Life as a working photographer seemed simpler 30 years ago. For most of us, labs processed our color film and filters were something we put on the front of our lenses. Like a lot of my contemporaries back then I used the simple and sturdy canvas Domke camera bag. Over 24 years of using them I wore out three before switching over to the wheeled cases and backpacks made by Think Tank Photo. A few years ago, I started thinking about all the gear I was talking myself into carrying and went back to a shoulder bag for covering events or just out shooting for myself. I decided to go with the Think Tank Retrospective 6. It has just enough room to carry a camera body, a couple of lenses, a flash, and the necessary peripherals like extra batteries and media. Like everything I've used from Think Tank, it's a sturdily constructed, well thought out, good looking product designed by working photographers for working photographers.
Think Tank recently introduced the Retrospective 2.0 line, and they sent me a Retrospective 30 V2.0 for review. At 16x11.2x7 inches, the 30 is the largest V2.0 model and is 0.7 inches taller than the original Retrospective 30. The V2.0 Retrospectives have the same comfortable feel, fit, and functionality of the original Retrospective, and the update has some truly useful features. The two I like most are the interior zippered flap, which can secure the main compartment against thieving fingers or prevent the gear inside from spilling out if the bag falls over, and a wide and tall flat strap across the back that can slip over the extendable handle on a rolling case. There's also a new zippered pocket for valuables and papers between the main compartment and the two front pockets. If you need to carry more, you can attach pouches to the cloth rails on the bag’s ends. The edge of the outer flap on the V2.0 bags is backed by a wide, ribbed canvas reinforcement with metal grommets at each end.
The extra 0.7 inches of height of the Retrospective 30 V2.0 allowed Think Tank to add an external zippered pocket that can accommodate a 15-inch laptop on the back side. The Retrospective 30 is a moderately big bag that can hold a lot of gear: up to two Nikon D5 sized bodies with lenses attached, with a 70-200mm f/8 or similar size telephoto zoom lens, and still have room for more. The capacity makes it hard to avoid the temptation to carry too much.
Both the original and V2.0 Retrospectives are made of sand-washed 100-percent cotton canvas (or 1100D weight polyester if you go with the black version) with a water repellant coating, use YKK RC zippers, and are sewn with three-ply bonded nylon thread. The metal hardware is a warm toned antiqued nickel-plated metal.
Wearing the Retrospective bag is exceedingly comfortable thanks to a broad shoulder strap and pad, and is easy to wear either bandolier style across the body or just hanging off one shoulder. A hand strap across the top of the bag makes it easy to pick up, and the bag’s semi-soft sides conform to the body well. Finally, it doesn’t hurt that they look good.
The Thinktank Photo Retrospective shoulder bags come in six sizes, the smallest at 10x8.5x6 is the 5, which the maker says can hold a standard SLR or mirrorless body, and two or three lenses, plus a 9-inch tablet computer. The model 7 holds slightly more, including a 13-inch laptop and 10-inch tablet; and the 10, 20, and 30 are designed to hold still more, including larger and taller bodied cameras. Prices start at $149.75 for the series 5 and top out at $199.75 for the Retrospective 30 V2.0.
Ellis Vener is a contributing editor for Professional Photographer.