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Review of the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5

by Mike Pouliot on 05/21/2011

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 (Pinestone)

After several years of looking for the “perfect” camera bag, I’ve finally realized that there is not one bag that can do everything. You’re better off getting a bag that fits your different shooting needs. One need that many photographers have is for a small, well made bag that can hold DSLR a body with an attached lens, a spare lens and a few other accessories. Also, many photographers have smaller kits, think rangefinder or Micro Four Thirds, that do not require a large camera bag. If this sounds like you, then you definitely want to take a look at the Think Tank Retrospective 5.

Construction

I have a few camera bags now and I thought they are all fairly well made but now that I have the Retrospective 5 in my hands, my other camera bags feel like toys. This thing feels like you could toss a live grenade in there and it would absorb the explosion without ripping a seam. The exterior is made of a super high quality canvas while the interior is lined in a soft yet rugged cotton material. All zippers and flaps are very rugged and look like they could take some serious abuse. If you think I’m joking about the quality, check out Think Tank Photo‘s lifetime warranty. I think they are pretty confident in their products.

 

Features

The Retrospective 5 may look like a small bag, but it packs a bunch of features. Check out the list of features show below:

1 The exterior of each Retrospective shoulder bag is purposefully simple, allowing photographers to inconspicuously blend into their shooting environment.
4 The Retrospective 5 also fits a standard size DSLR kit. A compact kit of prime or small zoom lenses fits easily, with one lens attached to the camera body. Pictured here is a Canon 5D with a 16-35 f2.8 attached and a 50 f1.2 beside (with lens hood in position).
2 The Retrospective 5 easily accommodates a Micro Four Thirds camera system with 3–6 lenses and accessories. Pictured here is an Olympus E-P2 with 17 f2.8 and VF-1 optical viewfinder attached, 14-42 f3.5-5.6, 40-150 f3.5-5.6, FL-14 flash, SEMA-1 external microphone adapter set, VF-2 electronic viewfinder, battery charger and an extra battery.
9 The “Sound Silencers” underneath the main flap eliminate the loud tearing sound hook-and-loop makes while opening the bag. Simply release the Sound Silencer panels and cover the hook-and-loop strips to prevent the hook-and-loop from contacting.  A clear business card pocket, for identification and spare cards, is also located under the main flap.
8 Hook-and-loop panels securely fastens the main flap down, keeping valuable photo equipment hidden from view.
3 Have a Leica, Zeiss or Voightlander rangefinder system? The smaller size of the Retrospective 5 lends itself well to street photography. Stay nimble and discreet, carrying just what’s needed for the day.
7 The Retrospective 5, 10, 20 and 30 all have an organizer pocket inside the main compartment.  It gives photographers enough space for small, but significant, accessories necessary for a successful shoot.
10 All the dividers inside the bag are removable so the interior can be customized to any photographer’s set of gear.
5 Within the Retrospective 5, 10, 20 and 30′s main compartment, are two collapsible nylon pockets (one on each side). These pockets are tall enough to fit most flash units or other accessories. A hook-and-loop strap can be used to secure the contents or it can be tucked into the pocket for quicker access.
6 An expandable pocket on the front of the Retrospective 5 can be used to carry a regular size DSLR body.
11 A wide storage pocket is located on the back of the Retrospective 5. This pocket can be used to carry small maps, booklets or other paperwork.
17 The Retrospective 5, 10, 20, and 30 each have a removable carrying handle for convenience.
14 A fully adjustable, canvas strap is integrated into each Retrospective bag.  For extra comfort, a breathable cushioned pad slides along the strap for optimum positioning.  Sections of non-slip material on the pad helps keep the entire strap on your shoulder.
12 Webbing loops on both sides of the Retrospective 5, 10, 20 and 30 can be used to carry some small Modular, Skin or Multimedia pouches on the side of the bag.  Alternatively, a carabiner (not included) can be used to quickly clip accessories to the the sides of the bag as well.
15 Side pockets on both sides of the Retrospective 5, 10, 20 and 30 can be used to carry smaller water bottles and will even fit some shoe-mounted strobe units.
13 The seam-sealed rain cover included with the Retrospective 5, 10, 20, and 30 was specially designed to keep the carrying handle and integrated shoulder strap outside the rain cover without compromising protection from the elements (Retrospective 20 pictured). View the video in the window to the right, to see how to properly attach the rain cover.
16 All the shoulder bags in the Retrospective series are available in two colors, pinestone or black.  Pictured here are the Retrospective 20 in pinestone and the Retrospective Lens Changer 2 in black.

