Billingham Hadley Pro Review: A Solid Bag Designed to Last a Lifetime

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Billingham Hadley Pro Review:

There are plenty of decent camera bags out there nowadays.  Domke, Artisan & Artist, and Think Tank are just a few companies that come to my mind that make great camera bags but there are plenty more.  Billingham is another company that has been making great bags as well, and one series that Billingham has been producing for quite some time is the Hadley range, which is one of their most popular series of bags for several reasons: the Hadley range is made up of a bunch of bags that are extremely dependable, perfectly sized, comfortable, and built to last.  They make various models but one of their most popular bags in this series is the Billingham Hadley Pro (B&H Photo/Amazon).

Billingham Hadley Pro Build Quality:

If you’re after a classic look, the Billingham bags are a fantastic option.  In fact, they almost never change in style (I’ve had my Hadley since the early ’90’s), which only adds to their classic appeal and timeless quality.  They’re not flashy or pompous looking; in fact, I would argue that they are more subtle than some of the more expensive high end camera bags that are coming out these days.  To me, they don’t even look like traditional camera bags, which makes them very discreet.  In fact, I’ve actually seen many people on the subway use the Hadley Pro as a regular messenger bag.  But while the appearance of these bags is nice, it’s not the main reason for why I buy them.

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↑ The Billingham Hadley Pro comes with a bag but I lost mine a long time ago.

Billingham bags are the camera bags that I recommend most because of their indestructible nature.  I’ve reviewed several Billingham bags in the past but bought only two (a Hadley and an M Combo) because there has never been a need for any sort of replacement for them.  From the the type of canvas chosen to the solid brass fittings used, Billingham bags last forever, and the Hadley Pro is no exception to this rule.

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↑ The front of the Billingham Hadley Pro

These bags are more expensive than some but in my opinion, worth every penny because they last so long, and they protect my gear so well.  I’ve had my original Hadley for over 15 years, and it has not let me down once.  My Hadley has not been pampered either: it’s been through bumps, drops, scrapes, sand, snow storms, major tropical rainstorms, and worst of all, my organic chemistry class :).  I’ve had a puddle from a major rainstorm form on top of my bag that never soaked through.  All of my camera equipment stayed completely dry without even a hint of dampness inside.  There was even a time when I was shooting a wedding at Cayman, and I had to leave my M Combo bag out in a sudden downpour.  Again, everything was completely dry.  So, if you’re wondering whether or not these bags are water proof, there’s your answer :).  If anything, my Hadley has only gotten better with age because the patina adds a really distinct character to it.

Looking at the Billingham Hadley Pro (B&H Photo/Amazon), and comparing it to my original Hadley, I can see that the high quality craftsmanship is still top notch.  While Billingham bags are expensive, they are a classic example of the phrase, “you get what you paid for”.  I say this because these are extremely well made bags, and the photos do not do them justice.  Only the best materials are used and the workmanship is perfect.

When you open the Hadley Pro, there is an insert, which is very versatile because it can be removed, so you can use the bag to carry other items besides camera equipment.  I’ve actually used my original Hadley as a school bag a few times when I was in college.  As I mentioned before, I’ve seen a few people use the Hadley Pro simply as a messenger bag on the train.  Another great feature about the removable insert is if it wears out over the years, you can easily purchase a replacement insert instead of buying a new bag.  I’ve already done this with my original Hadley.  The quick release leather straps, which are adjustable, can also be easily replaced when they wear out over time, although I have not changed mine yet.

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↑ Inside the Hadley Pro with the insert in place.  The insert is secured in place with a press-stud.

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↑ Inside the Hadley Pro without the insert.

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 ↑ Like the insert, the quick release leather straps can also be replaced if they wear out over time.

Even the carrying handle on this bag is built to withstand years of use.  Instead of just attaching the carrying handle to the fabric of the bag itself, Billingham inserted a fiberglass stiffener on the top flap, where the carrying handle is attached.  By doing this, the weight of your gear won’t wear holes in your canvas because it is attached to the fiberglass stiffener instead.  The fiberglass stiffener also adds support and shape to the bag.

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↑ The main differences between my original Hadley, and the Hadley Pro is the Pro comes with a carrying handle, and a zipper portion on the back of the bag.

There are four dividers that come with the Billingham Hadley Pro, and since the entire insert is made out of cloth, there are many different ways that you can velcro the inserts for a very customizable fit.  The insert and the dividers provide very well padded protection for your gear, so you never have to worry about your equipment once everything is in the bag.  I want to emphasize that the padding is absolutely fantastic, and personally, I think this is really the main selling point of these Billingham bags.  You really never have to worry about your gear.  The whole bag can take some serious punishment but when you open it, everything is still in exactly the same place that you left it, and most importantly, there is no damage to anything.

