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Billingham marks 40 years of history

By dpreview staff on Feb 19, 2013 at 22:40 GMT

UK camera bag manufacturer Billingham is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and its new 2013 catalogue highlights the development of its products released from 1973 to the present. Billingham was founded in 1973 in the West Midlands, in England, and originally manufactured fishing bags. Billingham only moved into camera bags in the late 1970s, after the company noticed that many photographers were using its fishing bags to carry their cameras around. 

As well as an interesting overview of the company's history, Billingham's 2013 brochure also includes information about and specifications of all current models of bags and optional accessories along with details about the materials and construction methods used in the creation of its premium products..

The iconic 550, introduced in 1983 was the first production camera bag from Billingham.


Total comments: 31
Tim the Grey
By Tim the Grey (Feb 26, 2013)

I love my old 335. I've had it 20 years, and it wasn't new... It just hangs there, never given me ANY hassle, and my gear is safe, dry, cushioned.
I scored a virtually new 550 recently, and it was the perfect gift for my 23 year old son who is a working motorsport photographer. He kept nicking the 335!
Happy Birthday, Billingham!

Comment edited 24 seconds after posting
By renapearl (Feb 24, 2013)

I've still got my original 550. OK it's a bit grubby, but still waterproof - brilliant! In truth I'm using it more or less to store equipment. However since, I've got 5 other Billinghams for different camera kits, all being used.

By technomad (Feb 22, 2013)

Still using my original Billingham from circa 1983 (I actually thought I'd gotten it before that). It has however very little street cred, as it still looks like it just came out of the dealers, despite having been lugged across multiple continents, bounced off mountains, endured tropical downpours and dusts storms. I use it mostly to store spare kit these days, as I've gone mirrorless, so can get my entire system into something half the size and weight and 40 years of lugging around SLRs and this very bag haven't done my neck and back any favours!

By ianp5a (Mar 22, 2013)

Funny. I thought mine was earlier too! Anyway it's still going strong.

Rudi Vavra
By Rudi Vavra (Feb 21, 2013)

Happy birthday, Billingham! Love your bags, but I have to wonder - did you change the khaki to another colour (or the canvas to another material), or are the photographs in your 2013 catalogue off-colour? The white balance looks off to me, on pretty much all of them.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
Adrian Wroth
By Adrian Wroth (Feb 21, 2013)

In 30 years I have had three billingham bags. The first lasted for 15 years despite having been dropped in the sea off an oil rig, left in a farmers field in the rain overnight by a forgetful assistant and falling off the back of a truck in Africa, eventually being stolen. The second unfortunately became an improptue sick bag while hanging out of a helicopter over London on a rather bumpy shoot after only a year and was never the same again, The last has been a faithful companion for the last 14 years traveling with me all over the world. Although now a small part of a much larger bank of cases and bags it is still an esential part of my kit and has paid for it's keep many times over. Unbeatable . Happy birthday Billingham.

By fortwodriver (Feb 21, 2013)

Hehehe... when I showed a Leica/Billingham toting friend of mine this little tid-bit about the company origins as makers of fishing bags he nearly went ballistic.

By MPA1 (Feb 20, 2013)

I have a 35 year old 550 that Billingham recently repaired and at the same time converted to Superflex.
The ultimate stealth bag (if somewhat large!) as it is so old and weatherbeaten that it just looks like old secondhand shop stuff. Brilliant!
You'll never buy a better bag.

1 upvote
By baabbott (Feb 20, 2013)

I bought a Hadley Pro first, and use it with my D700. Liked it so much that I bought a Hadley small for my Fuji X-E1. Expensive, but their simplicity and lack of velcro and their old-school styling are what i like, and I've had a LOT of different bags.
But they are like anything else, you buy what you like and you rationalize the we do with ALL of our gear!

Comment edited 35 seconds after posting
1 upvote
By Hugo808 (Feb 20, 2013)

I bought one because of the hype and I can't stand it, we all have our ways for working but having a heavy bag banging against my hip all day wasn't the way for me.

This article reminds me to dig it out of the cupboard and put it on e-bay. I'm sure an original, mint Hadley will fetch a good price?

Jim Evidon
By Jim Evidon (Feb 20, 2013)

I've had a Hadley Pro for several years. it still looks like new. It is the only bag I
use when traveling because it is so protective of my equipment. Admittedly,
it is bulky for walking around and I always pack a more compact messenger type bag in the luggage for that purpose. Hadley products are expensive, but you get what you pay for. As for the leather straps and trim, unless you are standing in a hot shower with it, it is no problem. In an average rain, the water rolls off, but I admit that I am not fond of standing in the rain and look for shelter. So, it is not a good product if you a duck. But for photographers, it is fine.

1 upvote
By DavidsfotosDotCom (Feb 20, 2013)

To much surface area for wet (leather dries slower buckels slower etc) & flaps don't apear to be dust resistant!

Samuel Dilworth
By Samuel Dilworth (Feb 20, 2013)

The buckles have a quick-release system, and the buckles themselves are only used for adjusting the strap lengths. There is no quicker bag on the market than a Hadley (though a few are as quick).

Like Jim above, I find the bags far more waterproof than the photographer!

By ngollan (Feb 20, 2013)

Well-maintained leather is pretty much impervious to normal water exposure. See shoes and saddles for example.

By gak44 (Feb 20, 2013)

They look exactly like the bags Brady and Barbour have made for fishing for a lot longer than 40 years. Was Billingham a spin-off, or started by someone with a connection to Brady or Barbour?

Samuel Dilworth
By Samuel Dilworth (Feb 20, 2013)

I have two Billingham bags: a Hadley Original and a 335, both in khaki canvas and tan leather with brass fittings.

