During a time-passing mission with random Google searches, I stumbled across a gear list of some National Geographic photographers.
While the cameras and lenses varied across the portfolios, one particular type of camera messenger bag popped up in the list more than once.
I was fascinated by this finding. Due to the nature of the intense work at Nat Geo, I thought there must be something special about these bags to make them the choice of some prominent people in the industry.
A couple of months later a surprise gift was waiting for me at my doorstep. It is a review bag from Think Tank – much like the ones I saw in the gear list.
With the Think Tank Retrospective 30 V2.0 in my hands, now was my chance to find out: What makes these camera bags so special?
Table of Contents
Thinktank Retrospective 30 V2.0 Specs
- Large capacity (with mirrorless, more than 4 x lenses and 2 x camera bodies)
- Thoughtful design – particularly the sound silencers on the velcro
- Good quality strap and shoulder pad
- Depth of the bag is overkill for a small mirrorless system
- I would prefer additional zippers on the front pockets for extra security
- Internal Dimensions: 15” W x 10.5” H x 6.7” D (38 x 26.7 x 17 cm)
- Exterior Dimensions: 16” W x 11.2” H x 7” D (40.6 x 28.5 x 17.8 cm)
- Laptop Pocket (fits up to 15” laptop): 14.2” W x 9.8” H x 1.0” D (36 x 25 x 2.5 cm)
- Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg) including all accessories
Build & Appearance
As the name ”Retrospective” implies, this bag looks classic and serious! It comes in two colours: Black and Pinestone.
The outer appearance is pretty straightforward, with no unnecessary items hanging around attracting unwanted attention.
Something I love about the Think Tank Retrospective 30 V2.0 is that it doesn’t have that “Look! I’m a camera bag!” attitude – a huge plus in my book.
The outer material of the Pinestone bag is made of cotton canvas with a water-repellent coating. The black version of the bag is made of polyester.
The shoulder strap on the Retrospective 30 V2.0 is wide, thick and sturdy looking. It also has rubber tabs which are reasonably grippy and prevent the bag from slipping off your shoulder.
The shoulder pad is ultra-comfortable and feels great, particularly when carrying the bag around all day, and the strap is made of pretty strong cotton material which I think will last a lifetime.
They are held together with antique style nickel-plated hooks which gives a nicer look to the bag.
The interior of the bag is well made with mostly synthetic material like nylon.
There are two good-sized external pockets on the Retrospective 30 V2.0 which can even fit a large filter case or probably a pack of 10 batteries or more.
It has a collapsible water bottle pocket at one side – a very common feature on any camera bag these days. The difference with this one is that it can be modified to different sizes using an attached strap, and can thus hold bottles of various sizes or any other accessories.
Interestingly, the bag also has a luggage handle pass-through at the back which is a handy feature for a much smoother airport experience.
There are also accessory webbing rails to accommodate extra modular pouches if someone really needs it.
There are two external compartments at the front and the rear of the bag to dump more bits and pieces into. The front compartment has folders to keep pens, memory cards, etc.
The main compartment of the bag has a zippered opening under the main flap for extra security. If it becomes a nuisance it can be easily tucked away.
Another neat feature of the Retrospective is that the velcro comes with a silencer cover, to prevent the awkwardness of everyone turning to look at you when you open the bag.
This is especially handy for situations like wedding ceremonies where the photographer prefers to remain inconspicuous.
The main purpose of a camera bag is of course to carry your camera and lenses. But how much gear can the Retrospective 30 V2.0 carry?
The Retrospective series comes in different sizes, and the one I have is the size 30. I use only Fujifilm X-Series cameras and, at any given time, I would be carrying around 2 x bodies and 3-5 lenses of various ranges.
They all can fit easily into this bag.
As you can see in the picture the bag is deeper than what you need for a mirrorless system. I’m yet to figure out how creatively I’ll be using that extra space.
The Retrospective 30 V2.0 also has a compartment for a 15″ laptop, which can be pretty essential for busy photojournalists.
However, I would probably use a 13″ laptop for the ease of handling within the bag and to reduce the carrying weight.
An additional compartment in the front side can possibly carry a guide book or some important documents/accessories.
There are additional dividers to further subdivide the real estate of the bag – very useful for mirrorless photography systems with much smaller lenses.
Here’s a list of what I fit inside the Think Tank Retrospective 30 V2.0. This is probably the maximum I would carry for my photo documentary work including the accessories and two mirrorless camera bodies.
- Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R
- Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 (Attached to the body – Fujifilm X-T2)
- Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR (Attached to the body – Fujifilm X-Pro 3)
- Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS
- Fujinon XF 35mm f/2 R WR (It always find a corner in my camera bag – just in case. I know, it’s bad.)
- Godox AD200 flash unit with wireless trigger (Not shown here)
- Joby GorillaPod 5K Kit
- 10 inch iPad or 13″ Macbook pro
- Nisi square filter hard case
- Other accessories like portable hard disks, around 6-8 batteries, battery charger
This setup will work for mirrorless cameras, but for larger DSLR systems I guess it will probably hold two bodies and three lenses (two of which are attached to the bodies).
Ease of Use/Comfort
The Retrospective 30 V2.0 is certainly a comfortable bag to carry.
The thoughtfully made shoulder strap helps with carrying it all day long and makes the weight of the bag less of an issue.
Being a long and adjustable strap means you can wear it across the torso as well.
The external and internal compartments are not cumbersome to access thanks to the modifiable cover flaps. I would probably tuck the zippered flap away if I’m going to be shooting in a safe environment and for longer hours.
Having many compartments will help you to easily separate your items into groups and find things when you need them.
Value for Money
At around US$200 this bag isn’t the cheapest on the market – but it’s certainly not the most expensive either.
For the money that you spend, you get a bag that’s thoughtfully designed, visually appealing and constructed from high-quality materials.
I get the impression that this bag will last for many years if you take a decent amount of care with it. So there’s very little to complain about, and the price tag is befitting of the quality you’ll receive.
Thinktank Retrospective 30 V2.0 Review | Conclusion
The Think Tank Retrospective 30 V2.0 is the biggest shoulder bag I have ever used. And to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of shoulder bags in general.
But sometimes practicality matters a lot more than personal taste.
I used to use backpacks to carry a huge amount of gear. But a quick change of lens is near impossible with most of them (other than backpacks with specialised side access).
Shoulder bags are generally easier to use when quick access to your gear is essential – for example, in documentary photography or photojournalism, where the scenes in front of you are rapidly changing.
I think I would choose this bag for this particular reason. It can hold all the gear I want to carry comfortably and safely, and lets me access it with ease.