Think Tank Retrospective 30 Blue Slate Review

I was eagerly awaiting my Think Tank Retrospective 30 Shoulder Bag for an upcoming trip. I knew I HAD to have it for this trip to keep my gear securely organized and safe! While I am a big fan of Think Tank and already have their Airport Take Off and their waist system (to be reviewed in the future), I did not have any sort of professional shoulder bag for carrying my camera gear. Previously, I had taken a large purse and affixed some foam for protecting my camera and called that my camera shoulder bag. It was awful and I was in great need for a professional, durable, smart shoulder bag for my travels. Think Tank came to the rescue.

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1) Product Specifications

1.1) Features

– Minimalist outer appearance conceals expensive photo equipment
– Carries a pro size DSLR with standard zoom lens attached
– Wider size to fit a 70-200 f2.8 attached to DSLR facing sideways
– Accommodates 2-4 lenses in main compartment with 2 DSLR bodies in front pockets
– Two front pockets to carry pro size DSLRs (bodies only)
– Organizer pocket built into main compartment for pens, note pad, batteries, etc.
– Hook and Loop “Sound Silencers” on the front flap eliminate noise while opening the bag
– Soft, adjustable shoulder strap with cushioned non-slip pad
– Clear business card holder under front flap
– Removable short carrying handle for convenience
– Seam-sealed rain cover included for protection against the elements
– Black (1100D ‘polyspun’ polyester exterior fabric), Pinestone (sand washed cotton canvas) and Blue State (sand washed cotton canvas)

1.2) Dimensions

ID: 15” W x 9.5” H x 6” D (38 x 24 x 15.2 cm)
OD: 16” W x 10.5” H x 7” D (40.6 x 26.7 x 17.8 cm)
Weight: 3.2 lbs (1.5 kg)

2) Overview

2.1) Initial Impressions

As I type this, I am sitting in an airplane with my Think Tank Shoulder bag sitting under my seat holding everything I need safely and effectively for this trip! I am en route to New York City to shoot several engagement sessions.

When packing for this trip using my Think Tank Retrospective 30 bag, I realized that my life was missing compartments! This might sound overzealous, but compartments have changed me! Normally when going through security at the airport, I have to dig through one big compartment for my wallet, then find my driver’s license, while shuffling my camera, and banging it around in the process. This time around, it was a breeze because each compartment had a different purpose, making organizing my travel items simple and efficient. I knew exactly where I could find each item I packed. It sounds obvious, but compartments make a big difference.

This bag is designed well. Really well.

The Velcro tabs keeps items safely secured, but allow quick access to the items. There is a silencing feature on the velcro tabs. I found I preferred silencing the velcro if I was out where I was accessing the contents of the bag quite frequently (for example while on a shoot). But I loved having the velcro enabled when out on the streets of NYC– not only is my gear securely tucked in my bag, but if anyone tries to steal it, the velcro is quite noisy, unlike a silent zipper.

The shoulder strap is padded ensuring a comfortable fit.

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The different interior compartments are adjustable, so that what you need fits perfectly.

There are the right number of compartments so it’s easy to find your stuff, but not TOO many that you can’t remember where you put it.

For this trip I was planning to shoot some film and some digital. So I wanted to store my Contax 645 with an 80 mm Zeiss lens, my Canon 5D Mark III with a 50 mm 1.2 lens (both cameras with lenses attached), my Sekonic 580 light meter, about 35 rolls of film, notebook, wallet, cell phone, flash drive, batteries, chargers, and business cards. Everything had a place and the guess work of where my gear has shuffled to while in flight has ended.

(Everything I fit into this bag for my travels)
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(I like how there is an attachment for my memory cards– that way I know they will not fall out by accident– or get stolen! Some wallets may also be attached. It’s nice to use to keep things secure)
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(Velcro and the way to silence them. Plus a spot for a business card in case your bag gets lost.)
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However, carrying all of this is heavy. Really heavy. The bag weights 3.2 pounds empty. But then adding my gear, the bag totaled a little over 17 pounds. It’s great for an airport where you walk some, sit some. I wouldn’t want to carry all of this gear for long periods of time across a city. For that, the backpack or a rolling back is a better option. When in NYC I plan to only take 1 camera for long jaunts across the city (most likely the film one- I shoot all my personal work on film), and then for the engagement shoot carry both, but it would only be for a period of a couple hours, with some stopping.

