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Billingham 307 bag; useful both for large camera gear and for Micro 4/3

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Savas K, Mar 3, 2013.

  1. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    I generally favor Billingham for it's rain-proof properties, safe-keeping and for stylistic reason; if vacationing, the bags can go from field to museum to dinner and not look out of place; and they are carried during work where they accompany me to client meetings taking place in offices in New York and vicinity. If environments will pose danger of theft, my Billingham insert cavity of, for instance, the Hadley Pro model, fits well into a nondescript; non-attention getting bag that I have in the closet.

    The subject of this review is a recent purchase of a Billingham 307 and it's Superflex partition system. Or perhaps the order should be reversed, because its more about the partitions. This is a bag being used for both Canon DSLR and for my newfound affinity, Micro 4/3.

    The purpose of this bag for Micro 4/3 is to be my "bring it all" field bag; and to serve an alternate purpose, that being setup to share space with M4/3 camera gear and whatever else I want to bring for a day out. (lunch, windbreaker, sealed water bottle, a gift for a party, whatever.) Kind of like those backpacks that come equipped with two chambers; one for camera and one for whatever else.

    The partitions
    Billingham's Superflex partition is a flexible and easily altered manner of arrangement and it works for me. Part of the genius of the Superflex inserts is that you can fill the bag with lens silos, or just fill a portion of the bag with them. In cases of one or two partitions in the larger bag cavity, the partitions can be located wherever you want in the bag's interior. Such that if you need to make room for something specific that you want to bring along with a smaller camera kit that day, the inserts can be moved over to accommodate the other items' shape or dimension.

    Most bags either impose a specific and unchanging set of silos, or, you're in there doing the rrrriiip-out and replacement of individual dividers and what you've arranged usually remains that way. Or, lens inserts are taken out entirely by eliminating the insert cavity.

    The 2013 catalog that Billingham came out with is exceptional in explaining their approach to the Superflex inserts and why it is a valid approach. Billingham shows schematics and you can do the arithmetic in planning your optimal insert array. This does away with the indecision and mistaken purchases when trying to outfit a bag to your precise preferences. Up to a point. I explain later that the stated dimensions are not reliable.

    I have accepted the fact that the bag costs what it does with it's few included Superflex inserts; let alone the added cost of obtaining optional inserts that more closely correspond with your gear. Billingham designers have no way of knowing what your gear consists of. The other way around is the shotgun approach of piling-on all manner of inserts and you'd have wasted components to contend with in addition to having paid for them.

    In that regard, I settled upon specific inserts that I felt suitable for Micro 4/3 lenses and at a height that made good use of the bag's interior height, leaving comfortable space for my fully gripped OM-D and even having headroom for the optional extended rubber eye-piece.

    The 307's included inserts that I am not presently using in the bag are not wasted. They are put into other bags; or put into a drawer to contain sensitive gear. Or, they might get swapped into service inside the 307 at some point. Which bring up another factoid about Superflex. The bag can become whatever you need so that obsolescence is denied; say, if you get into several kinds of camera setups (DLSR, Micro 4/3; View cameras).

    Partition planning
    As alluded to before, one thing to bear in mind is that the math behind planning your insert scheme could go awry because stated dimensions are imprecise. The inserts in my plan collectively fit tighter than I would have liked after having purchased them sight-unseen.

    I don't know where Billingham takes its measurements, but I thought my setup would fit comfortably with a little bit of room to spare, which wasn't the case. No biggie if you return an insert and make do with another, but I had plans in mind for the ones I purchased. And this was after my sketching out plans of the bag interior and the inserts, all the while with my gear on the desk in front of me. (I've done my fair share of drafting) As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men ….

    Strangely, it turns out that B&H measurements are probably more accurate that Billingham's. B&H claims the interior width (left to right when facing the bag's front) is 13.39 inches, to Billingham's claim of 15 inches. So I finally had the bright idea of measuring my bag, now that it's in my possession. It's 14 inches. (I used a Stanley Power Lock which allows an accurate interior measurement given it's 3 inch long casing.)

