Billingham Combination Bag For The Leica M Review

Billingham Combination Bag:

When I first became interested in the Billingham Combination bag for the Leica M (which can be found here at Amazon or here at Adorama), I could not find any real info on it.  I looked all over the web but there weren’t many reviews on it, and I was really surprised because I know there are a lot of people who would like this bag.  The Billingham Combination bag greatly appealed to me because at the time, I was using a Billingham Hadley, and I wanted something smaller but I did not want to sacrifice too much space.  I know that there were other great bags made by other manufacturers but I wanted to stick with Billingham because IMO they make the best bags for cameras.  Yes they are expensive but Billingham bags last.  My Hadley has been my main camera bag for over 18 years, and it’s still going strong.  It has been extremely dependable with absolutely no maintenance at all.  Come to think of it, it’s been my only camera bag for the past 18 years.  Anyway, since I had trouble finding info on the Billingham Combination bag, I thought that I would share what I think of this bag, and what I got out of it.

What’s The Quality Level of The Billingham Combination Bag?:

Like all Billinghams, the Billingham Combination bag is top notch when it comes to build quality and design.  The canvas material is beautiful and stays in shape for a very long time.  While bag color is unimportant, if you’re paying this much for a bag, you should be able to choose the color that you want without anybody smirking at you.  The Combination bag comes in khaki and can be purchased here but I prefer the black one here.  The black bag is so discreet and elegant.  I kind of wished my Hadley was this color but at the time I bought it, the all black option was unavailable.

↑ It comes in a nice Leica box :).  Here’s where some of your money’s going.

↑ When you open the box, you will find your Billingham Combination bag wrapped in this cloth bag (for those who like that kind of stuff).

↑ The Billingham Combination bag also comes with instructions which almost seem pointless.

↑ Of course, like all Billingham bags, you get a five year warranty.

What else?  You get a heavy duty shoulder pad but IMO, it seems like overkill for such a small bag.  I took mine off after a week of using my bag with it.  Getting back to the features, the leather is great like all Billingham bags, and the shoulder strap wraps completely around the bag for added strength.  My martial arts uncle says that bags like this are good because no one can rip it off your body.  However, I wonder if I would be better off with a bag that does rip off easily…I’d rather lose my equipment then lose my arm :).  That’s why I insure my equipment, and I urge anyone else to do the same!

↑ Here is a photo of how the strap wraps around the bag.

What else?  Well, the padding on the inside is great, and offers ample protection for your equipment.  This bag is extremely well padded inside.  I run around New York City with this bag, and my equipment has never been damaged.  Trust me, it gets bumped, crushed, pushed, and caught between subway doors, and everything inside is always in perfect condition.  There is also a piece of fiberglass on the bottom of the bag to help protect your Leica from any hard impact, and it also probably serves as a way to keep the rectangle shape of the bag.  Don’t worry about the fiberglass hitting your equipment though because a nice thick, absorbent foam pad lies between your stuff and the fiberglass making sure to absorb any shock you may expose your bag too.

↑ The Billingham Combination bag comes with two dividers, which can be easily moved around in the bag for a custom fit.  You can purchase more if you want too.

Another great quality that the Billingham Combination bag has is that it’s waterproof.  I’ve been stuck in downpours in the Caribbean with no problems at all.  It rains here in New York a lot sometimes, and while I usually carry an umbrella, since my camera bag is usually behind me while I am walking, it gets completely soaked.  Even after being repeatedly soaked, this bag has not once ever been slightly damp inside.  The bag has been through snowstorms with no problem, and the funny thing is that since the Combination bag is so well padded, the insides actually stay warm :).  I see a lot of mint condition Billingham bags out there but if you buy one of these bags, I urge you to use and abuse it because Billingham bags can take it, and are built to take it.  Plus the patina actually adds character to this bag, and the wear actually makes the bag fit better onto your body.

 What Will The Billingham Combination Bag Fit?:

For such a small bag, this bag can fit a lot.  Let’s see…I can fit my Leica M9 with a mounted lens, four additional M lenses (lenses can be stacked by buying additional foam pads to put between them), my M Compact Charger, eight memory cards put into two Gepe Card Safe Extreme Cases, two Leica M Lithium-ion batteries, and a variety of other small accessories.  It’s a smaller bag than the Hadley but in my opinion, it can hold almost as much.  I can actually fit all of this with my Leica M9 lying flat on its base, not sideways.  If I have my M9 lying on its side, I can probably fit more equipment if I wanted too.  I’m not going to lie, with all this equipment in such a small bag, it can be a tight fit.  But it’s not an uncomfortable fit, and it allows you to carry all your Leica M equipment in a very compact, tight, and versatile way.  Just don’t expect this bag to hold your average DSLR kit.  There’s a reason some refer to this bag as the M Combination bag.

