When it comes to getting around with my primary camera, collection of lenses, filters, and miscellaneous lighting accessories, I’m a backpacker all the way. But what about those instances when you already have your hands full, but still want a capable camera to bring with you and don’t want to haul out the production-ready camera bag? As a father with two young children, this scenario is an increasingly common occurrence for me, and I believe I’ve found the perfect solution.
Even if you don’t have kids, there are undoubtedly times when carrying along a full professional setup of image-making tools is simply impractical. On the flip side, using just a mobile phone camera can leave one wanting more. More image quality, better ergonomics, or the longing to simply enjoy the physical aspect of creating photographs. With that in mind, perhaps a standard-sized shoulder bag is the remedy, as it forces the user to be more discriminating in choosing which items to include.
While it’s true that shoulder bags in general offer quick and convenient access to camera equipment, I personally find that they hurt my back after a couple of hours, not to mention using one for prolonged periods of time. Can you say, massage therapist? Granted, the pain inflicted on my aging body directly correlates to the amount of gear I’m willing to stuff into a shoulder bag, so it would be fair to say that the fault is my own. Regardless, there is another alternative that is arguably the ideal camera bag as a parent’s everyday carry or when simply looking to enjoy a trip (eating ice cream, bbq skewers, drinking beer, you get the idea) while also having a proficient image making tool on hand. This is where the Billingham 72 becomes relevant.
The Billingham 72 is a compact shoulder bag designed for fixed prime, rangefinder, and compact mirrorless cameras. Think along the lines of the Fujifilm X100V, Leica Q2, or Leica M body with a small lens attached such as the Summicron-M 35mm f/2, Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH, or Summicron-M 75mm f/2. The bag comfortably fits my Fujifilm X100V, and I’m able to fit an extra battery, USB-C charging cable, and microfiber cloth on the other side of the removable padded divider. Additionally, the front pocket perfectly holds a passport and that’s exactly where I keep mine. It’s worth noting that the aforementioned slot could just as easily store a mobile phone in lieu of a travel document. It’s all the essentials I need, and encourages me to prioritize the act of photography over the equipment itself. While I find this forced minimalist setup to be quite liberating, I freely admit that it won’t work for every occasion.
In terms of the Billingham 72’s design, the bag is made of premium materials including canvas / FibreNyte, leather, and metal. Everything feels great and gives the impression that it’s capable of enduring decades of hard use like a champion. Billingham is renowned for its handmade, long-lasting products, and I know many passionate photographers like to collect them. A year in, my own personal copy still appears unscathed. Even once I retire my X100V, I’ll keep using the bag for my next compact camera. Therefore, I view this as a great investment, and not one that is tied to a specific camera model.
Looks aren’t everything, but I genuinely enjoy looking at this bag. It’s not in your face attractive, but rather elegant. And because of that, the Billingham 72 is discreet in that nobody ever seems to notice it. I should point out that I have the black FibreNyte / black leather version with olive interior lining, so that more than likely adds to its stealthy silhouette. Not only does it go unnoticed when I travel, but the best part is that it isn’t a burden to carry. In fact, the bag is so light that I can hardly feel it at all.
So how does this particular shoulder bag handle in use? Well, I’ve been caught in moderate rainfall on multiple occasions and the bag kept my gear totally dry. I mentioned earlier my desire for a bag that I can use even when my hands are full, and thankfully the Billingham 72 is quite easy to open with one hand (another plus for parents). The shoulder strap is equally easy to adjust on the fly. Also, the inner material is the nicest I’ve seen in a camera bag. Consequently, I don’t need to use a lens cap on my Fujifilm X100V, which saves time when pulling the camera out to shoot. It’s become clear to me that everything that went into the design of this bag has been intelligently thought out and carefully considered. Lastly, the bag is even small enough that I can store it in a larger camera backpack along with my computer when traveling through airports.
What I Liked
- Beautiful minimalist design that doesn’t attract attention
- Extremely lightweight
- Small footprint for a camera bag
- High level of craftsmanship
- Keeps your camera safely protected from the elements
What I Didn’t Like
- Could use more cleverly placed pockets
- Price is a bit on the higher end for the amount of gear it can carry
In short, I’ve found that the Billingham 72 is an excellent choice at times when you want a camera on you but don’t want to bring out the camera kit. A bag that allows you to have your hands full like I do so often these days, and still bring a compact camera along for the ride. This bag is well suited for those times when the trip itself is the priority and not a full-on photoshoot. Furthermore, it’s a fantastic choice for the fashion-conscious minimalist as well as the overwhelmed parent looking for a practical way to ease their burden. I’ve been so impressed that I’ll likely buy more Billingham bags in the long term for the exceptional quality. The Billingham 72 easily lives up to the hype.