Small, lightweight and roomy, the Think Tank Retrospective 5 is a perfect camera bag for a micro four thirds system. It’s big enough to accommodate an entire mirrorless kit and accessories, but also small enough to just toss in a body, a couple of lenses and blend in on the street.
If you ask any photographer what their favorite camera bag is, you’ll probably get a few answers. “Well, this one is great for hiking…I love this one for street photography…this is my travel bag since it holds everything…” etc etc. Through the years I’ve owned a number of bags, and they all served a different purpose. When I changed over to a smaller micro four thirds system though, my old DSLR bags were just too big to carry the small mirrorless gear around. Less gear is not a bad problem to have of course, but I did need to find a smaller bag that was actually designed to securely hold and transport a a small camera and lens system.
After trying a few different bags designed for small cameras, I eventually settled on the Think Tank Retrospective 5. The Retrospective series from Think Tank comes in a number of sizes, the 5 being the smallest. There are five colors/trims you can get this bag in — pinestone, black, sandstone, leather pinestone and leather sandstone. All of the exteriors are treated with a DWR (durable water-repellant) coating. The black bag has a polyester exterior fabric while the pinestone and sandstone are 100% sandwashed cotton canvas. I settled on the pinestone color, which is a washed out green.
Excellent build quality
This bag is built very well. The sandwashed cotton canvas seems to be an extremely durable fabric, and you can tell that it’s been treated with the DWR coating. In a light rain I won’t even pull out the rain cover, as I trust the bag to shed small amounts of water on its own (the rain cover, by the way, can be completely taken out of the bag if you want to reduce a little bulk). The zippers have leather pulls on them, and feel very tight when zipped and unzipped. The padding on the shoulder strap feels good and has a bit of rubber on it too, so it won’t slip. The whole bag just feels very tough and rugged, while still not screaming “camera bag”.
Velcro Sound Silencers
This bag used velcro for its closing mechanism. I like this more than the big chunky plastic locking clips that some bags use as it cuts down on weight and size. What’s cool is that you can use the velcro when you want, and tuck it away when you don’t want to (imagine you’re shooting a wedding in a church and don’t want to make any noise when you open or close your bag). This is a nice feature that Think Tank put some thought into.
Plenty of pockets and room
This bag is not lacking on the storage front. There are two zipper pockets, one internal to the bag and one on the backside. I use these to store filters and memory cards. Also on the inside, on each side of the bag are small nylon velcro pockets. I use these (sometimes) for a small lens, but usually to hold extra batteries. The front internal part of the bag has multi layered pockets. These can be held shut with a velcro enclosure. I have to admit that there’s so much storage, that I sometimes can lose things (like my tripod quick release plate) in these pockets. The large internal area of the bag is downright cavernous, but fits a small camera very well. I use a trick of gluing lens back caps together for small lenses so they fit better and don’t get swallowed up in the bag. The front of the bag also has a large velcro pocket that can expand to hold almost anything.
The next picture shows just how much you can put in this bag (and I’m not even using the front velcro section). There are two micro four thirds bodies in there — the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Panasonic GX7, and four lenses — the Olympus 12-40mm, 25mm, 45mm and 40-150mm.
It looks great
I don’t know the last time I got compliments on a camera bag like I do on this one. The bag just looks good. Random people who are not photographers will actually complement me on the bag, not knowing that it’s a camera bag (which makes me feel better about carrying a bunch of expensive gear in it).
No magnetic closures
Think Tank has a line of bags called “Mirrorless Mover” that are specifically designed for mirrorless cameras. These bags have little magnets sewn into the flap that closes over the main part of the bag that help the flap stay closed. I think this is a slick feature and wonder why they don’t add it to the Retrospective series bags. I love using the bag in “silent mode” without the velcro, so a couple of magnets sewn into the flap would be a nice addition to make the bag feel a little more secure.
Lack of better dividers
The main compartment of this bag has a good amount of room, but I can’t help thinking that Think Tank could have provided a couple more high dividers (they include some extra small dividers) or maybe some more rigid ones. I find myself going into some of my older camera bags and mix and matching dividers to find the best fit.
This is a tough one, because I actually feel that this bag can justify its price (~ $145). But, sometimes I forget that not everyone can or wants to spend this much on a camera bag, especially if they just dropped a grand on a camera body and lens. So, when friends ask me what camera bag I recommend, I usually default to the Retrospective 5, but I have to remember that not everyone is ready to spend this much on a bag.
Modifications I’ve made
The Think Tank Retrospective 5 comes with a shoulder strap as well as a handle for carrying. While I think the handle is really convenient, I removed it from my bag to save on weight and extra bulk. All of the pictures above show the bag without the handle, I’ve included the picture below so you can see how the handle looks.
I’ve also made one serious modification to the bag, which is cutting pieces of it off. I know it sounds crazy to buy a $145 bag and then start chopping it up, but these two cloth flaps covered the areas that I put my lenses in. I completely understand their purpose — they’re great protection for the lenses, but every time I went to grab a lens I felt that I had to fight with these pieces of fabric. The circles show where I cut the pieces off, and you can see the frayed edges. For me, this really improved my use of the bag.
Like any bag, it doesn’t do everything for me, but it gets enough done that for my micro four thirds cameras, it’s my go to bag. Added bonus is that it fits inside my backpack that I take to work each day with me, that I also carry my laptop in. This means I always have a super capable, high quality camera kit with me. If I want to take a walk at lunch, or go shooting on the way home from work, I can just pull the bag out of my backpack and go. I see this as a nice modular system, rather than getting something like a laptop bag with camera dividers in it.
Do you own this bag and love it? Are you still in the market for a bag for your small camera? Let me know in the comments!
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