The epitome of simplicity; it’s a strap. It attaches to your camera to help you suspend it from your shoulder or neck to keep your hands free to drink tea. To help avoid accidental drops. To help express yourself and your style.
Camera straps can range from highly refined designs using the best leathers and brass money can buy to being literal shoelaces. Seriously. I’m from Montreal and I’ve seen my fair share of hockey skate laces attached to Nikon FM2s. Punk rockers with studded camera straps, old journalists with 15 rolls of film held by elastic to the strap, seatbelt style straps…I’ve seen them all!
The strap can be long enough to allow you to wear the camera cross shoulder, shorter to allow it to hang around your neck, or even be just a wrist strap. It can feature complicated attachment system, rings through eyelets on the camera body, studs through tripod sockets and even the new quick change system like that made by Peak Design.
Does the perfect strap exist? The one strap to end them all? Or is it like the unending quest for the prefect camera bag?
My strap journey stared with my first SLR; a Canon Rebel XS I bought in 1996 or so. Along with the kit lens the camera had a kit strap, the approximate 1-1/2” Canon embroidered super uncomfortable strap worked as advertised.
Shortly thereafter I picked up a used Minolta STR-201 that had one of those super common 1970’s straps with the metal buckle in the middle and a truly awful print design on it. I don’t think the strap even made it through my front door, it was stained, smelled funny, was ugly as all hell and seemed like it was at least 4” wide.
My Canon Elan 2 also had a kit strap. So uninspired.
By the time I upgraded to my 1V-HS my mind was blown. Again, it was a kit strap. Again, Canon was stitched onto it. This one though, was different. It was narrower, lighter, thinner, more refined. It remains the best kit strap I’ve ever received.
I tried those Optex straps that were stretchy and bouncy and I hated them because they were too stretchy and bouncy.
I had a 1” Domke Gripper strap with quick release swivels and while it wasn’t bad the canvas wore out pretty quickly and the strap slowly shrunk from 1” to 3/4”, by the time it was 1/2” I tossed it as I was having recurring dreams that the strap would break sending my heavy and expensive Canon 1 Series DSLR to the floor.
I was faced with another conundrum. Go back to the kit straps (ugh…Canon DSLRs had the same terrible straps as their 35mm sIblings,) keep buying more Domke straps which weren’t without their problems but we’re better than the Canon alternatives, or find another solution.
I’m definitely not a sling guy, those dual straps that hang the cameras upside down from the tripod sockets…not for me. That just looks like an accident waiting to happen, and I’ve already broken my fair share of gear.
Luckily, at this point, a young startup called Think Tank Photo had popped up and was founded by actual working photojournalists who, like me, were used to working using 2 cameras simultaneously. The interwoven rubber assured that the straps would grip my shoulders and stay there as I worked my way though crowd or other fast-moving assignments (I shoot lots and lots of concerts) and honestly, I’ve been using the same two straps for close to 15 years without issue. They’ve outlasted a few generations of DSLR bodies! I’m writing this in the security entrance of a venue as I’m about to photograph Gorillaz and these same two straps are on the cameras I’m using tonight.
My digital bodies are what I use for my client work, but my analog bodies, those are for me.
After a hiatus I’ve returned to shooting film for personal work I’ve run into the same problem I used to have.
The Minolta SRT-101 I picked up (I missed my old SRT-201…) that came with a 1/4” nylon strap with a weird crumbling rubber thingy in the middle. That hit the bin.
My Nikon F’s? No straps. The AE-1? Yup, no strap. All of my film cameras suffered from the same problem…what the hell straps could I use?
I put a spare Think Tank strap on my brassy black F (which is now my favorite camera BTW) but it didn’t feel…I don’t know…right? The tackiness of the rubber is great while I’m working but was a pain when out for a walk and I wanted to simply spin the camera around cross body to put it behind my back and spin it back to grab a quick shot.
I wanted something soft, unobtrusive, something that will last forever and something preferably supporting a local company.
Fieldwork are a company based in central Alberta. Isaac, fieldwork’s owner/designer/craftsman produces incredible leather and canvas goods from his studio and I have absolutely fallen in love with his handmade leather camera straps. They are soft and will continue to soften with age, they’re beautifully made with amazing attention to detail. The brass finishings further added to the refinement.
My collection, so far, is made up of a Thicc Boy for my Nikon F, a No. 1 for my SRT-101 and a à No. 3 Wrist Strap for my AE-1. Not much more to say other than they’re amazing and I love them! Fieldwork even make a great film holder, it’s on my wishlist!
I have also looked into the rope straps having picked one up for one of my medium format cameras and they are really nice too.
I seems that the options are endless and every day a new company is popping up creating small runs of straps to satisfy their needs and design sensibilities.
It is after all just a camera strap… but it is much more than that. Find the one that’s right for you.
Then try to find the perfect camera bag…
I can be found on Instagram @timsnowphoto