Review: Thinktank Retrospective 5 and 7 shoulder bag

Introduction

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Retrospective 5

Camera bags. We are all looking for the perfect one that is bigger on the inside than the outside. Over the years I tried a whole lot, but when it comes to shoulder bags I always come back to the Thinktankphoto Retrospective Series. So find out why this is the perfect shoulder bag for me.

Disclosure: I never received anything from Thinktankphoto for free, ever.

Why I like this series so much

Look

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Thinktank Retrospective 5 (pinestone) and 7 (black)

This bag just looks like a normal messenger bag and nothing like a camera bag. No zippers, no big logos, very subtle and unobstrusive design.

Caution: just recently there was a Retrospective V2.0 series introduced. They have a few nice additional features but personally I think they ruined the subtle design with those useless metal rings on the front. At the moment you can find many V1 models (the ones I am talking about here) at a discounted price. Go for it! There is nothing wrong with V1. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a “Retrospective Classic” or “V2.X” version with the original design (and full price) again rather sooner than later.

Retrospective V2.0

Comfort

The shoulder strap is really well padded which helps a lot when you carry it for a longer period of time. Furthermore the bag is soft and will adjust to the shape of your body. I usually have the camera with lens in the middle and additional lenses to the left and right. So when I take the camera out to shoot the bag will adjust to that and be closer to your body, which makes it more comfortable to carry.

Accessibility

This is really important for me. I need to get to my camera fast and I need to be able to change lenses fast. Some bags (like the dreadful Incase DSLR Sling) need two hands to open and close, I can’t have that.
Some Thinktank bags (Retrospective leather series or Urban Approach) use an additional plastic clip on the flap to secure it, I am not a big fan and it seems the average customer isn’t either as this is already gone on the newer bags.
Every Photokina I tell them to use magnets instead, no luck so far (scroll a bit down to see my magnet modification for these bags).

Adjustability

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Sony A7rII + L-bracket in front pocket of Retrospective 5

The front pocket is quite adjustable in terms of size. If you don’t use it it will just be flat and not take up any space. If you need it it will hold even a second camera body (without lens attached).
On the side there are loops than can be used to attach some of Thinktank’s modular pouches or a filter bag. This often saved me from needing a bigger bag.

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Thinktank Retrospective 5 with filter pouch attached to sideloop

Clever design

Throughout the whole bag you will notice that this series was designed by people who are actually photographers themselves, as there are some clever features.

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Sound Silencer

One I would like to introduce here is the “Sound Silencer”. This feature allows you to cover the velcro to make the bag opening and closing operation silent. This is very helpful when shooting weddings and concerts.
I even modified my bag to use magnets instead, so it is always silent and the flap stays in place.

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Sound Silencer modified with magnets

Durability

I am using these bags a lot and the only issue I ever encountered was the rubber pads from the should strap coming off. I sent the customer support an email and the bag was exchanged for a new one no questions asked.

Weather resistance

Every bag comes with a raincover, but you will only need it in really heavy rain and to be honest I never carry it with me (if you are looking for a weatherproof bag have a look at Mindshift Gear Exposure and Photocross series instead). The weather protection the bag itself offers is good enough for me.

Models

Over the years there have been several Retrospective bags, I will only talk about the really notable ones here (I owned all of these at some point, I still own 5 and 7):

Retrospective 5

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Thinktank Retrospective 5 (pinestone)

Weight: 1.0 kg
Exterior dimensions: 10″ W x 8.5″ H x 6″ D (25.5 x 21.5 x 15 cm)

Fits a fullframe mirrorless camera with medium sized lens attached and 2 small additional lenses.

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Thinktank Retrospective 5 with Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8, Voigtlander 35mm 1.7 and Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4

Typical gear setup I am using this bag with:
Sony A7rII + L-bracket
Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8
Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7
Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4
Accessories: Mini tripod, spare batteries, lenspen, polarizer, extenstion tube
You can still exchange one of the lenses for a bigger one, the Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM instead of the Loxia 85 will still fit for example.

