No sooner had I finished reviewing the new Billingham Hadley One system bag when along came something quite different. The Billingham 72, which was announced earlier this month, offers the usual Billingham quality but in a pint-sized package designed for fixed-lens compacts up to and including the full-frame Leica Q. It addresses the demand for simple protection without extra carrying capacity. Kitchen sink merchants need not apply.
Billingham supplied the bag complete with the optional shoulder strap which fits over the canvas strap and improves comfort.
The test bag came in black FibreNyte with black leather trim and the usual high-quality brass fittings. FibreNyte is slightly smoother than traditional canvas and is lighter. In my experience it wears just as well as canvas and it is more colourfast, less prone to fading. It is normally my default choice when buying a Billingham bag.
The tailored top flap is constructed in a way to offer maximum weather protection and the interior compartment also has a padded flap to protect the top of the camera from damage.
Workmanship is in line with Billingham’s enviable reputation. Everything exudes quality and attention to detail. I can’t say more. It’s a Billingham and that should be enough.
The shoulder strap is a slender 2.5cm in comparison with those on the company’s larger bags. The two ends are equipped with quick-release leather fasteners similar to those employed on the larger Hadley One which I reviewed last week (link below).
On the front of the bag, protected by the top flap, is a (very) slim pocket which can hold a small notebook or passport, spare battery, SD cards and other small items if push comes to shove. There is no provision for a pen but one can be clipped inside the pocket quite easily.
This lack of storage may worry some potential buyers, but the raison d’etre of this bag is simplicity, light weight and ultimate protection for a single camera. It is, in effect, a more robust and protective version of a dedicated leather camera case. I imagine that most owners will also possess a larger Billingham for use when more storage is necessary. This little bag is ideal for those occasions when you want to carry just the camera but require weather and damage protection.
Above, clockwise: 1) The quick-release strap attached to the bag and 2) detached; 3) the interior showing the removable divider pocket. If you are using a slim camera such as the Fuji X100F, then this divider useful, but for most cameras it has to be removed; 4) The belt loop which allows the bag to be carried around the waist (click to enlarge images)
The interior of the 72 consists of the usual plush padding we are used to with camera inserts for the bigger bags. It is substantial and I have no doubt that it will keep any camera safe. There are no internal pockets. It couldn’t be more simple, but it is undoubtedly effective.
There is a single divider which can be adjusted to provide an accessory compartment in addition to the camera, but only if your camera is small, such as the Fuji X100F. With a Q or other bigger camera inside there is no chance of creating extra space.
Since the padding is sewn into the bag there is no opportunity to slip a phone or notebook in the space between camera compartment and the bag. I mention this for owners of other Hadley models where there is always the chance to slip an iPad or small laptop in the space.
Although this 72 is billed as an ideal small case for fixed-lens compacts up to the size of the Leica Q or the Sony RX1, it can accommodate several other cameras as I found. Again, it all comes down to size and I would recommend you check your gear at a Billingham stockist if you want to be absolutely sure.
Surprisingly, the bag will take an M10 or other M camera fitted with a 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux which is quite a bulky lens. It’s a tight fit, though. I’ve tried it with both 35mm and 50mm Summiluxes and Summicrons (including the 50mm Apo-Summicron-M) and all combinations fit comfortably. I also managed to introduce the M10 wearing the 75mm Apo-Summicron-M, although the 90mm version would be an element too far. There is just enough space to coil the camera strap over the lens before pulling down the padded top flap. But forget using the Visoflex on the M10 or the VF-2 on the M240, you will have to remove it before squeezing the camera into the bag.
Similarly, a Panasonic GX8 with a medium-size lens fits well. With the useful 12-60mm Leica DG zoom attached, however, the GX8 is too big for the bag. Billingham tell me that it will also accommodate the Fuji X-T2 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 provided both are fitted with a small lens.
I tried it with the Leica T/TL/TL2 with Visoflex mounted with the small 23mm Summilux, all inserted at a slight angle. However, you first have to reverse the hood over the lens to cut down the width. Other lenses in the TL series are too big, even the 12-56mm zoom, with or without the Visoflex attached.
The optional shoulder pad supplied with the test bag is a useful addition which aims to spread the load a little and make carrying the bag more comfortable. In view of the size of this bag and the light overall weight it wouldn’t be my first priority. But it does its job and it is something you could consider buying after you have tried the bag for a week or two.
As a shoulder bag, the Billingham 72 is extremely light (it weighs only 460g) and unobtrusive. With a Leica Q on board the total weight is still only 1.1kg. If you are out with just the camera, this bag is the ideal companion, both to keep the camera protected when not in use and also as a means of denying potential thieves the pleasure of clocking your treasure.
The bag does have a belt loop but, in contrast to its role as a small and light shoulder bag, it is quite a big lump to have at your waist. I suggest it is better suited to the larger frame. That said, it’s a valuable extra feature and its use as a waist bag is promoted by the ease in which the shoulder strap can be quickly detached.
Put simply, the Billingham 72 is one of the best single-camera bags you can buy. It will protect your Leica Q, Sony RX1 and other fixed-lens compacts. It will also keep an M10 and an M lens safe, not to mention many APS-C and m/43 cameras when fitted with smaller lenses. It’s a great about-town bag.
For many, however, its use will be limited because of the small size and lack of room for other accessories, not to mention the odd iPad. For that reason, the Hadley Digital or Hadley Small could make a more sensible choice because they both offer greater flexibility. Yet if you also own bigger bags (and which of us doesn’t), the Billingham 72 is perhaps the perfect extra companion for the compact camera enthusiast.
The 72 is available in black with black leather, sage with chocolate, khaki with tan, black with tan and burgundy with chocolate leather. In the UK it costs £100, including 20% tax and is available only from authorised dealers such as Leica specialist Red Dot Cameras until the end of the year, after which it can be purchased direct from the Billingham website.
You might also be interested in the following Billingham reviews:
- Product images courtesy of Billingham
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