Billingham F-Stop 1.4 Review

Billingham F-Stop 1.4 Review:

The Hadley Pro is one of Billingham’s most popular bags not only because it’s built well and offers excellent protection for photographic equipment, its size is also just about perfect for a broad range of gear.  It’s a great bag for a Leica M system, a mirrorless system, a DSLR system, and even medium format gear all while still being compact enough that it’s not a struggle to carry around all day.  But while the Hadley Pro is a very versatile bag, it’s still not for everyone.  The size of the bag and what it can carry does appeal to a broad audience but some may want something that is configured a little differently.  For those who want another bag with similar traits, Billingham has introduced an alternative: the Billingham F-Stop 1.4.

Billingham F-Stop 1.4 Build Quality:

At first, I actually wasn’t a huge fan of how the Billingham F-Stop 1.4 looked when I first saw it in photos.  Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a good looking bag overall and it definitely had an understated classic look to it that I liked a lot but it’s also more rectangular in shape than say the Hadley and the leather tabs are a little long for my taste.  However in person, it is a completely different story.  The bag is absolutely beautiful.  In my opinion, this is actually one of the nicest looking bags that Billingham has released so far.  In fact, I prefer the look of this bag over many of the other Billinghams including the Hadley Pro.  The F/Stop 1.4 still retains the elegant and classic appearance that Billingham bags are famous for but in my opinion, it’s just ever so slightly modernized.  It’s a more minimalistic design but in no way does that mean it’s inferior in terms of build quality.  In fact, I think the more minimalistic approach helps make this bag even more low key, especially the black one (the other color is khaki with chocolate colored leather, which is nice as well).

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↑ The Billingham F/Stop 1.4 in black and black leather.

Like other Billingham bags, the F-Stop 1.4 is a nice enough bag that one can take it to somewhere formal and fit right in yet it is also understated enough that it doesn’t raise any eyebrows when you’re walking home on the street or riding the subway.  Obviously, if it’s brand new, people are going to look at it as much as any other new bag but once it wears in nicely, no one will take a second look at it.  I know this because that’s what I experience with my older Billingham bags.  To me, it’s similar to the Hadley Pro in that it also doesn’t really look like a camera bag.  It can honestly past off as a work/office bag.  In fact, I’ve actually seen a few people on the subway using Hadley Pros as work/office bags.

Along with its decent looks, the Billingham F-Stop 1.4 is also extremely well made.  The F/Stop 1.4 is expensive but this is a bag that is designed to last a very long time, and in my opinion, this is what you’re really paying for.  I’ve never been disappointed with Billingham’s build quality, and it’s a huge reason why I’m such a loyal user of their products.  The stitching is perfect and materials used to make the F/Stop 1.4 are the finest available.  All the metal on the Billingham f1.4 including the metal loops on the strap and the stud fasteners or ClogBalls as Billingham calls them, are made from nickel plated brass.

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↑ Solid nickel plated brass is used throughout the bag.

Unlike some of the other Billingham bags, which use canvas, the fStop Series is made exclusively out of a synthetic material called Fibrenyte.  Fibrenyte is similar to canvas but it’s even more wear resistant and lighter.   This is true in practice because I have one other bag that is made from Fybrenyte and it is quite wear resistant, and the weight of the bag is noticeably lighter than the canvas version.  Even with this bag, I was surprised by how light it felt for its size when I first opened the packaging.  I also found that the Fibrenyte is more fade resistant than the canvas.  But I also own some Billingham bags made from canvas, and to me, the canvas is slightly softer to the touch but overall, I’m completely happy with both and I don’t really have a preference between the two.

Whether you prefer canvas or Fibrenyte, Billingham bags have one thing in common and that is they offer incredible protection for your gear.  It’s another big reason why I always end up buying Billingham bags.  There may be other bags that look better or have more bells and whistles but in my experience, Billingham bags offer some of the best protection for gear out there.

