I’ve been hanging these off my Billinghams for years. For the uninitiated, Billingham’s AVEA end pockets are small add-on packs which clip onto either side of the vast majority of Billingham bag families like the Hadley, “S”, f/stop and more. Needless to say I and was pretty pleased when I received their newest end pockets, the AVEA 7 and AVEA 8 back in April for a bit of an extended test. After a few months of daily use on both my Hadley One and Hadley Small Pro, I’m about ready to give you my thoughts.


Spoiler:
I like them but as an existing owner of the AVEA 3 and someone who has a use for them, that was to be expected.


If this review is going to be largely positive, there’s an argument that I should just leave a glowing summary, throw in a few pictures and end it there. It’s tempting but no, I’ve got something else in mind: showing you what they can hold and talking a bit about how I use them.

While I may be a happy AVEA user (six years and counting), that’s not to say they are for everyone, especially those of you out there concerned with packing light. To other readers, adding these pockets onto their bags may feel like an affront to the clean lines of Billingham’s design…or whatever. Different strokes, etc.

For my part, I find them useful and surprisingly, it’s the smaller of the two that I use more.

Here’s how this article breaks down:

Let’s get started.

Billingham end pockets and compatibility

There are three families of end pockets, which together cover pretty much every single bag Billingham current produce (and some they don’t). They are AVEA, Delta and 500. The Delta and 550 pockets are used on Billingham’s 1xx/2xx/3xx/4xx series bags and the 550 respectively. I won’t be talking about them any further here.

AVEA pockets come in four models/sizes, the AVEA 3, 5, 7 and 8. The AVEA 3 and 5 (small and large respectively) are the original models. The AVEA 7 and 8 are the newer ones. In case you’re comparing old vs new, the 7 is bigger than the 3 and the 8 is bigger than the the 5.

Here’s a quick compatibility chart stolen adapted from Billingham’s AVEA product page.

I’ve been using an AVEA 3 on my f/Stop 1.4 for about six years now and rarely have it off the bag. For want of a better word, it’s my “point and shoot” pouch and perfect for one of my small Ricohs or a handful of film.

When I first tried out the Hadley One, I was disappointed to learn that I couldn’t mount my AVEA 3 on it – the anchor straps are too short and the pocket sits too high on the bag, getting in the way of the shoulder strap ring. Such was my desire to attach it, I even went as far as trying some MOLLE adapters to extend the anchor straps. No dice. I tried the same when I got my Hadley Small Pro and saying the fit was a little awkward is a bit of an understatement.


So it’s safe to say that I’ve been waiting for new, compatible AVEA pockets for a while now and as luck would have it, the AVEA 7 and 8 were designed specifically for the Hadley One and Hadley Small Pro.

A quick word on use

Billingham state, “We make removable ‘End Pockets’ for some of our bags to give you the option to store a little more or keep certain things separate from the contents of your main bag. Of course, some people use these as small camera bags in their own right and that’s ok with us!

I’ve yet to use one as a standalone bag but can see how that might work. For me, the main purpose of these bags is to provide easy access to oft-needed items without having to open the main flap to get at the front pockets or main compartment. In the case of the AVEA 7, I use it to keep a small camera (Olympus XA/Ricoh GR1s), a small set of 77mm filters or cigarettes and my Bluetooth earbuds…maybe some chewing gum for after one of those Marlboro.

The AVEA 8 provides over twice the capacity of the 7 and I use that one for (mostly) storing film, my large Sekonic L-608 light meter or 120/35mm film cases and either that XA or a point and shoot like a Ricoh GR1.

AVEA 7 and AVEA 8 compared

All AVEA end pockets are made of the same 3-layer waterproof canvas or 3-layer waterproof FibreNyte as Billingham bags. They feature fabric-lined “closed cell foam padding” on the bottom, sides, front and back. The opening of the compartment of each pocket has large “flappy bit” of waterproof material with a drawstring (more on that later).

There’s quite a bit of difference in size between the AVEA 7 and larger 8 as you can see in the pictures below.

The AVEA 7 and 8 use the same method to attach to their compatible bags: thread the two leather anchor straps through the back of the thick leather strip you’ll find on either side of the bag, then secure the push-down fasteners on each strap to the bottom of the pocket as you see below.

One thing to note is that the rear pocket inside the main compartment of the AVEA 7 and 8 only goes down about halfway vs all the way to the bottom in the AVEA 3 and 5. No more endless searching for hot shoe covers, business cards and chewing gum.

The AVEA 7 in detail

The AVEA 7 is the smaller of the two being reviewed here, which is why I’ve been using it on my Hadley Small Pro. The larger AVEA 8 makes the bag look more like a lop-sided Dumbo than Alfred E. Neuman and for my purposes isn’t super practical on the smaller bag. If you want a bag with that much total internal capacity, you might as well get a bigger main bag.

