Amateur Photographer verdict

This large shoulder bag is ideal for carrying larger items of kit, such as cameras with vertical grips or telephoto zooms. It’s expensive, but should keep your kit safely protected for years.
  • Large carrying capacity
  • Superb quality of materials and construction
  • Attractive styling and colour combinations
  • Supplied Superflex dividers rather short (may need to buy extra ones)
  • High price

Billingham’s premium British-made camera bags have long been favoured by photographers in need of hard-wearing protection for their kit. The firm has now updated its long-running 5-series shoulder bags to ‘MKII’ versions, mainly by adding a trolley strap on the back and including a ‘V-Bridge’ divider. Here we’re looking at the second largest in the line-up – the Billingham 445 MKII.

Billingham 445 MKII at a glance:

  • $533 / £474
  • Holds a camera and 2-6 lenses
  • Space for 16in laptop
  • 43 x 25 x 30cm (W x D x H)
  • 40 x 15 x 25cm internal
  • 2.32kg weight
  • Three colours: black/black, sage chocolate, and khaki/tan

Measuring 43 x 25 x 30cm externally, this is pretty large as shoulder bags go, which means it can hold a considerable amount of kit. This is the main difference compared to Billingham’s popular Hadley models, which are slimmer and more discreet. So where Hadleys are perfect for walking around and shooting, the 5-series are arguably better seen as bags for carrying bigger outfits to a location or event – especially the two larger models, the 445 MKII and 555 MKII.

Internally, the 445MKII’s main compartment is 40cm wide, 25cm tall, and 15cm deep front-to-back. This means it’s ideal for holding relatively large items such as pro cameras with vertical grips attached, or longer lenses lenses up to the size of a 100-400mm telezoom. Unsurprisingly, if you fill the bag right up, it can get very heavy, although the large shoulder pad helps alleviate the load.

There’s now a luggage strap on the back, plus a flat pocket that’s the perfect size for your favourite photo magazine. Credit: Andy Westlake

Billingham 445 MKII key features:

  • Trolley strap: On the back, the MKII bag gains a strap for attaching the bag onto wheeled luggage
  • V-Bridge divider: Now included as standard, this unique divider supports the lens on a camera stored flat
  • Superflex partitions: Two partition units are supplied. Additional ones are available in 16 different sizes, for £22 each 
  • Optional extras: Optional add-ons include end pockets, tripod straps, and a stabilising waist strap

Billingham’s Superflex partitions are used to organise your kit. These are essentially rectangular padded boxes split into two sections, with the aim of holding different size lenses and accessories. Each measures 15cm front-to-back to fit across the main compartment, but they come in different heights and widths.

There’s space inside for relatively large items of kit. Credit: Andy Westlake

My main gripe with the 445 MKII is that the two supplied are relatively short compared to the bag’s 25cm internal height. One is 18cm tall, but the other only 15cm, which makes it difficult to exploit the bag’s full height. You can buy additional ones in a wide range of sizes to suit your needs, but this adds to the already high price, as they cost £22 apiece.

A large pocket at the front will hold a 16-in laptop. However it’s mostly unpadded, so you’ll probably want to use a protective sleeve. There are two additional front ‘dump’ pockets for accessories, plus a flat zipped pocket on the back that’s ideal for documents. A large flap covers the top of the bag for protection against bad weather.

Two large pockets at the front can be used to store accessories. Credit: Andy Westlake

As usual with Billingham, the quality of materials and construction is exceptional. The firm’s unique 3-layer canvas, with its waterproof butyl-rubber middle layer, is joined by full-grain leather and brass fittings. The traditional styling looks good too, aided by the attractive colour combinations. This all goes a long way to justifying the cost.

Billingham’s 5-series Mark II range

The 5-series MKII range comprises four bags of widely different sizes. The smallest 225MK II (£425, right) measures 32 x 22 x 23cm and holds a camera, 1-3 lenses, and an 11-in tablet. The largest 555MKII (£542) is 47 x 25 x 32cm and takes 2 or 3 camera and 2 to 6 lenses, plus 16in laptop.

Billingham 5-series MKII bags group
Billingham’s 5-series MKII bags come in four sizes. Credit Billingham / AP

Billingham 445 MKII: Our Verdict

There’s no doubting the sheer quality of the Billingham 445 MKII – it’s a superb bag that’s ideal for carrying larger cameras and lenses. Thanks to its top-quality materials, it should last your for decades. However, I suspect many users may need to buy another Superflex partition or two to make best use of its space.

Amateur Photographer Recommended 4.5 stars

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