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Billingham 335 Photo Camera Bag - Timeless English Classic
Slideshow | Lightbox (41) Tags: camera-bag digital-camera luggage photography Posted: July 25, 2010 by Vassilik
Billingham 335 Camera Shoulder Bag arrived
Label with warning: tanned and aniline dyed leather used in this bag; initially, care should be taken to avoid dye transfer to other materials.
Billingham 335 Camera Bag, side view
Billingham 335 Bag, bottom. At this moment the bag looks somewhat shapeless since its double-laminated, removable hard bottom has not yet been installed inside. Four brass feet keep the bag from scuffing.
The closure of a front pocket on the front of the Billingham bag. On the right side of the photo, you can also see one of two pen pockets (its opening is covered by protective cover flap)
Delta Sling shoulder strap (1-1/2 inch wide) with neoprene backed leather 2-1/2 inch wide shoulder pad (SP15 - shown detached). Pads can upgraded: SP20 is 3 inch wide with neoprene backing. There are also two new pads SP40 and SP50 that are similar in sizes to SP15 and SP20. However, newer pads use additional foam padding inside and rubber (more hard-wearing) instead of neoprene.
Billingham 335 have a lot of pockets and compartments. This one is on the back of the bag. Unfortunately, it is not big enough to put a laptop. Anyway, this zipped pocket is not padded.
This is the second flap covering a smaller zippered compartment (located on the front of the bag) and two large exterior pockets.
This picture illustrates what you can carry inside smaller zipped compartment. I have here two chargers, GPS device, spare battery, a filter, a cord and two boxes with memory cards.
Smaller zippered compartment has two sewn-in padded pockets attached to the inner wall of the compartment.
Here is Canon 70-200mm lens against 9-18 Superflex. Without hood, it fits perfectly this partition. With hood. you will need 11-18 Superflex partition or, even better, 12-21 Superflex.
This photo illustrates the design of the bottom pad. In this case it is the "bottom" of the bottom pad. As you can see it is not completely flat - which fit perfectly somewhat saggy shape of the bag made of canvas.
Bottom pad is installed inside Billingham 335. Interior dimensions are W13-3/4" x D6" x H8-1/2" Main compartment is framed internally with special Nytex (1000 denier nylon, waterproofed with polyurethane) binding which helps bag maintain its shape even when the bag is empty.
This picture shows additional pockets inside the main compartment in Billingham 335. There are four padded pockets like this: two on each side of the bag.
Let's put a bulky lens, for example, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM in the middle of the bag using 9-18 Superflex partition.
Billingham 335 with two DSLRs and three L type lens. One of them is Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM. There is still space in the bag for a flash and some other small accessories.
Another example of many details that make Billingham 335 Camera Bag very convenient in use. I am talking about "TukTop" which allows the main zipper cover to be tucked out of the way when opened.
What remains to be done is to find space for a tripod. There are two ways you can do this. If your tripod is small (what I call travel size; some of Gitzo or Benro tripods for example) you can actually put it inside the bag.
If you do not believe me, here is the photo that proves that some of the carbon tripods (for example, Gitzo GT-1550T Traveler 6X or Benro C-069M8 Travel Angel) do fit Billingham 335. If your tripod is longer when folded, you can use two loops (visible on the right and left sides of the front zip compartment) to attach your tripod to the bag. Tripod straps, a pair of thick, strong leather straps, are sold separately.
Do you believe that there is such thing as a perfect photo camera bag? Well, I still do not, but my belief has been seriously shaken when I started using Billingham 335 Photo Camera Bag. What surprises me most is the attention to details in this bag; it seems like each and every element of its design, including seemingly unimportant things, turn out having their purpose.
I find only one problem with this bag: you will understand me, if you have read Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows, Hermione had a small, fragile-looking handbag. But she kept in the bag virtually everything they needed to defeat Voldemort - from jeans and socks to a camping tent. Hermione used Undetectable Extension Charm to create her bag - I wish I leant the charm as well. Because what you cannot do with Billingham 335 is to change its size.
Series 5 Billingham Camera Bags
The Billingham 335 Camera Bag is designed to carry two DSLR cameras with three lenses and accessories. However, 335 is just one of five bags in "Series 5" of Billingham camera bags. The following table has sizes for all such bags with their prices (as of August, 2010):
Your selection of a specific bag model will depend on your needs and how you like to pack your camera bags. Personally, I find 335 the most useful. It fits two DSLRs where one of them can be a professional body like Canon 1D/1Ds and another a smaller backup with lenses attached. Actually, if that's all you need, you can go even with 225 (and you will be able also to squeeze one lens kit). One thing I like about 335 vs 225 is that the 335 bag is 1-1/4" higher and can accommodate vertically Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM which is 8-3/4" long (with both caps).
