Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Camera Straps

Since as long as I can remember, I've used the standard camera straps for all of my cameras. Of course point and shoots would use the smaller wrist strap but the SLR cameras were all your basic neck strap with two points connecting to the camera body. About 5 years ago I swapped out using the factory straps for the Op-Tech Pro Strap which I really like. It's a neoprene material on the area where it would rest on your neck and offers more flex than traditional straps, which is handy with heavy cameras. It's also reasonably priced, and I have three of them across my cameras.

In the past few years the trend of different camera straps have been getting popular on the camera forums. From using a sling style strap, hand straps, and the body carriers have all gained a loyal following. As someone who has struggled carrying a should strap camera bag, then a tripod bag, and a camera with another strap, I've taken a look around what would be a better solution. I have not purchased any of the new styled straps but have some comments as I carry my gear in different methods to match my needs. As of now, I'm still using the same Op-Tech camera strap but considering a sling strap.

Keeping the camera close yet out of the way

One issue that I run into is how to secure my camera while also keeping it out of the way while walking or traveling. Sounds confusing but here's a common issue, I carry a shoulder bag which I wear on my left shoulder or across my body on the right shoulder. Then I have a tripod bag, usually carried in the same manner, then I want to have my camera at easy access, again on my neck. Sounds confusing and it is!

I started to take my tripod out less, and now using a beltpack for my gear instead of the standard shoulder bag. But I'm starting to carry my camera instead over the neck, but more like a messenger bag across my back. This method I like for various reasons but it's really easy to keep the camera out of our way, especially with a large lens, also it allows a secure hold of the camera while moving. I had the camera in this position during running or walking through crowds and never had a problem.

Also speaking of crowds, I like to hold the camera in this position because it's not swinging side to side as I walk. I feel it's a smaller profile, and like to keep one hand on my bag to make sure it's also not swinging side to side either. A large bag weighing near 15lbs isn't something to bump into people.

Why I like the standard strap?

As mentioned earlier, I haven't tried the sling straps yet, the prices are about $50~100 for a complete setup. One issue that I really like using the standard strap is two mounting points vs one. The tripod socket is pretty strong on most cameras, built into the camera frame but I'm not sure it's the best place to dangle a camera all day from. If you have been reading some of the forums about these sling straps there's also complaints that the tripod socket connection will work it's self loose, dropping the camera to the ground.

The problem I see here is with the two point strap like a standard camera strap, the body and lens have lens chance to twist around. Many of the sling strap lugs that connect to the tripod socket are fixed like a eyelet bolt, which does not allow free movement, so if the camera starts to spin clockwise, it's going to unscrew the mount. I have seen one brand that added a bearing system to their tripod mount, Sun-Sniper which I think is safer.

Not to mention that the camera, I think, has more secure points with the standard camera strap connections built on the camera body. Since there are two, it's less stress on the body and also as discussed, less twisting. One big plus I like about the standard camera strap is you can wear it either over the neck like a standard strap or over one shoulder like a messenger bag. Then it's more like the sling strap, giving you quick access to the camera but also out of the way.

The point which I think makes the standard camera strap also better is it's closer to the body. Now this is something personal, but I really don't like to have my camera swinging far from my body, especially with a large lens. Even if you're a working pro, the last thing you want is to loose a lens from bumping the corner of a desk while on assignment. I've seen some of the straps hang very low and loose, really asking to be banged up against anything.

Another point against  the sling style is users of quick release tripod camera mounts. Most tripods now use beveled edge mounts to mount the camera to the tripod head, usually these are metal plates mounted to the camera's tripod socket which are a bevel to hold the camera to the tripod head. There's no place to mount a sling style strap unless you remove the camera mount and replace it with the loop for the sling strap. I like to use my tripod when I'm out taking photos but this would require me to completely change my setup.

Hand straps?

There's some photographers who don't use a strap at all in the traditional sense. The strap of choice is a hand strap which I'm seriously considering. The sling and standard camera strap both support the camera while carrying it, but they don't offer any support while actually using the camera. During a long coverage for a wedding, I held my camera with flash unit, plus a heavy lens all day, after which I really wished for some hand support. I've been looking at the hand straps as they offer two positive points.

One is the added strap to hold the camera to your hand, instead of using your fingers for grip, you can relax your hand and the weight is now supported by the arm muscles. The other is it's out of the way, less straps to deal with and easier to pack in the camera bag. The slight downside is that you will need either a battery grip or attachment to mount the hand strap, also the biggest problem, no saftey strap incase you drop the camera.

I like to have my camera teathered to myself at all times, or on flat ground. I try to be very careful with my gear but of course mistakes and accidents happen, so I try to take all pre-cautions as possible. I would assume you could strap on a hand strap and camera strap to the same top mount but it would be very hard to have both straps through the same mounting point. A plus to the sling style straps as they use the tripod mounting point.

What is really the best strap?

Really depends on your photography style and needs. I really like to have a multipurpose strap and the standard camera strap does that well for me. I can carry it in the normal position, also I can carry it like a sling.  Also it's not in the way when I'm walking but can be right in front when needed. It's also great that I can use other attachments for the tripod socket as needed, like a quick release bracket or another attachment.

I think for now, I'm going to stick with the standard camera strap and maybe purchase a hand strap to save arm strength, this gives me the most options.