Once the flap of the F/Stop 1.4 is closed, the bag is not only water proof but my gear is also completely protected from the elements.  The main flap completely covers both the main compartment and the front pocket leaving absolutely no gaps.  The back zipper pocket has its own cover as well.  Trust me when I say that I do not baby my bags.  They get bumped, scraped, drenched, snowed on, left out in the heat and brutal cold, and even suffer through some sandy environments.  I’m an active person and therefore, I like to go out but I never leave my camera at home, so whatever conditions I have to go through, my bags have to do the same but also protect all my gear in the process.  I expect quite a lot from them but Billingham bags have always delivered.  I am so confident in how these bags protect my equipment that there’s not even a little bit of me that worries about my gear once its in one of these bags.  That kind of peace of mind is priceless in my opinion, especially when gear is so expensive nowadays.  I’ve had puddles form on top of my old Hadley and M Combo bag from sudden tropical rain storms and my gear has always stayed completely dry.  All I do is brush off the water and continue on my merry way.  The material on the inside isn’t even the slightest bit damp.  It’s really quite amazing.

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↑ While there is no zipper for the front pocket of the Billingham 1.4, it is completely covered once the flap is secured.

The good news is that you can expect this kind of protection and quality on the inside as well.  To access the main compartment, there is a quick release system: the leather tabs have keyhole slots that engage with the ClogBalls.  It’s a very quick, easy, and secure method for locking and releasing the flap.  It’s also very quiet because there’s no velcro or any type of metal that would make noise.  Speaking of the leather tabs, one note that I would like to mention about them is that they are not replaceable like the ones on the Hadley Pro.  But from experience, I’ve never had to replace the leather tabs on any of my Billingham bags yet.  After over 20 years of near constant use, the ones on my Hadley are worn but still function fine.

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↑ Solid nickel plated brass stud fasteners are used in combination with leather tabs to secure the main flap of the fStop 1.4.

Once inside the F-Stop 1.4, you’re greeted with a fully padded main compartment, which also has a removable 25mm thick foam pad for its base (to me, it feels like there might also be a fiberglass stiffener in the pad as well; I know I have one in my M Combination bag).  Trust me when I say that it will take quite a lot to damage your gear with the amount of padding that is supplied in this bag.  Furthermore, there is plenty of velcro attachments in the bag, so you can fully customize it to your specific needs using the two supplied padded dividers.

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↑ After lifting the flap, there is an additional foam cover that protects your gear.  This also helps protect your gear when your bag gets flipped over by accident.

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↑ The two supplied dividers that come with the F-Stop 1.4.

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↑ In addition to the dividers, the F-Stop 1.4 comes with its own bag.

Billingham F-Stop 1.4 Carrying Capacity:

Now, let’s talk about carrying capacity.  Overall, there is actually quite a lot of space for a bag of this size.  As mentioned earlier, unlike the Hadley Pro, the fStop 1.4 has a more rectangular shape.  To me, the Billingham F-Stop 1.4 is kind of like a larger M combo bag, so if you’re a fan of that bag, you’ll probably be fan of this one.  Some may not like the F/Stop 1.4’s more rectangular shape because they prefer a bag that wraps around their body a little better.  But after using Billingham f1.4, I found that the rectangular shape doesn’t make this bag uncomfortable in the least bit.  In fact, I actually find the f1.4 a little more comfortable to carry around all day than the Hadley Pro.  There are several reasons for this: first off, because the Hadley Pro does hug the body a bit more, I found it harder to access my gear, especially when it is packed full where as with F/Stop 1.4’s design, it’s much easier because it retains it’s shape better.  I don’t have to put the bag down in order to gain easier access.  Plus, the flap on this bag opens so much more easily than with the one on the Hadley.  This is particularly important to me when I’m walking on the street because it’s easier for me to keep walking while retrieving something from my bag.  Lastly, the F-Stop 1.4 just doesn’t feel like it pulls me down as much as the Hadley, and I really believe the shape of the bag helps in that way.  It’s also worth mentioning that even though the F-Stop 1.4 has a more rectangular shape than the Hadley Pro, it still looks very natural when it’s hung on my shoulders.

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↑ There is quite a bit of space for a bag of this size in the main compartment.

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↑ Here’s a comparison between the F/Stop 1.4 and the M Combination Bag.  In many ways, they have similar characteristics.  For one, they both use leather tabs that are not removable.

