I love the look of old canvas camera bags; they have a style and charisma that the bags of today can’t touch. But the problem is, canvas bags often aren’t comfortable to wear, and they also lack the padded protection of today’s more modern sacks.
With the Retrospective 5 ($137.50), ThinkTank aimed to blend the vintage look of yesteryear with the comfort and protection of today’s modern bags. They were trying to meld the best of both worlds when they created the Retrospective 5, and I think they succeeded.
The Retrospective 5 (R5) is an understated beauty. There are no obvious logos, no brightly colored bungees, no extraneous plastic buckles or doodads. The R5 looks just like a regular messenger bag, albeit a very handsome one, and if I didn’t tell you it had a camera inside, I doubt you’d be able to tell.
The inside of the bag is all business, though. You get lots of padded nylon, a plethora of pockets, and extra padded panels you can use to customize the bag space. At its heart, the R5 is as much a camera bag as any you’ll find.
I also love the more subtle features this bag offers. Like the super-padded should strap with über-grippy rubber strips on it. This means the bag is comfortable to wear and has a shoulder pad that actually stays in place — what a concept!
Something else I fancied: all the Retrospective 5’s pockets are secured. That means you can close them off with zippers or velcro, and then not have to worry about batteries or other small items bouncing around your bag.
The front flap is also secured with velcro, so you don’t have to worry about your bag falling over and spilling your new Canon 5D on to the ground.
Though ThinkTank claims you can use this bag with your full size DSLR and lens, in my situation that is only barely true.
My Nikon DSLR with 24-70mm lens does fit into the Retrospective 5, but when it’s in, some of the R5’s pockets become so compressed they basically become useless. If you have a smaller mirrorless camera or a DSLR with a smaller lens, you probably won’t have this problem, but if the inner compartment of the R5 bag was just a bit roomier, I wouldn’t be having it either.
I’ve tried a lot of small and mid-sized camera bags in my time, and the Retrospective 5 is among the best I’ve ever used. It’s beautiful, comfortable, and it’s just the right size for one camera, one lens, and all the other small camera knick-knacks one always needs to be carting around.
If a friend asked me to suggest a great camera day-bag, the Retrospective 5 from ThinkTank would be at the top of a very short list.