Review of Retrospective 5 and Leica M (240)
There can be a perfect bag for you but there is no such thing as a perfect bag for everyone. We all have different requirements in a bag , not to mention that each photographer has his or her own favorite accessories to pack with the camera system.
The Retrospective 5 is made of 100% cotton canvas that is durable and has a water repellant coating to protect the bag from splashes. It comes in Pinestone (grayish), Black and Blue Slate. I choose the Pinestone that matches the North Face jacket that I wear when it is cool outside. The strap is thick and has a hefty durable feel and it wraps all the way around the bag. The included shoulder pad is quite thick and seems to big for the bag at first glance but is comfortable even after a long day of shooting.
Instead of listing all of the features from the ThinkTank Photo page I will highlight the ones that influenced me to choose this bag. At first glance the bag is very plain looking which may be its biggest asset. When street shooting the more that you blend into the crowd the better. And the Retrospective 5 does not scream expensive equipment. The velcro panels that fasten the main flap in place are a nice blend of not so tight that the flap is difficult to open but have the gripping power to keep the flap in place. This is a fine line that many manufacturers just can’t get right. Most grab so much that the bag is hard to open. ThinkTank has done a really good job in this respect. The inside has adjustable dividers that are standard in most bags nowadays. There are 2 pockets at the front of the bag and one zippered compartment in the back of the bag. Not to be missed there are 2 small nylon compartments at the ends of the bags on the inside. They are great for carrying extra batteries. The hand strap on the top of the bag is small which is great because it does not interfere with opening the bag. The included rain cover is very well designed and can be wrapped around the bag in about a minute. That cover has gotten a lot of use this winter as it has been quite rainy. I am big on keeping my lens elements clean and have found that the outside pocket on either end is really useful for keeping a LensPen for a quick cleaning of a lens.
What Goes Inside
Most of my shooting is done with one camera and one lens. But that doesn’t stop me from packing more equipment. Although it only accounts for about 10% of my images I carry my Noctilux with me most of the time. It has a Neutral Density filter mounted on it and I carry a clear filter for night shooting. I am never without my 39mm ND 8 because I like to do long exposure during the day. A moleskine and two pens for notes and captions. An X-rite color checker passport for color balance and camera calibration. My trusty Leica Table Top tripod that I carry everywhere. The handy ThinkTank SD card wallet. And of course a cable release. There are other accessories that come and go based on the assignment.
I have been using this bag for about 1 1/2 years now and I really like it. Over the years I have probably used 10 different bags for my Leica cameras. Most have been too big and bulky while carrying the same amount of equipment. The Retrospective 5 is a nice mixture of size and portability. One thing that bothered me at the beginning was the size of the cover flap. It seems quite big for such a small bag. It hangs almost to the bottom of the bag. I personally would like it a bit shorter, say half way down the front. Also the outside end pockets are too difficult to get objects in and out of due to the placement of the loops for attaching accessories to the bag. I would also like to see D-rings on the back of the bag for adding a waist strap for added security. On the plus side thanks for not putting a big colorful logo on the front of the bag to make it stand out. For a Leica kit with 2-3 lenses this really is a great bag. Also another shout-out for the inclusion of a rain cover. Amateurs put their cameras away when the weather comes out to play but pros keep on shooting.
If your on the never ending quest for a bag for your Leica or Micro 4/3rd system I highly recommend checking out the ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 5 bag. You get a lot of bag design for the price. You can carry lots of equipment but not be weighed down by a big bulky bag.