For the last month or so with varying levels of commitment I’ve been using a Peak Designs Field Pouch with (and sometimes without) a Peak Design Slide Lite strap. Latterly, I have also had added into the mix a Peak Design Cuff and Peak Design Leash. When I started this review I found the Peak Design offering of passing intrigue. Now I’ve now finished writing it, I have completely bought into the system. It’s even managed to round off a new positive opinion towards camera bags…
If you follow this website you might be aware that I recently reviewed the Cosyspeed Camslinger. I found that bag to be somewhat of a revelation. That is to say, despite all my previous reservations and built up distastes for camera bags, I didn’t hate it. In fact, I found it to be very useful indeed. So much so, that in combination with my Scarabaeus, it quickly became my go-to bag for work. The problem with it is, it’s just too cumbersome for what I need for my hobby. To that end, I closed that post saying that whilst I was very impressed with the Camslinger, it couldn’t completely change my mind about camera bags, as that – I assumed at the time – would require a personality transplant. Well here I am now, about to tell you about another bag that I really like…
But, this story really doesn’t end with the bag – at least not in the way I expected it to. This is largely because I was half way through writing it when the aforementioned Peak Design Cuff and Leash landed on my desk. As I will come to approximately half way through this review, my first reaction to more bloody straps to write about didn’t go down too well. It was only when I started to work out how well the Peak Design system works together did I realise I was looking at a little pile of nylon, cord, clips, bits of metal and a couple of Allen keys that was going to become a big part of my photography life…
A bag for my hobby
All this started with me keeping half an eye out for a bag for my photography hobby. The convenience of the Camslinger had me thinking about seeing if I could find a smaller possibly similar bag, but in the end it was serendipity that found me one. A little while ago I wrote a little review of a Cordweaver strap – a strap makes use of the Peak Design anchor link system. After publishing the review I had a whole host of people get in touch to say that I should try out a “proper” Peak Design strap. Not one to ignore people’s recommendations I got in touch with Peak Design in the States and asked if I could try something out. A bit of too and fro with their PR chap and it was suggested that I also try the Field Pouch. I’d not head of this bag, but after looking on their website it quickly became evident that this might well be the little bag I had been casually looking for to suit my hobby needs – so I happily agreed to be sent one to try out.
The Peak design system
The first question that struck me was why they wanted to send me a bag when I’ve asked to borrow a strap? The answer – once I got my head around it – is because it’s part of Peak Design system of straps bags and other paraphernalia. As I was familiar from using the Cordweaver strap, the Peak design system – at least in part – revolves around these little Anchor links. You attach the little round bit to your camera, which in turn clips to the end of the strap. It’s a quick release system that as I mentioned in my Cordweaver review I couldn’t really fault. I will come back to how this relates to the Field Pouch later; for now, I want to touch on the the strap
The Slide Lite strap
The Slide Lite strap itself is made from what basically amounts to car seatbelt material. The strap isn’t quite as wide as a seatbelt, but at 3cm it’s still what I would call I wide strap. I do wonder looking at it just how much weight could be hung off it before it broke – I’d suspect a good deal more than any human shoulder could sustain. But that’s not really the point, as I guess the weaker part of the chain would be the anchor links – not that they give any indication of not being very strong, mind. The point of this thick strap ultimately has to be comfort. Just as with the wide Horween strap from Hawkesmill that I reviewed the other week, this strap is very easy to wear. The use of modern materials brings a couple of other benefits too.
The Slide Lite strap is easily, and perhaps more importantly, neatly adjustable. There are pulls on either side of the strap that clip shut to the strap. To adjust the strap you pop them out, and pull them with your finger. The trick is that they pull the strap adjuster at just the right point so it easily moves up and down – it’s such a simple addition to a commonplace thing that just gives the ability to easily adjust the strap on the fly. Very clever.
Another feature I really like is the rubber backed shoulder part of the strap. One side of the shoulder part of the strap has a few strips of rubbery material. The beauty of it only being on one side is that you can choose either the benfit of the smooth seatbelt material against your clothes which allows for a very free moving camera. Or, if you where the strap rubber side down, its sticks to your shoulder. The only disadvantage here is that it’s pretty much binary. One way it’s really quite grippy, the other way, not at all! I also found that with the strap the rubbery side down, the clips face onwards and poke me a bit. In the end, I’ve just found myself using it slippy side down.
