I’ve owned the Filson + Magnum Harvey Messenger Bag now for 9 months, and it’s become my favourite satchel for daily carry of my cameras and as a laptop bag. Here’s a detailed update on the Harvey Messenger.
Billingham Hadley Pro
One of the greatest satchel or messenger style camera bags is the Billingham Hadley. It’s been in production in various forms since 1988, and continues to be one of Billingham’s most successful lines of bags.
Currently, it’s offered in various sizes, from the tiny Hadley Digital to the big Hadley Large Pro, which has a dedicated laptop sleeve. For this post, I want to cover the mid-sized Hadley Pro. And this review isn’t based on a brand new sample. I bought this specific Billingham well over a decade ago, so this review is VERY long-term.
I’ve written previously about carrying the Fuji X cameras as a large, comprehensive system on location for professional use. But one of the best aspects of Fuji X cameras, and the Leica M system which partially inspired their styling and form, is their compact, unobtrusive size. It makes the X and M systems especially appropriate for daily and street photography. A huge system isn’t appropriate – better just to carry a body or two, and perhaps a couple of lenses. A small, compact bag is all that’s required. Artisan & Artist have a suitable model in their line-up.
Artisan & Artist are makers of fine camera bags and straps. Made in Japan, their quality is top notch, right up there with the craftsmanship of Billingham from England.
Bill Pierce, the famed, highly experienced photojournalist and Leica M photographer, has written of flying to the Eastern hemisphere from the US, and stopping in London on the way there. This made adjusting to the jet lag at the final destination a little bit easier. During his stopover, Mr. Pierce would drop by the Queen’s Fishery, to purchase a Brady fishing bag.
The Brady bag was a popular choice amongst world-travelling photojournalists at the time. This was before Billingham started making photo-specific bags in 1979. Brady fishing bags such as the Ariel Trout and Gelderburn were pressed into service as a long-lasting, tough bag that could take the abuse from photojournalists who travelled frequently into harrowing situations.
Yet the canvas was soft enough that it could conform and hug the photographer’s body. In addition, Brady’s Ariel Trout and Gelderburn bags have a form and shape similar to today’s popular messenger bags – wide and tall, but slim, front to back. Its lack of thickness made it easier to move around on crowded streets.
In addition to reading about Brady bags in Bill Pierce’s article, Over a decade ago, I also heard about it from Sal DiMarco Jr., an experienced Blackstar photojournalist and a regular contributor to TIME magazine. Mr. DiMarco was highly accomplished, and had multiple TIME front covers to his name.
This is the conclusion to the Billingham 335 review. I’ll cover how to choose between a Series 5 and 7 bag, some of the common concerns about the Series 5 design, and my conclusion and verdict on the 355.
Choosing between a Series 5 and Series 7 Billingham Bag
Billingham’s line-up of bags is usually in tight, focused categories. There’s usually no confusion when buying one type of Billingham over another.
- Street work with a small rangefinder or CSC system? Look at the Hadley’s.
- Smallest bag possible with one camera and perhaps an extra lens or two? L2.
- Minimal Leica M-specific bag? Billingham-made Leica M Combination bag.
- International travel with room for a pro laptop? Packington or Eventer.
For a full load of system cameras, there have been the Billingham Series 5 bags that have been around for decades.
Since 2009, another line-up from Billingham has been readily available, the Series 7. This one is an evolution of the no longer made Series 6.
Organizing the 335: Superflex Inserts & Delta Pockets
I’ve separated the use of Superflex Inserts and Delta Pockets from the main article on the Billingham 335, as they are an additional expense, above and beyond the price of the bag.
The 335 does include two Superflex Inserts and a flap, with the purchase of the bag. But to truly optimize the interior space to the sizes and shapes of your personal gear, you’ll likely have to buy additional Superflex Inserts.
By optimum, I mean the ability to balance the need to carry all of your equipment in a limited amount of space, while having fast access to all of your essential gear during assignment. Ideally, having the most important lenses for that type of assignment already mounted on one or two bodies, so it’s ready to shoot.
Billingham 335: Long-Lived Classic Camera Bag
Billingham camera bags have been manufactured since 1979, six years after the company was founded, when it initially made fishing and game bags. They are some of the best-made bags in the world. The company uses first class materials, the build quality is superb, the bags are highly water-resistant and, despite a few quirks, the designs are mostly functional.
The Billingham 335 lineage can be traced back to a bag that was released in ’79, and has evolved over the decades. Today, it remains as one of the most popular models of their entire line. It has significantly more carrying capacity than their other popular model, the Hadley Pro.
Filson + Magnum Harvey Messenger Bag Review
I’ve been a professional photographer in various disciplines of the medium for over 26 years, since I graduated from college. I started out assisting an architectural photographer for two years, then followed that with another two years in the field as a photojournalist in Asia. Since then, over the past two decades, almost all of my photography work has been in advertising and packaging.
Back in the 80’s, I saved up for two years as a teenager to buy my first Leica (a used M3 and a Canadian 50mm Summicron). Since then, my favorite camera form has been the rangefinder. After almost 29 years, I finally gave up my Leica M analog system in 2009, as I simply was no longer using film. When I decided to get back into using a camera again outside of my daily work in fashion photography, my choices were digital rangefinder forms: Leica M digital or Fuji X systems. I had been researching the Fuji X and Leica M digital systems online, and Google inevitably led me to Patrick’s superb site, findingrange.com.
Although Patrick is primarily a Leica M user, his extensive writing on the Fuji X system ultimately led me to those cameras, rather than going back to the Leica M. Since the winter of 2014, I’ve been using the Fuji X system professionally for architecture work, with street photography for fun. It was for the latter that I wanted to get a new camera bag.