DSLR users as well as users of mirrorless system cameras know that once you start buying more lenses to add to your collection, the more stuff you’ll need to carry around. That means that you’ll need to find yourself a bag of some sort that can carry around all the gear you need. The problem is that although you can find a bag to carry all your stuff, you might not want to actually carry it all and instead only want to carry what you need for a specific shoot. That’s where the the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 comes in to play. It is a small shoulder bag, but is large enough to hold a camera and a lens or several lenses.


In my case, I am using the Retrospective 5 with my Sony NEX-5N and my Olympus PEN E-PL3. These are much smaller cameras then DSLRs but they still have interchangeable lenses that I have to carry around with me from time to time. What makes the Retrospective 5 so ideal though is the fact that the interior of the bag can be customized for any situation thanks to a generous number of padded inserts. It comes with 5 inserts that can be attached any which way thanks to an easy Velcro system. This means I can design my own interior compartments for use with whatever equipment I want to carry on a given day.

For instance, let’s say I wanted to carry my Sony NEX-5N and some my extra lenses and attachments for it. I could easily do it with the Retrospective 5.I was able to fit my NEX-5N with the 18-55mm kit lens attached to it and lens hood, my 16mm pancake lens, an old Sigma UC Zoom 70-210mm lens and the lens adapter for it. After all that, I still had space for some extra cables, memory cards, and the battery charger with room to spare. All of that and the Retrospective 5 was still relatively small and compact.

Now that is just one example of what I could carry. There are other times when I want to to take are 2 or 3 cameras and no lenses because I have each camera set up for different situations. In that case, I was again able to fit my NEX-5N with 18-55mm kit lens, an Olympus PEN E-PL3 with 20mm pancake lens, as well as a few miscellaneous accessories with room to spare for my wallet, iPhone, and keys.

Interior Specs - Removable closed cell foam inserts with PE board stiffener, 210D silver-toned nylon, PU backed velex, 2x PU coated nylon 210T seam-sealed taffeta rain cover, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

With the Retrospective 5, you don’t have to worry about minor bumps and everyday usage damaging any of your photo equipment as the entire interior of the bag is padded. Equipment stays secure and safe and the included dividers keep things from rubbing up against each other. Inside, you’ll also find a large zippered pocket, two smaller side Velcro pockets, as well as a larger Velcro compartment that features accessory pockets for things like memory cards, filters, or remotes. in total, there are 4 generous interior pockets to hold almost anything you want.


What I like about the Retrospective 5 is how inconspicuous the bag looks. From the outside, it just looks like a regular shoulder bag or messenger bag that someone might carry on an everyday basis. There is very little on the outside that screams camera bag which is great because that’s the last thing you want to draw attention to. The bag I was sent was black which also helps with concealing what the bag’s real purpose is meant for. The black also optically makes the bag looks slimmer than it really is.

On the outside of that bag, on the backside there is a zippered pocket that is actually quite large. It’s not quite large enough to fit something like an iPad, but you could easily fit a small book or any manuals you might have. On either side of the bag are also 2 pockets. I’m not sure what you could fit in these however as they are kind of tight but you could probably fit some pens you might have or even some business cards or a small notepad or your mobile phone. Above these pockets sits webbing loops on both sides as well. These allow you to hook items such as carabiners or some of the modular components that Think Tank Photo sells as well.

Exterior Specs - All fabric exterior treated with DWR while fabric underside is coated with PU for superior water resistance, sand-washed 100% cotton canvas, antique nickel plated metal hardware, YKK® RC Fuse (abrasion resistant) zippers, nylon webbing, 3-ply bonded nylon thread.

The Retrospective 5 has a huge flap that covers most of the entire front of the bag. It is held shut by Velcro strips that can also be silenced by covering them up the sound silencer system. That it does is allows you to cover up the portion that is on the flap so that it no longer hooks to the opposite part on the bag. This lets you open and shut the bag without it making any noises, but it also doesn’t allow you to secure the bag shut anymore. Basically with this method, gravity is doing the job of keeping it shut. I do admit though that it’s a clever idea and is quite helpful in a situation where you want to stay as quite as possible, especially if you have to go into your bag often.

When you open the flap, you’ll also notice that there is yet another pocket on the front of the bag. This is an expandable pocket that is held shut by a Velcro tab as well. This is probably the largest of the available pockets on the bag and is large enough to hold a standard DSLR body. However, for this review, the pocket included a detachable rain cover which is used to cover the bag and your gear in case of rain. It’s a neat little accessory and one that certainly comes in handy where I live since it rains here often.

Like most shoulder bags, the Retrospective 5 is carried using its built in shoulder strap. It’s made out of the same material as the webbing loops and is built to withstand some heavy usage. Unlike some other bags, it also includes a really nice non-slip shoulder pad that really helps with comfort.

You’ll also find that the bag includes a carrying handle as well which allows you to carry it with your hand. It has a decent hand grip and is adjustable as well as removable if you don’t want to use it or have no need for it.

Other than that, a very stealthy bag that doesn’t draw attention to itself and does what it needs to do which is to keep your equipment safe.

Final Thoughts

I’m loving the Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5. Those looking for a bag to hold all of their gear should look elsewhere and maybe look at the Retrospective 10 or 20 or maybe into a backpack instead. For me however, the Retrospective 5 is perfect for everyday use especially if you are just roaming the town and want to keep your camera handy. I don’t need to carry all of my gear and usually just need one of my cameras and a backup lens which makes the Retrospective 5 the perfect size.

I love all the extra pockets this bag has too which allows me to carry a few little extras with me which I couldn’t do with my other bag, I’m able to carry some usual camera accessories like filters, a card reader, and my charger as well as non photo equipment like my mobile phone, mp3 player, business cards, and some pens. I also love all the little extras included like the extra separators, the sound silencer system, and the included rain cover.

Overall, the Retrospective 5 is a solid bag that is made well, feels like a very high quality bag, and it’s something I don’t mind carrying around with me all the time as it doesn’t make me look like a tourist out on vacation. You can pick up a Retrospective 5 for $137.50 in 3 different colors – Slate Blue, Pinestone, and Black. The Slate Blue and Pinestone are made out of canvas while the Black is made out of polyspun nylon. The bag isn’t cheap, but you get what you pay for and in this case, I believe you are getting more than your monies worth.

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 (black)

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 (blue slate)

Think Tank Photo Retrospective 5 (pinestone)

Please note that if you use the links above, you’ll be eligible to receive a free gift with your purchase at checkout.

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