Gear bags are one thing, but when it comes down to carrying your camera gear you need a specific bag for the job. Think Tank has become a household name in the photo industry. Think Tank's Retrospective series of bags are notably the most popular of them all for their unique design and capable storage. Think Tank's latest shoulder bag is the Retrospective 7, a charming camera bag that hits all the right spots and can carry everything you need to shoot comfortably including your tablet or MacBook Air. We've got much more to talk about and so little time, so head past the break for the full review!
Think Tank's Retrospective 7 is a step up from most camera bags, and at $155, it isn't exaclty sucking your bank account dry. You do get your monies worth with this one, let me tell you that. Traditional camera bags have a few things wrong with them, they're pretty much all downright ghastly, and can be spotted a mile away as a bag that holds valuable camera gear. On the flip side, the Retrospective 7 is the most beautiful, and arguably the best looking camera bag there is. The exterior of it has a modern-day appeal designed with classic materials clean of any logos and badges. One has to appreciate the Retrospective's solid and svelte design free of clashing colors, textures and confusing crossing lines. This bag has the perfect laid back, ridiculously simple looking exterior that'll make you look less like an amateur and more like a National Geographic photographer.
The build quality of the Retrospective 7 is second to none. The bag feels really well made out of quality materials that can endure many travels and loads as time moves on. All of the strap adjustment hardware is metal, which not only looks better than plastic, but it also won't break or wear down. The Retrospective 7 comes in this washed-out greenish Pinestone cotton canvas, a blueish Slate cotton canvas as well as in a black polyspun nylon. Cotton canvas is definitely the way to go when picking up a Retrospective bag for its unique texture. The fabric material feels rough to the touch like a pair of jeans, yet soft and forgiving.
Think Tank gave the canvas a scuffed style by blasting it with sand to create a subtle color and pattern difference that looks really good. The Pinestone cotton canvas fabric on the Retrospective 7 is treated with water-resistant coating while the interior is lined with nylon. Additionally, you can throw on the Retrospective's stowable, seam-sealed rain cover for when you're caught in some pretty insane weather conditions to keep your gear dry.
The Retrospective 7 offers two methods of transport carrying, you can either use it as a shoulder bag using the robust shoulder strap, or by way of grabbing the handle. Using the shoulder strap is very comfortable. There's an amply cushioned, non-slip shoulder strap pad that stays put where you place it and eases the bag's load around your shoulder quite well. Depending on how much gear you're going to be carrying, it's safe to say that with two options of carry, you're going to find the Retrospective 7 to be a pleasure to use as I did.
Underneath the large flap are two large Velcro strips to secure the bag closed. And we think they're the most cleverly designed Velcro strips ever to be put into a camera bag for good reason. The Retrospective 7 features Think Tank's ingenious Sound Silencers - which let you mute the loud screeching Velcro noise in quite environments and discreetly open and close the flap. In situations where you see yourself constantly reaching into your bag for gear, this is an amazing feature that lets you quickly lift open the front flap. Brilliant for street photography.
Moving into the interior of the Retrospective 7, you'll find that the entire interior is loaded with padded, dense foam liners and stiffeners which you can re-arrange to custom fit your gear arrangement. Think Tank also throws in an extra set of interior pads in case you need more building material. These also help keep the form and shape of the bag without it sagging onto itself. On top of all that, the surrounding walls of the bag are lined with a microfiber fabric instead of nylon.
The Retrospective 7 is one of Think Tank's smaller shoulder camera bags that's an ideal every-day carry bag. The Retrospective 7's main interior compartment is roomy, and is designed to perfectly fit a normal sized DSLR with a normal sized zoom lens attached, plus two other normal sized zoom lenses as well as a host of other small accessories and add-ons you might have the need to carry along with you. What this means is that if you're a lucky bastard that uses a bulky pro-DSLR like the Nikon D4 or the Canon 1D X that's got a battery grip attached, then you may want to look at the larger Retrospective bags like the Retrospective 10 and beyond for a more spacious carry capacity.
As for my camera gear setup, I've managed to fit a semi-pro Nikon D7000 with a battery grip and a stock 18-105mm zoom lens attached into the Retrospective 7 facing downwards just fine with room for two more spare lenses. Depending on your gear, there's enough room to fit a total of 4 prime lenses altogether with your camera body for an overkill, maximum capacity.
So the Retrospective 7 can carry a bunch of camera gear, but what about some much needed accessories? It has that covered as well. There are deep side pockets on the inside as well as on the outside, one large expandable front pocket with a Velcro closure capable of fitting another medium-format DSLR body or upwards of two flashes, one large interior zippered compartment and a number of little pockets for memory cards, filters - you name it. If organized storage space is what you want, you've got a handful here. Maybe a little too much to keep track of. If that's not enough however, Think Tank has a few optional gear pouches that can attach to the side of any Retrospective bag for additional, modular capacity.
Finally, around the rear is where the Retrospective 7 prides itself with a large, nylon lined and padded, zippered compartment specifically tailored to fit either an 11-inch MacBook Air, or an any iPad and similarly sized tablet with a case on. It's also where a leather Think Tank logo and pull tab neatly find their place.
Think Tank has done us proud. We can't fault the Retrospective 7 other than pointing out small nitpicks like it having no bottom feet and the lack of larger Retrospective models capable of holding a 13-inch MacBook Air and above. Hopefully Think Tank takes care of that in the near future. Until then, the Retrospective 7 is a joy to use especially if you're a professional photographer needing a stealthy, rugged bag with a lot to give. Most importantly it holds everything that you need to successfully accomplish virtually any photoshoot that doesn't require a full studio setup, no excuses.
Think Tank's Retrospective 7 is well worth the asking price, and if you're in the market for a superior camera bag that's contemporary and can hold your camera gear plus your MacBook Air or tablet, look no further. This is one incredibly well thought-out camera gear carrier. We love it, and can highly recommend it.