Domke F-5XB

I had considered a Hadley Small, or the L2, both from Billingham, but they were outside my budget. I had a look at the Artisan & Artist Evan’s Walker a friend bought, but the form factor wasn’t really to my liking. The last option I was thinking of was the Domke F-5XB.

I chanced across an auction for a black one on eBay, and the price seemed good. It was 30% cheaper than what I would have paid locally. It’s here now, and I’m satisfied with it.

The F-5XB is half the size of the Hadley, and roughly the same depth. A Leica with a 50mm Summicron fits nicely, along with half a dozen rolls of film and a Sekonic L308B meter. There is ample space left for my wallet, cellphone, iPod and a notepad and pen. I could probably put another lens in there, but I don’t like full bags—it makes it hard to access the equipment within.

The bag feels comfortable against my body, and the strap feels very secure even when hung on a shoulder. I typically wear my bags with the strap across my chest, and the Domke seems to sit well.

Compared with the Billingham, I must say that the Domke is well-built considering the difference in pricing. Costing 60% less, it would be unfair of me to criticise the lower build quality.

The most obvious would be the choice in materials: the Domke uses a coarse canvas, and while it’s better than the Cordura material used in Crumpler bags, the smooth, fine canvas used for the Billingham is worlds apart.

The stitching is sound, but there are a number of loose threads and other bits on the inside of the bag. Although it does not affect the functionality, it does imply a lower manufacturing standard than the Billingham.

I have a few gripes about the bag:

  • I don’t like the use of Velcro to secure the front flap; personally I would have preferred a magnetic clasp or a sprung clip.
  • The hard board that has been sewn into the base of the bag makes it seem rather boxy.
  • The metal hardware makes quite a lot of noise when they clink against each other.
  • Sides and top of the bag are not padded.
  • I would have preferred to have a removable insert, but it’s not a big deal.
  • I’m not sure about the zippered main compartment. Perhaps I’m too used to the lack of zips on the Hadley.

How these play out in use is yet to be seen. I’ll update my review once I’ve used the bag enough.

At this point, I’m satisfied with the F-5XB, and folks looking for something to hold a small rangefinder kit would do well to consider it.