These days though, I usually have my Billingham Combination bag set up to fit my Leica M9 with mounted lens, and space for one other M lens.  It’s a great bag to carry around because it’s so small and light but also offers superior protection.  I could get a smaller bag such as the Billingham Hadley Small or the Billingham Stowaway Compact (which I reviewed here) but the Combination bag is small enough that it almost seems like a waste just to buy another bag because you need something smaller.  The Combination bag is great because it is extremely versatile by serving as both a smaller bag and bigger camera bag.  The Billingham Combination bag is very comfortable all day on my body whether it’s packed full or it’s carrying a light outfit.

↑ This is how I set my Combination bag up these days.  Notice how I lay my camera in this bag on its base not its side.  I usually only carry a camera with a lens mounted and one additional lens in this bag now.

↑ Here is a size comparison: On the right is my green Hadley, and on the left is my black Combination bag.  The Billingham Combination bag is a lot smaller but believe it or not, it hold almost as much stuff as my Hadley.

So Great Bag But What Are The Negatives?:

Well, one thing I wished this bag had were more compartments.  It has one big zippered compartment in the front of the bag but why not put smaller compartments inside this zippered pouch?  Everything inside this big compartment sometimes bounces around in there.  There’s not even a pen holder inside.

↑ There is a large zippered compartment but I wished Billingham would have put smaller compartments inside this zippered part.  There’s ample space to do so, I have no idea why they didn’t do it. 

The other issue that some may have with the Billingham Combination bag (although this is personal preference) is that the bag is a little too square shaped for some.  With the Hadley series, they can easily pass off as messenger bags or even briefcases (I saw a businessman on the train using a Hadley as a briefcase).  But this bag looks a little more like a camera bag.  However, if you don’t like the square shape you can always buy the Billingham Hadley Small, which offers a slimmer shape.  I wanted a bag with a wider shape so that I could put my camera in lying on its base with a lens like my 50 Summilux ASPH attached, which is a little longer.  I actually found the Hadley Small a little too small for my taste.

↑ The Billingham Combination bag is rectangle shaped and might be uncomfortable for some.  I generally have no problem with it at all but once in a while, I kind of wished it hugged my body a bit better like a messenger style bag (for example: a Hadley). 

Last Thoughts on the Billingham Combination Bag:

Like every other Billingham bag, the Billingham Combination bag is a discreet, and classy camera bag that offers superior protection.  It’s built with only the best materials out there, and assembled by master craftsman.  This bag goes for around $260 to $270, and while this may be expensive to some, it’s worth it because this bag will last a very long time offering excellent protection.  Compared to what equipment the average potential buyer will put into this bag, it does not cost so much.  Plus you also have to remember: Billingham bags rarely change in design.  Even if you buy this bag purely for aesthetic reasons, you probably won’t ever have to buy another bag because the chances of Billingham upgrading this bag’s design is very small.  In other words, you probably only have to buy once as opposed to several times.  The Billingham Combination bag can be found here at Amazon or here at Adorama.  I don’t buy Billingham bags just for aesthetic reasons.  I buy them because they really do protect your equipment. And personally, if I’m going to spend thousands of dollars buying Leica equipment, you better believe that I will buy a nice bag to protect all of it.

Specifications For The Billingham Combination Bag:

Material

  • Fine leather trimmed canvas

Capacity

  • Either two M cameras with two lenses, flash, film, accessories or one camera and three lenses, flash, film, accessories.  Also for Digilux 3 or any M rangefinder size systems

Type of Closure

  • Quick-releasing Press Studs

Colors Available

  • Black or Khaki

Exterior Dimensions

  • W x D x H: 10.5″ x 5.75″ x 7.75″ (266mm x 146mm x 197mm)

Interior Dimensions

  • W x D x H: 9.63″ x 4.25″ x 5.75″ (244mm x 108mm x 146mm)

Weight

  • 1.54 lb (700 g)

 

 

26 comments… add one

  • Nice review. This is the perfect size bag for a Lieca for getting around town. I like the smallest bag possible that holds a camera and, ideally two lens, but one is OK too. Small is critical. If I am going to carry a larger bag, I will just bring the Canon 5d. I use the Domke F-5XA Shoulder and Belt Bag, Small (Black) 700-51B with excellent results. Great size. Anything bigger gets in the way pretty quickly.

    • Patrick

      Thanks for putting the time to read it! I totally agree with you, I always try to get away with the smallest bag possible. The Domke F-5XA looks like an awesome bag. I was thinking of stopping by B and H one of these days to go check it out in person. It’s a great size. Thanks for your comment!

