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Think Tank Retrospective 5 Bag Review

My Think Tank Retrospective 5 Bag Review.

Hey guys, I have been so busy lately with a lot of stuffs… but finally I have the time to write. I wanted to make a blog article about my search for the “perfect” everyday camera bag in this “too-much-crowded-busy-imperfect” world hehe. And how I came to choose the Think Tank Retrospective 5 as my bag of choice.

We have sometimes have the notion that only girls are into bags, no! — until I stumbled myself with photography that I myself have been a victim of having a couple of bags here and there. I have a number of bags that are good, one of my first bags was a Tamrac Pro 10 – a reporter-type bag, this was designed to carry (almost) all of my professional gears, this bag always goes with me when I am shooting professionally. It contains all the usual backups and accessories that I have stuffed them in permanently. I also have a Lowepro Computrekker AW, this is backpack-type bag that can hold a 15-inch laptop and all the big DSLR bodies and lenses inside. The Tamrac Pro 10 and Lowepro Computrekker serve as my main bags to carry the DSLR stuffs. To enlist me as a wannabe-bag-addict hehe, I also have a Lowepro Toploader 75 AW and a Lowepro Dryzone Rover to boot. For serious shoots, I am a modular-type kind of shooter who prefers to shoot with lens pouches and other belt-attached accessories for quick access – so I have a couple of these Lowepro stuffs here and there too.

However as an everyday camera bag, I find them in a way overkill and too big for that purpose. Hence I picked up a Crumpler 4 million dollar home (old version) – a sling-type bag that can carry a Micro 4/3s camera with a couple of lenses. It has served me well through the years, but it somehow lacked something, I almost always ended up stuffing it more that it can accommodate. (And yes, I bring a camera everyday sssshhh!)

Then I began (re)searching for the best everyday bag for my use.

My criteria:

1. big enough to carry my essential stuffs, yet small enough not to weigh me down

2. lots of compartments that I can stuff in the smaller things – both for photography and other misc stuffs

3. doesn’t scream like a $$$ camera bag to the public

4. comfortable to use, bring and carry around all-day

5. since I use multiple systems of camera – Micro 4/3s, rangefinder and fixed-lens camera – I wanted it to be configurable and flexible as possible

It has taken me literally months, maybe almost a year to find for this bag that will suit my needs. I have taken a look at a couple of other strong candidates – to name a few, Billingham Hadley Pro and Domke FX are runner-ups in my book, very good bags to consider too. A friend of mine was very kind to suggest to me to take a look at the Think Tank products. Having been contented with the Lowepro products through the years, I didn’t see any need to look for other brands, until the time when I extensively used the Micro 4/3s camera systems and recently with a rangefinder system, that I began looking for another bag to fit my needs. I cherry-picked the Think Tank Retrospective series bag and thought that this might just be it.

It came about a month ago, and with some miscalculations and miscommunications, I was sent with a Think Tank Retrospective 7 bag instead. I had the bag for a day or two… I felt it was too big for my use. I tried to stuff in my Nikon D3 with 24-70 2.8 attached, it fits! It has also an iPad or Mac Book Air 11-inch slot at the back. Very good bag but it was way too big for me, I would be tempted to stuff in more lenses that would eventually weigh me down. So I quickly sold this bag to a friend. Now I waited eagerly for the Think Tank Retrospective 5 bag. It finally arrived. I ordered the black one – though I was tempted to get the pinestripe or the blue slate version, but in the long run, black will be timeless and more stealthy.

The photos here show just about the maximum stuffs that I can put in without over-bulging the bag, I can put in three cameras with lenses attached. I don’t bring a camera with the lens detached, I don’t work that way, and I would like to be able to shoot right away when I draw the camera from the bag. The 3 cameras are, as shown in the photos below:

Panasonic G3 with 12-35mm 2.8, Leica M Monochrom with 50mm 1.4, Panasonic GX1 with 20mm 1.7.

Not that I would carry these three everyday, I might do this if I’m on an important travel or shoot. But I just wanted to show how roomy the interior is.

Think Tank Retrospective 5

Think Tank Retrospective 5

The bag above shows with actual contents inside. Very stealthy, no brand name visible.

Think Tank Retrospective 5

Think Tank Retrospective 5

I have strapped along 2 bungee cords and a carabiner at the side.

Think Tank Retrospective 5

Think Tank Retrospective 5

Along with those 3 cameras, I have just about all the everyday accessories I stuffed in:

Extra batteries for all the cameras above, extra SD cards, lenspen and cleaning cloth, ND filter or IR filter, Giottos rocket blower, insect repellant, calling cards, other misc stuffs, my big aviator shades and my bonnet*! (*not shown, I place  it on top of the camera compartment)

Think Tank Retrospective 5

Think Tank Retrospective 5

Very configurable. Think Tank provided additional padded dividers but I haven’t used them. It’s a nice bonus. IMHO, you can put countless of configurations for a Micro 4/3s system, a Fuji X system, and a Leica rangefinder system. Or a mix of these cameras.