    So part of the original plan was to attain unfettered non-snagging access and reinsertion of a fully gripped body with lens and ability to swap easily with little fear of drops; while wearing the bag and with the bag on the ground. All M4/3 lens hoods should be mounted and in the extended position. I believe I have gotten those feature in the Billingham 307. The same would hold true for it's brothers, the 207 and 107, in accordance with what your carry needs are. More on those two siblings near the end of this review.

    Here is the open bag with its included inserts.

    IMG_2091_DxO.

    I emptied the bag and here is how it looks. (Afterward, I started thinking of the bag as a large shoe box with all the canvas and leather trappings wrapped around it.)

    IMG_2088_DxO.

    My next move was to mess around putting Domke inserts in there, just out of curiosity. This could help people envision if they've had or seen Domke inserts.

    Here is the quad:

    IMG_2089_DxO.

    Here, I have added a set of two:

    IMG_2090_DxO.
     
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  2. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    Here is a view into the bag with inserts I bought specific for Micro 4/3 lenses.

    I've put just a few in there so that I am leaving room for non-camera gear; as per the scenario of sharing interior space.

    IMG_2092_DxO.

    Adding gear to the inserts.

    IMG_2093_DxO.

    And now, the gripped body.

    IMG_2094_DxO.

    Here is a view of sufficient headroom for the extended eyecup.

    IMG_2102_DxO.
     
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  3. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    Here is the 307 fully outfitted to accept Micro 4/3 gear. I put in one 10-15 and the rest are 8-15's. You can see that it wound up a little squashed due to discrepancy in stated interior dimensions.

    IMG_2098_DxO.

    My current lenses and flash are in place. I have my empty silos to assist in fast and safe lens swapping. Or I can decide to add a second or third FL-600R flash unit (once I get the funds … ). Bag displays full access to gear when it's not stacked. It's tantalizing to me; kind of like making a selection from a box of chocolates.

    IMG_2099_DxO.

    And the camera.

    IMG_2100_DxO.

    Zipping her up.

    IMG_2103_DxO.

    All zipped.

    IMG_2104_DxO.

    Front.

    IMG_2105_DxO.


    Side.

    IMG_2106_DxO.
     
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  4. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    Of course, I couldn't help myself but get a Delta Pouch for outside. The phone is available there and there's a spot for my glasses. (I like shooting without wearing glasses and they get bent if I try putting them somewhere in clothing pockets.)

    IMG_2107_DxO.

    Before I'm done, here's a pic of the Macbook Air inside the closed bag you saw. Guess what? Billingham must be reading forum threads because the bag is no longer stitched in that spot. Bag buyers were cutting interior stitches so that laptops can be slotted within.

    IMG_2138_DxO.

    And, I found a use for the flap that came with the bag. A nice little table for swapping while the bag is on the ground. Not a necessity, but it's available if I want. The flap when not used like a table top gets slotted into one of two openings on the side where Billingham has maintained stitches to keep the inner container in place.

    IMG_2140_DxO.


    What about the smaller 107 and 207?
    What is the impact of going with the two smaller bags in the series, the 207 and 107? If you are using the same size Superflex inserts as I am using, you wind up losing 2 silos and 4 silos respectively; each bag interior with a little bit of space left over between the last Superflex and the inside wall. The 107 gets you more space due to how it works out. How useful that extra space is in each instance is up to the individual photographer. The image conveys this; two cardboard strips were cut to the interior width dimensions that B&H says that the two smaller bags are.

    IMG_2144_DxO.


    Here's a recent schematic that helps envision more than the cardboard strips allow for.

    viewofbag.

    What to make of it? It appears it's about whether you want to carry a fully gripped camera with a reduced set of lenses, albeit, readily accessible lenses… lenses that can be setup with hoods extended and perhaps rear caps off, ready to rock. Both smaller bags when empty weigh successively less.