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↑ The insides of the F/Stop 1.4 (top) and the M Combination Bag (bottom).  The set up is pretty similar with the M Combo getting a zippered front pocket but no rear pocket.  What’s a bit peculiar to me is the M Combo gets a shoulder pad but the F/Stop 1.4 doesn’t.  I would’ve thought the F/Stop 1.4 would get a shoulder pad instead since it has the ability to carry more gear.

I bought this bag because I thought the rectangular shape would fit my Hasselblad 503CW Millennium better than something like the Hadley and it turns out that the F/Stop 1.4 is a perfect fit for it.  I’m really happy about this because I had some difficulty finding a bag that offered a combination of build quality, durability, and discreetness that not just fit a medium format camera like the Hasselblad but fit it comfortably as well.  In other words, I don’t want to have to struggle to get things out or put them back in.  I also didn’t want something that was a burden to carry around all day and it wouldn’t hurt if I actually liked how it looked.  Finding all of these characteristics isn’t so hard because there are plenty of decent bags out there but in addition to all these attributes, I also wanted something that was as compact as possible.  I grew up with rangefinder cameras and now I also use mirrorless gear like the ones in the Fuji system, so I’m used to carrying light gear.  I’d like to keep it that way.

I feel the Billingham F-Stop 1.4 gives me all of this.  It’s absolutely perfect for my needs.  I couldn’t ask for more in terms of the width because it is pretty much perfect for my 503CW.  The Hadley Pro is a great alternative if you have a Hasselblad system but the width of the main compartment just isn’t as wide as the fStop’s.  The slightly wider main compartment of the fStop 1.4 along with the fact that it retains its shape better just makes it easier for me to pull the 503CW out and put it back in.

So, as of now, I have my F/Stop 1.4 equipped to fit a small Hasselblad kit which consists of a body with lens mounted, and space for an additional lens.  If I wanted to, I could fit three Hasselblad lenses with one body comfortably by putting the camera with the lens facing down or the film back facing down.  Depending on the size of the lenses, I could probably fit more by stacking them.  As for additional rolls of film, business cards, cleaning cloth, and my light meter, I put them all in the front pocket but I like the security of a zipper, so it would’ve been nice if the pocket had one.  As of now, I don’t use the pocket inside the main compartment but one could fit an iPad into it.  In the rear zippered pocket, I often have papers, documents, and even magazines.

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↑ This is how I have my fStop 1.4 set up right now.  Notice that both my Hasselblad 503CW with 80mm Planar lens and my Leica M Typ 240 with 50mm Summicron lens fit comfortably in this bag.  If I want to use the Billingham 1.4 purely for my Hasselblad, I can just swap my M 240 out for an additional Hasselblad lens.

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↑ If I needed to carry a bit more, I can do that as well.  In this photo, I have my Hasselblad 503CW with the 80mm Planar, my Leica M 240 with the 50mm Summicron, and on the right, I have my 75mm Summilux.  Again, nothing feels or looks jam packed.  Everything has a comfortable place in the bag.

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↑ I’ll store miscellaneous items like film and a light meter in the front pocket.

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↑ There’s an additional pocket for items in the main compartment.

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↑ I can store documents in the zippered rear pocket.

Some may want more room in the front pocket but in my opinion, it would ruin the whole point of the fStop F1.4; it’s not suppose to be a large bag.  Anything bigger and I might as well buy the Billingham 107 instead but truthfully, I plan to use my Hasselblad as a daily camera, and I just don’t want to carry a bag like the 107 on a daily basis.  The fStop 1.4 allows me to carry my Hasselblad comfortably without needing to jump another bag size.  If you’re finding that you need a bit more room but you still want to carry the fStop 1.4 so you don’t have to bring a larger bag, you can purchase the AVEA Pockets which fix securely to the sides of the bag via its solid leather straps.  I may buy one in the future to put my hand held meter in for quick access instead of having to unlock my bag every time I need to get my meter.  There’s even D shaped holes located under the main stud fasteners where you can attach a tripod with straps.

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↑ Here’s a photo with my M 240 and 503CW next to the fStop 1.4 to give you a sense of size.