I’m bored of writing about straps
The funny thing about this review – especially given my original desire to try something by Peak Design – is that actually I’m really bored of writing about camera straps. That’s not to say that I don’t like the Slide Lite; it really is a good strap – I’ve just reached peak strap, if you’ll excuse the pun. I’ve a couple of nice leather ones, a thick Cordweaver one, and now a Peak Design one that collectively makes up far more strap than one man could ever need. This does somewhat highlight my own stupidity when it comes to actively seeking to try a Peak strap. Thankfully of course, Peak Design chose to encourage me to try something that has turned out to be all the more interesting to me – the Field Pouch
The Peak Design Field Pouch
The Field Pouch – as mentioned – it is part of Peak Design system. It has two little attachment points to tie anchor links and therefore can be attached to any Peak strap. But, what made the Field Pouch particularly interesting to me is not the just that it can be used with a strap, but that it can be used without one. Just like my now precious Camslinger, the Field Pouch can be attached to your hip, though unlike the Camslinger it’s simply attached to your belt. The advantage of this, combined with the fact that the strap can be attached and detached, and indeed attached and detached from you camera results in a bag and strap system that’s very versatile indeed. As such, me and the Field Pouch have really hit it off – for good reason too!
If you have a read of thr Peak Design website you will see that the Field Pouch is touted as:
“… an expanding pouch for cords, accessories, batteries, hard drives, and even mirrorless cameras and lenses”
The fact that it can potentially hold a camera almost seems like an afterthought to Peak. Look inside it though, and you can see why. It really is a very small bag – it’s certainly not big enough to carry a Leica with a lens attached in any sensible way. It’s also too big for most of my Sony lenses, so fairly impractical for use in the same way as I use my Cosyspeed bag.
But this is what makes it so ideal for me. If I’m carrying a Leica, chances are it’s on a strap over my shoulder. The need to carry anything else simply comes from a desire to transport a second lens, or at a push, a point & shoot. I recently took it for a jolly around London, and that’s exactly what I carried in the bag; a second lens, my Olympus XA-4 and a couple of extra rolls of film. Just about the volume of stuff that’s too big to go in my pockets but too small to warrant the Cosyspeed I use for work. It’s also slightly expandable so I can pack it a bit more full if needs be – though that need hasn’t actually come up yet since I am pretty much obsessed with packing as light as possible when I go out shooting.
The only frustrations I’ve had with it are the fact that the Velcro is a bit weak and the inner pockets are a little limiting. Fortunately the weakness of the Velcro doesn’t really matter too much – it’s design means it holds itself shut quite neatly. The pockets thing has bothered me a few times though. It’s not a big deal really, but all the pockets apart from the main one are stitched down the middle. I think I can see that this was done to help shape the bag around your hip a bit when it’s loaded with stuff – it just feels a little limiting.
More Peak Designs Straps
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, it was about half way through writing it that I had two more straps land on my desk. Well, this is just about where I’d got to when they landed. To start with this felt like Sod’s law kicking me in the balls, especially as I’d already written the bit about being bored of writing about strap!
I didn’t actually ask for these latter straps, they arrived with me as part of an arrangement with Beers & Cameras. I currently run the only B&C meet-up in the UK, but over in the states, thanks to Juan’s tenacity it’s booming. Juan emailed me one day asking to confirm my address – a few days later, more Peak Gear. Actually, funnily enough, this is how I got involved with the Camslinger bag… He has a lot to answer for that Juan!
I’m not going to waffle on about these straps quite as much as I did the Slidelite, but given the fact that they were given to me, firstly it would be remiss not to comment on them, but more importantly it was their introduction into to my life that saw me really grasp just how well the Peak Design kit all works together.
The Peak Design Cuff
Ok, so I should first say that that I’m not really a wrist strap person. I have a leather one I was given once, but I don’t use it much. What’s seen me using this strap is that I’ve been shooting a camera that fits inside the Field Pouch – the Fuji X100F. This isn’t my Fuji, it belongs to a chap called Adam who has very kindly loaned it to me to try out. As such I’ve been quite keen to look after it. Since it fits nicely in the field pouch, I’ve been regularly carrying it in there, but when in use, I’ve felt like I wanted a little more security.
