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Not Too Much-Not Too Little = Just Right: The Think Tank Retrospective 30

by Chris Gampat on 06/22/2011

Like most photographers, I have enough bags to make any Vogue reading 20 something jealous, but I have yet to find a bag that truly fit my needs. Too big, too small, too padded, not padded enough, looks too much like a camera bag, ugly. The list of things that i can find fault with is long. Until I received my Think Tank Retrospective 30. When it comes to products, gadgets, and toys related to photography, I am generally very quick to find fault. Not today.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest posting from Joseph W Carey

Opening The Box

I picked the bag in a color that Think Tank called pine stone which is a semi olive drab kind of color that in my opinion is gorgeous and will certainly become more attractive with wear. (but it also comes in black) Much like many other canvas bags on the market this bag will benefit from the “worn-in” look as it gets older. The first thing I noticed was that while not extremely heavy for a bag of its size, the bag was amazingly well constructed. Every zipper, flap, velcro strip, seam and piece of padding seemed to be sewed in perfectly and with great amounts of thought. The bag was close in size to my 6 million dollar Crumpler but without the bulk of that bag. It was also similar in style and size to my larger Domke but without the fear that I would break all my gear. In the words of Goldilocks it was “just right.”

Chris has a review of the Domke F2 here.

Loading The Bag

I sat down to load the bag full of gear to see if it truly would meet my needs as well as I wanted it to. The bag was gorgeous and felt great when empty but the true test was coming. Would it hold the gear I needed on a shoot and would I be comfortable carrying it throughout the day?

I decided to take it out to shoot my daughter first – a less demanding shoot as there was no money or time constraints and I wouldn’t be going all out on gear needs.

  1. Canon 5D Mk II
  2. Canon 35 1.4 L
  3. Canon 580 EX2
  4. Sigma 15mm 2.8 Fisheye
  5. 3 CF Cards
  6. Extra batteries for 5DII and Flash
  7. Gary Fong Collapsible Lightsphere
  8. Pocket Wizard TT1 and TT5
  9. remotes
  10. Light Craft Fader ND 77 with 72 Step up ring

Not a completely full bag and that was a decent amount of gear. Picking the bag up it still felt light on my shoulder and balanced well. The padding on the shoulder is, again, “just right” – a theme that continued throughout the process of reviewing this bag. I should add that the bag came with a rain cover in the front pocket and even with all that gear, I decided to leave it in essentially taking away one pocket from my storage. The day was a bit overcast and maybe I’d need it.

As the day progressed the bag still felt great and the various times I had to put it down and pick it up, I never felt the need to baby the bag in order to protect my gear. I tossed it around with impunity and found myself thinking about the upcoming shot far more than the safety of my gear.

The camera, flash, and pocket wizards all came out easy and went in easy. As I moved from location to location with my daughter I put all the gear away and took it out again in order to test the ease of use. I’d give it an A- with the minus coming due to the fact that while I love the pockets designed for the flash on either side of the bag they are both slightly tight and you have to wiggle to get the bigger flashes in. With anything smaller than a 580 or SB900  you would have tons of room but with the flagship flashes you are forced to due a tiny bit of work.

One of my complaints up top about other bags is that they’re ugly, but that was not a problem with this bag. All my photographer friends have commented on the handsome bag as well,  but for us anything that doesn’t scream “I have 2000 dollars in here” is nice. So to hear “civilians” comments was cool – not that I care (okay I do.)

The bag is loaded with nice touches that come into use as you take it around. At one point I was trying to get some shots without drawing attention and was thankful that I had thought to put the velcro into “silence” mode which allowed the bag to open without the tell tale sound of velcro opening. This is just another in a series of well thought out design choices that Think Tank should be applauded for.

Downsides

If I had to make complaints about the bag there would be only two and they are nitpicking types of complaints. The rain cover should fit under the bag or in a side compartment but not in the front pocket. I know I can fit it in other places but from the factory this is where they put it and I think that is one mistake I’ve seen. The other “complaint” would be that if the bag was about two inches taller it would fit a 13 inch macbook air comfortably. As it stands now it can carry an iPad but for a tool with any photo ability such as a small laptop the bag would need to be slightly (very very slightly) taller.

Conclusion

This will be the bag that I carry for my personal shooting needs anytime I need to carry more than one lens and my flash which is 95 percent of the time. The bag fits squarely into the larger end of shoulder bags but never feels so bulky that you don’t want to carry it but while not being bulky it maintained a good level of protection for my gear that I was very happy to have. If you shoot with a larger camera and flash system and want to carry your accessories without jamming them into your pockets this is a perfect bag for you.

Want more?

Take a look at these other camera bag reviews

Domke F2

Acme Made Photo Messenger

BJX New York

Tamrac Evolution 8

Think Tank Wired Up 20

Think Tank International Airport Roller V2

M-Classics Compact

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