Gear Review: Finally, A Camera Bag That Doesn’t Say “Rob Me”

By National
Geographic Adventure Contributing Editor Steve Casimiro, editor of
The Adventure Life

Try as you might, you will never blend in in the souks of Marrakesh, nor will your Nikon or Canon DSLR nor the fancy adventure camera bag you bought to protect your gear. Despite your best intentions, nothing screams “rob me” in a hectic Third World market like an expensive piece of electronics and the shiny nylon that encompasses it. That’s why Think Tank’s Retrospective 20 ($159, shown in pinestone) has become my favorite camera bag for travel of any sort: While I’ll always have to be careful about flashing the camera, the Think Tank’s tweedy exterior could be mistaken for a hemp hippie satchel or natural fiber messenger bag filled with nothing more than a Lonely Planet guidebook.

But the Retrospective is anything but a simple messenger bag. It’s padded and organized to hold a professional-size camera body and up to four lenses, including the workhorse 70-200mm. Removable dividers separate the main compartment into three sections to start; I turned it into two so I could store my Canon 5D Mark II with 24-70mm lens flat, while in the other section I stash dust blower, lens cloth and cleaning solution, memory card holder, and the other detritus of photography. Configured this way, whenever I want to shoot, I reach in, grab the waiting hand grip on the body, and go. The body slides in and out smoothly, quietly, and quickly. The lack of zippers, which you find on most travel bags, makes the process less conspicuous and speedier. So, too, does a clever feature in which you can cover the patches of Velcro on the cover flap so opening the Retrospective is completely silent.

Carrying the bag is equally pleasing. The shoulder strap is soft and wide, the pad is thick and features grippy rubber tabs to keep it from slipping (it works). Interior cushioning is just the right amount–you never feel the hard edges of gear against your body, but it’s not so bulky as to be klunky to use. And perhaps my favorite feature–there’s a handle sewn into the bag where the shoulder straps attach, so when you pick it up, the bag doesn’t tip. Messenger bag manufacturers could learn from this simple but clever idea.

The Retrospective has a zippered rear pocket and accordianed front pocket, both of which will hold an iPad or guidebook. It comes with a waterproof cover and small organizing pockets. About the only thing that could improve it would be a tuck-away waist strap so you could secure it when riding a bike or running. Laptops won’t fit, but that should be seen as a strength, not weakness: It’ll make you faster, lighter, and less obvious, and no matter what world you’re shooting in, that’s a good thing.


  1. Amber, south american travels
    July 28, 2010, 3:46 pm

    This sounds like the perfect camera bag for me! I could never figure out why someone didn’t make a high quality, nicely padded camera bag from something other than the “rob me” shiny nylon branded with big logos of expensive cameras. In the past, I’d actually beat my bag up a bit and either remove of cover up any logos so to help off-set that “there’s expensive camera equipment inside of here” look.

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    July 29, 2010, 2:46 pm

    What a great bag! This will be perfect for my next trip!

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    August 5, 2010, 5:21 pm

    Instead you get robbed by the bag manufacturer with that price tag.

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    August 16, 2010, 6:12 am

    Very cute camera bag, a must have for anyone who loves the outdoor and anyone who loves taking pictures… This is a very nice review of this cam bag and it doesn’t really rob you off but keeps on inviting you to buy one 🙂

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    August 20, 2010, 10:29 pm

    This camera bag is good when you are planning camping because it is very handy and is design for outdoors. As you said, carrying the bag is equally pleasing.

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    August 29, 2010, 7:15 am

    About time such a bag was made!

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    September 19, 2010, 3:38 am

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    September 26, 2010, 11:41 am

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    November 2, 2010, 5:13 am

    It is always best to make your belongings look cheap or non-existant to a would-be thief, as this pack does.

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    November 3, 2010, 1:04 pm

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    November 4, 2010, 12:32 pm

    Where I live a bag that big screams “Rob Me”. They know that I am carrying and item or items of value.

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    great idea! I like it!

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    November 19, 2010, 12:43 am

    Excellent idea now I can travel without fear of assault me. Very cute camera bag. Thanks

  32. Pune
    November 19, 2010, 4:00 am

    Photography is my passion. I like to click Nature Photography & Animal. I have canon 5D its a great camera, i like that bag, hmm thinking to buy 😉

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    November 22, 2010, 12:10 am

    Excellent idea now I can travel without fear of assault me. Very cute camera bag. Thanks

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    November 29, 2010, 12:49 am

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  35. Bob N.
    November 29, 2010, 2:45 pm

    WOW, really cool. I am a photographer and am always aware of where I’m at when I’m shooting. Having a case that doesn’t look like a camera case sounds like a great idea. Wonder if it comes in various sizes? I have several lenses that I must use so the case has to be large enough for that plus the flash equipment

  36. Terry Brennan
    November 30, 2010, 9:53 am

    That set is awesome! I’ve always wanted to have that kind of camera, also with that kind of bag. It so handy and is really great for traveling. Camera is indeed necessary and never be forgotten during adventures!

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    January 18, 2011, 8:47 pm

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    January 19, 2011, 11:28 pm

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    August 4, 2011, 1:56 am

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    April 7, 2016, 9:20 am

    I have this camera but it’s broken now