Gear Theory

The Humble Strap: From Shoelace to Salvation – By Tim Snow

December 11, 2022

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.

Enter Fieldwork.

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

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Martin
    December 11, 2022 at 11:10 am

    Nice article, I share your pain. I have about 30-odd classic cameras and have searched high and low. I now use almost exclusively Hyperion at https://www.hyperioncamerastraps.com/
    They’re handmade to order with a huge number of options in Greece and are very reasonable. I’ve used them to hang everything from my Hasselblad to Voigtlander Vito (great camera by the way!). Check them out.

    • Reply
      Tim Snow
      December 11, 2022 at 1:27 pm

      That’s the name, Hyperion! I have one of their rope ones, just couldn’t remember the company name! Thanks for the reminder!

      • Reply
        Angus Kilpatrick
        December 12, 2022 at 5:40 pm

        Great musings on straps! I really like the look of the rope straps, and I found a Canadian supplier (Fab’ Handcrafted in Montreal). Just waiting to receive the Christmas gift I bought for myself!

        • Reply
          Tim Snow
          December 12, 2022 at 6:24 pm

          Montreal really is the best hahaha! Love it here, can’t imagine living anywhere else!

  • Reply
    Terry B
    December 11, 2022 at 12:26 pm

    Tim, I get it. You want everyone to know that you’ve got more than one camera!😊
    Seriously, though, you’ve hit on a matter that I suspect every photographer has endured – unsuitable straps, and some that are a pig’s ear to attach – but has suffered in silence whilst looking for that “perfect” strap. Over the years, I’ve had a few designs starting with those horrible thin black plastic/nylon offerings from the 1960’s and which invariably came with a shoulder pad that more often than not was useless. Today, those pads will have hardened. In their favour, though, the plastic/nylon straps were actually safer than the leather offerings of the day as it never wore, indeed it was extremely difficult to cut them. Whilst not ideal for comfort, I’ve entrusted my Mamiya C330S to one.
    I’ve gone through a number of those very wide straps emblazoned with the camera brand (why?) and I did find them comfortable although adjusting the length was impossible. The Minolta one is still attached to my XD7 (11).
    The straps I’ve ended up with are inexpensive neoprene, and extremely comfortable. They are wide and shaped to fit the neck and shoulders better than a straight strap. The likely limiting factor will be the weight of the kit attached as the neoprene is just a little stretchy, and being a light user I’ve no idea of their durability. But it takes my Sony R1 without issue.

  • Reply
    John Benneett
    December 11, 2022 at 12:55 pm

    Here’s Fieldwork on the web: https://www.fieldworkco.com/

    I’m a big fan of Gordy’s. https://gordyscamerastraps.com/

    • Reply
      shawn granton
      December 11, 2022 at 7:32 pm

      I also second Gordy’s straps–nice leather, and quite affordable.

  • Reply
    Leo Tam
    December 11, 2022 at 1:11 pm

    I’m a huge fan of the stock Nikon AN4 and AN6 straps! Not as nice looking as a nice leather one, but I prefer the feel

  • Reply
    Martin JONES
    December 11, 2022 at 2:19 pm

    I’ve standardised on narrow unbranded Minolta straps for most of my cameras, although a few that warrant it have Cam-In leather straps. The only camera with a broad strap is the 2kg Kiev 60 and it needs it! 😉

  • Reply
    Marco Andrés
    December 11, 2022 at 3:53 pm

    Branded czmera straps may be retro but …

    Discovered the « bespoke » straps of Harry Benz [https://www.harrybenz.com/ from Toronto (Ontario, Canada] through an article on Japan Camera Hunter. Use the « La Cravate – The Skinny » wrist strap with a clasp for two scale focus cameras and a Leica CL.

    Consider making a paracord strap (aka lanyard) (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bentrOlcfFs). Made one for a post-war Ikonta Super BX.

