After working alongside a National Geographic photographer who swears by ThinkTank’s modular belt systems, I’ve kept an eye on the brand, quietly planning for day when I would add the next bag to my arsenal.
I swear, people who think owning too many shoes are a problem have no idea. The real threat is camera bags. It’s all too easy to justify a new setup; something that would make the next job just a little bit easier. I’m up to five bags now, and regularly rotate through the lot of them. Not one goes unused for more than a week or so.
So when Brian Erwin over at ThinkTank offered to send me one of their bags, I knew exactly which one I wanted. The Retrospective series had stood out for some time; I was drawn in by the nondescript, low profile outer. One of the worst mistakes a photographer can make is hauling around a shiny new bag with a brand name logo boldly emblazoned on the outside. Day one with any new camera bag, I duct tape over brand logos and get it dirty. With one I even took fine grain sandpaper and abraded it a bit. It helps.
Brain sent over the Retrospective 40, and after a mere week of use, I think I can safely say I’ve found the bag I’ve been looking for. A shoulder bag, it’s easy to keep on my person while digging for gear at an event. According to specs, the 40 will fit a pro-sized DSLR with up to a 70-200 f/2.8 attached plus one or two additional zoom lenses. It has an interior padded laptop compartment that fits my 13″ MacBook Pro like a charm, and a nifty, well-thought-out internal organizer pocket.
Another, easier to access front pocket is perfect for notepads and things I’m constantly digging for, while I seem to have made the rear external zippered compartment a home for my iPod and meeting notes.
With as much as I jam into this bag and then walk around town (in a town the size of Pinedale, it’s really a crime to drive anywhere unless you are heading outside of town limits), it’s remarkably comfortable. An extremely well-padded keeps my sports-injury-aggravated shoulders happy, and the grippy lines on the underside assure it doesn’t slide even when I’m wearing my slick down coat.
A surprising feature, and arguably my favorite so far, is the two outer pockets and canvas loops on either end of the bag. I always keep a carabiner on my bags – in a crowded situation I can clip the bag to my belt, making it a bit harder for someone to snatch and grab. It works – a few years ago while covering SXSW in Austin I had someone try to take the bag; it stayed with me and I got the hell out of there. The pockets expand enough to fit a large Klean Kanteen water bottle, and I’ve taken to keeping a headlamp in the other – also a necessity in all my camera bags.
Another favorite is the “sound silencers” on the hook and loop velcro fasteners on the front flap, which allow me to open and rummage in the bag during meetings without garnering evil looks from the men around me. Really big bonus.
I’m eager to test the Retrospective 40 more thoroughly, but it’s had a hell of a first week covering everything from wrestling tournaments to alpine ski meets to town hall meetings. Thus far it’s been just what I’m looking for, and with the craftsmanship in the bag, I’m anticipating it will be with me for a long time to come.
For those wanting to give ThinkTank bags a try, the team has given me a special discount to share with Fire Girl readers. If you shop at http://www.thinktankphoto.com/affiliates.aspx?type=affiliate and enter the code AP-793, you’ll get free gear with every order over $50. It’s a good deal, and if you’re in the market, give it a shot. Every little bit helps.
Note: This is not a paid review, however product was provided for review.