There are much better messenger bags out there than the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2, but probably not as many that are as simple.
I used to love the Think Tank Retrospective series of bags until I, as a photographer, grew to need more. I wanted style, better weather sealing, a more contained bag, and just something that could also easily function for everyday life without feeling like I was taking a giant block of gear with me. And I seriously thought maybe, just maybe, I’d get that with the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2. But unfortunately for me, I got odd problems like a lack of equal weight distribution, a bag that will tip over on itself no matter what due to its design, and a few other things that really made me wonder who this bag is for. Despite all this, the strap is perhaps one of the most comfortable I’ve used in a long time.
Pros and Cons
- The silencer is nice, but I really wonder why Think Tank didn’t just change the design and not use Velcro
- It can hold an adequate amount of gear while still being as comfortable as possible
- A lot of pockets and pockets within said pockets
- The overall design didn’t change at all
- It’s still pretty ugly when it’s packed with gear
- It still has balance issues and tips over
- The laptop sleeve is pretty tight
- You’re not going to use this for anything else but photography and even then I doubt that I’d want to bring it with me everywhere
The Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 was used with the Canon EOS R, various Canon lenses, the Sony a7r III, and various Sony lenses.
Specs for the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 taken from Think Tank’s website.
12.5” W x 8.8” H x 5.4”D (31.8 x 22.4 x 13.8 cm)
13.5” W x 9.5” H x 7” D (34.3 x 24.1 x 17.8 cm)
Laptop Pocket (fits up to 13” laptop):
12.2” W x 8.7” H x 1.0” D (31 x 22 x 2.5 cm)
2.7 lbs (1.2 kg) including all accessories
The Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 looks like a bag from the front. But as you look at it, there is obviously something a tad off about it. A part of it looks like it took inspiration from a cheap bag that may be offered as standard issue to college students during freshman orientation. Of course, part of the charm might indeed be the lack of refinement. There is waxed (sort of) canvas comprising the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2.
Here is a side view of the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2. It’s filled with gear here; my Canon EOS R perhaps being the only thing not in here. There are side pockets, but they’re almost useless.
On the back of the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 is a zippered pocket. I’d ideally like to put my laptop here, but it’s just not right. Instead, I ended up putting books and chargers in here. In this photo you’ll also find the strap that goes across it and gives you the ability to hold the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 like a briefcase. It’s nice.
Open up the top flap and you’ll see the divider system. It’s a mess and the velcro isn’t even that great. The dividers in the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 aren’t very rigid either. Then there is the front pocket, which can accommodate a lot of gear but won’t give you the weather protection it should have.
Luckily, the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 has this other flap to help give you some extra sealing on top if the top flap becomes thoroughly soaked. But the problem is the sides of the top of the bag can protrude and let rainwater in.
The Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 top flap also has the silencer system that many folks have. I’ve got my own personal beef with this that I’ll talk about later.
This padded strap on the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 is the most comfortable I’ve used in a long time. It’s bound to cause excess heat and discomfort, but it’s not bad.
The Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 is built very well in terms of its durability. I’ve got concerns though:
- If you put a big piece of gear on the sides then it’s going to extend out past the top cover. So you NEED the rain cover then.
- The photos make it look like a soft canvas, it’s more of a rough canvas
- I’m not sure why this wasn’t redesigned to not need the rain cover to begin with.
The are lots of really odd, awkward things about the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2. This year I’ve gone through a body transformation and even a 40lbs heavier version of me I think would have disliked this bag and the way it feels when it rests across my back. The photo world has stepped forward a lot and though the thick strap and padding are nice, it would have been made into a much nicer bag if there were some sort of a strap system that lets you turn the bag into a proper sling. But instead, it’s a straight, archaic messenger bag design. Practically speaking, while it has a few good things going for it, I genuinely feel like dealing with inclement weather and the lack of thought when it comes to ergonomics will keep it off the list of many a photographer.
Ease of Use
The nice thing about the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 is that it’s really simple to use. Where as some companies like Peak Design genuinely do make bags complicated, the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 is straightforward and pretty idiot proof. I specifically use that term because of the fact that Phoblographer’s audience is generally a smart bunch. So any of us will be able to look at it and figure it out. It basically goes like this:
- Lift velcro top flap
- If velcro top flap is too loud, use silencer pads but realize that this won’t give that much gripping ability. Here is where Think Tank would have benefited from something like magnets
- Place gear within dividers after dividers are customized
- Realize that dividers are pretty weak when you put gear in and so the bag won’t hold its shape or stay contained
- Put other random stuff in front pocket and realize that there isn’t a whole lot of top flap coverage
- Slip laptop in behind gear in big pocket.
- Put random stuff in the zippered pocket behind the bag
- Adjust strap
When you need to get to your gear, you’ll just undo the entire top flap. In 2018, I’m not sure why there isn’t a big zipper on top that lets you access the gear while giving the contents of the bag protection. It’s these small things that I really wonder about. Think Tank should have considered them.
I feel like Think Tank has been riding on their name for a long time. But I genuinely cannot, in good faith, recommend the Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2. I think this is the worst bag they’ve released in years and that a revamp of this lineup should have included better ergonomics and use. For the money, there are also far better messenger bags these days.
The Think Tank Retrospective 7 V2 receives two out of five stars.