    So if you want the fully gripped camera and one of the smaller of the 07 series and that camera is occupying it's spot like in preceding photos, then you wind up with three available chambers for the 107 (body and four lens chambers) and five chambers with the 207 (body and six lens chambers); as compared to my seven chambers with the 307 (Body and eight lens chambers).

    Recall that it'd be a nice idea to have an empty slot or two available for swapping; or for dropping something in there in a hurry, such as a lens cap; or to drop-in a hood that you might have removed for some reason. Remember, we don't always have a table nearby and the ground could be hazardous. A bag depth that supports a double row of chambers is kind of like a safety net from lens drops. We also know that the lens chambers can be handy items for other than lenses. Like flash units, small parts, bulb-blower, a can of soda, whatever.

    Last, what about a laptop or tablet for the 107 and 207? What is certain is that going smaller than a 307 loses you the Macbook Air slot. Roughly two inches are gone from the interior's width. But what about a tablet computer? The 207 accepts a recent model iPad (the regular size one with Retina, not the new Mini). Just about; at least the one I tested with a full back case and cover. So the 107 is one I don't know about. Maybe an iPad Mini might fit; at this point I don't know. Owners of the Mini might compare specs with the 107's 9.45 inch interior width.

    I feel fortunate to be in a position to see this for myself and to share it with the community. I hope this will be helpful to someone contemplating this kind of bag for Micro 4/3 use.
     
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  5. savvy

    savvy Mu-43 Top Veteran

    714
    Sep 28, 2012
    SE Essex, UK
    Les
    Great review, pics, dimensions, and additional info.

    Very well thought out commentary, thanks for taking the time to do this and share with us :2thumbs:
     
  6. RuffDraft

    RuffDraft Mu-43 Regular

    134
    Jan 13, 2013
    One of the greatest and most informative reviews of a Billingham bag that I've seen, and in recent months, I have searched many blogs and videos on YouTube, often feeling let down and confused as to the contents for a m4/3 user.

    Thank you very much for taking the time to prepare and review a bag so thoroughly, this is one of my favourite threads that I've seen here, and I've been lurking quite consistently for months now.

    I'd be really interested in hearing your review on the Large before the next month is over. I plan on buying either the large, or the 307 (after reading this review) for my travels in the summer, as well as for an every day bag.

    Thank you again!!!
     
  7. dornblaser

    dornblaser Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 13, 2012
    Chicago-area
    David Dornblaser
    Thank you for the thoughtful review.
     
  8. turbodieselvw

    turbodieselvw Mu-43 Veteran

    321
    Jun 29, 2010
    Ottawa
    Great review! Makes me wanna order one right now.
     
  9. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    Thanks, guys. Lack of info was what precipitated all the calculations; augmented by Billingham's only recently published information on the inserts. Once that was over, I was able to pull the trigger with some certainty. And certainty is what I sought after, because I went with an on-sale bag across the ocean at Robert White, Ltd. British law does not allow returns; the prohibitive cost of shipping overseas put the lid on that as well.

    Even visiting the great B&H was of no help. The Billinghams are all on lockdown, tethered by spooled wire bearing sufficient resistance that misshapen the bag when you pull it away from the shelf. If you want to compare one bag to the other, it's like using spring resistance exercise machines. There's either no inserts in a bag, and when there is, there's a few; questionable that it's the right ones and hard to tell what it's good for and not explaining anything.
     
  10. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    RuffDraft,

    The Hadley Large I don't own, but images and reviews I have seen indicate that Micro 4/3 gear will get lost in it. A posting on Cambags.com shows the Hadley Large holding a gripped full size DSLR with a 70-200 f/ 2.8 L IS pointed down into the bag.

    The Hadley Large has the same kind of inserts as does the Hadley Pro, which I have reviewed on this board; showing an example of what it can hold at full capacity. (Partially gripped body, five lenses, flash unit, etc).

