Review: Think Tank Retrospective 5 Camera Bag
Fuji X100 | 1/125 sec, f/2.2, ISO 2000
The Think Tank Retrospective 5 bag: Photographer tested, Shiba approved. Ever since I started regularly heading out with smaller, lighter gear like my EPL2, X100, and even Nikon FM, I’ve been yearning for an appropriate bag. I have a “carry everything bag” already, so what I need here is a bag that will carry just what I need for a particular outing. The requirements were pretty simple: durable, comfortable, portable yet efficient, and most importantly, inconspicuous.
I realized something about the design of this bag while eating dinner at a restaurant over the weekend. A family with baby in tow sat down at the table next to us, and I noticed that the father had a bag that looked just like mine, only a bit bigger and with cartoon designs all over it…and it was filled with diapers. But hey, that’s nothing to be ashamed about! Like a good diaper bag, the Retrospective 5 has a very minimalist but efficient design.
Made of highly durable cotton canvas and available in Pinestone (mine) or Black, you certainly wouldn’t confuse it for a diaper bag, but you wouldn’t necessarily think it was a camera bag either, and that’s what I love most about the Retrospective 5. I carry it around with me everywhere, so the last thing I want is for it to scream “I have thousands of dollars of camera gear in me!” According to Think Tank, the minimalist design was intentional in order to help photographers inconspicuously blend into different environments.
Fuji X100 | 1/480 sec, f/2, ISO 200
Under the main flap there’s a clear pocket for your business card along with a really cool hook-and-loop strip system equipped with what Think Tank calls “sound silencers.” Again, the design of the bag is purposefully minimal and inconspicuous, so how inconspicuous is opening a hook-and-loop strip sealed bag in a quiet environment? Not very.
The image on the left shows one of the hook-and-loop strips in “silent mode.” In this configuration, the flap just falls over the bag instead of attaching at the strip, and hence makes no noise. This is how I leave the bag most of the time. On the far right the strip is active, and noisy. =)
Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | 1/50 sec, f/1.7, ISO 400
The strap is awesome. The strips of highly grippy rubber (feels like silicone) along the strap’s padding are extremely effective at keeping the strap from sliding, allowing me to hang the bag on the edge of my shoulder and move around with confidence while the bag stays put. Thoughtful little details like this add up to make this bag great.
On the left is an included, seam-sealed rain cover. It covers the entire bag with the exception of the straps to protect your gear in the rain. You can see it deployed here.
Fuji X100 | 1/40 sec, f/2, ISO 1000
Even though the Retrospective 5 was designed with rangefinder or micro 4/3 systems in mind, it will still happily carry a big DSLR (though your shoulder may not be quite as happy). In the bag above is a D700 with Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G mounted (that’s a big chunk of glass), and in the side pocket a Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, stacked on top of a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens. There’s still plenty of room to the left of the 50mm, so a bigger lens could definitely take its place. I could mount my 24-120mm f/4 VRII and put it in the bag with my 70-300 VR and have a really wide range in a very small bag.
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/30 sec, f/2, ISO 400
This is my most common setup when I head out onto the street, walk the dog, or for travel. In one compartment is my Fuji X100, and in the other, my Olympus EPL2 with Zuiko 50mm f/1.8 mounted, effectively giving me a wide and a telephoto in two cameras. This setup is extremely light. The bag also comes with plenty of removable compartments that allow you to customize the interior any way you like. Think Tank says it can easily take a Micro 4/3 system with 3-6 lenses plus accessories. I believe it!
Olympus E-PL2 + Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 | 1/20 sec, f/1.7, ISO 400
See that front pocket in the image above? It’s expandable, so much so in fact that it can swallow my D700 body with ease:
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/30 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400
Of course, it has no problem carrying my X100 all by itself. If I want to travel as light as possible, I just slip the one camera in the bag, and the rest of the bag easily holds chargers, batteries, and other accessories.
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 35mm f1.4G | 1/50 sec, f/1.4, ISO 400
Finally, a removable carry handle. Sounds simple, but it’s extremely convenient in practice.
This post doesn’t even cover every single feature, just my favorite ones. There are many little purpose-made pockets and compartments in the bag that I didn’t mention here, but the bottom line is that if you’re a micro 4/3 or rangefinder system user, or even a DSLR user who wants a more compact and inconspicuous solution for carrying a camera and one or two lenses, the Retrospective 5 is a great choice.