I’m a huge fan of Think Tank’s products for photographers, and when you see the attention to detail, you can see why their equipment are so popular around the world. Today I’m reviewing their flagship shoulder bag, the Retrospective 50. This is a long term review, as I’ve used this as my everyday bag now for close to two years. A while back I wrote about the Airport International V2 roller bag and whilst I love it for lots of reasons, it’s size was like a magnet to airline staff and their weighing scales. Whilst it would always fit inside the bag check, fully loaded it weighed in at close to 20kg. To take the stress out of flying to different assignments, I looked once again to Think Tank for a solution and chose the retrospective 50. Able to fit the same amount of gear as my roller, I assumed it would garner less attention at the boarding gates – and I was right! I originally figured it would simply be my travel bag, but since then has become my everyday bag, with the roller relegated to studio light carrying duty.
Available in black, pine and slate blue, I chose the black which has a very hard-wearing polyspun nylon exterior, together with a comfortable shoulder strap, hand strap and multiple compartments. Due to my shooting style over the years within the press and PR industry I always go to every job with two cameras with lenses attached, so I needed a bag that would accommodate this way of packing. The main interior is divided into three separate compartments, allowing me to fit a 5D mkIII with 16-35mm 2.8 attached in one, another 5D mkIII with 70-200mm 2.8 to the opposite side, and another lens + Canon transmitter in the middle. It’s a snug fit with the battery grips attached, and an even better fit without them.
There are also two outer pockets on each side which comfortably fit the canon 600RT EX flash guns, as well as webbing loops to which you can attach additional modular components, such as lens bags, etc. One of the features I like is the additional pockets on the insides which also handle the flashes very well. This comes in real handy when you don’t want your flashes to be seen, such as in airports. Then when you arrive on location, you can simply transfer them back to the outside pockets for easy access.
I use a Macbook Pro 13″ laptop, but the Retrospective 50 can accommodate up to a 15″ computer as well. It’s very well padded, and even has it’s own Velcro latch to keep everything safe and secure. The compartment is designed in a way that makes it very easy to get the laptop in and out even when all your gear is fully packed inside. For super quick access, there is also a zipped compartment on the back of the bag which will accept a 13″ Macbook pro. Not sure it would fit the 15″ and it’s not padded so I would usually only use this option when I needed very quick access without wanting to open the velcro closing of the main flap (handy for the overhead bins on airlines).
There is also a front compartment / pouch area which is actually fairly substantial in size and can be changed into two separate areas. I usually leave it as one large opening and throw my Black Rapid camera straps, external flash power units and other ‘not easily damaged’ accessories in there. For the purpose of this review however, It’s also shown here separated into two sections and as you can see can easily accommodate two pro DSLR’s with body caps.
On the inside there is another organizer pocket inside the main compartment. This is extremely useful for all the small things we take with us to shoots – business cards, pens and notebooks, off camera triggers, time lapse components, etc. There’s also a small lanyard with a clip on the end to attach your CF card holder, something I use constantly. No fear it will ever fall out of the bag.
There are certain features of this bag which makes it such a pleasure to use. Every compartment both inside and out have their own velcro latches to keep everything safe and secure, but also are designed to close the area up and out of the way when you don’t need access to them (photos below). But my favourite is the sound silencers underneath the main flap which are used to suppress the loud tearing sound hook-and-loop makes while opening and closing the bag. This has been a godsend on some jobs where before I would have to wait for a break in proceedings at an event before quickly opening previous bags (be it velcro or zipper) to get at a lens or flash gun.
Lastly, the reason for the late review was because I also wanted to test the durability of the bag. It’s funny but I really like that ‘worn in’ look on a bag, but after 2 years and counting, I’m still waiting for it to happen with this one. And it’s not for lack of trying. I would be the first to admit I don’t handle my gear with kid gloves. They are tools for the job and are treated as such. This bag has been all over the place with me, pushed along the ground whilst in queues, chucked in and out of cars, planes, trains, boats and helicopters, sitting in the dirt on the side of a mountain, crammed in with lots of other gear – some of which had sharp corners, and otherwise abused (crazy considering what it’s protecting all the while). Yet if I cleaned it down tonight, It would probably look like it came straight off the show room floor! Check out the picture of the bottom of the bag. Not a scratch….. Considering I like that ‘worn’ look, I probably shouldn’t have bought this bag
If you have any questions, feel free to use the comments section below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.