Price: 100-150$
amazon.com | B&H | ebay.com | amazon.de | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Retrospective 7

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Thinktank Retrospective 7

Weight: 1.2 kg
Exterior dimensions: 13.5” W x 9.5” H x 7” D (34.3 × 24.1 × 17.8 cm)
Laptop compartment: 11.8” W x 8.2” H x 0.7” D (30 × 20.8 × 1.8 cm)

Fits one or two fullframe mirrorless cameras with a total of 3 bigger lenses or 4-5 small to medium sized lenses.

review thinktankphoto think tank retrospective should bag photography photographer foto photo best comfortable
Thinktank Retrospective 7 with Canon TS-E 17mm 4.0 L, Sony A7rII with L-bracket and Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM and Zeiss Jena Visionar 169mm 1.9

Typical gear setup I am using this bag with:
Sony A7rII + Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM
Sony A7s + Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7
Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8
Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95
Accessories: spare batteries, lenspen, ND filter

This bag will also hold the three f/2.8 zooms (16-35mm 2.8, 24-70mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8) but your camera won’t fit in with the 70-200mm 2.8 attached (see Retrospective 20 for that).

The 7 also features a laptop compartment (it was the first Retrospective that did) that will hold a 12″ laptop. Personally I am not the biggest fan of carrying a laptop in this bag, as it ruins one of the main features of the bag: adjusting to the shape of your body. You can also use this compartment for carrying a tablet obviously.

Price: 100-160$
amazon.com | B&H | ebay.com | amazon.de | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Retrospective 10

Weight: 1.3 kg
Exterior dimensions: 13” W x 10.5” H x 7” D (33 x 26.7 x 17.8 cm)

Fits one or two fullframe mirrorless cameras or a gripped DSLR with a total of 3 bigger lenses or 4-5 small to medium sized lenses.

This one was in the first series of Retrospective bags. The exterior dimensions are similar to the 7. It is a bit deeper to accomodate a gripped DSLR and there is no laptop compartment. For Sony users I rather recommend the 7.

Price: 120-170$
amazon.com | B&H | ebay.com | amazon.de | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Retrospective 20

Weight: 1.4 kg
Exterior dimensions: 13” W x 12.5” H x 7” D (33 x 31.7 x 17.8 cm)

Fits one or two fullframe mirrorless cameras or a gripped DSLR with a total of 3 bigger lenses or 4-5 small to medium sized lenses.
Fits a camera with 70-200mm 2.8 attached.

As far as I know this one was introduced together with the 10. It has the same exact footprint but is a bit taller to accomodate a camera with 70-200mm 2.8 attached. If that is your application this is the right bag for you, if not rather have a look at the 7 or 10.

Price: 120-180$
amazon.com | B&H | ebay.com | amazon.de | ebay.de (affiliate links)

Conclusion

The first Retrospective bags were introduced in 2010 and remained unchanged for almost a whole decade and for a good reason: these were perfect from the start.
If there was something negative to point out it would be that they are not super lightweight (they reduced the weight in the V2.0 version), and while I tried other bags (Think Tank Urban Disguise: access not so great, Think Tank Urban Approach: strap not as comfortable, Think Tank Suburban Disguise: too stiff, F-Stop Millar series: just bad) I always keep coming back to this series.
As I think the V1 is the better bag, true to the original idea of a subtle, unobstrusive camera shoulder bag, it was about time for this article, so you still have the chance to get one of these and for a good price.

Find Thinktank Retrospective bags on amazon.com | B&H | ebay.com | amazon.de | ebay.de (affiliate links)

If you want to support this blog you can always use one of our affiliate links before you buy anything, we will get a small commission, and it won’t cost you anything extra.

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

33 thoughts on “Review: Thinktank Retrospective 5 and 7 shoulder bag”

  1. Hello,

    nice review! I like a lot my retrospective 6 bag. I carry one A7 body, the loxias 21, 50, 85 and the VM 35. I think it is a very good messenger bag. As good as it can be. A little heavy but very satisfactory. More practical IMHO than the other one that I compare with, the handley small.

