Think Tank’s Retrospective 5 Is Still My Favorite DSLR Day Bag [Re-Review]


Retrospective 5 from Think Tank
Retrospective 5 from Think Tank

Back in early April, I got to review the Retrospective 5 messenger-style camera bag from Think Tank Photo.

I loved it.

But you know how it is; using something for several months offers a lot more perspective than merely reviewing it for one or two weeks. So I decided to give the Think Tank Retrospective 5 another look, and with six months of use under my belt, I’m ready to tell you how it’s really performed.

The Good

In my previous review, I called the Retrospective 5 (R5) an “understated beauty.” That’s still true, and after months of use and wear, the R5 still looks just as good as the day I got it. In fact, and I know it’s weird to say this about a camera bag, but people always compliment me on it how nice it looks. And now, with a little wear, I’d say the R5 is even prettier.

More important though, is how comfortable the R5 is to tote about. It remains one of the most comfortable camera bags I’ve ever tested. The thick cloth strap and cushy shoulder pad make the Retrospective cozy to wear, and the “grippy strips” on the bottom pad have done a great job at keeping it stuck on my shoulder where it belongs.

The strong velcro-secured front flap on the R5 has also proved to be useful. I can’t say how many times the bag has been kicked or knocked over with my camera gear still inside, yet they’ve always remained secure in such occurrences because they R5’s flap remained properly battened down. That’s important when your cargo is $5k in glass and alloy.

But it might be the R5’s compact size that I’ve grown to love the most. It fits perfectly one full-size DSLR with small(ish) lens attached, batteries, and memory cards. That’s all the stuff you need for a day of street shooting, all packed into a small comfy messenger bag. And micro four-thirds and other mirrorless systems could fit even more.

The Bad

Ah, but that small bag size, it could be a problem. Depending on how large your lens or camera body are, the R5 might prove too compact for your space needs. Think Tank claims you can fit up to a full-size DSLR and lens in the R5, but that’s only partly correct. I found the Retrospective too small to fit a full-size DSLR with standard 24-70mm zoom lens attached, unless you take the lens off the camera, and who wants to do that? I couldn’t get my Nikon D300 to fit with its 24-70mm, and my Canon 5D Mark III doesn’t make the cut either unless it’s attached to a shorter prime lens.

Pocket space has also become an issue for me. Though the R5 has several pockets sewn in here and there, many of them become totally unusable when you pack a large camera and lens in the bag. And two of the small outer pockets are hard to use even when the bag is empty.

Bottom line: the Retrospective 5 won’t be the right size for every shooter. If you have a prosumer DSLR or mirrorless setup, it’ll be perfect, but if you have a full-frame DSLR like the D800, only a prime will comfortably fit in on that bad boy.

Got a D4? Move along, nothing to see here.

The Verdict

After six months of use, I still love the Think Tank Retrospective 5. It’s become my favorite DSLR day bag, and if you like to look sly and travel light, there’s no other bag I would recommend more highly.

[xrr rating=90%]

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