In my experience, I find that luxury bags can be a polarizing issue among photographers. Some see absolutely no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on cameras bags; however, there are many that simply won’t settle for less.
Billingham is a British company that manufactures its products in England. This is what gives it that prestige, because it’s a proper British brand that doesn’t outsource its production. The Hadley series is the most popular line of bags from the company, and in my view, the Hadley Pro is probably a better fit for most photographers. The reason for this is because it’s large enough to carry a decent amount of equipment without being overly encumbering. Having said that, in recent months, I find that I’ve been needing greater capacity, and this is where the Hadley One comes in.
The Hadley One is the second largest in the series. With a capacity of 8.75 liters on the upper end, this bag can carry a lot. The great thing is that this bag doesn’t feel huge when you’re carrying it around, and this is mostly due to its design. It’s not as tall as the Hadley Large (excluding the top handle) and not as wide as the Hadley Large Pro. I find this also offers a greater degree of comfort when carrying it.
In real-world capacity, this bag can hold a Godox AD600 with the battery attached, a Sony a7R III, the 55mm f/1.8, the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, and the 28mm f/2.0. All of this is just within the main compartment, meaning you still have space for accessories that you can put in the front two pouches and space for either an iPad or up to a 13-inch laptop in the back compartments. Essentially, this is one of the most generous shoulder bags available from Billingham when it comes to capacity.
Having said that, although you may have lots of capacity available, I highly recommend that you don’t fill this bag to the brim. It’s a shoulder bag; therefore, weight distribution isn’t going to be anywhere near as good as a backpack. All of that weight resting on your shoulder will quickly become very uncomfortable and difficult to manage. Despite this, I think it’s great to have that extra capacity when required; however, I do try to refrain from filling the bag to unmanageable levels.
Build and Design
Similar to many other Billingham bags, the Hadley One has been produced to an excellent standard. The leather trim and straps are top grain leather, which is a better choice for these kinds of products. Full-grain leather can be described as the more premium option in some regards; however, it’s difficult to keep it looking uniform. The flaws in full-grain leather are great for some kinds of products, as they offer character and a natural look. Unfortunately, for bags that require a sleek look, it simply doesn’t work.
The main materials that Billingham uses for its bags are either canvas or something called FiberNyte. I prefer FiberNyte, because it’s a little more hard-wearing and tends not to attract as much fur or dust compared to the canvas version. It’s pretty easy to brush off any fur or dust from the canvas variant; however, the FiberNyte version is better in that regard.
One of the most useful things about the canvas and hibernate materials that Billingham uses is that it’s pretty much waterproof. For this reason, there’s no need for any waterproof covers. Here in England, rain is a common feature, so the fact that Billingham bags can withstand pretty heavy rain is extremely useful.
The brass fittings and buckles really add to the overall premium design and feel; they’re simply beautiful. The front buckle mechanism not only looks great, but it’s also easy to use with a single hand. For me, single-handed use is valuable, because it means I can quickly access or put away any equipment that I need.
On the back of the bag, Billingham has added a sleeve that allows you to attach the Hadley One to handles on upright suitcases. This just offers that extra bit of convenience, without which, would be quite frustrating if you travel a lot.
The biggest change that Billingham has made recently with many of its bags is to make the main strap detachable. Previously, the main shoulder strap was stitched on as a permanent fixture; however, this is no longer the case with new Billingham products. Being able to detach the strap gives more flexibility in how it can be used.
The only thing I’m not a fan of when it comes to Billingham is that the shoulder pad for the strap isn’t included for most bags. I still bought one for each of the Billingham bags I own because it makes carrying it more comfortable; however, at $50 each, it’s a little pricey. The one I recommend is the SP50, which is the largest shoulder pad. The smaller ones aren’t as comfortable even on the smaller Billingham bags. Ideally, this would be included in camera bags that cost more than $300; unfortunately, this isn’t the case at the moment.
Finally, my favorite thing about the Hadley one is the fact that the top handle now had a leather underside. This makes handling the bag far more comfortable. The Billingham Eventer, which I reviewed some time ago, didn’t have the leather underside on the top handle. This meant that after a period of use, it would become quite uncomfortable due to the rough design.
What I Liked
- Exceptional build quality and design
- Beautiful bag
- Lots of capacity
- Similar capacity to the Billingham Eventer but almost half the price
What I Didn’t Like
- Billingham Bags are pricey, although I think they’re worth it considering the materials, and they’re manufactured here in England
- Shoulder straps are not included
- Not all colors come in a FiberNyte option (minor complaint)
I appreciate that Billingham bags aren’t the most cost-effective method of transporting camera equipment. I’m sure there are plenty of other options available that people could purchase in their place. Despite this, I genuinely do believe that Billingham bags are worth every penny. There are Billingham bags that people still have after decades of use, and they’re in great condition. The style is unique, the durability is excellent, and they’re distinctly British, hence the waterproof design.
It’s no secret, high-end products will come with a price tag to match, and it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth it. These are the kind of bags that can last the breadth of a career, and the five-year guarantee is a nice touch too.
You can purchase yours using this link here.