    If the Hadley Pro contains too much gear, then perhaps look at the Hadley Small. Though I am generally a proponent of not filling a bag to its capacity and maybe a decision doubles back the Hadley Pro, but we're all different in our sentiments on required gear, bags to keep them in and how it's ideally packed.

    The 07 series (107, 207, 307) could be overkill depending upon what you are carrying. I liked it for carrying a fully-gripped Micro 4/3 camera and wanted the bag dimensions as large as it gets in the range for full size DSLR use. I wanted two rows of lens chambers so that it helps reduce jugging the small lenses and chances of drops during swapping lenses (or attaching filters) while standing. One of the last images of my review demonstrates what kind of interior you are presented with given a 107 or 207 bag. One of those might do the trick.

    To test out a 107 or 207 in the comfort of your home without buying anything, find a shoebox and limit its dimension further with cardboard walls cut from a corrugated box (crumpled paper behind the cardboard walls to keep it in place); put your gear in there and get a sense of it.

    Other options by Billingham include the L2. No stacking there; it's height is comparatively low. It's been a staple for rangefinder shooters. There is also the F-Stop range, but it's inserts are more oriented toward large body cameras and lenses.
     
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  11. RuffDraft

    RuffDraft Mu-43 Regular

    134
    Jan 13, 2013
    Thank you for your detailed response. I did actually mean the Pro, but got mixed up with the Large. I'm glad I did though, as your response was really helpful and sent me on a shopping spree (albeit window shopping, for now).

    The L2 seems poorly stocked, although it definitely looks like a good choice. Overall, after reading both of your reviews, I am stuck between a 207 / 307 and Pro.

    I'm someone who will likely take his entire gear with him, although I want to be able to shoot all day whilst travelling around Asia in the hot weather, so I don't want to overdo it - so I would consider leaving a few lenses at my friend's house before venturing out there. But the bag should be at least be able to carry the equipment that I bring with me… this will include my current gear:

    Olympus OM-D EM5 with HLD-6 grip
    Olympus 12-50mm kit lens
    Olympus 45mm lens

    And my new buys, that will be with me by May:

    PanaLeica 25mm 1.4
    Panasonic 12-35mm OR the Olympus 12mm f/2.

    Eventually, I'll also be purchasing a tripod - either the Benro MiFoto, or (more likely) the Gitzo Traveller tripod. Both of which, I'd hope would mount onto the bag in some way.

    Further down the pipeline, I'm hoping for the FL600R flash too, which would finish my kit, along with a cheap telezoom (or if I cave, the 75mm :eek:).

    Whilst I don't have all of this equipment just yet, I am hoping to have this by the end of the year/midway through 2014. Therefore, I don't want to purchase a bag that's too small and I DO see the point of having a bag that allows for lenses to be swapped carefully as well.

    Both bags look as though they'd fit hand luggage requirements and I guess in the coming months I'll continue to think carefully about my purchases.

    Thanks again for your thread and any recommendations following my requirements from you would be greatly appreciated.
     
  12. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    RuffDraft,

    A fully-gripped body cuts to the chase. I start thinking 7 series for easy access. Consider that you can fit the gripped body plus its tiny add-on flash in the shoe and have it setup for commander mode. This assemblage goes into and out of the bag with ease.

    So, gripped body and four lenses… Let's see: one lens on body, so it becomes gripped body with mounted lens and three optional lenses. That equals four lens compartments. Flash unit can be in another lens chamber or go into the front pocket. That's up to you. If the FL-600R goes inside to avoid knocks on it, that equals five lens chambers...

    Looks like a 207 is your bag. In which case, you can stow an iPad if you so choose. You also have the spacious front pockets. Take a look at the schematic photo with the two cardboard strips in it to envision this setup.

