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The Billingham L2 review

I’m a big fan of the Hadley series and when I started looking for a compact bag that could fit one or two M bodies, a couple of lenses and some accessories, I never spent much time looking at the L2. Why? Well, I just thought it was the same bag as the Leica Combination bag and that bag looked less nice compared to the Hadley small and is was even more expensive. But now I know why. Most of you that are interested in this bag, will compare it to the Hadley small. That’s how I wrote this review.

billingham L2 review

The L2 is nothing like the Hadley small and only a little bit like the Leica Combination bag. In theory, the Hadley is the bigger bag with a capacity of 3,5 l, compared to 3l of the L2. But the L2 is way more practical than the Hadley and there are three reasons for it. First, the Hadley is taller, which means you only have more capacity if you’re willing to stack lenses. During weddings, that’s a no go for me. The L2 has a slightly wider and longer base for the camera compartment. The reason it is still smaller than the Hadley is its height. And that’s good, because we don’t want to stack lenses and we don’t want to ‘dig’ in our bags to find something. The L2 is definitely designed with a rangefinder in mind – it fits perfectly!- , whereas the Hadley can also be used with a small DSLR. When looking at the two bags, they appear to be of the same height, but the bottom padding in the L2 is much thicker, plus the L2 has brass feet.

Billingham L2 review

A sleek looking bag and bigger than you think

Second, the Hadley is not a perfect rectangle. It’s wider in the middle than on the edges, which means a camera with a lens can only be fitted in the middle of the bag, or has to be stored in another orientation in one of the edges of the bag. The L2 is a perfect rectangle and it’s just as big on one of the sides as it is in the middle. Perfect.

Brass feet keep your camera dry and prevent tipping over

Brass feet keep your camera dry and prevent tipping over

Third, the Hadley has two small front pockets that are just big enough to store a wallet, a hard disk and some small stuff. The front pocket of the L2 is huge and way, way more usable. You can fit a hat, a compact sweater, your wallet and still have some space for small things. For me, that’s a huge benefit, because on a day trip, I want to carry other things besides my camera.

Unconventional flaps do their job just as good as the cover on the Hadley does

Unconventional flaps do their job just as good as the cover on the Hadley does

But there is more: the L2 provides better access to the camera compartment because of the overall stiffness of the bag. With the Hadley, which has softer and more flexible padding, the bag tends to fold to your body. Although that is a good thing while wearing the bag, it tends to make access to a bag a little harder. The L2 feels almost like a little suitcase. It’s very stiff and makes it very easy to get things in and out of the bag. For comfort, I’d say the Hadley is the better wearing one of this duo.

The interior of the bag: customizable and accessible

The interior of the bag: customizable and accessible

Talking about access: I much prefer the closing system of the Hadley. The system on the L2 is not adjustable at all, while the Hadley is.  The Hadley is fitted with a lid that fits all over the bag, while the L2 has folding flaps on the side to protect your gear. I think both will do fine in bad weather. The Hadley has a padding just under the lid, while the L2 hasn’t. If you’re expecting impacts from above, the Hadley offers more protection. The padding also affects accessibility.

Here's the bag with all the contents from the next picture. It's quite full, but it works

Here’s the bag with all the contents from the next picture. It’s quite full, but it works

Another key feature of the L2 that I absolutely love is the bottom of the bag: it is fitted with brass feet. Depending on how you fit your stuff in the Hadley, it tends to tip over. Very annoying and the brass feet take care of that problem. Also, if you ever put your bag in a pool of water – or beer -, you won’t drown your expensive camera. Like all Billingham bags, the strap is a bit narrow, so adding a shoulder pad increases comfort. If you plan on keeping it very light, you don’t need to add a shoulder pad.

And here's what you COULD put in the L2. Be smart and carry less though...

And here’s what you COULD put in the L2. Be smart and carry less though…

  1. Charger cable
  2. Wallet (notice how it has shrunken after I got the Noctilux)
  3. Lens cloth
  4. Mophie powerpack mini
  5. Optical viewfinder for the 21 (which is not even in the bag…)
  6. Lacie Rugged
  7. Charger
  8. Spare batteries. No, they’re not made by Toyota.
  9. Rocket blower for drying my eyebrows
  10. Spare SD-cards
  11. Leica 75/2.5 Summarit
  12. Leica M9-P
  13. iPad classic (less greasy than last review)
  14. Leica M240
  15. Leica 28/2.8 elmarit. Little gem.
  16. Leica 50 Cron. All you need (says the man with a Nocti)

The Hadley has a removable insert, while the L2 doesn’t. If you remove the internal dividers you can use it for other purposes, but not like you can with the Hadley. While most photographers use the space behind the insert for storing an iPad, the L2 has a dedicated slot for that purpose. The insert is not the only difference with the Hadley: the interior is made of a smooth nylon material, just like in the 5-series. That means the interior is less customizable than the Hadley, where you can fit all the dividers where you want. With the L2, you’re restricted to the velcro on the fixed interior and the velcro on the dividers. I’m a big fan of the smallest dividers for the Hadley series. They have velcro on side only and they’re great for stuffing two lenses in a tight spot. I used some of these dividers to custom fit the interior the way I like it. If you don’t own a Billy yet, you might want to purchase some extra dividers.

Hadley small and L2 side by side. Notice the perfect rectangular shape of the L2.

Hadley small and L2 side by side. Notice the perfect rectangular shape of the L2.

If I had to choose between the L2 and the Hadley I’d definitely buy the L2. It may look more like a camera bag than the Hadley does, but it is more practical and is just a bit more expensive. I would keep the divider set of the Hadley for more customizability. If inconspicuousness is important, get the black one. The khaki bag will attract more attention. Both bags are very sturdy, good looking and practical and I’ll continue to use my Hadley Small until it’s got holes in it. Yes, I know, that will probably never happen.

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And one more. It depends on taste, but style wise I prefer the Hadley.

And one more. It depends on taste, but style wise I prefer the Hadley.