Think Tank Retrospective Leather 30 field tested: An already great shoulder bag goes upscale

Think Tank Retrospective Leather 30 field tested: An already great shoulder bag goes upscale

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 30 Shoulder Bag (Gray with Brown Leather)One of the challenges of travel photography, and photo journalism, is carrying all the equipment you need without being too conspicuous or too uncomfortable. Fortunately, unlike most wildlife photography, you don’t need super-huge telephoto lenses, so a shoulder bag becomes an option. I’ve used many of them over the years, but recently have really enjoyed working with Think Tank’s Retrospective series. It combines a well-thought-out design with enough style that I don’t feel like I’m lugging a classic black photo bag. So when it was time for my annual photo tour to Southeast Asia I started out by thinking I’d once again take my with me (you can read our ). However, I had more gear to lug around this time (a , Nikon IR-Converted DSLR, Tokina 24-70 f/2.8 lens, , Nikon SB-900 flash, Sigma 12-24mm lens, Microsoft Surface Pro 3, filters, FLIR ONE, , and lots of “little stuff.” So I needed something a little larger.

Fortunately Think Tank had exactly the right solution. Their new is both large enough for what I need to carry and features nice, new leather accents and a leather cover that I thought would make it a little more fun, and perhaps even a little more rugged for the rough use my bags often get. After three weeks of planes, trains, buses, automobiles, boats, hikes, and crouching through narrow temple stairways the bag passed with flying colors. It barely feels any heavier than my (at least until I loaded it up), but is much roomier. The bag’s design combines well-thought out compartments typical of Think Tank designs, with a massive “catch-all” front pocket that was always there when I needed to cram “just one more thing” in the bag.

Retrospective features

Most of the Retrospective bags share a common set of features, so whichever one you choose you’re likely to find as many of these as work with whichever size bag you choose:

  • Multi-section camera area for camera, lens or lenses, flash, and other accessories (pretty typical for most camera bags, but I like the end pockets for stashing filters or a flash without them falling down and getting lost under other equipment)
  • End pockets for small items (I used these for my travel mouse, smartphone + FLIR ONE, etc.) The ends also feature a loop you can use to attach an additional lens case if you need yet more gear or want to carry a large water bottle there.
  • Rear zippered pocket that easily fits a Surface Pro or iPad or small laptop. It was even wide enough to allow me to slip my Dell XPS 15 into it, but not tall enough to close over it.
  • Rear “security” internal pocket. A great addition for storing plane tickets, cash, or other “not to be lost” valuables.
  • Front organizer area
  • Large front pocket
  • “Silencer” flap velcro – This is a really important feature to me. In public places where I’m nervous about my “stuff” I keep them in full velcro mode. But when I’m shooting in quiet locations – like temples and monasteries on this trip – I can set them to allow me to open and close the flap completely silently.
  • Small “end flaps” on the main camera compartment so lookie-loos can’t peer into your bag and see what you’re carrying.
  • Excellent padding on the shoulder strap – this really matters when doing a lot of walking with a bag.
  • Detachable rain cover

Here I am with the  
while photographing a temple in Southern Myanmar.
Photo by my co-lead Edwin Reinke.

As you can tell, the () is my favorite new shoulder bag for when I need to carry a lot of gear. Despite getting banged around for several weeks it is in perfect shape (aside from some wear marks on the leather from when it got dragged along some rough brick walls – that help give it that “pro” look anyway!). If I’m not carrying a huge amount of equipment, like at the upcoming CES show where I’ll be field-testing the new point and shoot, then the is my preferred bag. You can also now get a leather-trimmed version of the smaller 7 series bag – the ().

The Retrospective is fairly inconspicuous when you need to set it down in public locations.
You can see the expandable daypack I have clipped to it for times when I am wearing layers
and need a place to stash them as the day warms up. That wasn’t an issue on this warm
day in Moulmein in the Mon State of Myanmar – only miles from the Andaman Sea.