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↑ The bag come with two large dividers (which I already attached inside the bag), and two smaller dividers.

Leica equipment is insanely expensive but nowadays, most camera equipment is expensive in general.  Look at the Fuji: lenses use to cost around $600 but now, the new XF 23mm costs $900.  The Billingham bags are expensive but at around $250 – 260, it’s a very decent price to pay for peace of mind, and in a way, insurance for expensive equipment whether it be Fuji, Nikon, Canon, Olympus or Leica.

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↑ Billingham bags come with a great warranty.

What Can You Fit Into The Billingham Hadley Pro?:

The Billingham Hadley Pro (B&H Photo/Amazon) is not only a well built bag, it also holds quite a lot of photographic equipment, especially for a bag of its size.  The question should really be, how much strain are you willing to put on your shoulders?  I say this because you can really stuff this bag full, and it can definitely carry a lot of weight.  The only thing I recommend you do is if you do stuff your bag full, purchase is the SP40 Leather Shoulder Pad.

If you’re a mirrorless or a rangefinder shooter, you could stuff your whole kit into this bag and more.  In the insert part of the bag, I’ve stuffed one M body, and five lenses.  Depending on the sizes of my lenses, I’m confident that I can stuff one or two more lenses in addition to the five that I’ve mentioned.  I can even stuff another M body.  The great thing about Billingham bags is you can buy additional dividers in all shapes and sizes, which I do, so I can fit even more without damaging my equipment.

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↑ Here’s a view of the inside of the bag with the two larger dividers and my M6.

In addition to the insert, the Hadley Pro has two additional front pockets that can be expanded by unbuttoning the press-studs.  I’ve put my Leica SF-58 flash, my camera battery charger, WhiBal White Balance Gray Card, a bunch of memory cards, a spare battery, and two Pocket Wizards in those pockets.  In addition to that, I have some papers, and a magazine that I slide behind the insert inside the bag.

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↑ The front pockets can expand by unbuttoning the press-studs.

On the back of the Hadley Pro, there’s a huge pocket with a zipper that’s protected from the rain, which I can put an Ipad in.  Now, that’s just me.  Depending on your equipment, you could potentially hold even more in this bag.

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↑ The back of the Hadley Pro has a pouch with a zipper where you can put flat materials, such as, magazines, papers, and an Ipad.

While the Hadley Pro can hold a lot, it’s also equally adept at carrying one camera with one lens because the bag itself really isn’t that big.  The bag feels perfectly fine with such a small amount of equipment, and in no way, does it get in the way or feel cumbersome and heavy.  In fact, the bag doesn’t weigh much at all.  The Hadley Pro retains it’s general shape very nicely yet it also wraps around your body very well allowing you to retain a slim profile making it very easy to cut through the massive crowds on the streets of New York City.  It’s a really easy , and most importantly, a comfortable bag to carry around all day.  While you might be better suited getting the Billingham Hadley Small for such a purpose, it’s great to have that versatility in a bag that can carry so much.

Billingham Hadley Pro Specifications:

External dimensions (excluding handle):

  • W390mm (15.”) x D120mm (4¾”) x H260mm (10¼”)

Internal dimensions:

  • W340mm (13.”) x D80mm (3.”) x H230mm (9″)

Capacity:

  • 6.00 litres (0.21 feet³)

Weight:

  • 1.01 kgs (2.23 lbs)

Front ‘dump’ pocket

  • W130 to 170mm (5.” to 6¾”) x D40 to 60mm (1½” to 2.”) x H200mm (7.”)

Capacity:

  • 1 to 1.25 litres (0.03 feet³ to 0.04 feet³)

Rear zippered pocket:

  • W320mm (12.”) x D Nominal x H220mm (8.”)

Capacity:

  • nominal

Billingham Hadley Pro Verdict:

The Billingham Hadley Pro (B&H Photo/Amazon) is a no-nonsense workhorse of a bag that is extremely adaptable.  It can carry a lot of photographic equipment yet it’s equally happy just carrying the basics without causing you many of the inconveniences of a large camera bag.  It is also extremely comfortable to carry around all day.

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In addition to its versatility, the Billingham Hadley Pro offers, in my opinion, the best protection for your photographic equipment.  Gear is expensive whether it’s Leica, Nikon, Canon or Fuji, and for around $250, the Hadley offers an extremely well made, and well protected place for your equipment.  It feels like a bank vault at times.  The padding is excellent, and the outer portion of the bag is not only made with the finest materials, it’s also weather proof, and designed to last many years.

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↑ The Hadley Pro on the left, and my original Hadley on the right.

