Photographers tend to disagree about a lot of things. This is especially true when it comes to camera bags. The perfect camera bag simply doesn’t exist. A camera bag that may suit the needs of one photographer may be woefully inadequate for others. If you’re the type of photographer who likes to keep a low profile and travel with a compact kit, however, the Billingham Hadley Small Pro comes pretty darn close to perfection. At the time of writing, the COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping across the world. For photographers that need to get around, the ability to travel light has become more critical than ever. For the last couple of months, I’ve been using the Billingham Hadley Small Pro whenever I needed to test photo gear out in the wild (with a mask on while maintaining social distancing, of course). It’s allowed me to carry just enough gear while maintaining a small footprint. The fact that the Grey Canvas & Black Leather version of the Hadley Small Pro looks absolutely gorgeous is undoubtedly a bonus. You can’t really go wrong with the other colorways available, though.
Editor’s Note: this color combination is a limited edition.
The Billingham Hadley Small Pro sports a classic yet timeless design. The version we reviewed came in the new grey canvas and black leather colorway, but plenty of other options are available. This helps it stand out from the sea of utilitarian looking camera bags on the market. In fact, to the casual onlooker, the Hadley Small Pro just looks like a small, vintage messenger bag. Despite its good looks, the Hadley Small Pro can handle quite a lot of abuse. The bag is weatherproof thanks to the rubber layer bonded to the canvas. Over time, the canvas exterior and leather accents will surely develop an attractive patina.
The Hadley Small Pro sets itself apart from the non-pro version thanks to the addition of a top carrying handle. This handle made it easy to get the bag into and out of the trunk of my car. You can even use the bag as a mini briefcase by detaching the adjustable shoulder strap.
Other additions can be found on the back of the Hadley Small Pro. These include a waterproof zippered document pocket and a pass-through luggage strap. The zippered pocket can accommodate a small tablet and a small notebook or passport. Older iPads should fit just fine, but the latest 10″ iPads are slightly too large for this back pocket. The inclusion of a pass-through luggage strap is a welcomed feature for photographers that frequently fly. (Ah, it feels like forever ago since I was last on an airplane.)
Folding back the top flap reveals the interior of the bag. Like Billingham’s original Hadley Small, a lidded insert comes included with the Hadley Small Pro. This insert features closed-cell foam padding to keep your precious camera gear safe and sound.
Lifting up the lid of the padded insert reveals the interior compartment where your camera gear goes. As you can see in the above image, I was able to fit my Sony A7R IV with the attached vertical grip, along with the Tamron 24mm f2.8 and the Tamron 35mm f2.8 lenses comfortably within the padded insert. Photographers shooting with smaller camera bodies and lenses can fit even more gear within the Hadley Small Pro. A few closed-cell foam-padded dividers are included. They come with velcro strips on each side, allowing you to arrange the interior of the insert to fit your specific needs. The padded insert is detachable, allowing you to use the Hadley Small Pro like a regular messenger bag if you happen to be traveling sans camera.
A pair of expandable pockets adorn the front of the Hadley Small Pro. You can fit a variety of photography accessories within these pockets. In the above image, I’ve got the LaCie Rugged Boss SSD stored within one pocket, and a Pelican Memory Card Case and a pack of hand sanitizer wipes in the other.
If you need a little extra room in the front pockets, simply undo the button on each side. If I were shooting with one of my film cameras, I can easily fit a light meter and at least a half dozen rolls of film within one of the front pockets.
Handsome isn’t an adjective often used to describe a camera bag, but that’s precisely what the Billingham Hadley Small Pro is. On top of its good looks, it’s comfortable to wear, can accommodate just the right amount of gear, has a well-padded interior, and is weather sealed. For photographers that prefer to shoot with a minimal kit, the Billingham Hadley Small Pro ticks all the right boxes. Those needing to bring long zooms, off-camera lighting, or a laptop with them will want to look elsewhere. But, if you’re on the market for a compact and stylish messenger-style camera bag, you honestly cannot go wrong with the Billingham Hadley Small Pro.