Many thanks to the team at Think Tank Photo who kindly provided a Retrospective 20 for review.
To say my search for the perfect camera bag was extended, arduous, treacherous and generally expensive would be an understatement. Before the internet is mainstream I only know of LowePro because they are featured heavily in shops (yes, those brick and mortar places). I was also a naive youngster who really did not know much about photography or what I really wanted out of a bag as long as it is big enough to hold my camera between uses.
Since then I have moved onto other brands, other bags, different configurations, jerry rigged and then for a long period I actually went without a bag and used a padded wrap instead. All of these I have taken out on photoshoots, walks, trips interstate, trips overseas and none have felt "just right".
When the Retrospective 20 was delivered, the unanimous response was "it is huge!". The bag is far taller than I expected and to be honest I wondered if I have totally misjudged its size in comparison to the gear that I intend to carry in it. The appearance is decidedly minimalistic which was one of the key features I was looking for, and solidly built. Every seam looks well sewn, the treated cotton canvas is both water resistant and well, looks stunning. One of the included tags states the use of YKK RC-Fuse zippers for "superior abrasion resistance". Where metal is used in the construction they have a care worn finish that matches the bag perfectly. The name Retrospective is apt for this old style shoulder bag.
When I first laid out all my camera gear (which I assure you is hardly the amount I wish I have), I was certain that they would just fit into the Retrospective 20. Then I started putting them into the bag and lament at how little I really own. I imagine this is how Harry (Potter) and Ron feels every time Hermione rummages in her handbag, the Retrospective swallows gear like TTP has casted an undetectable extension charm on it.
So where do I even begin to describe the space? Working back from the front of the bag - covering most of the frontage of the Retrospective 20 is a single compartment with a bi-fold side which as shipped from the factory is where the rain cover is stowed away. How big is that space? I can fit two 1000 page paperbacks side by side without any problems.
Next, an organiser area where I put my filters, lens wipes, remote trigger, pens and other assorted bits and pieces. This area adjunct to the cavernous main compartment which comes preinstalled with two (2) large removable separators pre-installed. There are another 1 large and 2 small separators shipped as part of the kit so you can reconfigure it as it suits. Personally I have opted to divide the compartment into three sections with my camera body and lens attached in the middle, additional lenses to one side and the external flash on the other.
On either inside end of the main compartment is collapsible nylon pockets tall enough to fit my 580EX II flash, and on the outside another 2 pockets are available for things like water bottles. Further are are web loops that you could hook carabineers onto to hang more things off.
On the back wall of the main compartment is a zippered pocket that extends roughly halfway down the bag. The external back wall of the bag is a zippered compartment that easily swallows an iPad 2 in either orientation.
There is plenty of give in the fabric making life super easy to get things in and out of the bag yet holding all my gear securely. The adjustable shoulder strap is a solid piece of canvas that is built to last. Think Tank Photo has incorporated a breathable cushioned pad that is ultra comfortable with non-slip inserts sewn into the inside part. Additionally there is a thinner, shorter removable hand carry strap for when you are not carrying on your shoulder.
Right now my Retrospective 20 is carrying the following list of equipment and still can swallow more stuff:
* Canon EOS 7D with an EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens attached and lens hood on facing OUT, BlackRapid RS-5 Cargo
* Canon EF 50 mm f/.8 II lens
* Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lens (in a Skooba RAPS)
* Canon Speedlite 580EX II with Stofen diffuser attached
* Canon RC6 wireless remote control
* Circular Polariser
* ND filter
* Apple iPad 2
* Lens wipes
* USB keys
The Retrospective is secured by large patches of Velcro which is pretty standard fair. What sets them apart is the "mute" function where the velcro can be covered for silent operations where the rip tear noise would be inappropriate. Brilliant!
The included seam-sealed rain cover is designed specifically to keep the carry handle and shoulder strap outside the rain cover without exposing the rest of the bag to the elements.
This bag is tall enough to accommodate a 70-200 f/2.8 lens attached to a pro sized DSLR body facing downward.
TTP rates the Retrospective to be able to hold at a minimum:
* 1 pro size DSLR with up to a 70-200 f2.8 lens attached and 1 - 3 additional lenses
* 1 pro size DLSR (body only) in front pocket and 2 - 4 lenses in main compartment, including a 70-200 f2.8
Interior dimensions: 30.5 x 29.8 x 15.2 cm (WxHxD) (12” x 11.75” x 6”)
Exterior dimensions: 33 x 31.7 x 17.8 cm (WxHxD) (13” x 12.5” x 7”)
Weight: 1.5 kg (3.2 lbs)
Just the one gripe which was pointed out to me by the TTP social media guy, water can pool around the zip area for the back pocket. But that is what the rain cover is for right?
The Think Tank Photo Retrospective series comprises of four shoulder bags and two lens changer bags. Looking at the Retrospective 20 as a overall package, the superb attention to details should be given an award. I love the Pinestone colour which I think looks very classy on the bag yet maintaining that non-descriptive low profile image that I wanted.
When I was looking at the Retrospective 20, I had more than just camera gear in mind for it. There is sufficient room in the bag to hold my gear along with a few spare nappies, wipes and nappy sacks - making it perfect for a few hours out and about with my bub without having to carry a full nappy bag.
There is a lifetime warranty on the bags, check out the Retrospective series (and more) here. The Retrospective 20 retails for USD$167.75. Alternatively check out the TTP Blog, they run regular fun competitions for a chance to win a bag. Sime, their social media guy, is a awesome bloke to chat to as well.