  • Glen Converse

    I have to agree with you on this one. It is the absolute BEST for my Leica M3 and accessories. I love the from zipped pocket for pertinent photographic information. I have two other Billingham bags, the Hadley Pro and a larger one for my Nikon D700. These bags are just beautiful. My advice to anyone out there is to stop wasting your money on an endless search for the ultimate camera bag and go with Billingham. The search is more expensive than any of the Billingham bags.
    Thanks so very much for the insightful review.

    • Patrick

      Hi Glen,

      I had my M combo bag for a couple of years, and it’s still going strong. While it may be more expensive than some other bags, in the long run (as you say) it comes out cheaper in the end because I don’t need to constantly search for a new bag. At least that’s how I feel as well. Yes, there bags are beautiful. Some might write it off as another luxury item but it really does offer incredible protection, and they last forever. I’ve had my Hadley for almost 20 years, and it’s still just as good as the day I purchased it. It’s still waterproof as well, and it’s been through plenty of rain storms. Thanks for reading my review, and take care!

  • I too have this bag in black to carry my Ricoh GXR-M with room for a couple extra Leica M Mount lenses and the accessories I need.

    Thanks for the excellent review.

    • Patrick

      Hi Duane,

      Thanks for your kind words! Great to have you hear, and yes, this bag is really handy. It can carry so much if you need it too. Thanks for stopping by. Take care!

  • GB

    Hi, thanks for the detailed infos (fiberglass insert and strap around bags) i didn’t noticed while seen this bag in shop quickly.
    I use an Hadley for 20 years now (‘orginal’) and had to once change the insert due to delited foam, and recently acquired a ‘small’ digital Hadley : i’ll finally go for this M combination bag wich is the rite size, finally, for everyday. I never/rarely change lenses when walking around but very frequently carry two M bodies instead, or recently 1 M with an X1 plus 1 additional M lens. The rigid insert is a good idea : the soft bottom of the Hadley(s) were partly responsible for a damaged rewind crank in the past (M vertically insered). Thanks !

    • Patrick

      Hi GB,

      Thanks for your nice comment! I’ve been using my original Hadley for about the same time as well, and I also had to replace my foam lol. Yeah, the M Combo bag is great, and will definitely hold more than it looks. In many ways, I replaced my original Hadley with it because I was able to stuff so much in the M Combo. Plus, The fiberglass bottom definitely helped protect my stuff several times. I hope you enjoy the bag! Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time out to read my review. Take care!

  • Krabat

    Hey, thank you so much for this detailed review, it’s very helpful.

    I just have a quick question: is the inner padding of this bag removable? I would love it for my camera, but I was also hoping to use it as a daily messenger bag. I guess it would fit this purpose if the inner padding is removable (like the Billingham Hadley Pro) so that the bag would seem less “square”… :P

    Any comment on this? Thanks! :)

    • Patrick

      Hi Krabat,

      Thanks for your comment! Yes, the inner padding is removable just like the bigger Hadley. Just remember that this bag is a bit smaller than the regular Hadley but if that’s ok for your daily messenger needs, than you have a winner. It’s a really great bag. I hope this helps, feel free to comment back if you have any other questions. Thanks, take care!

  • Dave Murray

    Patrick: Many thanks for your most informative review. Your page gave me for more info that the Leica one! I’ve been using a pair of Leica MDa bodies with 35mm lens and the top-mounted 35mm viewfinder for street photography, simply because this finder gives me a much brighter view. I carry these in a small ‘manbag’ to avoid looking as if I’m carrying a camera bag. However, there is no divider. Now I have discovered the Combination bag, I can see that my search is over. Although I am aware of Billingham bags, I did not know that they made a bag for Leica. BUT, as a prestige manufacturer, it is obvious that they would make one especially for the most prestigious camera. “It is the most famous camera in the world, any Leica owner will be pleased to tell you why” – seen on an advertising leaflet in the 1960s, possibly around the time of the M4.

    • Patrick

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time out to read it! Wow, a pair of MDa bodies…very cool. We talk so much digital on my site, it’s great to hear someone using film Leicas :). The Billingham M Combo is a great little bag. It’s light and small enough where you can just carry the bare essentials but it’s also surprisingly roomy when you need it to be. I was going to a wedding down in the Caymans, and I didn’t want to bring such a big bag because of the heat. My M Combo carried my M9, 4 lenses, my charger, a bunch of memory cards, and an extra battery. It’s the bag I use everyday. Plus, after a while, it does wear nicely. But if you really like your current bag, you could also consider purchasing Billingham Hadley inserts. You can even buy the Hadley Small inserts, which might be a better fit since Leicas are small. Thanks again for checking out my site!

      Patrick

  • Hi Patrick,

    thank you for your detailled review(s). As a nature “photographer” I also like the fact, das the Billingham Combination Bag holds a Zeiss 8×42 HD easily in the front compartment. Also a iPad Mini can be stored in the inner compartment behind the camara gear… Just an awesome bag for everyday use…

    Best wishes from Dresden, Germany.
    Lars Brueckler

    • Patrick

      Hi Lars,

      Thanks! Readers’ comments are always appreciated, and thanks for sharing your experience with the bag! It’s a great little bag. Keep visiting, and thanks again!

