About three months ago I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the smallest of Think Tank’s new Retrospective linethe Retrospective 10.  The Retrospective line is Think Tank’s new shoulder bag line that aims to help photographers “…blend in with the crowd and remain inconspicuous in any situation.”  The Retrospective line further boasts that the Retrospective line “[has the] look and feel of ‘old school’ camera bags infused with ‘new-school’ features in technology…

As a photographer who lives with the people I photograph, I was eager to review this bag from the viewpoint of “Will it help me look like less intimidating as a photographer?” So let’s get started.

Just the facts

The Retrospective 10 is the smallest of Think Tanks Retrospective bags.

The Retrospective 10’s features are listed below(straight from Think Tank’s catalog):

  • Inside Specs:  12″x 9.5″ x6″
  • Outside Specs: 13″ x 10.5″ x 7″
  • Minimalist outer appearance conceals expensive photo equipment
  • Carries a pro size DSLR with zoom lens attached
  • Accommodates up to a 70-200 f2.8 lens
  • Organizer pocket built into main compartment for pens, note pad, batteries, etc
  • Seam sealed rain cover included for protection against the elements
  • Soft, adjustable shoulder strap with cushioned non-slip pad
  • Hook & Loop “Sound Silencers” on the front flap eliminate noise while opening bag
  • Side pockets and side webbing loops carrying for additional accessories
  • Clear busines card holder and removable carrying handle


The Retrospect 10 has a lot going for it.

The Look – First things first, it’s a gorgeous bag.  Both the pinestone and the black models are excellent looking bags – so much so that I’ve found it hard to pry them out of my wife’s hands.  People are surprised to see me pull a camera out of it, and that’s kind of the point.  I’ve taken the black Retrospective 10 to business meetings and then in the same day gone out and used it as my primary camera bag. Both the Pinestone and the Black Poly are versatile enough for me to be comfortable in a business setting as well as sitting in a nomads tent drinking butter tea.  Not having to think about if my bag is appropriate or not is a pretty big relief.

Convenience – There are more than enough places for your gear to go.  Per usual, Think Tank has spent their time actually considering what it’s like to use a camera bag.  I had the bag set up with two main compartments but the added velcro sides allowed for three if you felt you could use it that way.  I’ve actually used the “Sound Silencers” more than I thought in intimate settings and it’s convenient to not be making all kinds of noise.  The huge (relatively) front pocket was perfect for my notebook and iPad and then tossing other things into it that I didn’t have time to store while out shooting.

Size & Packing – I definitely overpacked it the first time I used it.  I found myself trying to make the bag more than it was – but space is space. There’s no doubt that it’s a ‘small’ bag – but it’s conveniently built enough to fit a lot of things into it, which can turn into a bit of a logistical challenge.  My first outing with the Retrospective 10 I carried the following gear:

  • Nikon D90 w/ battery grip (my smallest body)
  • Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8
  • Sigma 18-50mm f 2.8
  • Nikkor 35mm f 1.8
  • Nikon SB28 flash
  • Flip HD video camera
  • Multitool
  • Extra camera battery
  • Iphone, sizable notepad, blower, lenspen, pens, pencil

Though hauling around that much gear didn’t feel awkward the bags sweet spot is definitely with less gear that this.  I usually leave the flash and 35mm lens at home and use a D700 rather than the D90.  The Retrospective 10 really shines with smaller amounts of gear.  Furthermore, and iPad fits perfectly in the front pocket! It’s a great bag from travelling light and fast.

Comfort – The Retrospective 10 is the most comfortable shoulder bag that I own – hands down. It hugs the body very very well and never really slides off the shoulder and slings around.  Moving around and being active with this bag is no problem at all.  The strap is very wide and super comfortable as well – I hate thin straps that tear into my shoulder, don’t you?  Using the Retrospective 10 has made my other satchels and shoulder bags that I never thought were uncomfortable feel awkward, which I’m not entirely happy about.

Durability – It’s tough.  I really don’t have any concern about taking this bag anywhere and being pretty rought with it, like I am with all my gear.  The canvas sides provide pretty good protection but it’s not thick enough to go bashing the thing all over the place and expect your gear to be fine (who does that, anyways?!)

Getting it stolen – It doesn’t look like a camera bag – this is a huge selling point for me.  Where I live having a camera bag that looks like a camera bag screams “Rich foreigner tourist!  Come steal my stuff.”  Because I’m not rich, I like to avoid having my stuff stolen.  Like I mentioned earlier, people are usually surprised to find out its a camera bag.


There are only a handful of things on the Retrospective 10 that I would consider to be slightly …not-so-good.

“Eats my gear” – First, the canvas doesn’t provide much shape/form to the Retrospective 10.  The bag tends to ‘swallow’ my gear.  Even with a light load I noticed that the bag would cinch around my camera body and my 70-200, making it a bit more hassle to get out than I’m used to.  Rearranging gear seemed to alleviate the problem but not entirely.

Too Many Options – There are a serious amount of pockets and storage for this small of a bag. Why is that a not-so-good thing?  Here’s why. You look into the bag and think to yourself “That’s an excellent place for a flash!” and so you shove a flash in, which in turn reduces the space in another part of the bag – duh.  However, having that many pockets makes idiots like me want to load them full of stuff.  This is probably one of the better ‘problems’ to have with a bag.  That being said, for my personal preference I could have used less dedicated pockets and nooks and crannies – just space.  Like I mentioned earlier I found myself using the big front pocket more than anything else.  For my use, It just feels like there is a lot of extra stuff packed into the Retrospective 10 – some will find it extremely useful and others, like me, will kinda wish it wasn’t there.  This is an easy problem to solve though – buy the Retrospective 20 or 30.


On to the real reason for reviewing this bag;  Is it less intimidating?

Let me start by saying if you are looking for something that’s going to allow you to be completely covert, inconspicuous, and avoid your subject(s), this bag isn’t it – no bag will do that for you.  As good as the Retrospective 10 is for taking some of the edge off, it’s no crutch for those wanting to simply avoid cultural encounters and not respectfully engage people photographically.

Now that that’s out of the way – I’ve noticed that the Retrospective 10 style doestake a few bricks out of the cultural walls that can be put up where I live.  The Retrospect 10 allows me to approach people without them immediately associating me with all the bad culturally insensitive photographers they have trampled through this area in the past.  A bag that helps me approach people on a human level first without the stigma of all the photographic gear is a good thing.  However, it’s not a magic bullet and it’s no substitute for being culturally respectful and sensitive.

On a further note, I have been able to use this bag while in America and purposefully noticed some of the same benefits.  For the sake of reading, please feel free to insert any culture into the scenarios I presented above since annoying photographers exist everywhere, right?


In short, the Retrospective 10 is an excellent bag for what it is – a small bag.  If you are wanting to use more gear, the bag will be too small and you will be frustrated.  However, if you are looking for a very comfortable bag that you can carry a small amount of gear I wouldn’t hesitate to add this bag to your gear list.  The pros highly outweigh the cons for me, which is apparent since I use the bag daily.

As far as what Think Tank made it for – a bag that helps you blend into the crowd – the Retrospective 10 is a something to consider.  I’ve found it very useful for not exacerbating the stigma of annoying and rude photographers in cultural settings – or in any setting.  If you are looking for a bag that allows you to easily throw the camera in with a few extra lenses among other things, the Retrospective 10 is an excellent option.

**Think Tank was generous enough to offer us a code to get free gear w/ Think Tank product purchases.  Click here for more details or use the code AP-403 at checkout.