Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Carry Your Cameras - Alternatives To The Neck Strap System.

This has been a long standing theme for a while on quite a few of the forums I read.

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One of the reasons I hear for people wanting to go from DSLR to a mirrorless system is because of the weight.  A very legitimate reason, for sure.  The overall weight of the mirrorless systems can be less than a DSLR, but is weight enough to justify tossing the DSLR for a mirrorless alternative?

Those that know me, know that I am a big preacher of using the right tool for the job.  If a DSLR is the right tool, it would be a shame to give one up just because you did not investigate alternative carry methods.

Lets look at this for a minute.

One of the number one reasons I hear regarding the weight issue is not the weight itself, but the "I don't want to carry 3-4 lbs of camera gear around my neck all day" line.

Another issue I see often is that people tend to bring too much gear with them.  They think that they "might" need that 300mm or that big f/2.8 mega zoom.   Then they carry that around with them all day and wonder why they are fatigued.  Really think about the gear you need, take only what you are going to shoot and not what you think you might need.  A lot of times, I'll take only my 300mm f/4 and nothing else.  It keeps the kit lighter and is good mental exercise.  It makes you shoot and think within the confines of your gear.

Yes, carrying that amount of weight around your neck all day can be tiring, annoying, painful and inconvenient.  So what are you still doing it?  Where does it say that just because the camera manufacturers send a neck strap along with the camera means that you have to use it!

I've attached quick release neck strap adapters to all my camera gear.  This allows me to connect and disconnect the neck straps, if I choose to use them.  Why would I do this?  I still have some legitimate use for them.
1)  If I am on vacation or out somewhere and I ask someone to take a picture of me I use the neck strap as a way to give a level of "drop protection".
2)  Sometimes I want/need to put the camera back in the camera bag.  In those cases, I use the neck strap as a makeshift hand strap system.   This gives me a level of security that gives me a tether or lifeline in case I drop the camera or get bumped.

When I went looking for neck strap alternatives, I came across many different systems.

One of which is the hand strap system.  This one generally connects to the camera tripod socket and one of the neck strap lugs.  You place the strap system around your hand only.   This keeps the camera secure, but it also keeps one hand almost permanently occupied with the camera.   This was a deal breaker for me, so this kind of system did not work for me.

Then we get into the other holster type systems like the Spyder Holster or Cotton Carrier.  These are more to my liking.  They attach to you body, and use your larger load bearing points (chest and/or hip) as places for lugging the weight of the gear around.  They are great, but some of their products require you to attach them to your belt.  Not a big fan of that....just don't like it.  Some of them do have "vest" options which are great.  I thought at first this is the way to go, but what happens is that they require a specific way to detach the camera from the holder and once detached, there is nothing in place to secure the camera from dropping or you getting bumped.

So I kept looking.

I finally found and currently use, the BlackRapid strap system.  It is a winner for me because it ticks all the right points with very few failings.  I have 2 of their products.  The "Classic"  RS-4 single, cross body strap as well as the "Double" DR-1.

The classic is great for those times when you need only one camera body.  The strap is light weight, but well padded.   It slings cross body, so your chest/shoulders are carrying the weight - not your neck or belt.  It allows for the camera to set by your hip.  When you go to use your camera, the strap still remains tethered so you do not have to worry about droppage.

The DR-1 is for those times when you need to carry 2 cameras at the same time.  You have a camera on each hip and all the benefits of the above mentioned "Classic" strap also apply here.  As an added bonus, BlackRapid made the DR-1 modular.  What this means to you is that you can disassemble it and have 2 single cross body slings if you so choose.

Now, before you think that I'm calling this an infoulable system, I'll cover some of the short comings of the BlackRapid system.
1)  The strap connects to the camera via the tripod socket.  If you need to use the camera on a tripod, you'll need to remove the retaining bolt each time you want to switch back and forth.
2)  With some setups, you won't be able to hold the camera like you used to.  What I'm referring to here is the times when you have a big lens on there, like the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8, 80-200mm f/2.8 300mm f/4 type lenses.  They have tripod collars on them and it is generally a good idea to attach a strap system like this to the tripod collar.  This distributes the weight better.  See where we are going with this?  You may not be able to hold the camera like you would with a neck trap because the connection point for the strap is going to be right where your hand usually goes to adjust the focal length on a zoom lens.  You will need to train yourself to adjust your grip.

I hope this helped some of you.  Just give it some thought before you go out and buy a whole new camera system - make sure that a sub $100 investment in a different carrying solution might not solve your issue better than a potentially thousand dollar gear swap - that in the end may not really be what you need.


  1. Nice article, I also use the BR straps a single and a double. Tried Peak, spider and others and the BR straps are just the best for my usage. Well written.

    1. Thanks for the read and the reply. Alternative carry methods are such a back saver!