One of the few accessories that come with the purchase of your dslr (in this blog we are referring to medium crop body as well as full frame dslr’s) , is a decent looking camera strap, which the camera manufacturer supplies. The strap may be of decent material, meaning that it is of ample strength to hold your new camera securely around your neck, and most likely has the camera manufacturers name and/or model emblazoned proudly on it. After all, who of us isn’t proud of the brand of camera that we use?
So at first glance, we may wonder if there are any reasons to justify spending extra money on an after-market strap. Well, lets examine some compelling reasons why it is money well-spent.
If you’ve ever been to a popular tourist destination, where you may see dozens of people with cameras, many of them have their camera hanging around their neck with the camera sitting somewhere in the middle of their chest. First off, carrying your camera around like this makes you look like a dork. If you have ever been on an excursion, hike, or other full day event which required walking and sight-seeing with this typical camera/strap setup, you may have wondered the following day why your chest felt like it had been used as a punching bag. The reason is that with every step you took the day before, the camera took a little bounce off your chest, multiply it by the hundreds or thousands of steps you did that day, well no wonder you felt like you’ve been beat up and you probably had a sore neck as well from the strap rubbing against it. With a camera dangling around your neck, it also makes it awkward to bend over and the chances of banging your camera/lens into doorways or other things that you may go through during your ‘relaxing outing. I can stop here, and this should be reasons enough to go out and get a professional after-market strap for yourself.
Personally, I like to use straps that sling over your shoulders and go across your chest, with the camera hanging at your side .I have used both the Black Rapid and the Carry Speed brands, with my preference being the Carry Speed Pro.
This is a much better and more comfortable way of distributing the weight of your camera and lens then having it hanging off your neck. When you are on an outing for the better part of the day, you will immediately notice the difference. Another huge advantage of these straps, is the way the camera is attached to them.
The camera can ride up and down the length of the strap with ease, making it very quick and easy to grab your camera at your side and bring it up to your eyes in one fluid motion, ready to catch that shot instantly.
The one big advantage I like about the Carry Speed Pro is the wide, flexible and soft material that is used for the shoulder strap. The wide strap once again helps with the weight distribution, the flexible material adjusts with whatever lens you may have on the camera, in helping with the weight distribution, and the material is soft and extremely comfortable around your shoulders/neck area without having to worry about it gouging into your skin.
This section also has perforated holes along the length of it to help with air circulation. The underside of this strap (which is the side that rests against your body), is a rubbery material that ‘grips’ your clothing, preventing it from sliding around with every movement you make.
The strap is plain-looking, and the camera hangs around your hip or side which is nice to keep things inconspicuous. The strap also has an ingeniously designed feature which allows you to pull your camera up from your hip area closer to your body, so it stays stable when bending down etc. and by grabbing the camera and pulling it away from your body it releases easily to allow for enough slack to bring it up to eye level when you need to take the shot.
Another very well designed security feature is found on the buckle. Most buckles come apart when both sides of the buckle are depressed, but with the Carry Speed Pro you also need to depress a third button to unlock the buckle. Maybe this feature is overkill, but its nice to have extra peace of mind when you may have thousands of dollars worth of equipment hanging from your camera strap!
The Carry Speed Pro comes with a steel plate that attaches to my cameras tripod socket. This plate has a machined steel ball that fits inside the connector on the strap, and has a screwing lock mechanism which securely holds your precious cargo. The ball socket allows for freedom of movement for the camera, whilst being restricted from making contact with the body, thus avoiding scratching and damaging your camera body. The plate has several machined screw holes to make secure connections of quick-release plates for various makes of tripods. It works reasonably well with my Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod with the 804 RC2 tilt head.
The one annoying drawback I have with the ball connector on the base plate, is that it makes it impossible for me to put the camera into the portrait position on my tripod as the ball connector prevents it from tilting to the vertical position completely. Actually, this can be pretty annoying. I have heard that Carry Speed has since redesigned the ball joint on the base plate to be retractable; in other words it will fold down flat below the profile of the plate without protruding, thus eliminating this annoyance. I have not been able to test this version out yet myself.
I have had the Carry Speed Pro on my camera for about 2 years now, on many hikes, trips, horseback riding, etc. and am very happy with its performance. Its solidly built, performs well (with the exception of the situation mentioned above), and is extremely comfortable even carrying a full frame camera with a zoom lens. The price point is on average with other after-market camera straps ~ $70 US.
When looking for an after market camera strap try out various makes, to see what feels the best for you, and will be most accommodating the equipment you will use and the environment you will be in most time while shooting. When you make the change over, you will wonder how you ever got along without it. It will mean less strain and pain on your body, and that will bring the fun back into your photography!