Padding Inserts

One of my favorite line of bags to travel with my Leica M-system as of late is the fairly new line of Retrospective Bags from Santa Rosa Camera Accessory maker Think Tank. My newest acquisition is their smallest in the series, the Retrospective 5. Perfect for an M9 with lens along with two additional M-lenses. However, the weak link in this particular bag line is the padding and the very thin dividers that are provided. maybe 3mm thick at the widest.

Useless Dividers

So what I did with my larger Retrospective 10 (Pinestone) is take the thick and plush inserts provided with my Artisan and Artists “Oskar One Day Bag”, which I wasn’t using and put it in the Retrospective Bag (see below).

Unfortunately, this particular insert is way to big for the much smaller Retrospective 5.

While reading the Leica User Forum I was informed of a fairly new line of products from bag maker Crumpler in a Thread started by Forum member MarkP. The Australian Camera Bag maker has recently introduced the Haven line, a kind of sack with well padded inserts in sizes Small, Medium and Large.

San Francisco actually has a Crumpler Boutique about two blocks from my gym at the Four Seasons, so I brought my Retro 5 in for a quick fitting. I found that the Medium or (M) size was perfect for the bag. I could easily get the M9 with lens attached along with two other M-lenses in the bag (below).

Empty Retrospective 5

Camera on Top

Sack Closed

Once you pull the sack string tight, the Retrospective Bag easily closes with it’s velcro fasteners.

Haven Closed, Front View

Retrospective 5 Closed

Here’s a shot of the Haven outside the Think tank Bag with multiple elastic pockets for SD Cards and extra batteries.

Haven Sack

Now you might think, “Why is this guy obsessing over dividers in his bag?” Good question! I like to think of the padding in my bag as sort of an insurance policy. Sure you might of thought ahead and packed all your gear nice and tight so that you can carry it into the aircraft cabin, but if something gets broken or misaligned along the way, well…… their aren’t a lot of Leica stores or camera repair shops in the Lower Omo, Ethiopia (actually NONE).

I just put this system together and haven’t really field tested it but I think Crumpler has come up with a great product at a fairly reasonable price ($50 US). As a warning, i just want to state that both people working at the boutique that these items are selling out as quick as they come in. They come in neon green or orange. I would have preferred the orange but they have no idea when the next shipment is coming in. “A Bird in the Hand….”

    6 Responses to “Padding Inserts”

  1. Well done. Well said.

    All too often, it’s too easy to qualify / disqualify a vendor’s offerings without considering enhancing that product with alternatives from other vendors. Your approach, and your post, show just how limiting this can be — and how easily it can be overcome.

    I appreciate the Retrospective 5’s plain, unassuming, look. It’s diminutive size adds to that.

    In spite of your luxurious padding solution, your entire kit remains stealthy and unobtrusive — perfect for street and travel shooters. This also remains true to a major characteristic of the Leica M9.

    Thanks for sharing. Nice images, too. They look like they were lit with Bron gear…

  2. Hi John, Thank You. I think you hit the nail on the head regarding it’s stealthy design and unobtrusive shape. Also with the insert I think we are getting quite a bit more waterproofing as an extra bonus.
    I actually got lazy with the images and have a spider-lite hot light at home (although the bulbs stay cool). Just didn’t feel like getting out the Bron system and metering the light.

  3. July 15, 2011 | Reply
    Erik G says:

    I already own the Oskar One Day Bag but based upon this review I purchased both the Retrospective 5 and the Haven insert. Although the physical width of the new bag is narrower than the Oskar, it is definitely thicker (deeper) and as a result I don’t see the benefit over the One Day Bag (which has excellent inserts as you described above).

    I’m returning the the Think Tank Retrospective 5 and the the Crumpler Haven insert. For small trips I’ll stick with the Artisan & Artist Oskar One Day Bag and for bigger trips I’ll use my Billingham Hadley Pro.

    • Thanks for your mini review Erik. Interesting, possibly they have changed the design of the “Oskar” over time. i bought mine about 4 years ago in Tokyo (you can find A&A bags in almost every camera shop).
      The dimensions on my bags differ from your description. First I would agree that the Retro 5 is narrower, for me and my M system a good thing. But my A&A is definitely deeper by about an inch. Also, the A&A is longer by about two inches. The real deal breaker for me however was weather-ability. The Retro just feels more water repellant or resistant (note: I haven’t splashed water on it yet for any sort of semi-scientific evaluation), plus the retro comes with a full cover rain sleeve attached in the front pocket. I’ve been caught in way too many flash storms in SE Asia to simply undermine such a feature. Finally, the A&A bags are fairly hard to get on the west coast of the US, whereas the Think Tank and Crumplers are in almost every camera store I walk into. Finally-finally the R5+Haven is about US$50 less than the A&A.
      Erik, thanks for the dissenting opinion.
      Note to Readers: I will always post dissenting opinions when written in a fair and intelligent way such as Erik’s above. It all comes down to what feels right in your own hands.

  4. Thanks for the review and tips William. I use the larger Retrospective 30 to put my 2 M’s, Metz Flash and couple of lenses, if I travel far. What I worry about this bag is the thin bottom with insufficient pollster to protect the gear. Seems your tip using other brand inserts may solve this problem and the Retrospective 30 has a lot of space. For daily shot I never use a bag, just an M around my neck covered by my jacket and one or two lenses in the pockets.

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