (second picture)
    2 x Rhodia webnotebook A6 (equivalent in size to the Moleskin small, for reference)
    eyeglasses within case
    tissues and chewing gum and sometimes cigarettes with more room to spare

    Hope this helps others wondering just how much a hadley pro can carry.

    Alan

  • Alan

    P.S. This weights around 15-20 lbs depending on the amount of water I have in the bottle. Hence, I carry it by the top handle to prevent shoulder problems in the future. Now that I have the stowaway compact, I intend to leave the hadley pro in the car when I don’t need it and just take the compact when all I need is my camera.

    Here is my film only blog:
    http://qualia.cc

    Best,

    Alan

    • Patrick

      Hey Alan,

      Wow, the Stowaway fits perfectly in the Hadley with all of your stuff. It’s quite amazing how much these bags can fit; I’ve stuffed my old Hadley with so many things before, and it always feels like it has room for just one more item :). I think the limit really comes down to how much my shoulders and back can handle :).

      Getting the Stowaway for your purpose is a great idea. It’s an excellent way to protect your camera, and allow you to leave some of that heft when you want to go out shooting. Thanks for sharing the pictures with us!

      Your film blog is awesome btw! Your photos look great! Numbers 25, 24, 23, 20, 10 and 1 are my favorites. I started shooting film again (I think its been over a decade) but I haven’t had the time to finish my first roll yet lol. If you ever feel like doing a guest post or something, feel free to message me anytime.

      Thanks for coming back, and taking the time out to share your Billingham info with us!

      All the best,

      Patrick

  • Alan

    Patrick, I would be honored to contribute a guest post down the road, perhaps when work isn’t such a bother! I could showcase the film process, from developing/enlarging to bulk loading to scanning and archival tips. Though before that happens, I should probably build up my film diaries some more.

    I’ve been shooting film for around 2 years but only recently decided to build that site as a conversation starter and so I don’t become an armchair photographer. Accordingly, the site doesn’t contain any of my old images since I see it as a challenge to start at a certain point in time and document the process of improvement from that point onward, rather than use it as a portfolio (I personally feel portfolios are best printed anyway; presentation or contextualization of the image, I feel, is as important as the image itself.)

    Before that, I suffered from serious digital G.A.S., from Canon, to Nikon, to Sony 😉 Film was the cure!

    I will definitely keep in touch, Patrick. Thanks again!

    Best,

    Alan

    • Patrick

      Hey Alan,

      Sorry for the late reply…I have a bit of back pain, and it’s been hard to sit in this chair and type lol. I’d be honored if you wrote a guest post. Feel free to send me a message anytime. Your idea about showcasing the film process sounds very interesting, and I know for a fact that many people would be interested in something like that, especially me.

      Your site is excellent. The images are fantastic, and it makes me want to finish my roll of Neopan (it’s been in my camera for over a month!). I feel the same way about printing. I just don’t think you can truly judge an image until you finally see it printed. The image just doesn’t have the same impact if it’s not printed.

      I know what you mean about G.A.S ;). From a film stand point, you have what a lot of people believe is the absolute perfect setup: the MP and 35 Lux. That MP is a beautiful camera and it’ll probably be your last unlike how these digital units change so frequently. I have an old Professor from college who I keep in contact with regularly, and he used to be really into photography. He only shot with black and white film, and did his own processing. I will definitely tell him about your site!

      Thanks for stopping by, and yes, keep in touch!

      Take care!

      Patrick

  • Jens East

    Hi Patrick,

    I´m enjoying your reviews! I´m searching a compact bag who suits my tiny Pana GM1, PL Summilux 15, PL Nocticron 42,5 and sometimes PL Summilux 25. Do you think Billingham Compact could manage that? Any other suggestions?

    Cheers!

    Jens East

    • Patrick

      Hi Jens,

      Thank you for the kind words, and for taking the time to check out my site! On a side note, I just wanted to say that you have a really nice setup! The GM1 is one of my favorites, and you have some fantastic lenses.

      I can definitely understand why you’re considering the Compact. With a system like yours, I would also want to keep it as compact as possible. Unfortunately, I think you’d probably be better off with a slightly larger bag.

      If you want something from Billingham, you should check out the Hadley Digital. If you don’t mind something a little bigger, the Hadley Small is also a great choice but there would be space left over because your system is so compact. However, it is definitely a very comfortable bag to wear around all day. I also reviewed that here.

      The Artisan & Artist DCAM-7200 is also a nice bag, which is slightly smaller than the Hadley Small. I reviewed it in June, if you would like to read about it. You can check out the review here.

      Please let me know what you think!

      All the best!

      Patrick

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