I wear my bags on my left shoulder and mount my AVEAs on the left side, so they face forward.

With the AVEA clipped onto the bag, just pull down the latch and flip up the lid. Inside you’ll find that extra flappy bit (technical term) of waterproof cloth, with a drawstring. It doesn’t fully seal the compartment but pulled tight with the main flap closed, it’s been good enough for me.

I’ll admit it took me a while to get used to the “flappy bit” of my AVEA 3 and for the most part, I keep the string loose with the excess cloth tucked inside the compartment and get on with my life.

The AVEA 7 is deceptively large (0.5l capacity). In practice, that’s large enough to comfortably hold the film/camera/cigarettes I mentioned above but it’ll do more than that if you’re in a pinch.

Here:

Obviously shoving a Leica M body in there is a bit of an outlier use but at least you know you have the option there if you need it in a pinch.

With such a small bag, the addition of the pocket and potentially heavy contents can lead to the bag becoming unbalanced on the shoulder – especially if you happen to be using a shoulder pad like me. My advice: keep it light or counterbalance the contents of the bag.

Onto the AVEA 8…

The AVEA 8 in detail

The AVEA 7 is quite compact but as you’ll have seen from the pictures above, it’s dwarfed by the AVEA 8, which comes in at twice the storage capacity (1.1l).

Let’s fill it with stuff…

Do you need one?

I’ll keep this short:

If you find yourself wanting to have easily accessible pockets on your Billingham without having to open the main flap, then yes.

If you want to give your self the option for more space when taking kit to a shoot or packing for a holiday, then yes.

If you don’t want more space but want to make your bag bigger, then yes.

If you don’t want/need any of the above, then no.

It’s totally subjective and to those of you on the fence, my advice would be to find a stockist (or retailer with a decent return policy) and try it for yourself. There really is no better way.

For me, The AVEA 7 will continue to live on my Hadley Small Pro and the AVEA 8 will remain a nice optional expansion when lugging large format gear or on extended trips.

Thanks for reading.

~ EM

Technical specifications

AVEA 7 specifications

Material3-layer waterproof canvas or 3-layer waterproof FibreNyte
ColoursExternal materialLining
Khaki Canvas / Tan LeatherOlive
Khaki FibreNyte / Tan LeatherOlive
Khaki FibreNyte / Chocolate LeatherOlive
Sage FibreNyte / Chocolate LeatherOlive
Sage FibreNyte / Tan LeatherOlive
Black Canvas / Tan LeatherOlive
Black Canvas / Black LeatherOlive
Black FibreNyte / Tan LeatherOlive
Black FibreNyte / Black LeatherOlive
Burgundy Canvas / Chocolate LeatherChocolate
Grey Canvas / Black LeatherBlack
Imperial Blue Canvas / Tan LeatherOrange
External dimensionsW130mm (5") (measured at the top) x D90mm (3½") x H180mm (7")
Internal dimensionsW100mm (4") (measured at the top) x D60mm (2⅜") x H150mm (6")
Rear internal pocketW90mm (2½") x D Nominal x H80mm (3⅛")
Capacity0.5 litres (0.02 feet³)
Weight0.13Kg (0.29lbs)

AVEA 8 specifications

Material3-layer waterproof canvas or 3-layer waterproof FibreNyte
ColoursExternal materialLining
Khaki Canvas / Tan LeatherOlive
Khaki FibreNyte / Tan LeatherOlive
Khaki FibreNyte / Chocolate LeatherOlive
Sage FibreNyte / Chocolate LeatherOlive
Sage FibreNyte / Tan LeatherOlive
Black Canvas / Tan LeatherOlive
Black Canvas / Black LeatherOlive
Black FibreNyte / Tan LeatherOlive
Black FibreNyte / Black LeatherOlive
Burgundy Canvas / Chocolate LeatherChocolate
Grey Canvas / Black LeatherBlack
Imperial Blue Canvas / Tan LeatherOrange
External dimensionsW165mm (6½") (measured at the top) x D95mm (3¾") x H200mm (7⅞")
Internal dimensionsW125mm (5") (measured at the top) x D80mm (3⅛") x H180mm (7")
Rear internal pocketW110mm (4⅜") x D Nominal x H100mm (4")
Capacity1.1 litres (0.04 feet³)
Weight0.17Kg (0.37lbs)

Write for EMULSIVE

EMULSIVE is all about promoting knowledge transfer across the film photography community. You can help by contributing your thoughts, work and ideas to inspire others reading these pages: check out the submission guide.

If you like what you're reading you can help this passion project by heading on over to the EMULSIVE Patreon page. There's also print and apparel over at Society 6, currently showcasing over two dozen t-shirt designs and over a dozen unique photographs available for purchase.

Leave a comment