    It is my impression that for what I carry, it is the perfect bag to carry in the the car. To move arround, what I have is too heavy. Tipically in a trip I prefer the handley digital, one body, two small objectives.

    This has nothing to do with the bag, but with the fact that it is a messenger bag. I believe, three objectives may be still good, but four I would not carry in a trip or moving further than 30 minutes from the car. To carry this and eventually a 135 or a 180 I believe that I need a backpack. I never used one and so I resist to buy one but, 4 objectives is for me too much in a messenger bag, for a whole day or even 3-4 hours.

    Therefore, I believe the 5l maybe more practical than the 6l I own.

    I do not know what is your opinion, but I am not so convinced about the usability of the 10 or 20 l. Another thing is the tripod. What to do with it? A mini tripod enters but even a travel tripod gitzo series one do not really acomodate, neither inside nor outside…

    Regards and thanks for your reviews again!

    1. Hey Jorge,
      I can only agree with you. For a shoulder bag that I intend to carry for a longer time a camera and 3 small lenses is the max.
      The 7 I use mostly for on assignment shootings where I don’t have to carry the bag all the time.
      The 10 and 20 are mostly useful for (gripped) DSLRs, I only see little need for those when using mirrorless (unless you need one where you can put camera with 70-200mm 2.8 attached).
      Using a shoulder or sling bag together with even a travel tripod has never worked for me (the only exception is the Velbon UT43D-II that fits in a bag, but in terms of weight things will get uncomfortable pretty fast).
      My backpack recommendations are the Mindshift Gear Rotation 180° Panorama and the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20l.
      For most occasions I prefer the Mindshift Gear as it offers better access and is more comfortable to wear.
      The disadvantage is that you have to wear the belt strap which doesn’t work well with every jacket.
      So in those cases or when the look matters I prefer the Peak Design.

      1. Hello,

        thanks a lot for your answer!

        I have spent many time with backpacks, visiting nearby cities to see them in reality.

        Many people comment on the Gear Rotation. I believe it maybe great if you need to carry moderate amount of gear and significant amount of personal items on the top compartment. I understand that accessibility In the rotating compartment is very good but the size is moderate to small. May I inquire in for which “purposes” do you use it? For me it would be great for a hike if you need to carry an extra jacket, a large meal and or other items… Also for a train weekend with minimalist personal item set. But in the lower compartment i believe that 3 lenses are a maximum, and for three lenses… maybe keep a messenger bag?

        The peak design have an scandalous prize. Certainly the accessibility is great, one carry it like a backpack and open it like a messenger bag. Even if one is prepare to pay the 270€ there is still the problem of the size. It is big, and looks even bigger, for what is it.

        To my surprise, I feel interested by lowepro flipside 200 or protactic 250. Those are significantly smaller. I am looking for a bag that I can keep in the car and grap to move around carrying 4 lenses and a tripod. I believe for such purposes they are well adapted.

        I am not convinced nevertheless about their usability in a weekend train trip. They are small so you need to carry another bag with your personal items. This make things more complicated. For this probably your suggestions much better.

        Another thing is the usability in the filed of any backpack changing lenses and so…

        Thank you again for your review and opinions!!!!

        1. The Mindshift Gear Rotation 180° Panorama I have used for numerous tasks:
          Weekend trips by plane (as only luggage), short hikes, long hikes, biking.
          In the belt compartment – if properly adjusted – will fit up to 5 small lenses,
          I have used it for example with 5.6/10, 2.8/21, 1.7/35, 2.4/85 and 4/180
          It is more comfortable to use with only 4 though (makes changing lenses easier).

          The Peak Design 20l I am using for the same applications excluding longer hikes.
          For longer hikes it is simply not as comfortable as the Mindshift Gear.
          It has the benefit of a laptop compartment which for some applications makes it the better choice.

          Imho the Peak Design 20l looks smaller than the Mindshift Gear Rotation Panorama 180, despite both sharing the same weight.
          I bought mine used, not interested in paying full price either.

          I have never been happy with any Lowepro product. I neither like the design nor the materials nor the usability.
          I would avoid any backpack where you have to attach the tripod to the back instead of the side at all cost.
          These are most uncomfortable to carry (and imho you look like an idiot with those).

