Choosing the Right Camera Strap

Camera straps can be a touchy subject with some, spending hundreds of dollars to find the right camera strap is not unheard of.  If you’ve owned a camera for a while now, and use it regularly, I’d venture to guess you’ve also collected a number of camera straps over the years.  I look in my closet and I’ve got my hiking strap, my biking strap, my walking around town strap, and my living life on the edge strap (happens to be no strap at all).

Telling you which camera strap is the perfect strap for you is like trying to tell your girlfriend what shoes to wear (don’t)…  There are colors to consider, padding, length, and of course cut and style.  You must find a good mix of style, size, and quality.  Quality is the most important factor though, if your camera strap looks cool and drops your two thousand dollar camera on the ground because it’s a cheap piece of crap you will wish you the extra $10 or $20 on a nicer strap.

Timing is important as well, never buy a new camera strap with a new camera, use the one it came with until you see how you prefer to hold the camera (every camera is different).  If you find yourself slinging the camera over one shoulder and across the body you may want to find a sling.  If you primarily carry your camera in your hand, leaving the strap behind all together, you’ll probably prefer a wrist strap.  If you are more traditional and wear your camera around your neck then you’ll want to find a strap that doesn’t irritate the back of your neck.  If you don’t use a strap at all then perhaps you should Google “camera insurance.”

Three Primary Types of Straps

I’ve seen people hold their camera all sorts of different ways, around their neck, across their body, hand-held, neck strap wrapped twenty times around their wrist as a make shift wrist strap, and a plethora of other ways.  If you can think of it it’s probably been done.  At the base of 99.97% of these different ways are the same three types of straps: the wrist strap, neck strap, and the camera sling.

Neck Strap

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You’re not an idiot so I’m not going to tell you what a neck strap is, I will tell you what to look for though.  Neck straps come in all different widths, thicknesses, lengths, and materials so you’ll have plenty of choices.  Bigger is not better when it comes to neck straps, the thicker the strap the more you’ll sweat.  The wider the strap the more you’ll feel it on the back of your neck, it may even pull hairs out (if you’ve got a hairy neck).  Look for straps that are medium width, maybe an inch or an inch and a half wide.  Breath-ability is key here, mesh like material around the neck will feel good and allow some of the heat to escape your neck.

Don’t be enamored with neck straps that gradually get thicker towards the top of the strap (where your neck should be) because you’ll more than likely end up wearing the strap across your body – think Indiana Jones Satchel or man purse.

Camera Sling

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A camera sling is a strap that is made specifically for those of us that prefer to “sling” the camera over a shoulder and across the body.  The difference between this and using a regular neck strap is that most slings afford you the ability to raise the camera to your eye without taking it off your shoulder, the camera slides up the sling and then back down again using a metal fastener shaped like a rectangular doughnut.

These types of straps are ideal for hiking, backpacking, and just about any other activity more intense than a casual stroll.  The best in the business is BlackRapid, they make an entire line of camera slings to accommodate just about anyone.  Their metro strap is one of the less expensive ones that works really well for most and their sport strap is more ideal for the rough and tumble, off-road types.  I use the sport strap when I’m hiking, biking, or climbing.

There are other slings from different companies available so find one that you like and remember to look for breathable material so you don’t sweat to death.

Wrist Straps

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Finally, my favorite form of camera carrying.  I prefer the wrist strap because I used to carry my camera strap-free as if I was daring the world to smack it out of my hand.  After reading about other photographers dropping their thousands of dollars worth of camera and lens I decided I had better add a level of security to my carrying habits.

When looking for camera straps you’ll want to focus on straps that aren’t too thin, the thinner the strap the more it will cut into your poor little wrists.  There are thousands of different makes and models of wrist straps so you may need to try a few different kinds at the local camera store (if there are any left).  Breath-ability is less important in a wrist strap since your wrists aren’t huge heat conductors.  Do you wear a wrist watch?  The wrist strap will actually block less heat than a watch because there is only about 2/3rd’s of the strap actually wrapped around your wrist (think about the weight of the camera and how it causes the strap to form a tear drop like shape, pulling the bottom half of the strap away from your wrist).

I own a wrist strap made by Lance Camera Straps called the Lug Wrist Strap that I absolutely love but I think it’s a very personal thing and would remind you to test out the competition.  The Lug Wrist Strap only cost me $24 and has been attached to my camera since I received it.  I prefer the soft feel of the polyester rope rather than leather but that is just me.

No one says you have to choose just one strap.  Hell, I recommend you own at least two… One for more hiking, biking, etc. and one for casual photo walks.  Shop around and try different straps to figure out which strap fits your body shape the best.  Check with manufacturers before ordering to see what their return policy is, you may need to exchange or return a strap after a few days if it doesn’t feel comfortable.  Good luck!

Here are some camera strap companies worth checking out

BlackRapid Straps

Tap and Dye Camera Straps

ImoStrap

Capturing Couture

Lance Camera Straps


What is your favorite camera strap?  Do you prefer wrist, neck, or sling?  Let us know in the comments below.

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