If you own a Leica or mirrorless system, the Billingham F-Stop 1.4 is also a great bag.  In fact, while I originally bought this bag for my Hasselblad, I’m finding that I actually like using the F/Stop 1.4 over my Hadley for my Leica and Fuji gear.  Don’t get me wrong, the Hadley is a fantastic bag and I love it but as I said before, I find the fStop 1.4 is a little more comfortable to carry around all day.  The easy access of gear is a big plus for me, and while they can both hold about the same in the main compartment, the fStop 1.4 fits everything more comfortably because of its shape and width.  In other words, nothing ever feels like it’s jam packed.  If you look at the photos, the fStop 1.4 isn’t actually a wider bag than the Hadley either; I found that the fStop 1.4 has a wider main compartment but smaller front pocket, while the Hadley is the complete opposite.  So, it really comes down to what you need; for my set up, having a wider main compartment is more important and useful.  Furthermore, if you want to be precise, you’re actually not just getting a bag around the Hadley Pro size but something even slightly smaller overall according to the specs, which is a good thing.  It’s unfortunate though that Billingham only supplies you with just two dividers because if you have a Leica M system or mirrorless system, you can fit quite a lot of gear if you organize it properly.  The good news is Billingham does sell a variety of dividers but of course, it will cost you more.

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↑ Here’s a comparison between my old Hadley and the F/Stop 1.4.

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↑ Here’s a top view of both bags.

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↑ Here’s a side view of both bags.  The front pockets are more useful in the Hadley but the space inside the main compartment of the F/Stop 1.4 makes it a lot easier to pull and put gear back in.

Billingham F-Stop 1.4 Verdict:

The Billingham F-Stop 1.4 is one of the most impressive bags that I’ve come across in a long time but at $250-275, it is at the upper spectrum in terms of pricing.  However, I use my bags until they no longer function, so I don’t mind paying more for a bag that is perfect for me in every way.  I expect a lot from my bags and therefore, I want something that is built to stand the test of time.  The $250-275 asking price is not much in the long run for a bag that has the capability of lasting as long as say my Hadley, which it looks like it will.  Plus, bags from all manufacturers have steadily increased their prices.  Compared to the competition, I don’t think Billingham is asking for an unreasonable amount of money, especially when they put so much into making such high quality camera bags.  The F-Stop 1.4 is beautifully designed, it offers superior protection for your gear, and it’s built to last using only the finest materials.  To top that off, the F-Stop 1.4’s combination of size and shape not only allows it to hold a lot gear for its size, it also has the flexibility to be configured to hold a variety of gear from a mirrorless system, a rangefinder system, a DSLR system or in my case, even a medium format system.  This bag is designed to appeal to a broad audience.  The best part is the F-Stop does all of this while also being quite comfortable to use on a daily basis.  In other words, the Billingham F-Stop 1.4 is extremely dependable, versatile, and one that should definitely be on anyone’s short list of bags to consider.  In my opinion, this is really one of the best camera bags that you can buy regardless of price.

That’s it for this review, I hoped that you all enjoyed it.  If you’re considering buying the F/Stop 1.4, and my review helped you decide, please help support me and this site by purchasing from one of the links below.  Thanks!

Billingham F-Stop 1.4 from Amazon: Black with Black Leather or Khaki with Chocolate Leather

20 comments… add one
  • inthedarkroom

    All the important points were covered in this comprehensive and useful review: keep up the good work!!

    • Patrick

      Thanks inthedarkroom!

      I appreciate you taking the time to read it!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Jed

    Patrick,

    Looks like a very interesting variation from the original Hadley line; like you say, a more modern version of it but still retaining the quality. Seems like a very good bag for your Hassy gear also. I’ve only had my Hadley Small bag a little over 6 months so still getting used to it, but I find I really do use the two separate & expandable pockets on the front. And I like being able to get into them without having to open the entire bag as I keep my batteries, extra San Disk chips & my Fuji to M adapter in there. Good luck with it & thanks for the very interesting review of it. Cheers,

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Hi Jed,

      Thanks for leaving your input and taking the time to read my review! The Hadley Small is definitely one of my favorite bags. If I could get away with it, I’d take a smaller bag like the Small over the fStop or the Hadley Pro any day of the week :). In fact, for my M or Fuji X camera, I usually just walk around with an M Combo bag unless I’m on a big trip where I would need more gear, which means I’d probably take my Hadley or maybe the fStop. And as you know, I reviewed the Small a while ago, and it amazed me how much I could actually fit into the bag!