    One more thing to consider regarding pickpockets you mentioned elsewhere. The 207 fully zips and also can have it's canopy in place. I had that in the back of my mind and didn't mention it in the review. On subways and bus, I don't mind carrying my partially filled 307 cross-body and behind me.

    Sure, it's double-row means a deeper bag. But forget the crowds, if you will. Passengers on subway and bus consist of the emaciated on through to the obese. So I don't really care if my bag and I take up a little bit more room than my Hadley Pro and I.
     
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  13. RuffDraft

    RuffDraft Mu-43 Regular

    134
    Jan 13, 2013
    Can you explain the benefits of access of the 207 over the Pro? Is it simply due to the extended depth?

    Sounds great in terms of the rest of it… apart from the price! :eek:

    I do have an iPad, as well as the Air. But I'll likely take the iPad over the Air, so that'll fit nicely as you say!

    I really like that it has the zipped pockets too, although I'm sure that Asia is a safe-haven; for any trips in the future, I think that'll lessen the paranoia.

    Hahaha tell me about it, I'd rather have a big bag next to me than a comotozed drug-addict as I did in Vancouver. That said, I think the shallower bag appeals to me more due to the fact that I'll find it easier to transport during longer days… add that to the price and the fact that I can use half the HLD-6s grip and perhaps I could be swung back to the Pro. But these are cons that I'll have to tackle before making the purchase. On the 30th March, I'm heading to a City that stocks Billingham bags for a wedding (a friend's, I'm not a pro), so hopefully I'll be able to head over there and take a look for myself!

    Thanks again for the tips! I don't think I could go wrong with either bag after your threads, but I do think the 207 makes more sense in essence, as you say!
     
  14. dond

    dond New to Mu-43

    5
    Feb 20, 2013
    Billingham follow up

    A good place to pick up any Billingham is Koh's Camera in Bellmore NY. He has a good inventory - not all on display but handy, and is pleasant and willing to let you paw through them to figure out which is best for you.

    Also helps that his prices are good too.

    I picked up a 207 there last summer for my D3 and lenses, but now have reconfigured it to hold all of my Oly OMD + lenses. Went there after seeing the "chained" and partial lineup display @ B+H downtown - not very helpful there.

    It can almost hold my 13" MacBook Pro Retina, I think the 307 would.........
     
  15. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    Here's a recent development that the Billingham Superflex insert worked well in handling. I used a step-up ring to 58mm for my Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 and bought a rubber hood and center pinch cap for it. This added some girth! Like up to 3 5/8 inches worth. The Superflex size 10-15 worked out okay, so long as I don't load up and fatten it's secondary chamber of 5cm. (You can also get the 11-15 Superflex for more room, but the secondary chamber becomes 4cm x 11cm.)

    Camera in the 10cm chamber.
    IMG_2207.


    Withdrawing it.
    IMG_2208.
     
  16. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    I got a chance to try out an 11-18 Superflex, which is 3cm taller than surrounding Superflex inserts and 1cm larger in the main cavity than the prior insert. The large cavity is better with the step-up ring and rubber hood and I find it's also better for the new arrival, Olympus 75-300mm II.

    The 07 series Billingham steps up to the plate in handling the long gear; shown here with lens and hood mounted.

    IMG_2209.


    IMG_2210.


    IMG_2211.
     
  17. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    784
    Jan 10, 2013
    Along the lines of flexibility, here is another layout for the 307 model, setup for dual bodies with lenses attached. Concealed under each body is a faux bottom using a Superflex pad; underneath that is some extra gear such as polarizers and stuff. In between the cameras is an 8-15 Superflex for handling a couple lenses; in this case one of them is a 75-300. The idea is having two mounted primes and can switch to two mounted zooms; or whatever combination. One body will be gripped or fully-gripped; the other body with no grip.

    IMG_2226.
     
  18. jjviegas

    jjviegas Mu-43 Regular

    86
    Apr 18, 2013
    Madrid, Spain
    Fantastic setup you have there!