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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
Think Tank created the Retrospective 7 for the "photographer that wants to blend in with the crowd and remain inconspicuous in any situation." The army surplus ethos will not win fashion contests but neither shall it draw attention on the street. And that is the point of this bag. Pair it with an old leather jacket, graphic T-shirt and destructed jeans and you'll look like an urban Johnny Appleseed. Nobody will suspect you're carrying thousands of dollars of photo gear.
Don't get me wrong, this is not an ugly bag but is a stylistic descendant of ammo and army medic bags. It looks more manly than most photo bags and your wife will not be tempted to steal it for purse or diaper duty. The Retrospective 7 just might be the ultimate bag for those hellbent on shunning the techno-geek man-purse vibe.
Rustic Grab Handle • Detachable and adjustable
Although it looks like an army satchel, the material is softer and more flexible than military grade canvas. 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.
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. However, 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 for several minutes 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 with that 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.
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 also 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.
This is the same 1.5-inch strap and pad supplied with the much smaller Retrospective 5. The designer really 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 is better than 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 on the heavy side. 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 same overall size as the Retrospective 7, but is a little slimmer, taller and roomier (no iPad compartment).
This is my first Think Tank bag and I am very pleased: handsome, excellent fit and finish, quality materials and thoughtful design. Yes, it is pricey but boasts plenty of storage in a wee space, with endless pockets for small devices and knickknacks. The soft cotton canvas molds to your body thereby taking some weight off the shoulder, making it comfortable to hump around town all day. The extra pockets, comfy ride and inconspicuous appearance make it an ideal bag for travel. All it needs is a leather and brass latch and it would be perfect. Highly recommended!
• 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
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.
13.5"L x 7"W x 9.5"H
©Copyright 2012 by Peter Kun Frary All Rights Reserved
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