      But I really needed a larger bag than the Hadley Small this time because it’s just easier for a bigger camera setup. The fStop’s wider main pocket just fits the shape of the Hasselblad better and it does make it a lot easier for me to pull and put stuff back, especially while I’m walking. And while the main pocket of the fStop isn’t as flexible as the Hadley Pro, it still fits quite a bit of stuff and like the Hadley Pro or Small, you can also get into the front pocket without opening the whole bag. Thanks for leaving a comment!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Dismayed

    Thanks for the thoughtful review. This looks like a nice bag for my Mamiya 7 kit. Now if I could just decide on color!

    • Patrick

      Hi,

      Thanks and I appreciate you taking the time to read it! I am envious of you…definitely a fan of the Mamiya 7. I had a 6 and a 6MF when they first came out but I sold them a long time ago. I regretted it since! As for the bag, I had a tough time deciding on color as well. The bag lasts forever, so I think it’s definitely important to get a color you’re going to be happy with for a long time. Ultimately, I decided on black because I figured it would be maybe a little more low key but the tan is really nice, especially in person. It’s definitely a nicer looking tan than the version you would see on the older designs like the Hadley.

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Frank

    Thanks for a great review! Your excellent pictures depicting the differences between the Hadley Pro and F/stop 1.4 convinced me do get rid of my Hadley Pro and purchase the 1.4. I really need that extra width for my Pentax K-3 and grip. I’ve got the Billingham Alice or L2 as well and love it too.

    • Patrick

      Thanks Frank!

      Greatly appreciate you taking the time to read it! The f1.4 is my permanent bag for my SL right now. It’s a perfect fit, and the extra width makes it easier to retrieve my camera and lenses. Love the Alice too! I hope it you enjoy the f1.4!

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Andrew Cheng

    Thanks for the review!

    If I were to get this bag, what shoulder pad do you recommend getting? The SP15 or SP40 or something? Or do you know any alternatives that’s relatively cheaper haha?

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • Patrick

      Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for taking the time to read it! Both pads will fit. The SP15 is fine, and will do the job but the SP40 will offer better support. It’s a nice shoulder pad. Yeah, the pads are expensive but they’re really good. I have a few of them, and they are made just as well as the bags.

      They do have some third party pads on Amazon, if you want to check them out though. My friend bought a Hadley Pro and ended up buying a third party pad because at the time, he couldn’t find a Billingham pad. I don’t remember the company though. I’ll send him an email, and if I find out, I’ll respond back here. I hope this helps!

      Best,

      Patrick

      • Andrew Cheng

        Thanks for the helpful response Patrick!

        And yes, if you know anything regarding any third party ones, that’ll be great. Thanks again!

        Cheers,
        Andrew

      • Patrick

        Hi Andrew,

        apologies for the late response, and anytime! Glad I could help in any way! I emailed my friend. He’s currently in the Philippines, so when I hear from him, I’ll let you know!

        Best,

        Patrick

      • Patrick

        Hi Andrew,

        My friend emailed me back and told me he bought a shoulder pad by Hazard 4. It’s called the Deluxe(TM) Shoulder Strap Pad w/ MOLLE, and you can find it on Amazon. I hope this helps!

        Best,

        Patrick

  • Andrew Cheng

    Hi Patrick,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to ask your friend, and thanks to your friend for helping out! Can’t wait to check it out!

    Keep up the good work! Love reading your
    other reviews by the way, esp. your Fuji and other Billingham ones. Hope to see more!

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • Patrick

      Hi Andrew,

      Apologies for the late reply, and thanks for the kind words. You’re welcome! I’m just glad I could help out. It’s a nice bag; I’ve been using mine for a while now, and I actually prefer it over my Hadley. As for reviews, my Leica CL review will come this week, and afterwards, I have two Fuji related reviews coming. I also have a Billingham bag I just received to review. Have a great weekend!

