I get a lot of questions about my Olympus kit since I got my OM-D E-M5. I wanted to do a series of posts about my Oly kit that would address the most common questions. I am going to start with something that seems simple at first glance…
Choosing a camera bag is usually not too tough. You start with what sort of gear you want to carry, then decide how you want to carry it. After trying all sorts of backpacks, sling bags, rollers, etc, etc I came back to the good ol’ shoulder bag. I like the flexibility of a shoulder bag. You can carry them several different ways and you can access your gear without putting the bag down. Backpacks drive me crazy because you have to take them off to get to your stuff.
The small size of micro four thirds (m4/3) cameras like the E-M5 makes the decision a bit more complicated. The bags I use for my Nikon kit are designed to carry larger cameras and up to 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. They can also hold an iPad if you hold your mouth just right. While these bags are great for full sized gear, they swallow up the m4/3 cameras and lenses. A 10″ deep bag is not an efficient way to carry a 3″ long lens!
The other side of the coin is equally as frustrating. Most of the smaller bags that I have seen marketed to the m4/3 market are tiny. If you’re lucky they hold a camera and one or two lenses. I usually carry three to four lenses in addition to the one attached to the camera, plus a couple of filters, batteries, SD cards, chargers, etc. I basically need the capacity of a larger bag (like my favorite ThinkTankPhoto Retrospective 20), but on a smaller scale for the m4/3 gear.
Enter the new Think Tank Photo Retrospective 7.
I was very excited when I saw the press release about this new bag. I love the Retrospective bags. I have a Retrospective 20 and a Retrospective 30. These bags are basically updated versions of the classic soft-sided camera bag. They have just enough padding to protect your gear, but they are flexible enough to get out of your way and not feel bulky. In addition to the usual camera compartment and side pockets, the Retrospective 7 adds a padded slot for an iPad or 11″ laptop.
The Retrospective 7 is the perfect size for MY micro 4/3 kit. The bag comes configured for the usual camera with a lens attached and two additional lenses, but it includes several additional dividers. Since the m4/3 gear is smaller I was able to divide the main compartment into four slots instead of three. This allows me to carry the OM-D E-M5 with a lens and battery grip attached, five additional lenses (mostly smaller primes) and an Olympus FL-600r flash. There are small pockets on either end of the main compartment that I use for a memory card wallet and a lens pen.
The “organizer” pocket toward the front of the bag holds a remote, clip-on flash for the E-M5, microphone and a circular polarizer. There is an expandable pocket on the front of the bag (under the flap) that is large enough to hold a pro-size camera body. I use it for extra batteries, a notebook and other small accessories.
The Retrospective 7 is not just for smaller camera systems. I have also been using the Retro 7 to carry a Nikon D800E with a lens attached and two additional lenses. The Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VRII will fit in the bag, but not attached to the camera. It;s a perfect bag for a small kit like this, and the Retro 7 will easily accomidate a regular DSLR without a battery grip.
I love the iPad/ Macbook Air pocket on the Retrospective 7. I have been trying to travel light lately and use my iPad instead of a laptop. With the camera connect kit and apps like NIK software’s Snapseed, the iPad is becoming a pretty serious photography tool. I still prefer to do any real editing in Lightroom 4, and the 11″ Macbook Air makes working on the road an easy proposition. The 11″ MacBook Air AND the iPad fit into the laptop pocket at the same time, and the pair is still lighter than my 15″ Macbook Pro.
One of the things I don’t like about camera backpacks and larger camera bags in general is the fact that they hold everything. While this is great when you’re on the way somewhere, I don’t want to drag my battery chargers, card readers, etc into the field if I don’t have to. The Retrospective bags have a strap on either end to allow you to attach Think Tank’s small belt packs and expand the bag if you need to. I have one small “Stuff it” bag that I attach to the end of the bag to hold my camera battery chargers and cords. I use another “Stuff It” bag to hold an external hard drive, card reader and computer and iPad power adapters. The Mercury On-The-Go Pro drives from OWC fit into the “Stuff It” like they were made for them. When I go out to shoot I can easily remove the small bags and leave them in the hotel room without having to unpack the whole bag. The straps on the Retrospective bags are not long enough to use larger pouches, but the Stuff It or Strobe Stuff bags are no problem. In hotter climates the R U Hot could come in handy too!
I got the Retrospective 7 in the new Slate Blue color. I think the new color looks better in person than it does on the Think Tank Photo website. I expected it to look more like denim than it actually does. I think the blue bag looks a bit more “urban” than the black or pinestone bags. The blue looks more fashionable than the other colors in my opinion. I personally prefer the more Indiana Jones style of the pinestone bags, but the Blue Slate is growing on me.
I’ve been using the Retrospective 7 as my daily-driver bag for a few weeks now. I normally use the larger Retrospective bags, so there have not been a lot of surprises. The fit and finish are excellent as I have come to expect from Think Tank Photo, and I think the iPad/MBA pocket is a great addition to the Retrospective series. For what I’m shooting these days (equipment and subject matter) the Retro 7 is the perfect size. I just have to decide if I want to get one in Pinestone too!