Review: Think Tank Retrospective 30 Leather

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Think Tank Retrospective Leather Camera Bag review prodcut images (1 of 11)ISO 1001-500 sec at f - 2.8

Think Tank’s Retrospective series of camera bags are very popular with photographers. They can carry lots of gear and are designed to take loads of abuse. For a very long time, they were my personal favorite camera bags not only because of these reasons, but also because no matter how much gear was packed into the bag, the shoulder strap provided loads and loads of excellent comfort.

As a refresh, Think Tank recently added leather versions of the camera bags. These versions are essentially the same bag but with lots more leather. For the more discerning of us, the Think Tank Retrospective 30 may be a great bag–but it comes with two concerns.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Looks pretty once maintenance has been done and it gets worn in.
  • Can hold lots of gear while still being comfortable on your shoulder
  • Pretty much all the great stuff about the original bag

Cons

  • Because this is a leather bag, it’ll require more maintenance on your part to uphold the good looks
  • The Retrospective series and Think Tank as a brand have become well known and are fully acknowledged as being a camera bag; so lots of folks may know that you’re sporting around cameras and glass in here.

Tech Specs

Specs and details taken from the Adorama listing for $259.75

Gear Profile
1 pro size DSLR with standard zoom lens attached and 1 – 3 additional lenses, including a 70-200 f2.8
2 pro size DSLRs (bodies only) in front pockets and 2 – 4 lenses in main compartment, including a 70-200 f2.8
1 pro size DSLR with 70-200 f2.8 attached, facing sideways and 1-2 additional lenses.
Photographer Profile
Photojournalists and travel photographers
Inner Dimension
15″ W x 9.5″ H x 6″ D (38 x 24 x 15.2 cm)
Outer Dimension
16″ W x 10.5″ H x 7″ D (40.6 x 26.7 x 17.8 cm)
Weight
3.2 lbs (1.5 kg)
Mfr #
706
SKU
TTR30L

Ergonomics

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The Think Tank Retrospective 30 Leather camera bag is very much like the original version. Basically, take the original version, put leather trims, padding and a cover on it and you’ve got the new Retrospective 30 Leather camera bag. For many photographers with more discerning tastes and the need to cram in lots of gear, that will be a winning formula.

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The bag is characterized not only by the giant leather flap over it but also by the two straps. The thinner one functions as something akin to a briefcase strap while the other larger one is designed for slinging the bag around your shoulder or torso.

Its wide design is comfortable in practice; but in hot weather it’s bound to leave a sweat stain across your shirt when the bag is fully packed.

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The front of the bag is what will really catch the eye of folks–it’s essentially a giant flap of leather that when cuddled just right lets you hear the cries and pleas of the poor cow they ripped this off of protects the interior. The rest of the bag is mostly canvas and velcro.

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Open the bag up and you’ll find that the flap has things like velcro silencers, a buckle (new addition to the Leather series) and business card holders. It’s quite a handy and practical use of space though I personally tend to shove my cards in the side pockets.

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Then you get to the inside: this is where you’ll find many, many pockets. I’ll be toting this bag around the showfloor at Photo Plus East 2015 because it lets me fit in cameras, flashes, lenses, microphones, small tripods, my laptop, chargers, an iPad and I can even fit dress pants and a shirt in here.

Trust me, I’ll need it for three days.

The main compartment has a large section with dividers and this entire section can be removed. Overall, the bag is very modifiable.

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The back of the Leather has a giant pocket where you can slip a laptop into. To the sides of the bag are pockets that are perfect for holding your phone or business cards.

Build Quality

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The Think Tank Retrospective 30 Leather is built very well. It can hold loads of gear while not giving any sort of ease or showing signs of breakage–and it can also withstand the rain quite well. In fact, we took it out during a shower and despite the fact that it comes with a rain cover, we chose not to use it. The bag still held up fine, but again we want to remind people that this is a leather product.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Think Tank Retrospective Leather Camera bag review care photos (2 of 2)ISO 2001-30 sec at f - 1.8

See this photo? This is what the leather surface of the bag looks like after I’ve waxed and oiled it. It was literally done as I was holding the camera to my eye to snap this photo. In general, I prefer to oil my leather and then wax it to keep in the moisture but protect it from cracks. I’ve been doing this for years with my shoes and considering that NYC is a city designed for walking, your shoes will often need maintenance if you don’t want to keep making trips to DSW.

The same idea applies here.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Think Tank Retrospective Leather Camera bag review care photos (1 of 2)ISO 2001-30 sec at f - 1.8

During my testing period, I gave the bag once a week maintenance with oil and wax from Otterwax. It keeps the leather durable, flexible and even gave it a bit more of a nicely worn in look that I prefer. If you’re going for a bag like this and use it everyday, be prepared to spend some time doing some work to it to uphold its good looks.

Ease of Use

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This bag is great for the traveller or the photojournalist; but it can honestly encourage you to pack way too much stuff. If you’re a photographer that genuinely needs to, then that’s fine. Getting in and out will be simple and there are so many pockets that you won’t even know what to do with it all.

I highly discourage it being used as an everyday bag though if you’re a photo enthusiast. Pack lighter because you don’t need all this stuff on a daily basis being dragged back and forth between your home and office/work locations. It’s really bad for your back.

If you’re a photographer that likes to commute via bike (the way I’m trying to become) I don’t really recommend carrying this with you because of the fact that it’s massive. You’ll need to take it off, put it in a basket and if it falls then the top of the bag doesn’t have enough protection to fully protect your gear from a hard impact of some sort. But if Think Tank put more padding in the top leather flap, then the bag would essentially be a giant leather covered pillow–which in theory could work well if you were travelling.

Just kidding…

The Think Tank Retrospective 30 Leather allows a photographer to have quick access to their cameras and lenses though to be very fair, I’ve also never really encountered a situation where I needed to always tote it around with me everywhere. When I used to shoot weddings, I’d have two cameras and I’d leave a bag like this on the side so that I wouldn’t get slowed down. It’s such a unique looking bag too that you’re bound to not see Uncle Ted carrying one around.

The same thing applies to shooting press events.

Conclusions

The Think Tank Retrospective 30 Leather camera bag is an extremely useful bag for the photographer that NEEDS it. If you’ve just got a lot of gear but don’t always need to lug it around and instead just store it, go for the regular Retrospective 30 and save some quid. The Leather is a bag designed for the photographer that needs to carry loads of gear at a time and wants a bit more style while doing so.

So who are those photographers? To be honest I think that will do best with the wedding crowd more than anything else.

At the same time though, this bag still looks like a camera bag; so you’ll want to consider that. If that’s the case, make sure the velcro silencers are off so that it makes lots of loud, awkward noise during the wedding ceremony that encourages everyone to look over at who is opening up the bag.

four-star-Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Think Tank Retrospective 30 Leather receives four out of five stars. Want one? Check out the Adorama listing for more.