My day to day small walk around camera bag for the past two years has been the ONA Bowery in Dark Truffle leather. I also have the ONO Prince Street (also in Dark truffle) but my Hasselblad stuff lives in that one. I still really love the Bowery for the amount of gear I can fit in such a small space, but I felt like trying something new.
My friend John Summers had given me an insert for a Hadley Small a while back and I’ve used it in various bags, including the Christopher by Millican and recently in the F-3x by Domke. The size of that insert is perfect and almost identical to the Bowery. So after looking at various small bags from many different manufacturers, I kept coming back to the fact that I was looking for something that would either take the Hadley Small insert or have the same interior size. So being the genius that I am, I finally realised the bag I was looking for might just be a Billingham.
Not being too into the beige thing and wanting to be a lot more stealth; I opted for the black bag with black leather details. The original Hadley Small is still available (£159 in the UK), but the new Hadley Small Pro was released last year (£199 UK) and has some really worthwhile additions to the original bag (more on this later).
The Hadley Small Pro is made from Billinghams FiberNyte material, which has a layer of rubber sandwiched in the middle of its three-ply makeup. This makes the Hadley range permanently shower proof, no need to apply wax or use an additional rain cover when out in the rain. My bags always get soaked at some point, so this will be a really handy feature. The strap on the original Hadley Small was stitched to the side of the bag, but the Pro has a removable strap via leather fasteners. I would rather have the older method as I don’t trust straps that are removable. This is mostly due to the ONA Bowery strap coming undone loads of times as I lifted it from the passenger seat of my car. This resulted in the destruction of a Fuji X100F when the Bowery hit the deck. My Bowery now has zip ties holding the clasps on the strap permanently shut. Time will tell if the Billingham is more secure than the ONA, but it is absolutely solid right now and should stay that way as I won't be removing them, causing the leather to soften.
Another new feature on the Pro is the addition of a handle on the top. This is ideal for that passenger seat scenario and a great feature to have. I would make sure the lid is secure before using the handle, but at least the Hadley Small Pro doesn’t tip over, spilling everything onto the ground. .
Two more new features on the Pro are found around the back. The first is the welcomed addition of a luggage strap so that it can be slid over the handle of a rolling suitcase. All bags should have this in my opinion.
Just above the luggage strap, you will find the waterproof zip for the rear document pocket. This is a super handy pocket that will keep documents or iPad Mini 100% dry. Well worth the price difference between the Pro and the older model.
The main compartment of the Hadley Small Pro (and also the original Small) is one open space that can be used as it is, or with the included insert. This is one of those bags that feels bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. I can easily fit my X-Pro2 with the 35mm f2 attached, X100F with lens hood, and two lenses stacked in the third partition (I have the 50mm f2 and the WCLX100 wide angle converter lens). Two cameras and four focal lengths (28, 35, 50 & 75mm in FF terms) is fantastic in such a small bag and there’s even enough room in there to include the pancake 27mm too. Or I can leave the 50/2 at home and take my X70 for a bit of shooting from the hip. The insert is held inside the bag using a single stud fastener at the front. It has a padded hinged lid to protect gear from things falling on top..
The front pockets are held shut with stud fasteners and are really great for a bag this size. Both are roomy and can be expanded or reduced in size by fastening a stud at the outer side. This also creates a makeshift pen holder. I can put my passport sized Midori Travellers Notebook, pens, wallet, memory card holder, phone, spare batteries, and Apple Airpods in there with space to spare.
The leather and brass fixings ooze quality and should last a lifetime. I opted for the black leather on a black bag, so the fixings are also nickel plated. It’s almost criminal to not show off the leather like on some of the two-tone bags, but I need something that doesn’t draw attention. I was almost tempted by the green version though as they always look really nice on the web.
The front fasteners as extremely stiff due to the excellent quality of leather and can be awkward and time-consuming to open, but it should just take a short amount of time to loosen up to the point of opening the bag one-handed.
I opted to buy the SP40 leather shoulder pad at the same time as the bag. Not having tried the bag before, I wasn’t sure if I would even need a shoulder pad, but I thought it was better to be over prepared than have a sore shoulder. The pad is as well made as the bags and is easily attached or removed by two heavy-duty stud fasteners. The underside of the pad is grippy and curves around your shoulder perfectly due to grooves that allow it to bend without kinking.
The Hadley Small Pro is an ideal bag for smaller kits. Leica owners or mirrorless shooters alike will love it. I have a backpack for my more demanding shoots, which is where my X-T3, X-T2 and most of my other lenses live (including the bigger red label f2.8 zooms). But for day to day walking around documentary and street shooting, this is an ideal bag. It’s waterproof and versatile and I'm looking forward to using it on a few trips abroad this year.
I also have a Tenba Cooper 13 Slim that I use when I need to carry my 13” MacBook Pro with me. The Cooper has been a fantastic bag, but I might try a Hadley Pro or a Hadley One to see if it would work as my mid-sized bag. Life would probably be a bit easier using different sizes of the same bag...I think.
Rear waterproof pocket.
Removable camera insert.
Good amount of padding.
A generous amount of dividers (unlike ONA).
Good sized and expandable front pockets.
Comfortable to wear on long walks.
I would have preferred leather on the base or some sort of wipe clean material.
Leather tabs are a bit short to get a proper grip when opening the bag.
Difficult to open one-handed (this might change as the leather softens).
Find out more at www.billingham.co.uk