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Think Tank 747

Retrospective 7 Camera Bag

Stealthy Army Surplus Vibe?

Peter Kun Frary, Professor of Music • Leeward CC


Camera bags are as near to a "man purse" as I dare tread. And I sheepishly admit to owning more camera bags than my wife owns purses. I gravitate towards slim bike messenger bags over boxy camera bags: easier to squeeze through crowds, attractive but doesn't look a camera bag. Indeed, one of my favorite camera bags is a Timbuk2 bike messenger with padded insert.

Retrospective 7 • This faded olive green color is called "Pinestone."

Appearance & Construction

The Retrospective 7 sports a rustic army surplus vibe that will not win fashion contests or draw attention on the street. Pair it with a beater leather jacket, graphic tee and destructed jeans and you'll look like an urban Johnny Appleseed. Nobody will suspect you're carrying expensive photo gear. And being incognito is the point of this bag.

Rustic Grab HandleDetachable and adjustable

Although it looks like an army satchel, the material is softer and more flexible than military grade canvas. The soft cotton canvas molds to your body thereby taking some weight off the shoulder. The color is a faded and weathered olive green, and not the tan khaki depicted in the official product pictures. The fit and finish are excellent inside and out, but the thoughtful details of the interior are especially telling: nylon lining to reduce lint, a variety of dividers, pockets galore and end flaps to prevent rain from flowing into the compartment. Unlike my black Domke bag, the weathered olive green is really good at hiding dust and cat hairs.

Although padding protection is partial, your gear is reasonably well protected in the event of a knock or fall. The bottom sports thick closed cell foam padding and the back padding protects your iPad. The top, front and sides lack foam padding but layers of canvas, pockets and lining are reasonable protection against light knocks and scraps.

Some reviewers mention this bag lacks waterproofing. Think Tank claims "fabric exterior treated with DWR while fabric underside is coated with PU for superior water resistance." I haven't seriously tested the water resistance but this bag did well as I ran for shelter during a tropical downpour. I was drenched to the skin but my gear was dry. I did not deploy the rain cover and would only bother if I was on an extended hike in the rain.

Backside View • Rear entry for iPads. Labels are only sewn onto the the back of the back. If you wear your bag reversed (so flap falls forward), the labels are easily removed. You can sew on a diaper bag label and hang a baby bottle off the side if you're paranoid about camera thieves.

The rear zippered compartment is padded and designed for an iPad or 11" MacBook Air and indeed they fit just fine. I stowed my iPad there a few times but found it stiffened the bag too much. Since the bag no longer conformed to my body shape it bounced off my backside as I walked and felt heavier. Luckily the iPad fits perfectly in the front pocket so all is well. Side pockets are just big enough for smokes, iPhone or plane tickets. You can hook a sidecar pouch or water bottle on the strap hook above the pocket.

Unlike bike messenger inspired camera bags, the Retrospective 7 lacks a removable camera insert and thus can't be converted for office or school use.

Side View • Side pockets are just big enough for smokes, iPhone or plane tickets. You can hook a sidecar pouch or water bottle on the strap hook above the pocket.

Stuffing in Gear

Think Tank claims the Retrospective 7 carries "one standard-size DSLR with 2-3 lenses and accessories. iPad/11" MacBook Air fits in rear zippered pocket." Indeed, the Retrospective 7 swallowed my 7D with mounted EF-s 15-85 3.5-5.6 IS USM and hood (not reversed) without distortion of the main comportment. There was plenty of room for my EF 70-200 4L IS USM and Speedlite 430EX. I could squeeze in a couple small primes if needed. The right divider is shorter than the left, and sports a small platform for the camera grip (when stowed lens down). The dividers have a PE board stiffener so they won't fold under the weight of a downward resting camera. If you carry your camera sans lens, an additional full height divider is provided.

Cons

This is the same 1.5-inch strap and pad supplied with the smaller Retrospective 5. The designer should have bumped the strap size up to 2 inches. A wider strap distributes the weight better across the chest and shoulder. With that said, the shoulder pad above average, grippy and flexible so I can live with the thin strap.

The mammoth Velcro under the front flap is a PITA: too strong, grippy and loud. Think Tank has a built-in Velcro cover to silence the noise but then nothing is holding your gear inside should the bag tip over. I found an easy fix: use a Velcro patch to cover 75% of the two Velcro patches. It still grips but is weaker and less bothersome to use. A leather and brass latch would be a more elegant solution. Maybe I'll have a go at adding one cockroached off an old bag.

Compared to similar size bags I own--Crumpler and Billingham--this bag is heavy. Not a deal breaker but at 2.5 LB the Retrospective 7 is 8 OZ heavier than my Crumpler 6 Million Dollar Home, a more thickly padded and slightly larger bag. The extra weight is the price you pay for the vintage canvas and extra pockets.

The padded iPad pocket makes the bag fat. If you prefer a slimmer profile, consider the Retrospective 10. The Retrospective 10 is the about the same overall size as the Retrospective 7, but is roomier due to the lack of the iPad compartment (has a slip pocket instead).

Final Thoughts

This is my first Think Tank bag and I'm pleased: handsome, comfy, excellent fit and finish, quality materials and thoughtful design. Yes, it's pricey but boasts plenty of storage in a wee space, with endless pockets for knickknacks. The extra pockets, comfy ride and inconspicuous appearance make it an ideal bag for travel. Plus the quasi-miltary design ethos nixes the techno-geek man-purse vibe often associated with computer and camera bags. Highly recommended!

Features

• Sized for standard DSLRs with rear pocket for an iPad or 11” MacBook Air
Velcro Sound Silencers™
• Cushioned and padded nonslip shoulder pad
Zippered pockets for accessories
Removable grab handle
Rain cover
• Expandable front pocket fits an iPad or small camera

Specs

MATERIAL:
Washed cotton canvas exterior with nylon lining (Pinestone color). Fabric exterior treated with DWR while fabric underside is coated with PU for superior water resistance. Sand-washed 100% cotton canvas, antique nickel plated metal hardware, YKK® RC Fuse (abrasion resistant) zippers, nylon webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

DIMENSIONS:
13.5"L x 7"W x 9.5"H

WEIGHT:
2.5LB


11/16/2012

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©Copyright 2012-14 by Peter Kun Frary • All Rights Reserved

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