      All the best,

      Patrick

  • Sam

    Hi,
    Nice review as I am trying to decide on a compact bag for a M8 and 2 lenses. The Hadley green bag next to the Leica combination bag- is that a regular Hadley or the Hadley Small? In the review you mention the Hadley small is slimmer- so I assume the one in the photo is the normal Hadley?

    I want to smaller one. :)

    Thanks.

  • Sam

    Hi,
    I read your review again carefully and forgot to click on the link for the Hadley you mentioned- that took me to regular size Hadley on Amazon. Was going to write I found out- and you also wrote. :)

    Will read your review of the small. If its slimmer- than that sounds perfect! There is one on sale too! Thank you. Now just have to wait for my M8 to come in the mail.

    Thanks. Sam

    • Patrick

      Hi Sam,

      Yes, the Hadley Small is a great size…small and comfortable enough for everyday use but can also carry a lot if the situation arises. It’s also really well padded. It’s so well built, you’ll probably never have to replace the bag. Let me know how it all turns out for you. Congratulations on your M8 btw!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • To be honest, you could have saved a few bucks by getting the small Hadley. I use one for my Fuji X100 and it will take two – one sitting on its base and the other on its heel being of a similar size to the Combination bag. It would be nice to see a comparison of the two. IMO though, if you need to carry other stuff, like car keys and bank card wallet, then it is tight. I will go the Billingham L2 later in the year just for the added space.

    • Patrick

      Hi Keith,

      Nice hearing from you; thanks for sharing your opinion and visiting. Maybe if I can get the other bag, I’ll write up a comparison,

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Thanks for the great review! Based upon this and the Hadley Small review I went out to my local store today and tried them out and decided on the Combination. Looks great filled up and very inconspicuous.

    • Patrick

      Hi Simon,

      Thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to read my review. It’s a great little bag and yes, quite inconspicuous. By the way, excellent blog you have there! It was great reading about your travels with the Leica M.

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • someone got me this bag as a gift and i honestly cannot believe what it will hold. its cavernous.

    here is what i put in it

    digital body with 50mm
    film body w/ 28mm
    35mm w/ the hood attached
    flash
    light meter
    sync cord
    hot shoe adapters (i carry 2)
    film (2-5 rolls)
    lens wipe
    batteries

    also worth mentioning i have an angelo pelle half case w/ screen protector on the digital, its quite bulky to say the least, but also gives you a great grip (highly recommend these half cases as well)
    i havent tried it as of yet but i think it would probably hold a hasselblad 500 series w/80mm lens and a m body with lens
    i also think you could fit an ipad mini/small tablet in there as well if you really wanted to behind the cameras in the main compartment (there is an area where it would slip into without touching the cameras)
    the only thing i might change is a divider in the front zipper pocket, that being said i might (i think its possible) add one of their pockets to the side of the bag so i could carry wireless triggers

    anyways i highly recommend it, it fits so much it would put clown cars to shame !

    • Patrick

      Hi Duncan,

      Yes! It’s pretty incredible how much this bag can actually hold! It’s one of my favorites, and after so many years, it’s still my most used bag. It’s so flexible. When you need it to carry just a small kit, it’s not a problem. It feels perfectly balanced and everything. But for those days when you need to carry a large kit, and you don’t want to carry a larger bag, the M Combo has no problems doing so. LOVE this bag :). Btw, great pics on your Instagram feed! I also have tried the side pockets, and the smaller one is great. I reviewed them:

      http://findingrange.com/2016/07/25/billingham-avea-3-and-avea-5-review/

      Thanks for leaving us your experience with the M Combo,

      Best,

      Patrick

  • duncan

    hi Patrick,

    thank you for the reply, do you know if the 5 will fit ok on the combination bag or does it make it look weird ?

    i was thinking of getting one of each (03 and 05)

    last question … any idea if a 90mm summicron would fit in the 5 without issue ?

    getting that in is a tight fit with both bodies w/lenses attached, although i have made it happen in a pinch

    • Patrick

      Hi Duncan,

      Nice to hear from you again! You can strap on the 5 but it’s going to look pretty large :). Still, if you need the extra space, the 5 is the better choice. As to whether the 90 Cron can fit into the 5, I didn’t try it but if this helps, my M 240 with 35mm Cron attached fits into the AVEA 5, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the 90mmm could fit as well. Worse comes to worse, maybe you can fit one body with a short lens attached in the AVEA 5, and put the 90mm Cron in the bag. I hope this helps! Please let me know how it turns out.

      Best,

      Patrick

Leave a Comment