Billingham Hadley Digital Review

|  Billingham Hadley Digital in Bags, Cases and Straps
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What you put your camera in is vital for it to be safe and secure. Duncan Evans looks at one that offers old school charm for your modern marvel.
The front view of the Hadley Digital
The Hadley features a loop and buckle front strap.

A camera bag isn't usually the most fashionable thing to cart around over your shoulder, but the new Hadley Digital from Billingham aims to put that straight, albeit in a tweeds and gundog stylee. Yes, this is a retro-style camera bag that purports to carry your digital SLR and a lens in comfort. Except it doesn't. The Pentax *st DL with a 18-55mm wide angle zoom is hardly a big SLR and that doesn't fit in properly – it causes a bulge in the side. If your intention is to draw admiring stares from the ladies who might ask if that's a digital SLR in there or are you just glad to see them, then you'll succeed. Otherwise, you'll simply bang it against things. Obviously anything with a telephoto lens wont go in, but neither would my D200 with a wide angle lens either. Really, you're talking about either something with a small footprint like an Olympus E-400, or a large compact/prosumer camera. And an apple. Yes, it does look like a 1950s public schoolboy's satchel.

The bag opens to reveal... a compact
There's only really room for a small DSLR or a compact and an apple.
The retro look comes in a range of brown/green shades with an army-issue shoulder strap. At least the buckles are solid and well made. On the front you can either unloop the restraining strap or unbuckle it. Inside there's two internal dividers with velcro – not needed if you can actually fit your SLR in there, but otherwise, good for dividing the compact from the sandwhiches. There's an internal, padded separator that folds over the top of the camera compartment, but crucially, it doesn't have a velcro tab so it just flaps about. If the bag comes open and is tilted over, the interior lid does nothing to stop the valuable contents heading for the concrete like digital lemmings.

Finally, there's a front compartment, ostensibly for batteries and memory cards, but it doesn't come with any webbing, so your batteries will be left to fight it out with the cards, like kids on a school bus. By the time you get to the destination, the 5th year batteries are likely to have pummelled the first year memory cards.

Old school charm, modern price
Old school charm, but with a modern price tag.

  • Internal dimensions: 19cm x 18cm x 11cm
  • Shoulder strap
  • Metal buckles
  • Two internal dividers
  • Padded internal lid
  • Front compartment
  • Buckle or loop fastening

At a penny under £75, what you're talking about here is a triumph of styling over functionality. And that's if you actually want your state of the art digital SLR to be carried around in something so middle-class you're consciously inviting the unwashed proletariat to come and have a look. It even smells like a 1950s department store. Fine, for the compact user with a large house in the country, otherwise, perhaps not.

Plus points:
Well made
Solid buckles
Retro styling

Negative points:
Too small for a DSLR
Internal lid doesn't fix down
Front compartment not suitable
Retriever dog not included in price

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I must leap to the defense of the Billingham Hadley Digital bag - it can easily fit in a dSLR + lens. I really like mine. I used to have a Canon EOS 350D + 18-55 lens, I could fit this in with my two primes (24mm f2.8 & 50mm f1.8) or a zoom (28-105 f3.5-4). Now I have a Canon EOS 40D + 17-85 IS USM, a much bigger camera and that fits in fine plus one of the primes. [Admittedly, I don't use any of those padded inserts to seperate my gear.] OK I can't fit in many alternative lenses or a flashgun but if I'm out with m'Lady I ain't gonna have the time to faff around getting the perfect picture. Mine is just like the one in the photo and I like the way that it doesn't look like the usual techy-looking black camera bag with zips and velcro everywhere. The buckle system makes it very easy, quick and quiet to get to your camera even with gloves on. The only slight drawback, as you mentioned, is that they ain't cheap but then top quality never is. And these bags are built to last and never looks dated thanks to its classic looks. Currently, I'm saving up for a larger Hadley but I'll keep my Hadley digital as its great for travelling light.

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I have to agree with the above comment by stickle, I fit my Nikon d3100 with kit lens or the 35mm f1.8 lens in this bag no problem. Its true there is no room for anything else other than spare battery memory card and a polariser but I bought this bag with the intention of carrying the absolute bare minimum, if I'm out at a restaurant or shopping for the day or any other type of activity where maybe taking photos is not the primary goal of the day.
I also bought a larger lowepro rucksack for those days where I need all the other bits of kit and spend hours walking through the country, so my opinion is its horses for courses no one bag will suit everybody's needs in every situation.

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