Series 5 bags share many design elements. This relates to specific construction details, accessories and colors. In particular, all of them are available in four colors (see Table 2). Tan leather is the most common with various canvas colors. The second choice for trim is black. If you opt for black, there should not be any problem with accessories many of which include leather - all accessories are available with tan and back leather.
Billingham Camera Bag 335 Design
Below are highlights of all important bag design features. Please browse our review photo gallery where you can find more details in picture captions.
1. The Billingham 335 Camera Bag (as all other 5 Series Billingham bags) is designed as a shoulder bag, but it can be hand carried. The design of the shoulder strap is very clever - it has a "delta" shape that reduces tipping and bag rolling motion as you move. In addition, leather handle (that snaps together) allows for hand carrying the bag. There are three straps used to hand carry the bag with two of them on the same side: one strap is under the top rain cover. Such approach gives options to hand carry the bag with top cover on it or with top cover flipped away.
2. 5 Series Billingham bags are made of soft, nonabrasive and waterproofed material (canvas or Nytex). Closed cell foam and excellent padding is used in bags to isolate equipment inside from damages. Design includes special internal binding to maintain bag's shape even when the bag is empty. The feel and look of the bag is the traditional one of canvas, leather and brass. The 335 does not look like a typical photo equipment bag or back-pack.
3. There are two zipped (double-pulled) compartments. The main compartment has build-in system to be partitioned further using so-called Superflex Partitions. Two partitions come standard with 335; more partitions can be purchased if necessary. The smaller zipped compartment has two internal pockets for small photo accessories.
5. There are multiple features improving the overall usability of the bag. Among them are Five Loop Fixing System to attach tripod straps or backpack harness (both are optional), four brass feet, Quick Release System closures, waterproof rain flap completely covering the bag including front pockets, TukTop system tucks main zip out of the way when it is opened.
Optional Accessories for Billingham Camera Bags
Optional accessories include (replacements parts are not listed, prices may vary depending on color):
Some of the optional accessories can be very useful. One of them is Superflex Partition available in 12 sizes (from W6" x D2-3/8" x H4-5/8" (Superflex 6-12) to W6" x D4-1/4" x H7" (11-18). Superflex Partition has olive color and is used to separate equipment inside a Billingham bag. Partitions consist of two parts with the divider inside positioned to provide one square compartment and one rectangle compartment. The overall shape of the partition is rectangular which make it easier to place it inside the bag. Partitions are padded thus providing additional protection to delicate equipment and are attached to bag inner walls by Velcro. In its marketing material Billingham often stresses that Superflex Partitions are flexible enough to adjust slightly inside the bag with its movement. Indeed, this is true, and it makes bag less rigid while preserving the internal organization of compartments.
Another useful accessory is Simplies Pouch - a rather soft nylon (olive) bag with leather base and drawstring closure designed to protect lenses (or anything else) from dust and moisture. They come in seven sizes and work nicely with Superflex Partitions. In other words, you put your lens inside a pouch and then put pouch inside the Superflex.
Yet one more accessory I find useful is Back Pack Harness. Do not think that it will transform your bag into a real backpack. However, if you are traveling and want to go easy on your shoulder or arm, this harness can be useful. For example, my typical bag load while going (mostly flying) from point A to B is 25 - 27 pounds. So, while in "transfer" mode, the harness is very helpful. On the other hand, while in "photo shooting" mode, the weight of the bag often goes down to 15 - 17 pounds (simply because I may not need everything I have for this particular place or day). With this weight, a shoulder bag, 335 is quite convenient.
I have not found to be useful the following accessories from the above list: Leather Tripod Straps and Delta End Pocket. I think in both cases it relates to the size of 335 - one of the important features for me in this bag. It is big enough for a good load of various equipment; at the same time it's not huge like some of bags and backpacks used to transport equipment. Attaching any serious tripod to 335 (or 225 and even 445) makes it look ridiculous at minimum. In reality, a large tripod attached to 335 results in loosing many of nice things associated with bags like 335 (and its overall convenience in the first place). Indeed, if I have to have a large tripod while carrying equipment in 335, I will most likely have tripod on another shoulder using tripods own carrying case with shoulder strap.
While traveling with 335, I prefer to use a very light tripod which fits inside the bag. Yes, you heard me right as this photo illustrates it.
I cannot deny that Delta End Pockets are nicely done. They are specifically designed to fit bags with Delta shoulder sling fixings such as the 225, 335, 445 or 555. Lightly padded with foam, and featuring a drawstring weatherproof neck and no-crush press studs fastening, they may seem a convenient option for expanding your bag capacity. What I found is that for me 5 Series bags with two large enclosures and nine(!) pockets (plus two pencil pockets) already provide enough small compartments. Endless pockets result in more time to find what you need. If more space is required, instead of paying $150 for two additional pockets, I would rather consider buying a larger bag.
