That being said, my kit has slimmed down over the past little while. I used to haul my SLR and a couple zooms and a prime and a Macbook and and and and. The Retro works great for that, because you can stuff a lot (like, A LOT, especially if you’re not worried about separating everything out perfectly and don’t even think twice about tossing a lens or two in the front pocket that’s probably more designed for accessories or a notebook). But I don’t always shoot like that anymore. I frequently go out with a minimal set up - one DSLR and one or two primes, or even a rangefinder or mirrorless kit with the same. My Rolleiflex usually ends up in the bag too. It’s a smaller kit that doesn’t necessitate the workhorse that is my Retro.
Enter: Signature 10.
It’s quite a similar design to the Retro series, which I really like (I hate when companies change something that’s working just fine), but it’s so much prettier and so much lighter. The Retro is made from a weather-treated canvas. Don't get me wrong, it's great, because it wears like a dream, but it’s heavy empty - and then I go and throw ten pounds of gear in it. By contrast, the Signature feels light enough to juggle. It’s soft to the touch, with gunmetal buckles and leather accents. It comes with an included rain cover, as usual, though to be honest I've already tossed that in the corner of my closet with the rest of them. We'll see how weather resistant the bag is without the next time I get caught in the crossfire of Calgary's weather.
EDIT: Within the week after I wrote this initial draft, I:
a) spent three hours wandering in one of Calgary's infamous spring snowstorms, and
b) trudged the 25-minute walk home from another coffee shop in a steady downpour.
The rain cover is still lost in the depths of my closet somewhere. The bag held up just fine.
(Not totally sure about the three colours of leather straps I have going on here, but what can you do. This is why, whenever possible, I go for all black everything.)
It also just looks really nice, which isn’t something that can be said about a lot of camera bags. While I rarely fit the aesthetic of “working professional” that this bag implies (as I write this, I’m holed up in the corner of a coffee shop in my comfy leggings, worn and cracked Dr. Martens, and a slightly oversized hoodie), I still like nice things. And occasionally, I'd like to have a nicer bag I can take to the bar, or street-shooting with. Downtown Calgary is pretty casual and tame, in my opinion (maybe that's just because I live here), but get me back over to London or somewhere and it'll fit right in. It really doesn't scream "camera bag" either, which is something I like to have, especially when I'm travelling. I don't really want to advertise to the world that I've got a couple thousand bucks worth of crap with me.
Like every Think Tank product I’ve come across, it’s intelligently designed in pretty much every aspect. The neoprene padding is sewn in place on the strap so it doesn’t slip all over the place, the strap itself is super strong, made from seatbelt-style nylon, so even if I ignore the point of a smaller bag and stuff it, I'm not worried. It’s adjustable enough to be comfortably worn on one shoulder or cross-body. It’s got the pass through strap to carry over a roller bag handle, and a way to tack the inside zippered cover to the flap or tuck it away if you don’t use it. There's a zippered pocket inside the front pocket to tuck pens and business cards and important things away so you don't lose them. There's even a dedicated spot to put your phone, if you're the kind of person who can bear to have it out of their hand for more than thirty seconds. (Not me.) As usual, they’ve thought of everything.
If anything, I’m interested to see how it’ll hold up over time. So far, I’ve been impressed with Think Tank products - that’s why I keep using/abusing them - and I’m hopeful, but the pessimist in me wonders if it might be too nice to last. After about three weeks of use, there's already some visible wear on the leather bottom (likely a consequence of me stuffing it into a locker) - though the rest of the bag still looks brand new. At any rate, it’s become my primary bag for the majority of my shooting, so it’s going to be put to the test.
(It's worth noting that they also have the Signature 13, which is a little bit larger and more in line with the size and specs of the Retro 7. I went with the smaller bag because the kind of photo work I do - i.e. not corporate or weddings - doesn't really necessitate a nice looking bag to carry my full kit. And I wanted something smaller that might entice me to take my camera out more often without hauling the weight and bulk of a larger bag that fits more than what I usually need.)
Anyways. That's my speal. I know they gave me a bag for free and it's easy to believe that I'm just singing their praises because of that, but I do really think that they make a great product that can stand up to the rigours of everyday use and/or being used by me.
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