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Somebody somewhere recommended this bag to me as a good option for a small mirrorless system. Our local pro shop had one in stock and I mulled over it for days. Eventually the GAS was too much to bear and I went down there yesterday, credit card in tow. An hour or so later and my entire m43 system was snuggled up inside it. That’s the OM-D E-M5, the Panasonic Lumix GF1, four lenses, the baby flash for the Oly, plus there’s room for at least 1 more lens, or perhaps a proper Olympus flash should I ever need one. Or maybe another OM-D in the future. You never know.

Dividing It Up

The bag comes with a few thinnish nylon dividers in addition to the two main ones used to divide the main compartment into three main parts. The problem with these smaller dividers is that there isn’t enough soft edge velcro on the inside of the bag for them to be used on every edge, specifically the edges on the short sides of the bag. There isn’t anything there for them to connect onto, nor are the dividers themselves capable of attaching to each other. The bag I have been using prior to getting the Retrospective 5 does have dividers that can attach to each other, but they’re red. The style police will have me shot if I put them inside the new bag.

What the people at ThinkTank did instead of make the entire interior an attachable surface, was sew in a couple of smooth nylon pouches to either short side. These make some sense. I can get the lenses to fit snugly into them, but getting them out of there is a bit more difficult – I have to reach right inside the bag and push from underneath the pouch to pop the lens out. You can’t simply put your fingers around the lens cap and pull it out. It’s too snug. Also, the pouches don’t have any padding, it’s just straight nylon, so if it’s resting up against something else in the bag there’s a chance of impact wear.

So, instead of using the pouches to hold the lenses, I folded them closed (there’s actually a velcro tip you can do this with) and using the three original compartments, together with the pouches my lenses all originally came with, I got everything in. Fits good. I can get to things easily enough when I need to. I can also slide my iPad Mini into the front exterior pouch of the bag should I ever find myself needing to use it outside of the house. I’ll probably just put my wallet and phone in there instead.

Other Features

The shoulder strap is length adjustable, but not removable. I found it quite comfortable. There is a removable soft handle if you’d prefer to carry the bag that way.

In the inside rear of the bag there is a zippered pocket, plus another one on the inside front that has a velcro flap should you wish to keep it closed.  This pocket has a variety of smaller sleeves for things like pens or memory cards. There are also a couple of slender pockets on either side of the exterior. I don’t know what you could fit inside them, but they’re there. Condoms maybe?

Just above these slender external pouches are loops made of the same material as the main shoulder strap. At first I couldn’t fathom why ThinkTank had added them there, but then I had a revelation: you can loop a leg of a small lightweight tripod in there and it will dangle safely from the bag without getting in your way (until you put the bag on the ground).

The main flap has a novel little feature in the form of silence-able velcro strips that keep it closed. I’m assuming that if you are in a church shooting a wedding or a museum with a Librarian-like curator staring steely-eyed at you for even the slightest noise, you can avoid making any when opening the bag by enabling this feature. Just remember to put it into silent mode before you go inside.

Other cool features include a removable rain jacket (this takes up quite a bit of space), and something I like a lot – a little window pouch to store some business cards in. I always carry a small number of business cards in every camera bag I own. Having them visible always means you don’t have to go hunting for them. That’s helpful.

The Look

This is a good looking bag. There’s nothing to indicate that it’s a camera bag when looking at it casually, although it’s boxy shape might give it away as being more than just a regular messenger bag.  There are (I think) three different colours available through the whole Retrospective range. I like this one a lot. Reminds me of a fisherman’s bag I used to use in my rebellious days in high school when carrying large numbers of books was the opposite of cool.

Bigger Cameras? 

Yeah, I can see that it will definitely hold my Nikon D700 without grip, plus a couple of shorter lenses, including the 24-70/2.8 and maybe a smaller flash like the SB-400.

Conclusion 

It’s not a cheap bag, runs close to $140, but I think that it’s worth the asking money. I’m going to feel quite comfortable walking around outdoors with it. If you’re looking for a shade of cool to accompany your lightweight camera gear, this is definitely worth a look and for travellers who don’t want to stand out this is a great solution for taking a small system on your travels (hopefully one of them will be with us soon!).

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