  • Reply
    Art Meripol
    December 11, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    Loved those old nikon an4 straps. Used them for years. Solid and unobtrusive

  • Reply
    Art Meripol
    December 11, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    I never liked LOGO or branded straps. I started out as a photojournalist and wanted minimal, unobtrusive but strong straps. A few years ago I found UP-Straps. Black, narrow woven and kevlar integrated, they’re very strong and last forever without attention or bulk. As I near the end of my working years in digital I”m starting to do a little film work again. Some with my Crown Graphic, some with my Horseman 980 and some with my Leica M4p. So I”m looking at straps in a different way. And I love all the ones I’m seeing linked here by others. So thank you all. I’ll be sending some business towards one of these smaller companies.

  • Reply
    Karen McBride
    December 11, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    Great article. Thanks.
    My favourite strap is one I created from an old horse rein for my Leica SL.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]
    Keep an eye out for old belts. I bet they’d make nice straps too.

  • Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    December 12, 2022 at 1:31 am

    Tim,
    good timing on your article. I was shopping for a new strap. I just bought the thicc boy strap. I figure I should put a Canadian strap on my Canadian made Leica. Makes sense.

  • Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    December 12, 2022 at 3:01 am

    I think the very worst were the wide banjo-style braided straps sold in the 1970s to amateurs with the promise of their being comfortable. They had crude steel fasteners that marred and scratched the corners of the camera body. I still see these abominations in eBay sales when some sales company lists a kit with body equipped with one of those straps, a nasty shoulder bag, and a second tier zoom lens.

  • Reply
    Lee
    December 12, 2022 at 5:02 pm

    I know it’s a bit cliche, but I have nothing but good things to say about the Peak Design straps. They are comfortable and durable and, with the PD anchors attached to multiple cameras, you only need one strap that you can switch between them. I think this makes incredible sense and is way more economical than buying separate straps for each camera. I have both a PD Slide strap that has served me well for the past 6-7 years, and one of their Cuffs that is also wonderful to use. I think PD offers the best value for money, unless your desire is to have a strap that’s more style than substance.

  • Reply
    Fred
    December 13, 2022 at 1:35 pm

    Still trying to find the perfect strap, I’ve gotten very close with my current “strap”, a dog lead! I tend to find the strap gets in the way while shooting, so I like to have the option to remove it and leave it at home and pop my camera into a large coat pocket. The dog lead can quickly be attached by looping itself through the handle on one side and using the clip on the other! I bought a lovely 1901 Fotografi strap (www.1901fotografi.co.uk) looks beautiful on my Olympus Pen F but it’s a pain to remove and attach, so it’s spent most of it’s life in a box…

  • Reply
    Marco Manuzzi
    December 13, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    Such a great article, it makes me feel like I’m not the only one who struggles to get the right strap.
    IMHO I’ve found Peak Design quick lock mechanism quite perfect when I want to switch from the standard necklaces strap to a wrist strap back and forth.
    Moreover I’ve found that you can get just the strap clips, those are quite useful in my nikonos as I wasn’t able to find any suitable replacement for the “water compatible” strap

  • Reply
    Ted Ayre
    December 14, 2022 at 11:54 am

    Great article Tim! My personal favourite straps are from 595 Strap Co – https://595strapco.com they have a great range and the leather is fantastic and soft, plus they age very nicely. I’m the opposite of other commenters here, and I love having different straps to suit different cameras – but I’m just an enthusiastic amateur and don’t need quick release professional stuff I guess.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    December 15, 2022 at 12:13 am

    Let’s delve into the world of camera bags…😱!

    • Reply
      Tim Snow
      December 15, 2022 at 12:33 am

      Oh shit don’t tempt me! Hahaha

  • Reply
    Pavlos
    December 15, 2022 at 6:11 pm

    Guess my opinion cannot count as I am the founder of Hyperion Straps, but yes Hyperion Camera Straps for me too .
    Actually I would like to thank you all for your support all these years

    • Reply
      Tim Snow
      December 15, 2022 at 6:22 pm

      I love my Hyperion strap! I use it on my Bronica ETRSi and it’s great!

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