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Kat

    Hi Patrick,

    dragging up this review in light of the new Hadley Small Pro announcement (will you be reviewing that one by any chance?). The backpocket of the Fstop – would that fit the small iPad Pro (9.7inch)?

    I do prefer the two pocket style of the Hadley series, but I rather dislike having inserts. This design seems to waste less space. I couldn’t quite see in your pictures, but I presume you can attach as many dividers in any way inside the bag? or is placement limited by velcro strips (as opposed to velcro lining)?

    Or maybe they could just make a slightly smaller Hadley one 🙂 Oh to find the perfect camera bag….

    • Patrick

      Hi Kat,

      I will definitely be reviewing the Hadley Small Pro. Billingham is sending me one, and I will probably get it on Tuesday. I am also posting up a 307 review early next week.

      As for the F Stop, I actually prefer it over my Hadley now. It’s been carrying my SL for the past year and a half. I like the fact that it holds its shape better. It makes it easier to retrieve gear. There’s plenty of space too, and you can put it down on a table or the ground without it tipping over. As for the 9.7 inch iPad Pro, it will definitely fit in the back pocket. I have the same iPad, and it’ll fit with the case on as well.

      There are velcro strips in the bag but there’s enough of them that I haven’t had any issues with divider placement. If you’re looking for the ability to place a divider horizontally to maybe stack items, Billingham sells plenty of dividers, and I’m almost sure you can find one that will work with the F Stop. I haven’t tried stacking with my F Stop because my SL lenses are already so big that I can’t stack anyway but the velcro lining is similar to the M Combo, which is my go-to compact bag, and I’ve bought dividers that allowed me to stack lenses in it. I’ll reply back again to your comment in a few hours with a pic of the velcro in the bag. I just wanted to send you a quick message first.

      Finding the perfect bag isn’t easy but speaking as a long time Billingham user, these bags pretty much come close to perfection :). It’s not just the quality or the fancy parts because let’s face it, nowadays there’s a lot of high end bags out there. It’s the total package like usability, and how long these bags will last. They look good but they are definitely meant to be used. Anyway, expect my reply soon with the pic,

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Kat

    Hi Patrick,

    thanks so much for your answers an the photo – it does help! It looks like there is plenty of attachment spots! I don’t live anywhere near a shop that sells Billingham bags, so it’s great to have such fantastic reviews as yours.

    I think that there are actually different use cases for a variety of bags. I got my niece to make me a lightweight everyday work-camera bag, that fits everything I need in the way I want it. It ended up a touch on the big side, but for a handmade, bespoke bag that she made for her high school design subject, I think it’s extremely impressive!

    For the F-Stop I’m thinking about a travel bag that can also be folded flat into a suitcase for day tripping once arrived at the destination. Big enough to handle a couple of lenses and everyday travel knick knacks, from sunglasses to a bottle of water or a souvenir just bought. I love the Hadley small, but it can’t be squashed thanks to the stiff and overly padded insert. And I’ts just that little bit too small. I do, however, like the look of the Hadley small Pro’s luggage strap and top handle! I wonder if I could just replace the insert with a home-made, skinnier version. I’ll have to talk to my niece again 🙂

    • Patrick

      Hi Kat,

      Anytime! I’m glad I can help in any way, and thanks for taking the time to read my reviews!

      Wow, your niece sounds extremely talented. Good for her. It’s definitely not an easy thing to make a camera bag.

      As for the Hadley Small Pro, the insert is very padded but its still pretty flexible. There’s no hard base like the F Stop (The hard base is removable though). Plus, the Hadley’s insert is removable, so you have more flexibility as to where you want to put the Hadley in the suitcase. I know you don’t live near a store that sells Billingham products but have you had a chance to try a Hadley? The bag without the insert can definitely be stuffed in a suitcase but while you might not be able to fold the insert, you might also be able to stuff it in there as well. The other option might be to just purchase another manufacturer’s insert. Domke inserts are generally thinner, for example. If your niece can make one, that would be great too :).

      I’m suppose to get the Hadley Small Pro today but with a snowstorm on the horizon, I don’t think it’ll arrive in time. I hoep it makes it here before I go to Japan :).

      Best,

      Patrick

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