Holiday 2012: Straps, Vests and Belt Systems

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Professionals and discerning hobbyists know you’ve got to choose the right tool for the job, and specialization is usually the key. Of course, this inevitably leads to the accumulation of a simply massive collection of cameras, lenses and every kind of accessory you could ever imagine. In this article we’ll discuss various straps, slings, holsters, vests, belt systems and cases that are designed to keep the “right tool” within reach, ready and waiting for the decisive moment. Hopefully, along the way, you’ll find the right device to suit your own, unique style of photography.

Holsters

Like most of the accessories we’ll look at in this article, camera holsters come in a variety of different styles. The basic premise involves some type of quick-release system that tethers your camera directly to your belt or a strap. The nice thing about a holster is that when you’re using the camera you have completely unrestricted freedom of motion—because the camera is no longer tethered to anything—and when you’re not using the camera you have a secure support system at hand.

Peak Design offers the Capture Camera Clip System, which employs a quick-release plate that is also compatible with either Arca-Type tripod systems or Arca and Manfrotto RC2. Cotton Carrier uses a similar strategy, but their system employs a universal tripod adapter that should work with virtually any manufacturer’s proprietary quick-release plate. Cotton Carrier has holsters that rest at the hip, across the chest, a dual system, or to a backpack’s shoulder strap.

Spider Camera Holster uses an especially clever design. The SpiderPro and SpiderPro Dual employ a ball head, called a SpiderPro Pin, which screws into the camera or a tripod quick-release adapter. The SpiderPro Pin provides a quick-draw interface with the holster. The camera rests comfortably at your hip, and the holster locks it in place. The Black Widow Holster is a lightweight version, designed for smaller cameras and entry-level DSLRs.

Shoulder Straps and Slings

A shoulder strap is among the most basic camera accessories, and most cameras are sold with one already in the box. Without reinventing the wheel, manufacturers like BlackRapid, Joby and Custom SLR have made helpful improvements on the traditional design. For instance, the RS-7 and the smaller Metro Sling from BlackRapid are designed to relocate the strap/camera connection to the 1/4”-20 tripod socket on the bottom of the camera. This design allows the camera to rest comfortably at your hip and then slide up the length of the strap, into a shooting position, without clumsily readjusting the strap itself. The RS-W1 is a similar concept, with a curved pad that is ergonomically fitted to rest comfortably across a woman’s upper torso.

BlackRapid’s RS-5 Cargo is a more versatile option, with a three pocket system. The front pocket has space for a smart phone or large battery, and the pad flips open to reveal two zippered pockets, with enough space for three compact flash memory cards, a spare camera battery and more. For slightly more secure fit than a simple strap, BlackRapid’s RS-Sport features a shoulder pad and an under-arm strap, and the DR-1 Double is a dual harness for carrying two cameras.

Of course, other manufacturers have caught on to the benefits of a sliding strap. Camera Slingers offers another variation. Their Freedom Double Camera Strap has a snap coupler that separates the two halves for use with either one or two cameras, and other sliding straps include Joby’s UltraFit Sling Strap for men and the UltraFit for women, the Generation 3 Sliding Strap from BosStrap, and the Custom SLR Glide Strap with the C-Loop mount. The Generation 3 from BosStrap has a unique, locking cinch that makes it easy to quickly detach the camera from the strap.

Hand and Wrist Straps

Some photographers prefer a hand or wrist strap. This can be a good solution, especially if the camera never leaves your hand. A wrist strap ensures a secure grip on the camera, and when you’re moving fast, a heavy camera swinging around your neck can be uncomfortable. Hand strap or neck strap? Whatever the case, it’s largely an issue of personal preference.

Camdapter makes a surprisingly versatile line of hand straps. Their Manfrotto Neoprene Adapter with Black Pro Strap features an attractive leather hand strap. The strap attaches to the camera’s traditional strap mount on one end and, on the other end, it attaches to the included tripod quick release plate adapter. The adapter is interchangeable with Manfrotto’s 3157N plate. The hand strap is adjustable and large enough to accommodate a DSLR with a battery grip attached. Other hand straps that you might consider include Dot Line’s DSLR Hand Grip, Hakuba’s Camera Hand Strap or these straps from Vello.

A wrist strap—a slight variation on the hand strap concept—usually cinches around the user’s wrist, rather than hugging the hand against the side of the camera. Wrist straps that you may want to consider include the Clik Elite Wrist Strap, the Noose Wrist Strap from Crumpler, Black Rapid’s Wrist Strap, or the OP/TECH USA SLR Wrist Strap.

Joby’s Three-Way Camera Strap is an interesting offering. With the push of a button, the strap converts from a wrist strap to a shoulder or neck strap. The Three-Way Camera Strap is made from a combination of stainless steel, ABS plastic, aluminum and Dyneema cord. The cord is rated to hold a maximum weight of 90 lb although the strap itself is recommended for compact cameras or DSLRs up to 1.3 lb.

