A few weeks ago I was mooching about on Instagram, and came across a brand of camera strap by the name of Cordweaver. I instantly recognised the potential these straps had for solving a little problem I’ve had for a while. After a quick look at the website, I found they were made by a one man band. I dropped him an email, and after a bit of a conversation I was £25 lighter and had a new strap. Thankfully, my hopes that it would fulfil my specific needs were not let down.
Cordweaver straps are quite different from the sorts of straps I have been using for a while. For a start, the neck straps are made out of braided polyester, with the wrist straps being made from Paracord. For a long time, I’ve only really considered leather straps for my cameras. I do like a leather strap, especially the soft 595Strapco Horween strap Dave made me at the end of last year. Like the popular bog roll, it’s both soft and strong meaning it is very comfortable as well as giving me the confidence to hang my Leica’s off the end of it. The problem is, to date I’ve not found a leather strap that’s much cop for carrying larger compacts that have the little sunken pins for attaching straps.
You can’t attach a split ring to these things, so any strap being attached or unattached relies on fiddling with threading a thin bit of cord then looping it through itself to tie it on. Since I’m quite often swapping straps on and off different cameras, I can’t be bothered with this so end up carrying these sorts of large compact cameras without straps. For the ones that don’t fit in a pocket, is just a bit of an irritation. What I’ve needed was some sort of quick release solution that worked with compact cameras.
Cottage industry straps
Whilst the Cordweaver straps are different materials to the leather ones I’m used to, they do have one major feature in common, the are both made by small independent cottage industry companies. This comes with one significant advantage. You get in touch with a cottage industry camera strap manufacturer and the likelihood is you’re going to get a response from the person who makes the things, i.e. the person who knows the product inside out.
The limitation cottage industry companies have come down to a lack of R&D/manufacturing budget to create new solutions to problems. That’s not to say these folks aren’t creating great products, just that they’re somewhat limited by the size of their operation when it comes to the more complex parts of their product. In this instance, I am talking about the fixings for attaching the camera to the strap. They aren’t likely to have the buying power to have bespoke fixing made, the result being, they look to source the parts off the shelf.
This is specifically the case when looking at the quick release straps Dave at 595StrapCo makes. Most of his straps just use a split ring, but thanks to people out there like me preferring a quick release mechanism of some sort, Dave has to look for more complicated solutions. I believe the quick release buckles on my Horween strap are bridal buckles. This is pretty good thinking, there is likely to be good strength in such products, and they are of course designed to work and look good with leather.
The Cordweaver approach
Brian from Cordweaver has the same problem. Many of his straps just loop tie to the strap lug on the camera, which as I’ve said can be a little fiddly, especially in the field. So with customers like me looking for quick release solutions, Brian has to be a bit more inventive. I can’t imagine for one second he’s in a position to be able to justify the costs associated with creating such mechanisms?
Rather than go for bridal buckles – which would arguably look odd on the end of the polyester – Brian has instead opted for a couple off the shelf solution from a bigger strap manufacturers who do have the budget and buying power to have bespoke parts made – in the case of my strap he used a Peak Design anchor link
These little clips are used by Peak design within loads of their products. I saw someone from Peak designs at the photography show a few weeks ago. She looked a little bit like a human Christmas tree that had been decorated by the Peak design marketing company. She had all sorts of paraphernalia hanging from her. I’ve no idea what most of it was, but it all looked very technical, and actually very high quality too. Amongst it all, there were these quick release “Anchor Link” clips.
The Anchor Links come in two parts. The part that goes on to the end of the strap, and the anchor part that – via a bit of apparently very strong cord – attaches to the camera. The anchor slots and clicks in place into the other piece providing an apparently very safe and strong hold on the kit. There is no way these two bits can come apart… unless of course, you push your thumb onto anchor part which unclips it and allows it to slide out. Very clever.
The Cordweaver/Peak Design Combo
Of course, Peak Design do their own straps too – I’m just not sure I like the look of them. They look good quality, and I’m sure they’re very nice, I’m not just convinced they’re the product I’m looking for. I liked the look of the Cordweaver strap material much more. But more important than me liking the look of them, where I can’t very well email Peak Design and have a strap designed and made to my exact spec, I could – as it turned out – email Brian for such a service.
My “bandolier” strap
Brian has come up with a few designs, with various colour options etc. But when looking through them I couldn’t see the exact sort of strap I was looking for. What I wanted was a strap that would hang over one shoulder across my chest with camera down at my side. I emailed Brian and he came back to me calling this a Bandolier style strap. The next step was to work out a length for it. Fortunately Brian is a similar height and build to me, so we were able to quickly get an idea of what length would suit.
It’s also bang on in terms of its construction quality. It is of course very simple. It’s just some polyester cord sewn to one of the Peak Design Anchor link. Of course the sewn bit is possibly the weakest link, but when I say weakest link I mean that it looks like the bit that would break first after about 100m of using the strap to tow a car up a hill… Don’t quote me on that as official strength testing results, it would possibly only last 100m of towing a car on the flat… but either way, it’s a very strong feeling strap that I instantly felt I could trust with my camera.
One slightly unexpected advantage has come up since I’ve started using this strap too. I expected to find myself pleased to be able to have a couple of cameras with the Anchor part tied onto ready to shoot with on a whim, but that’s not turned out to be the main advantage. Instead, I’ve found the main advantage to be that I can unclip the camera when I’m out and about with it. The strap has become the place the camera hangs when I’m not using it. When I’m using it, I’ve found myself unclipping it and shooting with it free of the strap. This is something I’ve found myself really appreciating, as broadly speaking I find cameras more comfortable to use when they aren’t tied to my body in some way.
A minor frustration
Unfortunately, all is not perfect. The damned Peak Design cord that attaches to the camera is really quite thick. It was a hell of a job threading it on to my mji-ii, and a little fiddly threading it on to my Contax TVSii. Thankfully, you can by spare Anchors, so if you have fewer cameras than me that you lie to shoot regularly, you could just have one for each camera and only go through the frustration of tying it to the camera once
This has turned into quite the waffly review. I only really wanted to write a few words about how nice my Cordweaver strap is, how easy to deal with and accommodating Brian is, and how perfectly it solved my problem with carrying bigger “compact cameras” like the Contax TVSii. These points stand of course, but the process of buying the strap really made me realise the little advantage these one man band companies have. High-quality product, high-quality completely personal customer service, and in this case a bespoke one-off product. It’s a nice combination to find!