Building a Better Camera Strap

I’ve found a new camera strap that I’m in love with – the FS-SLIM, by Carry Speed. Straps don’t get the attention that cameras, lenses, strobes, favorite filters, bags and other accessories do. But they should. The one that ships with most cameras is functional, but not much else. Which means it’s one of the first things I change when getting a new camera. The strap will affect how comfortable I’ll be while carrying the camera, how quickly and easily I can use it and how secure it will be. I’ve often marveled at how little variety we have in something so important.

A traditional camera strap dictates that you wear it over your shoulder or neck. After four decades of photography, my neck is tired of that weight. And my shoulder is sore from always “hunching” it up to make sure the strap doesn’t slip off. That’s why I was excited a few years back when across-the-chest straps were first introduced. While you could wear a traditional strap across your chest, it wasn’t very comfortable or practical. What made these straps different was the decision to mount the strap to the bottom of the camera, and let the camera slide on the strap. What a great idea. A secure, comfortable way to carry the camera. So I became a big fan of BlackRapid camera straps. As an added bonus, they made a two-camera rig that let me take advantage of their great design and still carry two cameras. I only had one small complaint, and that had to do with how the straps mounted to the cameras.

The FS plate has a swivel ball connector, a nice innovation, but more importantly, is grooved to fit Arca Swiss mounts. Photo by Reed Hoffmann.

The FS plate has a swivel ball connector, a nice innovation, but more importantly, is grooved to fit Arca Swiss mounts. Photo by Reed Hoffmann.

The easiest way to mount something to the bottom of a camera is to use the tripod socket. If the strap is attached there, though, you have to remove it to use the tripod socket for something else. Like a tripod. Which meant that when I was doing a shoot where a tripod was likely to be used at some point, I tended to go back to my old straps. It simply took too long to remove the strap and attach the Arca Swiss plates I like using with my tripods (you can read my thoughts on tripods and plates here. And, with the strap off, I had no easy way to carry the camera other than in my hand. So I started looking for someone who would make a cross-the-chest strap that incorporated Arca Swiss plates. After a couple of years, I found them – the FS-SLIM camera sling strap with F-1 foldable mounting plate (included with the strap).

To me, these are the Porsche’s of camera straps. Everything

With the grooves in the plate, it's easy to mount onto an Arca Swiss tripod head without even removing the strap. Photo by Reed Hoffmann.

With the grooves in the plate, it’s easy to mount onto an Arca Swiss tripod head without even removing the strap. Photo by Reed Hoffmann.

about them screams quality. From the Apple-like packaging to the locking fastex buckles to the ingenious swivel-ball design and extra-comfy shoulder pad, this is well-designed, well-thought-out gear. But that’s just the icing on the cake. It’s the plate that mounts on the bottom of the camera that won my heart. Called the “F-1 foldable mounting plate,” it’s grooved on the sides to work with Arca Swiss tripod heads. And the nifty swivel-ball connector for the strap is at the corner (and folds), where it won’t interfere with mounting on those tripods. I can connect it to my tripod in just a few seconds, and if I want to remove the strap too, that takes just a few seconds more. This plate is what makes the rig so useful. And when you consider that an Arca Swiss plate alone costs $40 or more, $59.99 for this strap and plate together are a bargain.

Carry Speed also makes a model with a wider strap (the FS-PRO,

A close-up of the swivel ball connector, and how it attaches/detaches from the strap. Photo by Reed Hoffmann.

A close-up of the swivel ball connector, and how it attaches/detaches from the strap. Photo by Reed Hoffmann.

slightly more expensive), which would probably be better for extra-heavy cameras or people with tender shoulders. And – hallelujah – they also make a double rig, letting me carry two cameras. It’s called the CS-Double, but I’d want to use my FS plates, as the CS plates aren’t grooved to work with Arca Swiss heads.

With all the advances we’ve seen in camera technology the last decade, it may seem strange to get so excited about a camera strap. But for me, straps are like tripods. No one wants to spend the extra money on good ones, but if you do, they’ll make your photography easier, and in this case, more comfortable as well.

 

 

In use, the camera hangs comfortably to your side, easy to reach but out of the way. Photo by Jamie Squire.

In use, the camera hangs comfortably to your side, easy to reach but out of the way. Photo by Jamie Squire.

The FS Slim strap, at right, is, well, slimmer, and a better fit for my camera bag but sill provides great padding. Photo by Reed Hoffmann.

The CS Slim strap, at right, is, well, slimmer, and a better fit for my camera bag but sill provides great padding. Photo by Reed Hoffmann.

The thick neoprene strap offers ample padding. Photo by Jamie Squire.

In use, the strap lies across your chest, with a pull ring that quickly lets you adjust its length. Photo by Jamie Squire.