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Billingham 307 review part II


This is part II of the review of the Billingham 307. Part I can be found here.

Inside, not much has changed over my earlier 445. The layout is the same, as are the Velcro adjustable dividers, although the foam used feels denser and is closed cell now (so it doesn't behave like a sponge). I always liked the layout though the two lens dividers in the 307, each divided again with two lens compartments, are smaller than that of my earlier (and larger) 445.
This means there are really only two compartments capable of taking larger 35 mm DSLR lenses, with filter threads up to 72 mm. Larger pro AF lenses using 77 mm threads and larger, wont fit. The smaller compartments would be fine for some of the smaller Leica M lenses, or indeed the Micro FourThirds lenses. That said, they're still a tight fit for the Olympus Pen 14-42mm zoom. I found they fitted a Ricoh GRD III I was testing perfectly and there was room for the 21 mm conversion lens, stored separately above too.



Between the lens dividers a separate closed-cell articulated flap can be positioned using a strip of Velcro. I used this to lay a Canon EOS 7D body flat (facing down so the dust falls away from the sensor) on the floor with the flap over the top allowing for a second body (in this instance a Pen EP-1) with 17 mm pancake a viewfinder to sit on top. It could easily of been another 7D body, or you could drop a 1D body in upright instead.


Negatives
Stacking equipment does have disadvantages; most notably you loose the quick unrestricted access to the gear beneath. And it’s always the gear beneath that you want, isn’t it? All the same, it’s barely an issue thanks to that clever zipped opening.



Front pockets are roomy for spare memory cards and batteries, even a field–recorder, but you’ll be surprised to learn these aren’t padded at all. To the rear is a document pocket up to A4 but better suited to US letter. Put anything else in it though, such as a pocket camera and it will be uncomfortable. Still for what it was designed for it’s handy. My only other slight concern is the arrangement of the grab handles. Like the original series, including my old 445, it has more than it really needs. The 307 has four; one pair made from webbing attached to the rain flap, and another set underneath. This second set, made from leather, is used when the rain flap is folded back.


It’s a different arrangement to the original bags, where the main grab-handle with leather pad was attached to the front and would be used with either the single webbing strap under the flap if it was open, or with an identical webbing strap on top of the flap if was it closed. If you’re used to the original layout of handles it can be a trifle confusing if not, it’s something you’ll likely never notice. Just make sure you pick up the bag by the shoulder strap, if you’ve not fastened the rain-flap securely, as the bag will tip forward abruptly.



Conclusion
With really only the rain-flap’s grab handles as a minor shortcoming, there’s still a lot to like about the Billingham 307. At around $435 / £239 inc VAT, it’s a pricey option, especially when compared with those sourced from the Far-East. Be that as it may, I really don’t know of any other make of bag that’s likely to out-last it. With that in mind, if the 307 lasts only half as long as my old 445, I would say that would be money well spent.

More information, including UK stockists and pricing can be found here.

For US and Canadian visitors, buy Billingham product through our approved supplier, B&H Photo.

Update 09/10/10: B&H now list the Billingham 307 in khaki and black.

Amazon US list the 307 in khaki and black.

Billingham product can be be bought via Adorama.

UK readers can buy Billingham through Jessops or at Warehouseexpress.com:

Billingham 307 black
Billingham 307 khaki

Comments

  1. Awesome camera bag. The chocolate looks just fabulous. I want to buy for my Canon camera.

    r4i software

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm trying to find out who sells it to the US, seems only Robert White. Don't know how much do they charge for the customs duty and/or taxes.
    Elena

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey Elena

    Although I know Robert, and some of his staff (they're as highly regarded as B&H) let me have a word with Billingham here, and ask who they've supplied in the US. Will be tomorrow now (at the earliest), as it's late here in the UK.