I also want to tell you more about new Leather Shoulder Pads (items SP40 and SP50). Billingham keeps distributing 5 Series bags with older pads (items SP15 and SP20). The difference between the older and newer ones is in their design. New pads have more foam padding for more comfort and use rubber gripper. I did not find any significant difference between the two. So, it's up to you to decide if you want to upgrade your shoulder pad (for 335 bag with 1-1/2"" strap you will need SP40 pad).
Other Billingham Bags
To finish the review, I have to mention that there are other bags available from M Billingham & Co most notably the new 7 Series, f/Stop range of camera bags and Packington bag (to the best of my knowledge used mostly as a general travel bag). The 7 Series consists of three different size bags with one new feature common in all 7 Series bags - a two-piece lid that facilitates access to the camera equipment and accessories while on the move. This lid, when opened, created a completely unobstructed access to the bag main compartment. I think it's a matter of personal preference which approach to use - "TukTop" used for this purpose in 5 Series or a lid in 7 Series.
f/Stop Range of camera bags comes in two sizes: the f2.8 and in keeping with lens f/Stop convention - the wider f1.4. Both are smaller bags (comparable more to 225 bag in 5 Series). f/Stop bags have rather boxy look (due to the design of its top cover) and share with 7 Series bag one noticeable cosmetic change, a chocolate leather trim (much darker than typical for 5 Series tan trim).
Billingham manufactures several other types of smaller bags such as Stowaway and Hadley ranges of bags - both of them rather small and suitable for compact digital cameras.
I find Billingham 5 Series bags extremely convenient as camera shoulder bag. Of five bags in this series, 335 is the most versatile and can meet many requirements for both transporting photo equipment as well as carrying it while taking pictures.
Billingham 335 in a storage bag
Billingham 335 Bag, sage green color with tan leather trim, front view.
Billingham 335 Camera Bag, back view. On this picture you can clearly see three loops used to attach backpack harness. This harness (sold separately) will not provide the comfort of the real rucksack designed for this purpose, but it does allow you to carry your bag on your back. Billingham also offers waist strap attachment (sold separately) that helps reduce the bag movement and swaying.
Billingham 335 - close-up on design details showing the quality of craftsmanship. Also, note the "delta" shape of the shoulder strap where it attaches to the bag. This design helps prevent the bag from tipping and reduces bag rolling motion as you move.
Bellingham 335 leather handle that snaps together allowing to hand carry the bag
Protective top rain flap can be released quickly. Note that while using the bag you can keep its main zip open while protecting (and hiding its content) with the top flap.
Billingham 335 is made of dual laminate waterproof canvas or waterproof FiberNyte. (FiberNyte is a high performance, durable fabric bonded to a polyester lining using Billingham StormBlock butyl rubber weighing less than traditional canvas). As this picture shows, water is repelled by the bag's material.
This picture shows interior grab handle. It allows to hand carry the bag with the protective flap open or closed.
Now, let' tackle the main compartment. When a new Billingham 335 arrives, the following four accessories are found inside: Superflex 8-15 and 9-18 partitions and superflex flap for separating and organizing the interior. The large thing in the front is a double-laminated, removable hard bottom.
Superflex 9-18 is on the left, 8-15 - on the right. The latter is rather small: W6" x 3-1/8" x H6", the former is larger: W6" x D3-1/2" x H7". If you feel that these partitions do not fit your needs, you can buy more choosing fro 12 different sizes.
The interior of the main compartment of Billingham 335 is padded with a heavy-duty, closed cell foam with two wide straps of Velcro throughout.
The "top" of the bottom pad in Billingham 335 is flat. By the way, the pad is one inch thick and very solid and the same time is soft.
Large camera body such as Canon 1D fits perfectly Billingham 335. You can position camera horizontally or vertically.
Vertical positioning of camera inside Billingham 335. I think this is the best way to reach cameras inside the bag.
One way of using Superflex partitions is to put them on camera lens. I found that this is a good way to prevent bulky and heavy cameras from moving inside the bag when they are not in use. Partitions also have stripes of Velcro that sticks to the velcro on inner walls of the bag.
Billingham 335 is meant for two DSLRs. So, I have a smaller Canon DSLR body with lens (in this case Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM) to put in the bag. Also, there is still a hood from Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM. There are several ways to accommodate the hood. I will simply put it on top of the hood attached to 24-70mm lens (so that hoods are stacked).
Fully packed Billingham 335 camera shoulder bag.
The content of my Billingham 335 used for the review. For the record, the total weight of cameras and accessories is about 17 lbs. The weight of the bag is 4.2 lbs which gives the total of 21.2 pounds.
Billingham 335 packed with photo equipment in "working" position. If you need frequent access to your bag, there is not need to zip it every time. Just use TukTop to tuck both sides of zip cover out of the way and use the top cover to conceal the content of your bag and protect it from elements.
Billingham 335 packed with photo equipment - hand carried.