As I said before, there are many great bags out there but from what I’ve experienced from my original Hadley and my M Combo bag, I’m afraid that I probably won’t buy any other manufacturer’s bag anytime soon.  I have absolutely nothing against any other bag.  In fact, I really like the Think Tank Retrospective series, and I’ve owned several Domke bags in the past.  It’s just my original Hadley has served me extremely well over the years, and has really left a huge impression on me.  If I recall correctly, the price of my original Hadley was somewhere around $200-250 but over 15 years later, and after several different camera systems ranging from Leica, Mamiya, and Fuji, my original Hadley is still going strong today.

That’s it for my review.  Thanks for taking the time out to read it!  If you’re considering buying the Billingham Hadley Pro, and my review helped you decide, please help support this site by purchasing from one of the links below or any of the links on this blog.  These are places I shop at myself, and it will not cost you anything extra.  Thank you for your support!

Billingham Hadley Pro at B&H Photo:

Black and Black Trim

Khaki/Tan

Black and Tan Leather Trim

Sage With Tan Leather Trim

 

Billingham Hadley Pro at Amazon:

Black and Black Trim

Khaki/Tan

Black and Tan Leather Trim

Sage With Tan Leather Trim

 

Billingham Hadley Pro at Adorama:

Black and Black Trim

Khaki/Tan

Black and Tan Leather Trim

Sage With Tan Leather Trim

27 comments… add one
  • inthedarkroom

    another readable, comprehensive and useful review my billingham is virtually indestructable and can stand up to any conditions

    • Patrick

      Hi inthedarkroom,

      Great to see you here again, and thanks for taking the time out to read my review! Enjoy your bag!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Hi Patrick,

    Nice review, and photos of the Billingham Bag, love it. Been thinking of getting one.

    Thanks,
    Alan

    • Patrick

      Hi Alan,

      Thanks for taking the time to read it. It’s great to hear from you again. Yeah, it’s a good bag. It’ll last you a very long time. I hope things are going well with you,

      Happy Holidays,

      Patrick

  • Kerwin

    Hi Patrick,

    Great review on the Billinghams. I love them too and have the exact same bag that you just got. It’s really a great product and can hold in a lot of stuff.

    Happy Holidays!

    Kerwin

    • Patrick

      Hey Kerwin,

      Thanks and great to hear from you again! Yes, it’s actually quite surprising how much this bag can hold for its size. It’s easy to walk around with all day as well.

      Have a great Christmas!

      Patrick

  • Hey Patrick,

    I’ve got a Leica M9 and a Fuji X100s and I need your camera bag advice. Would you recommend this bag over the Leica Combination bag?

    Thanks,

    Dalal

  • Toby Madrigal

    A very good review of a first class product from Blighty. Of course you’re preaching to the converted here with me EXCEPT, you’ve made me think about getting another. I already have a black Hadley original and have used it for years. It carries two Leica M4-P bodies, 25/40/90 lenses, Leicameter,
    Lens carrier for when I leave the bag in the car, and films/hoods and bits.
    Filofax personal and pens/pencils/sharpener batteries and worry beads. When I turn up for a shoot, people are amazed just how compact my bag is yet, I’m thinking about getting a green one with brown straps for my Nikon F and spare body and 35 and 85 lenses and Gossen Profisix meter.
    These bags are amazing and, people, if you want the best bag in the world get this. It is smart enough to walk into a good restaurant with, even getting a bit shabby. I think the khaki canvas/tan leather is a bit bright, if you don’t like all black, get the green one with brown leather – it’s quite discreet in use.

    • Patrick

      Hi Toby,

      I’m so sorry for the late response! I was away. Internet wasn’t that great there. Thanks for taking the time out to read my review! I’m the biggest Billingham fan because these bags last! I can understand how some may be concerned with price but nowadays there are a lot of bags out there that cost even more. All I know is, like you, I own the original Hadley, and it’s still going strong after over two decades of use! In my opinion, that says quite a lot.

      I totally agree with you about the versatility of the bag. You can take it into a classy place or you can take it into a bad neigborhood, and no one would be the wiser as to what you’re carrying in it, especially when some patina has form on the bag. It also carry a lot of stuff but like you said, it’s actually pretty compact for what it can carry.

      Anyway, if you end up getting a new one, let me know. Thanks again for visiting my site, and again, sorry for the late reply!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Leslie

    I was debating between Hadley pro and large but i love the size of pro but the handle worries me a lot, I am looking for a bag that can mould to the back of my body as you carry them but i heard from some users saying that Pro version handle is stiff making the bag not be able mould to the shape of his back. So pretty much large version will contour (mould) to back of our body, I tried large before but its too big for what i need. I have too many large bag like 307 but looking for a smaller one for day use.

