I haven't seen any reviews of ThinkTank gear on here so I thought I'd post my review of the retrospective 20 which I recently purchased. I apologise for any of the photos that don't look great, it's been a bad week with babies teething so I simply batch processed these photos to get them out.
I had a Lowepro bag which has been problematic for a while, largely because it couldn't offer me the ability to carry my D700 with battery grip and 70-200 f/2.8 attached. These days I tend to use my 70-200 a lot, largely for sport or candids with children where you need to stay back a bit to give them the space to have fun so the requirement to change my lens before putitng my camera in my bag was annoying to say the least. In hindsight, I can't blame the Lowepro too much, it served it's purpose and I probably didn't realise that I would have my 70-200 attached as much as I did. It was a cheap solution to my bag problem at the time.
I have a hard case and whilst that is my permanent storage case, I needed to carry around a fair bit of gear which includes my D700 with grip, 24-70 f/2.8 and 70-200.
When I was looking for a camera bag, I wanted something that was a little inconspicuous, that didn't shout "camera bag". As much as theft in Australia isn't exactly as bad as other countries, I also find that there is a no reason a camera bag can't look a little more stylish. It was for this reason that the bulk of the camera bags I looked at were not ideal choices. I can't remember exactly how I came across the ThinkTank, it might have been under one of the reviews for a comparable Lowepro alternative, but the moment I saw the pictures, I knew it was something I wanted to have a look at. The main reason I liked the look was the pinestone finish which offer a retro old school canvas finish that looks aged (or distinguished depending on your age). After fishing around around for reviews and having a look at a couple of the alternatives like Crumpler, I dropped into my local camera store (I have one about 500m from my house which is dangerous) and had a look at a couple of the bags, which resulted in some damage to my credit card and a new acquisition for my photography collection. The damage wasn't too bad, I paid $200 for the bag which seemed pretty reasonable given the quality.
Based on the reviews, I was expecting the Retrospective 20 to be a little larger than it was, but when you start playing with the bag, you realise that it can fit a substantial amount of equipment in it and the looks are a little deceiving. It looks a little like overweight laptop bag. When you see what fits in it, it just seems like it should be bigger.
To put it into perspective, in this bag I carry:
- D700 with battery grip and 24-70 f/2.8 or 70-200 f/2.8 attached.
- 24-70 or 70-200 separate (depending which is attached to the camera)
- 50 f/1.4
- 1.4x converter
- SB700, SB600
- Light meter
- Spare batteries
- Other accessories (small items)
With these in the bag, I still have the two side pockets available and I could probably fit another body in the front pocket if need be. The top of the lens showing in this photo is a 70-200 f/2.8 so you can see how the camera would fit easily with the 70-200 attached.
From a quality perspective, there is very little to fault in the bag. The strap has some of the best padding I've ever seen and even when I have all my gear in it, it's still fairly comfortable, or about as comfortable as a bag can be with with 20kg's of gear hanging off one shoulder. The materials and workmanship is top notch and you'd be hard pressed to find a better quality bag.
From the design perspective, the retrospective bag is the kind of bag that was designed for photographers by photographers. These people thought carefully about the kinds of things that annoy photographers and they incorporated them in their bag.
The kinds of little touches that make sense to photographers include the velcro silencers so you don't have the entire congregation staring at you when you have to open your bag to change lenses during those wedding vows. It's offers loops for attaching additional gear and we're not talking those fake loops that would break if you attached anything heavier than a drinks bottle, you could hang a couple of bodies with 70-200's on these loops.
The only things I could really fault was the rain cover which makes it difficult to access the bag contents, but I think that is always going to be the case with producing a good rain cover and making it more accessible would essentially mean a compromise in the waterproofing of the bag. That's not to say the waterproof cover would be required all the time. The bag is perfectly capable of handling light rain and it's only really heavier downpours that I would consider putting the cover on. For those who carry a tablet, there is a back zipper compartment that would suit a 10" tablet perfectly.
Overall, I'd say I'm about 99% happy with my purchase. There are minor issues that prevent this bag from being perfect, but they really are minor and fall into the niggle category rather than the issue category and it's still way above everything else I've seen to date. This bag comes with a high recommended sticker (okay, I don't have stickers but I can draw highly recommended on a piece of paper if that helps) for anyone looking at something to carry their gear.