          I am also sure a slightly bigger backpack that isn’t fully but cleverly packed is more convenient than a small one
          that is always packed to the max.

          1. Hello! Thanks for your answer!

            I agree with you about the Peak Desing being less comfortable. Already in the shop I realized that the strap and belt do not correspond to the high comfort of i.g. deuter backpack. Deuter is of course not photo pack so direct comparison maybe not possible, but still. Actually I was surprised about this, specially more considering the high prize. Specially I remember the belt, or its absence, shocked me (not remember well i show the product a month ago +-) Probably the top opening space is very good for personal item in a weekend trip and definitely enough if you are ok with a minimalistic set.

            The rotation look very practical. Very good done. Less “urban”, more plastic but much much better straps and a proper belt. For the weekend very practical on the incoming and outgoing day. Leaving the hotel with all your gear, all is properly stored and readily available. But what did you do the day, or the couple of days you stay in the hotel? carry the extra weigh of your personal items? left them disordered in the room, carrying a half full backpack? or you tuned the belt compartment to convert it in a messenger bag? I am really curious! as that were my reasons not to buy the concept. By the way, in the 22l as far as I remeber the tripod is to be carried centered in the bag is not it? Maybe lateral attachment also possible?

            Lowepro, in my opinion is less qualitative, in line with the lower prize. I never bough from them, as I did not fall in love with their stuff. it simply happens that they have very small backpack available. About their flipside concept, I am skeptic. Also, as far as I remember, flipside is centered tripod carry. The protactic allow for customization of course. Nevertheless the protactic 250 have a very large laptop compartment that in sush a small bag looks much too large! It is also very heavy.

            Thanks again and best regards!

          2. It is possible to strap the tripod to the side of the Panorama 180.
            I will explain that in greater detail in my upcoming review of this backpack.
            I usually leave toiletries and clothes for change (and sometimes tablet or small notebook)
            in the hotel and use the space for food and water instead.

      2. Hello Bastian,

        I realize I have forgotten to ask something concerning the Retrospective bags.

        For our previous–and for me very interesting– exchange we both agree that for moving around extensively a shoulder bag must contain a max of 3 lenses plus a single body.

        In this sense my feeling is that the Retrospective 6 that I have, and provably the 5 too, are too large. They are practical because there with three lenses you can use globes in winter, or keep the hoods always on, or use large or very large lenses.

        Nevertheless, for travelling, with a messenger bag, and just 3 loxia lenses, they would be large. What will be your alternative choice, if any, of the smallest possible practical bag to have 3 loxias and a body and nothing else?

        I would be very interested to know!

        Regards, thanks in advance and thank you again for your exquisite reviews!

        1. I think the Retrospective 5 is perfect for that, I would not want any smaller, even for 3 Loxia lenses + camera only.

          Edit: I once tried using an F-Stop Miller series messenger bag for that, what a waste of time and money 🙁

    1. Yes, I have also used some of the Mirrorless Movers in the past.
      I quite like the look and the sizes are pretty useful for A7 cameras.
      They use a combination of flap (with magnets) and zipper though.
      I always found this to be rather annoying, as you have to zip the bag up first to be able to use the top handle (otherwise your gear will drop).
      Furthermore the bag is more stiff compared to the Retrospectives so I found the bigger ones to be less comfortable.

        1. As it seems there is interest in this topic I will also write reviews for my backpacks and sling bags in the near future.
          I checked out some videos last night and 99% are really bad without any useful information.
          Actually I saw some of the people in the videos having the same issues with a certain bag that I was encountering without even mentioning it (or thinking about a solution).

          1. Bastian, thank you again! I have settled on Think Tank Retrospective 6. This article was very helpful for me.

  2. Hello,

    Thank you very much for your excellent reviews!
    Regarding camera bags, have you tried Wotancraft models?
    Wotancraft has been quite pricey, but recent Trooper series is a bit more affordable and comes in many sizes.

