Retrospective | ThinkTank Bag Review

Back at the end of May, in the final CCR episode of that month, I discussed the need to replace my ageing and to fall about Peak Design messenger bag. Some people suggested I contact Peak Design about repair/replacement under warranty. And I did that, but the damage to my bag was not due to a fault in the make of the bag, but instead wear and tear. I received the bag as part of their initial Kickstarter in December 2015. It was initially supposed to arrive earlier in the year and would have been perfect to bring to Europe that summer. And since then, it has seen a lot of action. It went through several abandoned buildings, been to War of 1812 reenactments, took a lot of photo walks and carried more gear than it probably ever expected. So it lasted as long as it did was a testament to the build quality. But the replacements were far more expensive than I initially paid, and I wanted something a little different that had a different look and feel. Something classic that would blend into historical reenactments. So at the suggestion of Bill, James and Jess, I started to look at ThinkTank’s Retrospective line. I was sold; they had a classic look and feel, solid construction that would last a lifetime and could hold everything I needed. I picked up two Retrospective bags as the one that would have been a good catch-all was unavailable. I went with the Retrospective 50, which I got a solid deal on the used market, and the smaller Retrospective 7 V2.0 for everyday carry when space is an issue and I only have a camera with me.

Retrospectives

Impressions
The instant I saw the Retrospective line I knew I had found my future camera bags. I know you shouldn’t pick something solely on looks, but you can always make exceptions. These bags look good! As the name implies the bags have a retro look about them, with a thick weave on the outer materials, and thick well made shoulder straps. They look old, while being brand new with everything you’re accustomed with a modern camera bag. There are differences between the v2.0 and the original series, the main once being the v2.0 has more structure than the original line. And that’s good, because I have both and both are excellent. The Retrospective 50 being the larger bag, having less structure is nice, as I have had to cram in a lot more than camera gear, and then throw it under a airplane seat, while the Retrospective 7 v2.0 is a general carry so having that structure makes me feel a bit more confident. The closures are a mix of zippers and Velcro. The zippers are high quality and silent when in use, and the Velcro patches all have silencer panels. In fact, all the means of opening and sealing the bags can be tucked away to make accessing the internals easy, while still keeping things under cover. This is great as I have been able to keep my camera out and then quickly get in and switch out the lens on the camera, or reload another one with film. And when everything is sealed up, everything stays inside. The best part is that I could probably bring the 7 along as part of a WW2 combat photographer impression and at forty yards, people wouldn’t know that it was a modern bag, especially with the green colour.

Retrospective 7 V2.0
The Retrospective 7 has quickly become a favourite camera bag for everyday carry and use. And you can fit a lot of stuff in here, more than I initially thought when I first saw the bag in person. Online it presents a single SLR body (without a grip) and several lenses. But in practice my D750 with the grip, F5, and Maxxum 9 all three fit perfectly fine with a lens mounted. If it’s a short prime lens you can even throw a second similarly sized lens at the bottom of the center compartment. Then on the two sides you have enough room for at least 3-4 additional lenses, without a flash, with a flash 1-3 lenses depending on the size of the lenses. But I’ve also been able to carry 2 SLRs (1 with the lens, one without) and at least one extra lens in addition to the one with that second body. That second body cannot be too big, so far I’ve put in a Nikkormat FT2, FE2, or my Maxxum 70. A medium format kit is also possible, the Mamiya m645, with a lens mounted (either the 80 or 35) with a second lens and a light meter. Or a 35mm camera and a TLR or folder are also possible. The front pocket, while not having any sections designed to carry rolls of film does have a second zippered pocket that can hold several rolls in either 35mm or 120. But what makes the Retrospective 7 super handy, the bottle holder on the side, perfect for a water bottle or the all important travel mug with coffee!

The Event Kit
A fairly standard event photography setup, with the D750, 24/2.8, 35/2D, 85/1.8D, 105/2D and there’s still room to add in the 50/1.4D and swap out the 24 for either the 28/2.8 or 14/2.8D and if needed add a flash.
Camera Review Video Kit - Rolleicord Vb
What I took to shoot a video review on the Rolleicord Vb, shows how much kit you can fit into the bag!
Medium Format Outfit
Even multi-lens systems, like the compact m645 works well with a meter, some film and three lenses.

Retrospective 50
The Retrospective 50 is the bag I got as the direct replacement for the Peak Design EDC messenger bag. Mainly because the two seemed to have a similar size and amount of kit you can stash in them. Being a part of the original line, and having no direct replacement in the v2.0, I can see the differences between the two versions. The 50 is far less structured that allows it to be crammed into tighter spaces especially when it is empty. But when filled, you still have the same level of protection of your gear inside. It is also far more customisable than the v2.0, which means I can carry far more gear in the 50. Multiple bodies, lenses, and accessories, I can even fit my 4×5 Crown Graphic, lenses, film holders and a meter without any difficulty. And when I don’t want to carry a backpack or don’t have room for my backpack, it makes perfect sense. But you do have to keep in mind your level of comfort for carrying heavy kit around. And the 50 works well as a carry on bag, I was able to pack my D750, Maxxum 70, a few lenses and plenty of extra kit for travelling with a toddler. And despite the crammed nature of the flights, fit in the overhead compartment or under the seats. The one trouble is that with the size of the 50 it is awkward to carry around on a photo walk, so I have relegated it to being a carry-all then divide kit into a smaller bag for multi-day trips when I have some extra space to play.

Large Format
Yup, with a bit of work a Crown Graphic, lenses, and film holders all fit, the only thing is lashing the Tripod to my back.
Wedding Load Out
A typical wedding load out, I would also carry a flash, and if needed the 70-200/2.8G, but I would have to sacrifice something.

The Lowdown
The one thing that you will notice with the Retrospective line of bags is that they do come at a cost, but think of these bags as an investment to protect your investments and gear. I’m glad I went with the two different models. Although I do mostly run with the 7 more than the 50 mostly because I don’t want to overburden myself. That’s the biggest issue with larger bags, is that we have a tendency to pack everything and the kitchen sink. But honestly I feel that I found two excellent bags that will last me for a long time and many adventures to come. And when my Click Elite Escape backpack (going strong since 2011), finally dies, it will be another ThinkTank product that replaces it.

1 Comment

  1. Amazing setup! Love the think tank bags, although I always use the classic waxed domke bags.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *