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Retrospective Backpack 15L: the return of the classic canvas rucksack

Think Tank Photo’s newest backpack, built for adventure travel, represents a new carrying solution for photographers who like the popular Retrospective line and need a backpack.

Retrospective backpack: the return of the classic canvas rucksack

Looking like a backpack from yesteryear, the Retrospective Backpack 15L mixes the vintage looks with the durable materials from modern days, from closed-cell foam interiors to DWR to repel the elements.

Whether bushwhacking through the outback or horse packin’ in the Wild West, the Retrospective Backpack 15L is designed for adventure travel photography. With this new backpack Think Tank Photo expands the Retrospective shoulder bag series, with all of the style and design details that have made the line so popular, in a new direction, which will, no doubt, attract the attention of those who love the materials used in the Retrospective shoulder bags introduced in recent years.

The new Retrospective Backpack 15L brings me a déjà vu feeling. It looks very much like my first photo backpack, which as an army canvas rucksack adapted for my photography needs. While one of my first shoulder photo bags was a Tenba, the classic solution back in the 70s of last century, with external pockets around the main body, backpacks were not something widely offered by the industry then, and military surplus pieces of equipment were usually chosen. The familiar rectangular shape of those canvas backpacks returns in this new addition to Think Tank Photo’s Retrospective family.

Retrospective backpack: the return of the classic canvas rucksack

Retrospective backpack: the return of the classic canvas rucksack

20L of total storage

It may look like the backpacks many of us used decades ago, bought from army surplus, but the Retrospective Backpack 15L is different. This classic-styled rucksack features rugged yet form-fitting canvas that is treated with DWR to repel the elements. A zippered security flap under the lid tucks away to provide rapid top access, while the back panel offers full access to your gear – including a 15-inch laptop. Superior construction, comfortable harness and legendary Think Tank quality inspires confidence so you can focus on the shot.

Don’t be fooled by the numbers. Although the name – Retrospective Backpack 15L – suggests 15L capacity, this back holds more, as it offers 20L of total storage: 15L enclosed space plus 5L additional for personal gear in the front pocket. What’s more, its main compartment is  configurable for camera gear or personal gear, thanks to the closed-cell foam and PE board reinforced dividers.

New addition to a popular line

“The combination of photo and personal gear carry makes the Retrospective Backpack the perfect bag for adventure travel,” said Doug Murdoch, Think Tank CEO and Lead Designer. “It’s a natural addition to the Retrospective shoulder bag series, with all of the style and design details that have made the line so popular.”

Retrospective backpack: the return of the classic canvas rucksack

Externally, the backpack offers a tripod attachment on side or front panel, two collapsible water bottle pockets, a organizer pocket  and a zippered pocket for valuables and small items.  Removable webbing waist belt and  an adjustable sternum slider are important comfort features included, and the backpack comes with the mandatory seam-sealed rain cover, which you would never find in your old army backpack. It is also compatible with Think Tank Modular pouches, in case you need to carry more. Just remember that 20L is a good carrying size for many outdoor adventures, so don’t try to make this 15/20L backpack look like a 40L one… Just my two cents!

Retrospective backpack: the return of the classic canvas rucksack

Top and rear-panel access

The Retrospective Backpack 15L can carry, says Think Tank Photo, a standard DSLR body or a Mirrorless camera system, a 15” laptop and up to four lenses: a 70–200mm f/2.8 attached,  a 24–70mm f/2.8, a 100mm or 105mm f/2.8 macro  and a 50mm f/1.4. there is also space for a flash and some small accessories. If you’re a Fujifilm user, you can carry, as an example, a  Fujifilm X–T3 with 50–140mm f/2.8 attached, 35mm f/1.4, 14mm f/2.8, 60mm f/2.4, 23mm f/1.4, 56mm f/1.2, 16mm f/1.4 and a flash. Sony users will have less space; the backpack can hold a Sony A7rIII with 70–200mm f/2.8 attached (hood extended), 16–35mm f/4, 24–70mm f/2.8 and a flash.

With its soft and form-fitting with minimalist outer appearance and top and rear-panel access to camera gear, the Retrospective Backpack 15L appears as the first backpack solution added to what was, until now, a shoulder bag line up. Expect to see more solutions from think tank Photo to appear in the future. Priced at $ 249.75, the backpack is available in pinestone and black.


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Journalist, writer and photographer since 1979, both print and online, with a vast experience in the fields of photography, software, hardware, web, aviation, History, video games, technology, having published content in almost all Portuguese newspapers…
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