Review: Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag Review Image Leica

The ThinkTank Retrospective 5 is the bag I have wanted to love so much. I normally only review stuff that makes a difference in my work in some way. This will be an exception.

I love Think Tank gear. I own half their line pretty much. Holsters, rollers, shoulder bags, belt system, etc… They have a solution for everything. And their solutions usually work extremely well and have smart designs. You know working photographers came up with their bags. Their Urban Disguise series has been absolutely amazing in so many situations. I was looking forward to their new Retrospective line. I already had the Retrospective 10. It is a very functional messenger for gear. When Think Tank announced a smaller Retrospective, I instantly thought it would be the perfect solution for a rangefinder kit. I ordered one immediately in Pinestone.

Let’s run over some details before I get into my specific thoughts.

The rear has a small pocket for maps, notepads, etc… It doesn’t quite fit an ipad nor a larger pad of paper.

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag Review Image Leica

Inside on the backside (part that is usually against your body) there is another pocket similar to the rear pocket.

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag Review Image Leica

On the inside front there are two main compartments, either which can be closed off with a velcro tab. This is usual Think Tank style pockets with holders for cards, pens, keys, memory card wallets, etc…

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag Review Image Leica

The front exterior pocket is usual Think Tank shoulder bag style as well. An ipad 2 does fit. An ipad 1 with apple case is a much tighter squeeze.

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag Review Image Leica

The inside is also usual Think Tank style material with included dividers that can be adjusted. You can only have dividers go from front to back with velcro. There is no side velcro to split a compartment in two. You can also so to each side there is another little pocket that extends out. This can be closed with velcro from the top as well.

You can see here I have a 5DmkII with a 35L lens. It fits well. The camera does take up a lot of room, so there will not be as much space for lenses, etc… You could definitely take a 5DmkII, (or similar camera)one pro lens, and a single flash. It won’t be the most elegant solution, and it certainly will not be fast access. The retrospective 10 or any of the UD series will work better in terms of access.

A mirrorless camera, or any of the consumer dSLRs with smaller bodies will work well in this bag. A Canon rebel series body with consumer lenses fits great makes a lot more sense in a bag this size. I’m sure Panasonic GH2, Olympus Pens, etc… will be a perfect match, even with a couple lenses.

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag Review Image Leica

So naturally, I figured the Leica systems must work in this bag. It does…but I have a few hesitations. Rangefinder lenses are usually small. Really small. If you drop them into a bag they will generally roll around like marbles. Forget trying to fish one out if you need to swap lenses. Conventional bags just have too much depth to handle these lenses comfortably. I honestly would rather not have Leica glass rolling around. I want a secure padded divided section to hold the lens securely and within reach. The Retrospective 5 is still a bit too airy for rangefinder lenses. The picture below is does not show how much space is still available above the lenses. I find using the two small dividers I can secure a space for small lenses fine. I can then use the two large dividers to ensure the camera stays put. So not what becomes of all the space above those tiny lenses? I am certainly not going to stack more gear on them. (Maybe that’s just me?) The supplied dividers are not thick enough, nor can they be arranged tight enough so that I can stack two Leica lenses on each other. (rear cap against rear cap) The top lens will bounce around way too much. In a Billingham Hadley Small insert, I can stack two lenses perfectly with no extra movement.

ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag Review Image Leica

So here are my overall observations.

I absolutely love the material. Pinestone cotton fabric is so great. It is much nicer in feel to the black version. The black is smoother, but also attracts pet hair, dirt, dust, and other stuff it comes into contact with. The Pinestone always just looks good. This is by far the best feeling bag think tank has made.

The Retrospective series has the best strap think tank has made as well. I wish they offered this strap separately with or without the strap pad. I would love to be able to have a removable strap made of this material. Simply the best i’ve seen and used yet.

This bag just simply can’t hold an ipad well. The front pocket adds too much weight forward of the bag’s center. I’de much rather have the ipad closer to my body that floating out front. It just carries better. For an every day camera bag with a small kit, I just don’t find this bag handles too well with an ipad in it.

Silencing velcro on the flap is nice. It definitely works and makes for a quick and easy access if you are in and out of the bag often.

I honestly wanted this bag to be the best bag every. I wanted to make it a daily bag for a small carry around kit when scouting locations, pleasure travel, and the daily photographic life. I wish ThinkTank had made this bag about an inch longer. That would have handle the ipad perfectly. For small cameras with decent sized lenses, this bag is great. For a Leica system…i just don’t find it meeting my needs the way I want. Unfortunately the bag feels so good, I want to love it. I really do. For now, the Hadley Small Insert in a Timbuk2 will still solve my needs better. Overall, ThankTank has developed a wonderful bag that is sure to be perfect for many photographers out there.

P.S. …ThinkTank…sell the strap separately too!!!!


1 responses on "Review: Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 Bag"

  1. Re iPad. Go for the main compartment: unfasten the 2 middle dividers from the rear, fasten together with a short piece of velcro. Done. If you prefer a divider, thin poster board and use a stick on piece of velcro to regain fastening the 2 middle dividers.

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