    Kevin

    ReplyDelete
  4. Re-reading your email, it's actually your government that charges customs duty and taxes. A retailer here should be able to sell you (as a US citizen) the product excluding VAT. Why don't you drop Robert White a line, they may be able to estimate the charges?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, I will!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hey Kevin,

    Does the back pocket, or even main pocket, have enough height to fit a small laptop? Specifically a Lenovo X200, with the following dimensions:

    (with large 9-cell battery in):
    11.6" x 9.2" x 0.8 - 1.4"

    (with small 4-cell battery in):
    11.6" x 8.3" x 0.8 - 1.4"

    I know the 335 will fit this in its front pocket, but really prefer the look of the 307. I will wait for your answer before ordering online. This will be my first Billingham. :-D

    Thanks in advance!

    Jeff

    PS. I would go with the 307 even if it won't hold my laptop and camera gear at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I can see now I didn't really make it clear at the time of writing that this was a review, and the bag was returned to the distributor. However, I have a laptop that would be around the same size as the Lenovo, and I wouldn't want to put it in the back pocket (not shown).There's no padding. From memory, I think the 307 has a vertical seam in the center of what looks like a padded sleeve, inside, so it isn't what it appears to be. It's just additional padding. I personally don't think there's enough room for both.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for your quick response Kevin. By both, I assume you mean camera gear AND a laptop? Do you think that the laptop, without camera gear, will fit?

    I really appreciate you answering my questions, I understand now that this was just a review.

    Thanks!

    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hey Jeff

    A small laptop without gear would fit, for sure. And if my memory isn't serving me that well (about the seam) then it may fit behind the padding. But, I'm pretty sure I would of noticed, as carrying a small laptop in the field is a handy proposition. Can you get to see one to try before buy?

    Kevin

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Kevin,

    The problem is there are no distributors where I live (in Canada), which means I will be ordering it online from Robert White, or another dealer in the UK. I have read a review that the back pocket of the Billingham 335 will fit a small laptop (http://www.rtsphoto.com/html/bill4.html), but I'll assume this is also unpadded, as you've mentioned is the case with the 307. the issue is height, as it looks like the internal dimensions listed on Billingham's website will make it a tight fit in the main compartment.

    I think I'm going to take the risk and order the 307.

    Thanks again for your help!

    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Jeff

    There's no real depth to the rear compartment, it's like a second skin with a zip. It's fine for the odd piece of US legal, tickets, passport, and the like but not really for anything else. Plus you then have the weight of the equipment pressing on the laptop, which wouldn't be good for it all. Some people get away with the Mac Book Pros in bags as they've an aluminium casing, but I don't know of any other laptop that would survive being 'crushed' on the hip like that.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hi all,
    I've had a 307 in daily use for about 9 months and it is a superb bag - one other BIG problem with carrying even a small laptop or netbook in the unpadded rear pocket is that the bag will then be too rigid to 'bend' itself to your bodyshape - mine has definitely changed shape to 'fit' me - I think they all do. A small 10" netbook will, however, fit flat on top of the divided main compartment (depending on your gear carried) and will have a little more protection but will still 'stiffen' the bag somewhat.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hi Anonymous
    Please can you check if a camera and lens (7d+24-105 or similar only) would fit with a laptop in the main compartment?Much appreciated

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi

    Apropos the comment directly above, the 307 is a great camera bag but it's not really suited for camera gear and a laptop. The bag was loaned to me for testing and it had to go back to the distributor. I can't honestly remember if there's a seam behind what looks like a padded compartment at the rear.

    I'm sure I would of noticed if it could of been used like that. I have an tiny Sony notebook and would of thought about it fitting if there was a chance. I maybe wrong, but I really don't think a laptop would fit.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have using these for 20 years, still going strong. I have rolled the bag off a long flight of stairs with all the gears inside and threw it off the platform, all that was broken was a UV filter on my Nikkor 200mm.

    Yes it's old school times before the digital age. Thus the need to put a laptop is still not quite there.

    ReplyDelete

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