After a full month of everyday use, I was able to bring it also on a recent travel, here is my conclusion about this bag:

“It is a very well-made bag, except for some very minor loose ends of the sewn threads which I guess is just but normal. Well-thought of bag for the photographer. It possibly has all the compartments you can imagine. The velcro-silencers are a nice touch for when you want to shoot in places that you would like to remain discreet. I have used this feature when I was inside a pilgrim church, very useful. It has also an all-weather cover inside that I also was able to use when it downpour during a shoot. The thick shoulder padding is heaven-sent for a long day haul. I don’t recommend using a full-sized DSLR like a D3 in there (although it would fit in), I think it wasn’t designed to be that way, I think the Retrospective 7 or 10 would fit better for this type. What I can easily stuff in are my Micro 4/3s camera and lenses, and also my Leica rangefinder. Some minor niggles (or wish list) are: it has a key chain attachment ring that might potentially scratch your camera but so far so good, I just hid it inside one of the compartments. A rotating shoulder strap plate at both ends would be nice to prevent tangling the strap when on the go. And a zipper at the top for quick access of the contents inside would be a nice added feature! Am I asking too much? Overall the bag answers all the 5 criteria I set above so I can say this is my bag of choice as for the moment. Near-perfect! I will keep using this literally everyday and it seems to be a good companion for my photographic mis-adventures!”

Photographer’s note: F/8, 1/250, ISO 100, Nikon D800E, Nikkor AFS 60mm 2.8, SB-800, SB-700, Pocketwizard Flex TT5

Feel free to interact with my blog articles, either by adding a comment below this article, or drop me an email. Thanks for reading! Keep clickin’ -Kindest, Dave

  • patrick - Great review! Been looking at this side by side with the Lowepro Pro Messenger series.ReplyCancel

  • xdayv - Patrick, thanks for reading. I highly recommend the Think Tank Retrospective 5, after a few months of using now, it carries my essential gears without hiccups! If you need help in getting one, just let me know via email. Cheers.ReplyCancel

  • John - Thanks for your great review of the Think Tank retrospective 5 bag. I too own several bags but they are either too heavy or too small. I carry my Olympus OMD E M1 with 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens + iPad mini everywhere I go, almost daily. I wonder if these would easily go into the bag? If my FL-600R flash can fit in as well, that would be an added bonus!ReplyCancel

  • xdayv - Hi John, glad you like the review. The EM1 with the 12-40 mounted will fit in most definitely. The Ipad mini will fit too but unlike the Retro 7, it doesn’t have an exclusive compartment for that. I do believe you can still snug in the FL600R. It’s really roomy inside.ReplyCancel

  • John - Hi Dave, thank you for the quick reply and with a good chance of fitting what I’ve got, I’ll make a trip to the store that sells this bag and try it for size. If I’m happy with the fit I’ll buy it. At the moment I’ve a Case Logic M111 bag for everyday use ( but being a iPad only bag it’s a bit too tight for the camera and lens) and a Lowepro Transit Sling 250 AW which I use only on long trips or holidays.ReplyCancel

  • xdayv - John, I hope the Retrospective 5 will meet your needs.ReplyCancel

  • John - Thanks Dave, I will not get a chance to check out the bag this weekend. I have also being doing some research regarding the newer but cheaper Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 30i, specially designed to fit an iPad as well. However I prefer the Retrospective 5 for its less conspicuous styling, invaluable for street photography. What’s you thoughts regarding the Movet 30i.

  • xdayv - John, I don’t have any experience on the Mirrorless Mover but have heard nice things about it. However I still prefer the more discreet and understated style of the Retro series, as you just said “for its conspicuous styling”.ReplyCancel

  • John - Hi Dave. Had a couple of hours to spare today. So I dropped by my local camera store to check out the camera bags. The shop had a large range but I picked 3 to compare. Think Tank Retrospective 5, Mirrorless Mover 30i and Lowepro Event Messenger 150. I looked at them side by side, looked at the pockets inside and out, checked the straps and the style. Looked at them in all their different colours. Put my camera and lens plus my iPad Mini in them. All 3 bags performed well. Finally following my own taste and instinct and what you wrote in your review, I picked the Retrospective 5. The 30i and the Lowepro are bigger but the Retrospective 5, has the best fit for my needs. I am very happy that my iPad Mini fitted perfectly into the front pocket although Think Thank did not specify that it was designed for the iPad Mini. The next few weeks will tell if I am going to be 100% happy with it. Thanks for your interest regarding my query. I also enjoyed looking at the photos you have in your blog and will look out for more in the future. You have done very well.ReplyCancel

  • xdayv - John, congrats! It’s a good feeling to have a good bag, isn’t it? Looking forward on how the Retro 5 will eventually work out on your end. And, glad that you liked the review and the photos. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • John - Hi Dave. First week’s use of my new Think Tank Retrospective 5 Camera bag went off well. I am happy with the size (though the Retrospective 7 could be better???) but that’s not what I want ie. a bag that’s small, light and easy to take along on all occasions. At a family party I took along my Olympus E-M1 + 12-42 mm f2.8 Pro + flash FL 600R + iPad mini. They all fitted in easily. For a street photography outing in the weekend I removed the flash and replace it with my E-PL5 body which I would usually carry on holidays as a spare (in stead of the E-PL 5 I could have fitted in my kit lens 40-150mm). I could take out and put in my E-M1 quickly and easily. The bag did not feel heavy even at the end of the day. On holidays my flash and kit lens (14-42 & 40-150mm) would be locked in my baggage and used when needed. I prefer to use the velcro fasteners at all times as I feel more secure as they will prevent my camera from falling out accidentally.
    For my future holiday trips my intention would be to pack all my photography gear etc. in my Lowepro Transit Sling 250 AW and carry it with me as my cabin bag and store the Retro 5 in my baggage bag. When I reach my destination I’ll remove what I only need from the Lowepro and pack them in the Retro 5 when I go out and about. In this way I need not have to carry the bigger and heavier bag all the time.
    I think I’ll enjoy my photography even more now.

  • xdayv - Looks like a good solid plan you got there! I didn’t go for the Retro 7 because I will just be tempted to stuff more inside, thus slowing me down. Glad to know the Retro 5 is doing well, mine will see action soon!ReplyCancel

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