Tuesday, April 19, 2011

On Camera Straps

It is a very popular discussion question 'mongst photographers: "Okay, you've bought your camera. What should you buy next?" Well, my answer is dependent on which camera you bought. If it didn't come with vertical controls/grip and that is available as an option, that is what you should buy next. But either after that, or if you don't need it or can't get it the very first thing, you should buy a new strap.

Think, everybody, think. You just spent several hundred to multiple thousands of dollars on a camera. You're going to keep the cheap, ugly, painful strap the camera came with just so you would have a strap if you had to use it RIGHT THIS SECOND? Don't be a cheapskate now.

Manufacturer's straps have two things in common:

1) They're cheap.

2) They're ugly.

Now, ugly I can live with - all my straps are still plain black, although at least I'm no longer a walking advertisement for Canon - but cheap, I refuse to. Those straps are thin, so they cut your neck. They have no padding and no elasticity, so they hurt your back and can really give you a good smack if you drop the camera too hard. They have no swivels so they get tangled up easy, and they are usually too short if you're of more than average height. Not. Acceptable.

Now, at the very least you can spend twenty bucks and get a padded strap from any camera store. Get one with swivels, so it's easy to re-orient if it twists or tangles, and get one with quick-releases so you can take it off or loop it onto things if you need to. (I have been known to loop my camera strap around chair rungs and whatnot to make it impossible to snatch-and-grab. I do this with my bag, too.)

These padded straps are basically just upgrades for the standard neck strap design. If you want to really have fun, start looking at some of the more advanced strap designs and even strap systems. For instance, I have a Black Rapid RS-4. (See: http://www.blackrapid.com/product/camera-strap/rs-4/) I got it for Christmas - it was on my wishlist because I'd heard they were good. However, I hadn't got around to putting it on a body yet when I tried one on somebody else's camera at a photography workshop recently. Wow! This was a full-frame DSLR with grip, zoom and strobe rigged, but when I put that over my shoulder it was like it wasn't even there. I promptly went and dug it out and will be rigging it sometime in the next few days.

My other main strap is an OP/Tech Utility Strap. (See: http://optechusa.com/straps/utility-strap.html) It's heavily padded and has a lot of give to it, so even if the camera bounces around my neck all day, it won't chafe or dig in. I have a Calumet AirCell strap which I also like: I may keep that one on my backup body and replace the OP/Tech one with the RS-4. (See: http://www.calumetphoto.com/eng/product/calumet_aircell_curved_shoulder_strap/rm2004) I really like the curved straps as they do add a little more comfort as well as being less likely to slip and slide since they follow the curve of your neck better.

Oh, and if you just HAVE to be different, there are also any number of colored and/or decorated versions out there. OP/Tech straps come in several colors, and if you need more, just shop around. There are even hipster straps: http://www.calumetphoto.com/eng/product/tamrac_n_40_quick_release_camera_strap_red_flames/tq0041.
More after the jump - click here!