Their Most Gorgeous Bag Yet! Billingham Hadley One Review

The Billingham Hadley One now comes in navy and brown–and it’s beautiful.

It’s hard to not be a fan of navy and brown leather. They work so well together. And the Billingham Hadley One is getting just that color scheme today. I haven’t seen it done this well in years, and this one is exceptional. The Billingham Hadley One isn’t a new bag. But it has given so many photographers high reliability, so you’ve got a winner. Billingham has long created bags for journalists and photographers. But they’ve fallen out of favor in the past few years. You can blame Kickstarters and more flash marketing tactics for that. The Billingham Hadley One is one of those classics that you don’t really need to improve on, though. In a world where mirrorless cameras and lenses are dominating the market, the Billingham Hadley One is a welcome option. Besides being very functional, it’s durable. This bag is also surprisingly comfortable when packed to the brim with cameras and lenses. If I haven’t said it enough, it’s also incredibly alluring.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • I packed a small mirrorless camera and six lenses into this bag.
  • It can hold a laptop
  • Surprisingly comfortable even when walking around on hot NYC days

Cons

  • That’s quite the price, but it’s ethically made in the UK. That’s the price you pay for being ethical.
  • I really wish they made this into a backpack

Gear Used

We packed the Billingham Hadley One with:

  • Sony a7c
  • Samyang 14mm f2.8 II
  • Samyang 85mm f1.4 II
  • Metabones Canon EF to E V
  • Sony 28-60mm f4-5.6
  • Sony 35mm f1.8 G
  • Fotodiox M to E Mount adapter
  • 7Artistans 28mm f1.4
  • 7Artisans 50mm f1.1

Tech Specs

Specs are taken from the Billingham official listing

  • Sized for laptops, tablets and camera gear.
  • Internal built in 13 inch Laptop holder.
  • Includes half length, full height removable padded insert section for CSC kit or mid-sized DSLR. Leaves half the bag free for non-camera gear (or an optional second insert). A full length insert that would fit larger cameras is an optional extra.
  • Re-engineered top handle for increased comfort.
  • Fully adjustable and removable shoulder sling.
  • Luggage Trolley strap retainer.
  • Twin dump pockets on the front.
  • Rainproof zip closure on rear document pocket
  • Constructed from a choice of 3-layer waterproof canvas or 3-layer waterproof FibreNyte material.
  • Compatible with AVEA 7 and AVEA 8 end pockets.

Ergonomics

When you look at the Billingham Hadley One in Navy and Brown, you’ll be awestruck. It’s gorgeous. But at the same time, it doesn’t look too out of the ordinary. Folks who know better will know that this is a camera bag. But all the others won’t. That handsome brown leather is very durable. This is great because it means that the straps will keep the bag closed tightly as time goes on. There’s no need to undo the buckles. But the copper hardware is a nice touch.

Open up the top, and you’ll see the flap for the interior section. When the bag came to me, it didn’t come with this insert section. Inside, it came with a single pouch. You can get it like that if you choose. Behind the flap is a space for a 13-inch laptop. Personally speaking, I’ve never liked putting laptops in these bags. It weighs it down too much.

Open up the flap, and you’ll see the dividers. I stuffed all the gear I listed previously into here. Better yet, I walked around NYC with it all, and it was very comfortable for a messenger bag.

The Billingham Hadley One has two front pouches. Unlike other options in their lineup, these pockets aren’t expandable.

On the back are the two major parts. You can slip the bag around a roller handle using a specific strap. Or you can put an iPad in the back.

Build Quality

The Billingham Hadley One is built very solid. I haven’t taken it out into the rain, but I’m optimistic it can take it and shrug it off. It’s mostly designed to ensure that rain doesn’t get in there. However, I’ve seen other Hadley bags hug the curves on the body better. That hug gives more security and sealing from the elements.

Billingham sent a strap pad with this bag. And without that pad, I think I’d have a much different opinion of the bag. It helps so much with comfort. When a bag like this is packed full of gear, you’re going to need comfort. Don’t put it around your shoulder for a long time, though. Instead, sling this bag around your chest.

Designed mostly for photojournalists, the Billingham Hadley One will best suit those who pack light. The ideal contents would be one lens, one camera, a flash, and a laptop. You don’t need that much more.

Ease of Use

Luckily, the Billingham Hadley One is a simple enough bag to use. There are pockets, and you can use these pockets to section off the bag’s contents into whatever’s needed. In the two front pockets, I usually put accessories like a rocket blower, an arctic butterfly, etc. This bag bas no complicated features or hidden compartments. Lots of photographers will appreciate both that and the build quality. Make no mistake, there’s no real quick access to this bag. If you’re going to change a lens, it’s very much like a backpack. You’ll have to put it down to switch back and forth. The Billingham Hadley One will let you pack a whole lot of gear comfortably. It’s excellent for photo walking because of that. However, it’s not so great for street photography. In fact, it’s too big for that. 

Billingham’s bags aren’t really about quick access anyway. Tenba is better for that. But if you want security and long term build quality with style, you can’t go wrong with a Billingham Hadley One.

Conclusions

The Billingham Hadley One is a substantial bag. You’re paying the price for something that’s not made in China but instead made in the UK. You’re also getting quality materials and simple beauty. Should the Billingham Hadley One get an update? I’m not sure it needs one necessarily. But I’d thoroughly enjoy this messenger bag if it were a backpack of some sort. But then I’d demand that it also have a chest and waist strap. Overall, the Billingham Hadley One is a great messenger bag. There aren’t many out there that I like. Peak Design has previously supported Unsplash, which blindsides photographers in our minds. And they haven’t come out to open apologize about slapping their own audience in the face. Most other messenger bags I’ve used have broken after a while. But the Billingham Hadley One will last you a long time. Even if it lasts you four years, that’s like $100/year. But it’s bound to last much longer than that.

The Billingham Hadley One earns four out of five stars. Want one? They’re around $400 on Amazon. If you want it in Navy and Brown, you can go to Billingham’s website.