Billingham Hadley Original
??Image courtesy of M Billingham and Co??
My Hadley, unlike the one pictured, is in black canvas with a tan leather trim. I have owned and used it almost daily for over five years.
It has been my longest serving bag so far. I used it through school, through the Army, and am still using it.
The leather trim and canvas are a little worn at the edges, and the leather has discolored somewhat, but the bag is still very much intact and usable.
I ought to replace the interior padding as some areas no longer hold the velcro bits. The flap straps should also be replaced as they are rather worn out and no longer hold the brass studs very firmly. Oh, they still hold, just that a slight tug will release them.
Anyway, getting on with the review...
The materials used and construction quality of the Hadley are both top-notch.
I really like the canvas used in this bag, as it's extremely smooth and doesn't abrade my clothing. It also cleans easily with a brush and a little soap.
The canvas is waterproof as advertised: I once tossed an uncapped bottle of water into the bag (forgetful moment), and none of the water leaked out, even at the seams. Wasn't too good for my notepad (luckily there wasn't a camera inside at that time)...
The styling of the bag is understated and maybe a bit outdated, but I find it unobtrusive in most situations and it matches easily with both casual and business wear.
The bag is designed to fit the contour of the body. Although it was a little stiff when I first bought it, it has become much softer now and 'fits' better, without being too flimsy.
The interior accommodates more than one would guess looking at the outside. My typical outfit is a Leica M with one lens attached, and a few rolls of film. That takes up less than a third of the bag and the remainder is filled with miscellaneous items like an umbrella, a bottle of water, a notepad and pen, sweets etc.
The front pockets typically hold my wallet and mobile phone, and a light meter. They will fit another Leica with a small lens, although you have to be careful as the pockets have no padding.
The bag will hold a laptop with a 14" screen, but it's somewhat tight, and a smaller laptop (or Hadley Large) will fit better.
The interior padding is soft, and doesn't scratch its contents, but it tends to accumulate dust, so I have to vacuum clean it regularly.
(Still a little incomplete... Stay tuned!)
If you have to buy one camera bag, buy a Hadley (it comes in a number of variations, so buy the appropriate size).
I plan to replace this Hadley (once it wears out) with a Hadley Pro, as I quite like the top handle. A friend of mine is trying to tempt me with the Fogg range though, which I must admit, looks very tempting.