They are both excellent in their own ways, a true pleasure to use, and not so very expensive, all things considered. Fogg bags are expensive – but beautiful. Birkin bags are outrageously expensive, putting any ‘luxury’ camera bag into perspective.

It’s ironic that the people complaining about the price of Billinghams invariably have the latest 5D and half a dozen top-of-the-range lenses, yet baulk at paying 200 euros for an honest bag that will outlast the gear they spent 20 times more on.

This a nice new PDF brochure from Billingham, though I’m not keen on their choice of typeface. Give me a proper serif!

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 11 minutes after posting
1 upvote
By JavierDiaz (Feb 20, 2013)

@Samuel Dilworth: "It’s ironic that the people complaining about the price of Billinghams invariably have the latest 5D and half a dozen top-of-the-range lenses, yet baulk at paying 200 euros for an honest bag that will outlast the gear they spent 20 times more on."

PRECISELY. Bags don't shoot pictures, gear does.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 53 seconds after posting
By AshMills (Feb 21, 2013)

And the person taking them matters more than both.

Comment edited 11 seconds after posting
By GkM (Feb 20, 2013)

Although I know I will not add anything totally new to the subject, I have to say that Billingham bags are simple excellent and a joy to use.

I have two, a Hadley Pro and and 445. For the last four years, I use the Hadley Pro every day as a messenger bag to carry my books, tablet, cellphone, snacks... It still looks new.

The 445 + two delta bags, has been traveling with me around the Balkans for all the photo shoots I have to make. It has lots of space but when I fully load it, it becomes heavy. (Of course any bag would become heavy with two camera bodies, two flashes, eight lenses, cleaning kits, white balance cards etc)

The only "problem" Billingham bags have is their price, nothing else.
In a world that everything is build with price in mind, Billingham bags are build to last and to be of excellent quality. I intent to buy a 550 when I convince myself that I can carry it and that I can afford it.

1 upvote
By PMC1 (Feb 20, 2013)

I have several billingham bags and the y seem to last forever my first one I got in the 80's they are great for traveling and as they look like fishing bags to most people it doesn't scream steal me like most camera bags theres a lot to be said about discreet quality bag

By timccr (Feb 20, 2013)

I bought one in the early 80's and thought it was great. In the mid 80's I took it with me on a cruising yacht. By the end of the 80's it had fallen to pieces.

1 upvote
By km25 (Feb 20, 2013)

I have the bag on the left side of the picture, your right side. They are nice bags and well made and works well for me. A bag is a bag. I would never pay for such a bag again. I have owned it for about 10 years. Still works and looks great. It is up to you... these bags are not a must.

By KennethKwok (Feb 20, 2013)

I also have a large Billingham bag. It oozes quality as mentioned. It is heavy, and stops me from using it more frequently.
About the catalogue, the first photo shows a shallow depth of field of the Billingham brand. Not even the whole word is in focus. Is this "artistic"? I feel dizzy looking at it.

Banana Chips™
By Banana Chips™ (Feb 20, 2013)

I've gone through a lot of camera bags: Tamrac, Lowepro, ThinkTank, Crumpler, and so many others...IMO nothing comes close to the workmanship, design, and usefulness of a Billingham (I have the Hadley Pro). Its quick-release flap designs without the use of ugly/loud velcros is one of the many reasons it stands out from its competition.

Comment edited 20 seconds after posting
1 upvote
By plevyadophy (Feb 20, 2013)


Funny you should mention Leica because just like Leica (prior to the new Leica M Type 240) Billingham bags have an old stuffy design; and just like Leica have had to do (Leica M Type 240) at some point Billingham are gonna have to modernise the design of their bags (I doubt young photographers, say in their early twenties, are gonna wanna be carrying around bags, that are quite expensive, that look like they were once used by their grandpa when grandpa was a young lad (after it was handed down to him by great-grandpa!).

And keeping up this Leica similarity, just like Leica gear, when you pick up a Billingham bag it oozes quality build/manufacture.

By dgblackout (Feb 20, 2013)

I'm 23, so I guess I meet the "early 20s" crowd. I use a hadley large day to day and I've got an old (used) 445 for travelling. I've never once had a bad word about either of them.

A lot of younger people seem to be grasping the idea that you should buy things to last, rather than just buying what is cheap.

By Dheorl (Feb 20, 2013)

22 year old here. Just bought a hadly pro for all my m4/3 kit. I don't think you understand the younger generation very well.

1 upvote
Samuel Dilworth
By Samuel Dilworth (Feb 20, 2013)

Another fairly young Billingham fan here: I got both my Billinghams in my twenties.

I see loads of young photographers using Billinghams in Paris, and also plenty of older photographers, certainly. Good design is timeless, and people who appreciate good design are of all ages. Billingham bags are stylish, highly functional, well made, and really not that much more expensive than the ugly Tamracs and Lowepros of this world. Why shouldn’t young photographers like them?

By ngollan (Feb 20, 2013)

Trends come and go, and (like you probably), I doubt that there's anything like a design that will remain en vogue forever. However, at the moment, there's a strong market for stuff that looks old, and there's always a market for things that work and get good promotion by word of mouth.

(Between DigitalRev on youtube, the reviews I found on the web, and the replies to this article, I ordered a 335 today, let's see how that works out.)

By Gabi (Feb 22, 2013)

Congrats to Billingham! I really like their bags and own five of them and even use them as a normal messenger bag for everyday use since several years. They could be a little less expensive, though... ;)

By kenscott (Feb 19, 2013)

You gotta wonder who still uses these bags? I thought Leicas stayed in boxes, no?

Total comments: 31