A Classic Handcrafted English Camera Bag

by | Dec 20, 2013

Billingham 307-LI’ll confess to being an Anglophile. I drink English tea, drive an English car and have an affinity for all things British. More than ten years ago Mary gave me a Billingham #225 bag for Christmas and I keep my Leica M6 and Zeiss SW bodies and a few lenses and accessories in it and it looks just as good today as it did when new. One reason is that every Billingham bag is hand made one piece at a time, using top grain leather, canvas, and solid brass fittings, which is why nothing else looks like a Billingham.

The fabric of a Billingham bag combines a top canvas layer, a hidden layer of rubber, and the back layer. When the leather edging is added, a small piece of polypropylene is wrapped around the fabric prior to the leather being attached meaning that every Billingham bag is virtually waterproof. Cotton thread is used because it swells in damp prevent water from coming though the seams. The leather is hand dyed and waxed at the factory. All metal fittings are from a nearby Birmingham foundry. Solid brass is used, including trim metal, which is nickel plated, on black with black Leather trim bags. Webbing for the bags’ shoulder straps is NASA spec, which is also used for military parachute webbing.

307-L-1The new Billingham 307 L is a working bag for photographers with lots of gear, use long lenses, and travel with a laptop. It’s available in Khaki Fibrenyte with Chocolate leather trim or Black Fibrenyte with black leather trim and is built to those same Billingham quality standards but departs somewhat from previous designs. The interior is designed for cameras with battery grips, as well as accommodating a long lens attached to the body without having to store separately. A laptop sleeve (15-inch maximum) is built in and uses the same soft lining material as the rest of the interior. It’s padded with foam to protect the laptop’s sides. Two leather tab closures keep a laptop in place. Solid Brass fittings are used to provide a strong and secure closure. The lower leather straps feature “D” holes for the attachment of the backpack harness or tripod carry Straps.

Billingham is a small company and often Martin Billingham or his son Harry or wife Rosalyn are on the factory floor cutting leather or fitting trim to the bags. To me Billingham are the Morgan Cars of the camera bag world building finely crafted products that are designed to last, just like my #225 bag.