Strap-on nirvana

Camera straps from OpTech

Camera straps with quick-release buckles

I don’t know about you, but I find that the heavier a camera gets, the more tired I get from carrying it on my neck for a few hours. Two years ago I was in a car accident and has had back problems ever since, and that certainly hasn’t made it any easier to carry a heavy camera around. At the same time, it seems that big, bulky and heavy is the norm for DSLRs, so what can you do?

There are several companies making replacement camera straps. One of them is OpTech who claims that their Pro Loop Strap makes equipment feel 50% lighter and 100% more comfortable to carry. It’s as if the nice, soft, flexible padded strap makes the heaviest camera float weightlessly in the air while gently massaging your tired neck muscles. Well, almost. I got convinced by the marketing speak a couple of years ago, and although it’s hard to measure whether it’s a 30% or 50% improvement, it’s clear that the stretchy and slightly elastic neopreme material makes it a lot easier to carry heavy equipment for a long time.

The strap is split into three parts: Two small bits of webbing that goes on the camera, each of them ending in a simple quick-release buckle, and then the neckpart itself that also has a quick-release buckle at each end. So it’s really a system, rather than a single strap, and this makes it easy to replace the neck part by another strap if you wish, as long as that other strap also has quick release buckles. And this is where the really brilliant part comes in!

Camera strap attached to a backpack's shoulder strap

Shoulder strap with camera strap

A few weeks ago, I started my walking project to get out and about more. It didn’t take long to realise that even with a comfy neckstrap, having 3 kg of heavy camera slung around the neck, while taking a gentle 10 mile stroll, is a recipe for exhaustion and neck pains. In fact, it became very obvious very quickly, and by the end of the first day I knew that something needed to be done about it before venturing out again.

At the same time, it’s no good putting the camera away in the backpack while walking. I find that it’s just too much hassle to have to stop, put backpack down, take camera out, take picture, and finally put camera into backpack again. And since it’s too much hassle, there are way to many photo opportunities being missed. For a camera to be useful, it has to be ready to use in the time it takes to remove the lens cap.

The solution was very simple. OpTech also makes what they call a reporter/backpack adaptor. Instead of the neoprene that goes around the neck, there are two pieces of webbing that  attach to a backpack’s shoulder straps. They have the same quick release buckles as the neck-part of the strap. So instead of carrying the camera around the neck, you clip it onto the backpack, and now the weight is distributed the same way as everything inside the backpack: On the shoulders and hip. Much more comfortable!

Switching from around-the-neck to backpack mode takes all of 10 seconds, thanks to the quick release buckles. So now when I set out on a longer walk, I clip the camera to the backpack and put the around-the-neck strap in a pocket. This let’s me have the camera exactly where it’s needed, rather than stowed away in a pack, while at the same time avoding any strain on neck and back. 3 kg around the neck is like a mill-stone after a while, but 3 kg in a backpack is nothing.

The cost of this strap-on nirvana? The Americans get it for $25 for both the comfy neck strap and the packpack attachments. Here in rip-off Britain we end up paying £40 for the same thing. It’s the best spent 40 quid ever!

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