(me, with the Think Tank Retrospective 30 Blue Slate bag)
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What I like about it, too, is that it’s fairly stylish but is still gender neutral. I can’t tell you how many times my husband ended up carrying my DIY camera shoulder bag when it got too heavy for me (and it was a very feminine looking bag!).

4) Summary

The bag is genius. The design is flawless and the craftsmanship is high quality. It handled traveling across the country with ease and made me happy to know that I knew my gear was safe and secure inside. Like any shoulder bag, it does get heavy with lots of gear. If I were hiking for an extended amount of time with my camera gear, I would prefer a backpack to distribute the weight of the bag more evenly. But for engagement shoots and traveling via plane/train/car this bag is perfect.

I enjoy this bag so much, I might just continue carrying it around, even when I am not hauling a camera with me!

5) Pricing and Where to Buy

The Think Tank Retrospective® 30 in Blue Slate is regularly priced at $187.50 (as of 5/1/13) and is available at either Think Tank Photo or B&H Photo Video.

Think Tank Retrospective 30 Blue Slate
  • Features
  • Build Quality
  • Handling
  • Value
  • Size and Weight
  • Packaging and Manual

Photography Life Overall Rating

4.8

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Johny Wong
    May 9, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Hi Laura,

    First of all, I want to say that your last sentence, “I might just continue carrying it around, even when I am not hauling a camera with me!”, really makes me laugh. Why a person carry a camera bag, when he/she doesn’t carry any camera :)). I may have a similar experience. I used my camera bag (a sling bag model) for carrying water bottles and a microphone when I went to a karaoke ;)

    Now for the serious part, I have two question:
    1. Is there any cons that you can find in this bag ?
    2. How often do you clean this bag & how do you do it ?

    The photo of you carrying the bag is very informative & funny at the same time. It’s informative because I can directly know how big the bag is. Your illustration for silent velcro system is also very good.
    It’s funny because of your happy expression. I’ve never seen a model, in camera bag advertisement, with a happy expression like that.

    I also notice, your photos have a certain color style. To me, it look like a soft color, low saturation, low contrast, but still look nice. In the future article, I would like to read your story about how you ‘find’ your personal color style.

    Thx ;)

    • May 10, 2013 at 11:54 am

      Hi Johny!

      Great questions!

      The only con is that it gets really heavy very quickly. It’s a big bag so it makes you want to stick a lot of stuff in it. Also, some of the other competing bags have leather and are make more of a fashion statement. This bag could be a bit MORE fashionable, but really, I am quite happy with it from a style perspective. I don’t think it’s going to win any awards at fashion week, but I do not believe that is its goal. It is practical, efficient, smart and stylish enough for me!

      Cleaning the bag– great question. It always drives me CRAZY when I put my bag on the floor at airports, under the seat etc. I can imagine all the germs swimming around. After my trip to NY, I took some all purpose cleaner on a rag and wiped the underside of the bag and the strap. I wouldn’t put it in the washing machine or anything– I will contact Think Tank to see if they have any recommendations!

      And yes, the bag IS big. I am 5’4” and it is quite large on me. But I wanted a bag that could carry all of my stuff if I needed it to!

      And finally, thanks for your comments on my color palette for photography! :) I’ll do a post on that! Great idea!

      • May 10, 2013 at 9:41 pm

        I can’t stand setting my bags on plane floors either! It’s one reason I generally put my bag in the overhead (plus the fact that I’m 6’4″ and need every inch of space I can get in my plane seat!)

        When I clean my Retrospective 50 I’ve been using Lysol and a towel. I wet an area down then scrub it. It’s held up well, but I would be interested in hearing what Think Tank recommends.

      • 12
        ) Edward Chan
        May 29, 2013 at 4:29 am

        Hey Laura,
        Thanks for modeling the bag, that really puts the bag in perspective. I carry the Retrospective 5 which serves me well especially shooting on walking trips 4-5 hours. Carrying gear easy over 25lbs. will kill me for long periods. I can really see short hauls with a bag of that size will be great, or something on wheels, the Pelican cases I have large and small ones. I guest you guys are tuff in the category of shoulder bags. Thanks Again for the awesome display, God Bless…

  2. 2
    ) John Richardson
    May 10, 2013 at 3:25 am

    Hello,

    I also have this bag, except it is much prettier because it is in Pinestone (but then….well SOME people actually like the back one …ick…). It is very rugged and yet, doesn’t look so tough. Love all the pockets that all seem to serve multiple functions. I say seem because I often stuff the pockets with Mars Bars a water bottle and an occasional banana.