    What is your experience with regards to this pro being able to contour to the shape of our back? Please advise as i will be ordering today…

    Thanks in advance

    • Patrick

      Hi Leslie,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I just sent you a reply to your email. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • KM Ho

    Hi,

    Nice review!

    Wonder if it fits 2 Leica rangefinders, M240 & M9, plus 2-3 lenses. Any other suggestions?

    Thanks.

    KM Ho

    • Patrick

      Hi KM,

      Thanks for taking the time to read it! If you slide the two cameras in sideways (so the side of the cameras are contacting the bottom of the bag), you should have no problems fitting everything in. You mention 2-3 lenses. Are you counting the two lenses already attached to the two cameras? If so, you should have no problems with everything you mentioned :).

      Btw, you can even stack lenses with the smaller dividers, so you can probably squeeze an additional lens. I have the older Hadley, and I set it up where I can put my M, and a total of 5 lenses.

      I hope I was able to help. If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Regarding a good way to store two lenses neatly in a satchel type bag:

    A forgotten accessory from Leica (back when it was still Leitz) was a plastic rear lens cap that was double-sided. You could attach a lens on both sides, so that two lenses would be rear element to rear element, forming a tall stack. The entire package can slide vertically into a narrow, divided space in a satchel bag very neatly. And the two lenses aren’t shifting against each other, with their independent rear lens caps.

    I suspect this accessory is quite expensive and rare though. When I was using the M system as my professional gear in the ’90’s, I came up with my own version: two individual rear lens caps, and used super glue to bond them together. Worked well for me.

  • Marco

    Hey Patrick;
    I should’ve known you had already done a review on the Coupler! That’s brilliant!

    Having lenses back to back with a coupler or double rear caps is a great way of carrying them together, without the lenses rattling around or possible damaging each other in a small space.

    • Patrick

      Hi Marco!

      Thanks! It’s great that you brought it up!

      Take care!

      Patrick

  • Donna

    Patrick, per Leslie’s comment, I am also curious about how the handle on the Pro affects the way the bag will hang and mold to the body. I have the Hadley small and I like the way it’ll curve a little next to my hip. Does the handle on the Pro change that much?
    Nice review! 🙂

    • Patrick

      Hi Donna!

      Thanks for taking the time to read my review and sorry for the late reply! I’ve been having a lot of problems with my new computer. Personally, I didn’t find the handle to cause any problems. I set up the bag where the curve of my hip basically hits the mid/lower part of the bag. Since my hip pops out more than my abdominal area, the handle never really touched my body enough to cause discomfort. Also, since it’s a bigger bag, it can carry a lot more, which means the weight will still kind of pull the handle away from your body (I hope this makes sense 🙂 ). Also, as you use the bag more, it will break in and mold to your body better. I have the Original Hadley (which I’m proud to say I’ve been using for probably two decades), which has no handle, and it’s worn to my body so much that I kind of wish I had the handle to give it a little more structure. Overall, the Hadley Pro just felt like a bigger version of the Small.

      I hope this helps!

      All the best!

      Patrick

  • Dan Aunspach

    This is probably the best Hadley Pro review I’ve seen. (Believe me, I’ve read many and seen even more videos.) The photos you’ve added are better than Billingham’s own! It really helps to get a good idea of size and functionality.

    Thank you for taking the time to post such a fine review!

    • Patrick

      Hi Dan,

      Wow, thank you so much! It means a lot to me that it was helpful, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for taking the time to read it!

      Take care,

      Patrick

  • Peter

    Excellent photos and review !
    Thanks for taking the trouble .

    • Patrick

      Hi Peter,

      Sorry for the late reply! I was away and my internet wasn’t so good. I’m glad you liked it and thanks for taking the time to read it! I really appreciate that!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Peg

    Just wanted to say your review is still helping people! I have been looking to buy a new bag for an Italy trip in June. I have a mirrorless system but carry a few lenses and want a place for my surface without it being too big and uncomfortable to carry. Also sturdy enough to trek around the Dolomites but acceptable enough to stroll around Venice.

    I’ve had Crumpler, Tamrac, Tenba bags but none suit my new setup with the Surface. I hadn’t even thought of a Billingham. And it’s no more expensive than the Tenba Cooper Slim I was thinking about. But I think the Billingham has a certain timeless quality as well as being weather proof without a raincover.

    Thanks again for your helpful review.

    • Patrick

      Hi Peg,

      Sorry for the late reply! Thank you very much for your generous comment! I’m glad my review helped you in deciding what bag to get, especially for your trip. The Hadley is a classic; it looks great, fits quite a lot of gear, flexible, and as you said, it has a timeless quality to it. It’s also relatively understated for a camera bag. I’ve seen many who use it as a work bag. And yes, it is quite weather proof. Thanks for taking the time to read my review, and I hope to see you around again!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

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