    I previously had Think Tank Retrospective 7, but after some investigation I switched first to Wotancraft Scout and later added Trooper L for occasions when more space is needed.
    Trooper is quite close to to Think Tank Retrospective series, but uses magnets instead of velcro for closing the front flap. There is also leather straps for more secure closing, with additional straps for fastening tripod outside the bag.
    From my experiences, I can highly recommend both Scout and Trooper.

    Keep up the good work! This is one of the best places to find interesting info about how vintage lenses work on Sony E-mount cameras.

    1. I have not yet personally tried any of the Wotancraft bags. The leather bags all were too heavy for my taste.
      The Trooper series does not look too bad on first sight, when I get the chance I will have a closer look in person.

  3. I find a lot of shoulder bags leave too much space on the top sides… I mean, how hard is it to use a little more fabric and give the top flap some “shoulders”?

  4. I have the Retrospective 5 as one of my many bags, and I think it’s great with only one rather big disadvantage: it’s weight is 1 kg which is a lot for a small bag. I have several other small bags that come in at 0.4 kg and that means that I can take a few extra lenses with the same burden on my back and shoulders.

  5. I… actually like the new rings on the Retro v2, lol. I didn’t at first either, but it grew on me. Regardless, I think the new features are well worth it. But the big downside is weight. That and the padded part of the strap is a little annoying when shifting the back front/back (this is true for any bag for me, though). That and black is no longer an option for now 🙁

    But I love the magnets. I wanted to do this but wasn’t sure the magnets would stay put. How are you fastening them to the velcro, just more velcro?

  6. When I’m going light, I use a Tenba DNA8, which is pretty comparable to the Retrospective 5 in terms of size (but less thick, which I like quit a bit better). The Tenba is lighter (590g), has better rain protection even without the separate cover and two mesh pockets on the sides, which allow to carry a bottle or other stuff. It does have the quiet velcro like the Retrospective, too. And it is about half the price.

    From look and material point of view, the Retrospective seems nicer, perhaps also more robust.

    I use the Tenba with A7ii and four lenses (CV15mm, CV28mm, KM50mm, Leica 90mm), dedicated lens hoods for each lens, spare batteries, polarizer, lenspen, sometimes additional filters.

    When I use more or larger equipment, I always use a backpack.

    1. Hi,

      that Tenba DNA 8 has on the top flap a zipper, to provide quick access to interior (no need to open the whole bag). Is this usefull or too narrow for a camera body with lens to pass easily? The zipper can scratch the gear?
      Sometimes this solutions are not so effective in the real world.

      I think that the Retrospective 5 flap is a bit too big to handle everytime one must access the gear.
      Also seems that the “silence velcro mode” is silent but at the same time not safe because the bag is just open an also silente to be open by “others”. 8-X

      Thank you

  7. Retro 5 is the best looking bag i have, but it’s actually too heavy.
    Retro 7 used to come in black nylon also, it was quite light.

  8. Hello Bastian,

    First of all, thank you for your work. This blog is a very practical and easy to read resource for Sony shooters. My question: Would the retrospective 5 fit the Tamron 2875 facing down, with a few other lens to the sides of it? From what I can tell and from reading the specs I imagine it would be a tight fit, but possible.

    Thank you

  9. Thanks for your review. The one feature I do like about the Retrospective v2.0 (vs v1.0) is the zipper on the camera compartment. I can choose to keep it zipped or unzipped and tucked behind the cover flap. I have a TT City Walker which is also a great bag but I always am worrying about dumping out the camera and lens when picking it up etc. Thanks again.

      1. I hear you. As usual with Think Tank, they build in lots of flexibility. When shooting, either use the velcro to hold the zippered flap out of the way or tuck it into the cover. When travelling just zip it up.

  10. Hello Bastian,
    Very nice review of the think tank bags. I need your help in choosing one of the bag. I won Nikon D750 with 24-120, Nikkor 18-35, Tokina 100mm f2.8 macro and nikkor 50mm f1.8 along with Nissin 622 MarkII flash. At any point in time i will carry 2 lenses with the flash. Which bag do you suggest out of retro 5 or 7 or 10? Many Thanks in advance

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