The Peak Design Cuff has fit the bill perfectly. I didn’t want a big strap attached to the camera – it would have taken up too much room in the bag. The Cuff is small enough and flexible enough to be stuffed into the bag without taking up much extra room.
That being said, thanks to it using the anchor link system to attach to the camera I could quite easily unclip it and stow the camera without the strap. In fact, what’s even more clever about the cuff is that it’s been designed it such a way that it can be worn around the wrist as a bracelet. You’ll have to watch the video on their website here to see how it works, but basically they have embedded a magnet into it so that the metal back of the anchor bit sticks to. It’s ingenious really – though I must admit, probably not a way I would use it myself.
The Peak Design Leash
Another strap – this time a compact one. It’s the same car seatbelt material, but thinner. It also uses the anchor links and has a slightly different but just as functional mechanism for adjusting the strap. What’s really nice about this strap vs. the Slide Lite I started with is how small it is. It rolls up small enough to be stowed inside the Field Pouch without taking up too much room at all.
The system as a whole
Can you tell, I feel like I’m running out of steam writing about straps…? This is why I was tempted whilst writing this post to not include the latter two straps. They landed on my desk, and as ungrateful as it sounds, initially they frustrated me – I just couldn’t be arsed with writing any more strap reviews. As such I temporarily set aside the two new straps and carried on in the direction I was going as if they hadn’t entered my life.
The funny thing was though, once I started using the kit I was already reviewing, the idea of the two new straps and how useful they might be popped into my head. There was a day when I was out with the family on a walk in the countryside. I was using the Hawkesmill strap with the Peak Field Pouch and Slide Lite. I was having the issue I mentioned in my Camslinger review wherein I find multiple straps annoying and overlapping. It occurred to me that if I was using the Peak system I could just take the strap off bag and attach it to the camera. If I’d been using the little Leash strap on the camera I could have then tucked that into the Field Pouch, used the Slide Lite on the camera and strapped the Field Pouch to my belt. I had a bit of a revelation at that moment about how nicely modular and adaptable the Peak Design system was.
I then started to think about it the Cuff and how with a camera with two anchor links – one on each side – can be used with just a Cuff. I then remembered that the Leash came with a little thing to attach an anchor to tripod thread, and how this could solve a long standing issue I have with not being able to add a strap to my Leica Standard – a camera that’s not had much love simply because of the fact that I can’t use a strap with it.
That evening I got home and started tinkering with this collection of Peak gear I had and all the little strap problems it solves. No standard strap lugs on my Voigtlander Vito cameras, no strap lugs on my Agfa 1035.
It can even be used to make any film Leica hang vertically like an M5 or Leica CL.
The neck straps even come with little key ring Allen keys for attaching the tripod threaded bits to a camera. It also just so happens to be the right size for the Scarabaeus… but of course, Peak have a belt attachment for cameras too – and it’s cheaper than the Scarabaeus too!
All this sort of felt like I’d made sense of the wider peak system of gear in my head all in one hit. I then had to finish writing my Hawkesmill review without letting this impact on my objectivity. Since I finished that review I have only been using this little selection of Peak kit, and genuinely I couldn’t be happier with the lot of it – it just works as a system and solves so many frustrations I’ve had with carrying gear!
Skip to the end
Looking back at the conversations I had with that PR man at Peak Design I can see why he was so keen for me to try the Field Pouch. The straps by themselves are very good, but if you only ever bought or tried one strap, you might never find yourself aware of the extent and usefulness of the wider system when used as a whole.
My intention when I started this post was to write a review of a bag and strap. What I wasn’t expecting was to find myself buying into an entire system. It’s true that each Peak Design product I’ve looked at has it’s minor flaws, but whilst these minor flaws exist there are also lots of really strong, really innovative ideas put into the products too – and that’s just on a product by product basis. Combine this with the fact that all the products work so well together as part of a wider system, and I realise now why so many people got in touch with me insisting I should try Peak Design’s products. I now feel somewhat like I should insist that you do the same!
Fancy buying some Peak stuff now? Get yourself over to the Peak Design website via this link!
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