    In my country, Ukraine, we all carry man-purses, I mean –satchels. It totally fits in! I have more than enough gear to fill it up but often elect to carry a bit less in case I go shopping, there is always plenty of room. I have considered the Retrospective 5 just to carry a single camera, in Pinestone of course, but have yet to get around to it.

    I would totally recommend any Retrospective bag and feel that the Retrospective 30 is more than enough to lug around. I see they now have larger bags but just can’t imagine having one large enough to stuff a moderately sized monkey in (who else would eat the banana?)
    John

    PS: Welcome to the site!

    • May 10, 2013 at 11:55 am

      Haha, I think I preferred the blue slate color over the pinestone! Each are good options, though. But you are right, I didn’t want black! THANKS!!

  3. 3
    ) Chris zeller
    May 10, 2013 at 6:32 am

    I absolutely love this bag. I use the retrerospective 20. The build quality is the same but the dimensions are more appropriate for me. It holds the Nikon holy trinity very comfortably, with any of the 3 mounted to a pro body or body with grip. It also will hold a large flash plus spare batteries cards filters and an iPad. there is no room for a laptop as there is in the 30 and overall you can carry less. I think you are likely to carry too much with the 30 and the 70-200 won’t fit mounted vertically as it will in the 20. The build quality of these is amazing and the look is very casual.

  4. 4
    ) Jorge
    May 10, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Excellent review. I use the 10 series DAILY! On shoots, travel to destination weddings, and just to the office and back! I love it. It holds my gear securely and safely.
    On a daily basis the 10 carries my iPad, notes, my Fuji X-E1, three lenses, memory cards, Lunch (very important) and work papers.
    When I go out to shoot, it holds my D800, D700 (body) 70-200, 24-70, flash, and a ton of other stuff.
    I find the strap to be THE SINGLE MOST COMFORTABLE strap EVER. And I own 14 different bags/backpack combinations.
    The bag is just simply amazing. Can’t go wrong
    Best,
    J

  5. 5
    ) art
    May 10, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this shoulder bag.
    I was just considering replacing my Billingham Hadley Large shoulder bag. After many years of abuse it needs to be retired. This bag is half the price for about the same amount of room and if it has the same build quality as my Think Tank Speed Demon it should fit the bill.

    Regards
    Art

    • May 10, 2013 at 11:56 am

      YES, the price point is excellent compared to others I have seen! You should get it!

  6. May 10, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I received the Retrospective 50 for christmas this year… And I’ve fallen in love with it!

    I own SEVERAL other bags but this one is now my “go to”. I asked for the 50 because I have a 15″ laptop for work (that fits perfectly). Here’s my normal loadout:

    Nikon D600
    24-70 f/2.8
    70-300
    50mm f/1.8
    Several Lee filters
    15″ Macbook Pro
    iPad
    Tons of accessories

    Yes, with all of this on my shoulder it is quite heavy… But the large shoulder strap does a good job of distributing the weight. I used to use backpacks (mostly lowepro)… But frankly they weren’t better at dealing with the weight (although I do have a large Burton photography backpack that DOES handle weight well).

    Compared to the backpacks the Retrospective is definitely trendier and more professional looking. I actually use it as my work bag everyday… even when I’m not carrying photography gear!

    I can’t recommend this bag enough!

  7. 11
    ) MartinG
    May 17, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    Thanks for the excellent review. I love my ThinkTank airport TakeOff bag. The blue 30 looks like a fine general take anywhere bag. I use the TakeOff as a travelling bagand central location. Sometimes I jus want a couple of lenses with me not all of them.

    How do you divide up your bag use?

  8. 13
    ) Art T
    May 24, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Laura:

    Why do you shoot your personal work on film? I still have my film equipment (Nikon and Mamiya) and love shooting it, but would love to see your thinking on film.

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