Vests and Jackets

Over the years, photographers' vests have gone in and out of style. Of course, above and beyond the fleeting concerns of fashion, a well-designed vest can offer benefits that no other accessory can replicate in quite the same way. A vest is sort of like a well-organized bag that you can wear, which—as those of you who have upgraded to larger and larger bags will no doubt understand—can save you from lugging a heavy and relatively awkward bag around on your shoulder all day.

The Lowepro S&F Technical Vest is made of lightweight, breathable material and features multiple inside and outside pockets. Adjustable shoulders are an especially nice feature—they ensure a comfortable fit whether you wear the vest over a short-sleeved t-shirt or a light jacket. The vest can also be purchased with Lowepro’s Event Photographer Kit. The kit is a tightly integrated organizational system that includes the S&F Technical Vest, the S&F Deluxe Technical Belt, the S&F Transport Duffle Backpack, and an assortment of bag/case/pouches. We’ll take a closer look at these items in the Belt System section below.

Billingham’s PhotoVest is a classic, khaki photographer’s vest. The PhotoVest is shorter than most, a design decision intended to prevent items in the lower pockets from interfering with equipment in a waist pocket. When walking or climbing, the design also prevents items from bouncing off the wearer’s legs, a common problem with longer jackets and vests.

Other classically styled photo vests you might consider include the 153 World Correspondent’s Vest from Tamrac and the Domke PhoTOGS Vest. Both the Tamrac and the Domke vests are available in black or khaki. Finally, Gitzo offers a unique variation on the concept, with a full Fleece Jacket that sports an arrangement of large interior and exterior pockets, pouches and zippered compartments.

Belt Systems

A belt system might be the most customizable way to carry your gear. Take the Lowepro S&F system for example. Lowepro’s S&F line includes myriad bags, pouches, wallets, cases and—as we discussed before—the Technical Vest. Of course, the S&F Deluxe Technical Belt is an integral part of the system. The belt fits comfortably around the waist and lower back and is reinforced to provide support. Moreover, the belt features Lowepro’s SlipLock tabs and loops for organizing up to 11 S&F System accessories. The SlipLock design allows you to easily attach, detach and adjust a lens pouch, filter case, memory card wallet, what have you.

Think Tank’s Pro Speed Belt V2.0 and Thin Skin Belt V2.0 are a comparable system. The Pro Speed Belt is the thoroughly padded, deluxe model. Both belts utilize Think Tank’s “Rotate and Lock” technology, which allows you to alternately slide an accessory pouch along the belt and lock it in place. The Pixel Racing Harness is another component of the Think Tank belt system. The harness attaches to the belt “suspenders-style” and more evenly redistributes the weight.

Cases, Pouches and Wraps

As we contemplate the seemingly limitless array of lens cases, before you take off running in the opposite direction, let’s consider a few of the category’s notable representatives. Those of us who truly love our prized lens collections probably have established personal tastes concerning what qualities constitute a suitable case or pouch. Accordingly, many of these designs are old standbys. Of course, a few of these items really “think outside the box.”

Yet another component of Lowepro’s expansive S&F system, the S&F Lens Exchange Case is designed to fit up to a 70-200mm zoom lens. Where this case really earns its gold star is Lowepro’s lens exchange scheme. The case has space for only one zoom lens; however, when the case is opened it expands to reveal a second compartment. You can slip a lens into the second compartment, remove the lens from the first compartment, and zip the case shut, collapsing both compartments into one.

Perhaps the most simple and yet refreshingly elegant item in this entire article, Domke’s color coded Protective Wrap is designed to provide items with an added layer of protection when packed into a larger case or bag. The wrap is made of padded nylon cloth and features touch fasteners on each corner. The wrap comes in black, red, blue, yellow and gray.

Tamrac’s 5793 Super Telephoto Lens Pack is a backpack style case with room for a DSLR and an attached super telephoto lens. In addition to—oh, let’s say a plethora of zippered compartments—the 5793 pack features Tamrac’s Quick-Clip Tripod Attachment System and compatibility with their Modular Accessory System for further expansion. The 5793 pack is made with 600 denier PolyTek and includes a removable rain cover.

If you have never lost or “indefinitely misplaced” a lens cap, then you have probably not been using a camera long enough. Well, it’s the Hüfa Holder to the rescue on this one, my friends. The Hüfa Holder is a lens cap clip that can be mounted to a camera strap or belt.

The problem of organization multiplies exponentially when you consider accessories like memory cards, batteries and filters. That’s where accessories for organizing your accessories really come in. Tamrac’s Memory and Battery Management Wallet, Ruggard’s Neoprene Protective Pouch and Pearstone’s Six Filter Pouch are just the tip of the iceberg.

Hopefully this holiday guide has helped you navigate the wide world of accessories for organizing your photography accessories. Of course, this has been only the merest glimpse at a massive category. By all means, please get out there and explore. Isn't that one of the things photogrpahers do best?

If you would like more information about these products please stop by the B&H NYC SuperStore or contact a Sales Associate via Live Chat.

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Great article! Very informative. I would love to see more of your products showcased in context like this, because it makes their benefits understandable.