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The Billingham 107 review

The 7-series is one of the newer series of the famous British bag manufacturer and the 107 is the smallest version. If you’re into Leica photography, this is probably the bag that will attract your attention. The individual members of the 7-series have a few things in common: they’re all made out of Fybrenite (meaning they’re quite waterproof, yet light) and they all have a ‘press-top’ opening, a feature that reminds me of the bags most general practitioners carry around.

It's a beauty, and it will last.

It’s a beauty, and it will last.

The 107 has a somewhat ‘compressed’ appearance. It is quite tall, but its width is quite small. It’s bigger brothers look better to my eye, but the 107 is still a gorgeous bag to look at. Like all Billingham bags it oozes quality and unlike some other brands that stepped into the hype of the mirrorless camera bags, this Billingham will outlive you. I have been using Billingham bags for more than ten years now, and they’re all still fully functional. My most beat-up Billy is the Hadley Small. I carried this bag multiple times around the world and it still is working perfectly. Billinghams don’t wear out, they just age. The leather is so thick, it will never tear. The bottom of the bag is protected by brass feet: this will keep the contents of your bag dry, even if you put it on a whet surface.

The bottom of the bag is protected by brass feet: this will keep the contents of your bag dry, even if you put it on a whet surface.

Using the comfortable top handle is super easy and quite useful.

Using the comfortable top handle is super easy and quite useful.

The top of the bag is protected by a large contoured flap, which will keep the nasty stuff out. On top of the flap is a nice leather handle, which can be left clipped together (unlike the 5-series), because you don’t need to unclip it to get into the bag. When you fold away the flap, you can open the main compartment with a two-way zipper. Opening can be done with just one hand, for closing you’ll need both hands. With the press top opened, it’s very easy to reach the contents of the bag, because the frame keeps the bag open. This system makes the bag somewhat taller than a bag without this top.

With the press top opened, it’s very easy to reach the contents of the bag…

Attachments for the Billingham Pack Harness, which is unfortunately no longer available.

Attachments for the Billingham Pack Harness, which is unfortunately no longer available.

You can organize your gear in the main compartment with the supplied Superflex flap (an insert with velcro on one side) and a 8-15 Superflex insert. In my lay-out I only used the Superflex insert and this allows me to put two M cameras on the sides and the insert with 4 (stacked) lenses in the middle.

The front pockets are quite deep, but not really big. Very convenient for a bottle of water.

The front pockets are quite deep, but not really big. Very convenient for a bottle of water.

At first sight it looks like the front pockets are the only places to store non-camera stuff, but in fact there’s a lot more room than you’d think. On the long sides of the main compartment there’s (padded)room for an iPad, but this storage option is large and flexible enough to throw in a backup HD, a wallet, some food, etc. While this bag would be slightly too small for my wedding kit, it is pretty close.

While this bag would be slightly too small for my wedding kit, it is pretty close.

On the back of the bag there’s a zippered compartment for small stuff and I like to store my keys, a phone and other things that I don’t want to lose. You can also clearly see the attachments for the Billingham Pack Harness (BPH), which turnes the bag into a backpack, but which is no longer available. I never tested this system, but it looks like it could work on longer walks with a heavy pack.

With the top cover opened, you can still grab the bag by another set of handles. Very well thought through.

With the top cover opened, you can still grab the bag by another set of handles. Very well thought through.

Talking about carrying the 107: it is equipped with a very comfortable shoulder pad, the SP50. But besides the nice padding, this bag carries pretty well, even with quite a bit of weight in it. Another nice feature is that when wearing the bag and opening the press top, the contents of your bag are still very well accessible and can be taken in and out quite easily, because the bag is stiff enough that it doesn’t deform (if loaded properly). Wider bags, like the Hadley, tend to follow the contours of your body a bit more, which is nice for carrying, but makes it harder to get your stuff in and out of the bag.

And here's the main compartment. Quite a bit of space, plus enough space for non-camera stuff. Very important on an assignment.

And here’s the main compartment. Quite a bit of space, plus enough space for non-camera stuff. Very important on an assignment.

This is what fits in the 107. Easily. you can cram in more, but this layout is still functional.

This is what fits in the 107. Easily. you can cram in more, but this layout is still functional.

  1. Lacie backup HD. Always with me.
  2. Some batteries.
  3. A bottle of water. Sometimes for me, sometimes for the bride who forgot to bring some water.
  4. Deodorant: we need to stay fresh and frosty. Also, it’s unisex, in case anyone else needs it.
  5. iPad mini.
  6. Leica M9P with 35/2
  7. Extra memory cards
  8. EVF for the M240
  9. Leica M240 with CV35/1.2
  10. CV15/4.5 (quite a big lens)
  11. Leica 28/2.8 Elmarit
  12. Leica 75/2.5 Summarit
  13. Noctilux
  14. Some extra personal stuff: tooth picks, some pills, lip balm, etc.
  15. Wallet: always empty my friends…
  16. Dextro Energy
  17. Gum

But besides the nice padding, this bag carries pretty well, even with quite a bit of weight in it.

Conclusion

The Billingham 107 is a very stylish, versatile bag with a very high level of protection for your camera gear. If you’re used to the 5-series, like I am, you’ll need to get used to the press-top opening and the slightly different top cover. Using the top handle is much easier than with the 5-series: all you need to do is close the top cover and you’re ready to go.