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Billingham Superflex

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by GeoffR, Nov 23, 2019.

  1. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    I have a number of Billingham camera bags, most of them dating back far enough that the superflex dividers are of the old type. Over the years the foam inside the dividers has disintegrated and now offers no protection what so ever. I contacted Billingham to be told that there was nothing they could do, perhaps not surprising considering the age of the dividers. They did however tell me that the original padding was open cell foam and the new ones use closed cell foam.

    I have no fewer than five supeflex inserts and buying new replacements would cost around £100, depending on which ones I need and whether there is anything that meets all my requirements. Having determined that I have nothing to lose I decided to see if I could open up one of my dividers and replace the foam.

    It turns out that the bottom edge is stitched and over locked to stop the edges of the material from fraying so getting into what are effectively pockets is relatively easy, if messy as the old foam has become sticky dust.

    New closed cell foam is readily available, I have some 6mm in black that is easily cut to size. All I now need is for the cloth to dry as I could only get the old foam out bu washing each pocket in running water. Once I have restitched the edges I should have a usable superflex again. I have foam for two of them so I'll try to photograph the process for the second one and see if I can post some images.
  2. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    Having repaired my favourite bag - a Kata Access 16 PL - where the strap lugs were slowly pulling the bag apart, I know the great feeling of success when you pull a bit of ancient kit back from the grave.

    Mind you, I am bit surprised that a bit of top end kit like a Billingham bag is in need of such a drastic organ transplant. I don't feel so bad about my Kata now, as that was only five years old.
  3. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Even top end kit is only as good as the materials available. Billingham freely admitted that they had used an open cell foam for padding in the original superflex and that it had deteriorated. Other than the foam padding the dividers are in excellent condition which is why they were suitable for repair. Remember too that they are at least 20 years old and some neared 25. The bags seem to be in near new condition despite some hard use so it is clear that the fabrics used are durable. I wouldn't be so pleased if the bags were only five years old though.
  4. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Must have been bag week. I rearranged my outfits and now have 2 spare bags!
    SqueamishOssifrage likes this.
  5. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    Definitely bag week! I bought a new bag - another Kata Access 16 PL - but a newer version than the one repaired above. It has the strap-lugs mounted to the sides, rather than the back of the bag, which means they won't start to pull away like the old ones did. Unfortunately, it also means that the two external pockets have been replaced by extra space inside the bag, which is not nearly as convenient.

    I now have the heavy bag, the light bag and the very light bag, each holding kit appropriate to the occasion - except that although I have lenses for each bag I only have two bodies. Let me see now - what's coming up on Black Friday... :eek::D
  6. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    Spare bags? What an unusual concept! Don't you mean back-up bags just waiting for more kit? :p:D
    El_Sid and Andrew Flannigan like this.
  7. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Well that proved to be interesting, the original construction of an original Superflex involved stitching through the foam so when I cut the new foam to length it was shorter than the original, not a problem but it does mean a shorter divider. The second one I cut the foam slightly longer and just stitched across the open end which worked well and means that the foam is firmly pushed to the top. I also cut the pieces slightly narrower so they were easier to fit in the pockets, the first one I didn't anticipate the effect of 6mm foam in the space where a thinner, more compressible, material had been.

    Looking at the latest Superflex the foam is in sections, much the same as I have done with my repair, but construction is different meaning a repair like this wouldn't be possible. Just in case anybody was wondering.

    Pardon? There is no such thing as a spare bag, it is simply awaiting an appropriate outing to exploit its capabilities.

    My Billingham Hadley 1 was bought specifically for travelling with a single body, two lenses and a 13" MacBook Pro, plus all the necessary accessories. When I have no space constraints I take the much bigger 445 and three bodies, the 330 sits in a cupboard with two film bodies then there is the LowePro Correspondent which is full of lenses and the LowePro...etc. No spare bags here.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2019

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