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ThinkTank Retrospective 30

Weight: 3.2lbs

    The ThinkTank Retrospective 30 is a camera bag that doesn't look like a camera bag. That was the single largest attraction to it. Most camera bags, with their high-tech look of fancy black and gray fabrics scream "steal me".  This is a big concern on international expeditions, but even in day to day life it's nice to have a camera bag that won't cause undue stress when you need to set it down for a minute.

   Out of the box the ThinkTank Retrospective 30 reeks of quality and craftsman ship. The fabric is nice and think, the stitching well done and everything feels right. It just has a good tactile feel to it. Camera users know this feeling from high end camera bodies. In many ways with its old looks and quality build the ThinkTank Retrospective reminds me of an old Nikkor AIS lens. Simply a well made product.

   Yes it can hold that much. And it can hold it well. About the perfect amount of stuff for a weekend on the road with no planned shoots. Inside: Nikon D700 with Nikkor 24-70 2.8 attached. Nikkor 70-300VR, Nikkor 135mm 2.8, Samyang 14mm 2.8 and Nikon N6006. Plenty of room for extra small stuff; a stack of filters, wireless remote, batteries, headlamp, lenspen, lens cleaning solution, lens cleaning cloth, pen, notebook, flashlight, batteries, cf cards, hand warming thingy and a headlamp. At this point the bag is full and that all adds up to quite a bit of weight.
   With that weight, I find the ThinkTank Retrospective 30 much more comfortable than the LowePro SlingShot 300 that I've used extensively. A large part of this is due to better padding on the shoulder strap and the ability to switch shoulders. It's also much easier to get a camera out of the ThinkTank Retrospective, because there are no zippers to hassle with. A nice detail on the ThinkTank Retrospective is the Velcro covers for the top flap. You can either use Velcro to keep the top flap snug, or cover the Velcro for silent egress of the camera.

   It's easy to get gear in and out of, and is comfortable for shorter hikes. It carries just the right amount of gear for day to day use. The configuration is flexible and easily adjusted to carry a variety of gear. People just don't think it's a camera bag. While waiting for a moon rise a couple came up and asked me to take their picture. I was carrying the ThinkTank Retrospective and a tripod. They were confused why I had a tripod and wasn't a photographer. The bag also has not one but two pockets that can either fit a small laptop or paperwork. This is nice, as too many bags on the market lack a pocket or sleeve large enough to fit paperwork into without folding it. There is a lot to love about the ThinkTank Retrospective 30, but nothing is perfect, and there are a few things that could be improved on it:

-The short carrying handle blocks the top flap from fully opening. I would like to have a carrying handle, but took this one off because I'd rather have the top open all the way.
-The side pockets at each end of the bag are useless. They are not an elastic material, getting anything in or out of them is a struggle. Perhaps they were just designed to be covers for the strap attachment point, but they could be great water bottle pockets.
-There is a flap of excess fabric on the inside ends of the bag. When trying to remove a snug fitting lens with the lends hood reversed, the will hood sometimes catch. They should be sewn down or trimmed better at the factory.
-Nowhere designed to store filters. It would be nice to see a couple of pockets for 77mm filters on the inside of the top flap. As it is, there is no great place to put filters in the bag.

Going to make this summary just like my lens reviews.

  Build: 9/10                   - 10/10 if it was made in the US or similar instead of Vietnam
  Handling: 8/10             - It handles very well with a few minor issues noted above, notably snagging of lens hoods and carry handle.
  Performance: 9/10       - Very little I would change on this bag. People won't assume you're a photographer or carrying something valuable. Easy to get gear in and out of.
  Value: 8/10                  - You get what you pay for. It's not cheap at $190 but it's well built and will outlast a modern camera or lens.

  Overall: 9/10                - Damn near perfect, could be with a few adjustments in design.