 

Capacity

At first I thought it was going to be too small for my needs but I was wrong. My usual walk around town bag for the past few years has been my Crumpler 7 million dollar home. This bag is great as I can carry my Canon 5D with Canon 50mm F/1.8 attached, Canon 70-200mm F/4L IS, and Canon 17-40mm F/4L with no problem. I love my 7 million dollar home, but when I only want to take my 5D with the 50mm attached or my Panasonic GF-1, it’s really too much bag. The other problem is, the spare room in the 7 million dollar home is not really usable due to the shape of the bag. This is where the Retrospective 5 fits nicely. Here are a few different combinations that I used with the Retrospective 5:

Setup #1

Setup #2

Setup #3

Setup #4

Below is a series that shows the Retrospective 5 loaded up with a Canon Rebel XT with kit lens attached along with a Canon 70-200mm F/4L IS. As you can see, the Canon 70-200mm F/4L IS sticks out just a bit but it’s not noticeable when carrying the bag.

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 with Canon Rebel XT w/kit lens attached and Canon 70-200mm F/4L IS

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 and Canon 70-200mm F/4L IS

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 with Canon Rebel XT (gripped) w/kit lens attached and Canon 70-200mm F/4L IS

 

This series shows how the Retrospective 5 handles a larger body DSLRs like the Canon 5D.

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 with Canon 5D and 50mm F/1.8 attached

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 with Canon 5D 50mm F/1.8 attached and Canon 17-40 F/4L

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 with Canon 5D 17-40mm F/4L attached and Canon 50mm F/1.8

 

Versatility

As you can see from the images above, the Retrospective 5 is a fairly versatile bag. It’s great for carrying a small kit or a smaller body camera and a few lenses. The Retrospective 5 would make an excellent travel bag as it has room for your camera as well as your other items. I wish I had a bag like this on my last trip. Instead, I ended up carrying a backpack that was 80% empty most of the time.

For those times where you just want to take a point and shoot (P&S) camera and some of your other stuff or even if you want to take along your P&S with your DSLR, the Retrospective 5 has a pretty slick surprise. In the main compartment, there are two collapsible nylon pockets that can fit most flashes and P&S cameras. This means I could carry my Canon 5D with a lens attached, a Canon S95 and still have room for a bunch personal items.

If you need even more space and don’t mind ditching your rain cover, the front pocket of the Retrospective 5 can hold quite a bit. This pocket will hold my Panasonic GF-1 with room to spare.

 

In the Field

This bag has been a pleasure to use. I like having a camera bag that doesn’t scream “there is a camera in here, come steal me!” In addition to that, it’s not bland either. I’m the last person on earth that should be talking about style but I would classify this as a rather handsome looking bag, especially this color which has been dubbed Pinestone by Think Tank Photo. The Retrospective 5 is small and some may put this in man-purse or “murse” territory. Honestly, I’m married so I could care less what people think of my camera bag.

Enough about looks. I’m sure most of you are more concerned about how it performed in the field. Honestly, it was great. Regardless of the different formations that I have shown above, access to my gear was easy and everything stayed well protected. I did come up with a few small issues after using the Retrospective 5 for a bit. One small gripe is the size of the flap…this thing is huge. I understand they made it big to protect everything, but it can get in the way when you are trying to access your gear. I’m sure the more I use it the less of a problem it will be. Another lesser gripe are the small “flaps” on the sides of the bag. I’m guessing these are there to prevent gear from falling out and to keep the elements from coming in, but they can get in the way when you try to pull your camera out if you have the bag loaded up.

Some niceties that Think Tank Photo included that I personally found useful were the silencer covers and the rain cover. When I’m shooting around town, I don’t want the sound of Velcro ripping through the air as I open my bag to get a lens. Having the option to cover the Velcro is a nice touch. Other manufactures do this, and I’m glad to see Think Tank Photo has included this in the Retrospective series.

Rain covers are a no brainer. I have been saved by my rain covers in my other bags on numerous occasions and I’m glad that Think Tank Photo is included these in their smaller, less expensive models. It would be cool if they could have integrated this into the bottom of the bag so it would free up the front pocket but I’d rather have it in the front pocket than not at all.

This may sound strange but I think my favorite part of the bag is the shoulder strap and pad. The shoulder strap is nice and wide but the best part is the shoulder strap pad. Even with the bag fully loaded up, the pad absorbs and distributes the weight nicely. Also, Think Thank Photo has added some grippy rubber strips to the bottom of the pad which means no slipping, even on nylon jackets.

 

Conclusion

If you need something to carry around a DSLR and a lens  or two plus other items (flash, papers, accessories, phone, wallet, map, etc.) or if you have a growing rangefinder or Micro Four Thirds kit, you should definitely check out this bag. The Retrospective 5 is the smallest in the Retrospective line so if this specific bag is too small for you needs, be sure to check out Think Tank Photo‘s other offerings.

 

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