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Ditch Your Camera Neck Strap

by Philippe Dame on April 18th, 2011

I was never a fan of the neck strap that came with my DSLR. I found it awkward, harsh on my neck, risky for my camera as it dangled, easy to snag when not on my neck and a bit nerdy.

I’m also not fond of being a walking advertisement for Canon. I don’t even allow car dealers to put those hideous dealership decals on my trunk. Why anyone permits those on their car is beyond me. If you have one, I hope you got a discount.

Last May, I found a neck strap alternative that’s become the most used accessory in my camera bag. After 11 months of consistent use, I can confidently recommend it.

The Case for Hand Straps

In seeking a replacement for the factory neck strap, I had two options. A “cooler” neck strap such as the Black Rapid R-Strap (a sling style strap that dangles your camera from one point upside down) or a hand strap.

UPDATE June 24th: I finally did try and buy a Black Rapid R-Strap. I got the RS-5 and it’s pretty darn cool. Unlike others, the strap doesn’t move (doesn’t cut into your neck) – instead, the camera moves along the strap. The strap bolts on via the tripod mount which means it’s fast to take on and off without needing to thread the straps for 10 minutes. This is a perfect solution to pair with my hand strap. I can use them together while still using the strap alone on many occasions.

I chose a hand strap for a few reasons:

  • A hand strap is extremely short and doesn’t require any folding or stuffing to get it in or out of my camera bag. It feels like an extension of the camera body.
  • The short length also means the strap won’t get accidentally snagged while resting out of my reach. Since its easy to put away, my camera tends to be in-hand or in its bag (that’s peace of mind).
  • I already have a camera bag over my shoulder so why do I need another strap around my neck? If I have to put my camera down, I just put it back into my top-loading bag (a small Crumpler bag in my case).
  • Between shots, I only have to let my arm down to rest. By keeping my fingers lightly curled, all the camera weight moves to the back of my hand. I can carry it this way for hours without issue.
  • Having the camera in my hand at my side makes it discreet. Unless people look down, they don’t notice I have my DSLR ready to shoot. This is ideal for street photography.
  • With the camera comfortably in hand while walking, my camera doesn’t get bounced. I can even do a light jog without concern for its welfare.
  • My camera is heavy and it’s worse with a flash and larger lenses. If the camera can hold onto MY hand, then my fingers and thumb don’t have to do all the work. This applies to the shooting and resting positions.
  • I like the feel of a leather strap. Combined with the superb grip of the 7D, it’s a complete package.
  • I can always re-attach a neck strap while leaving the hand strap in place.

The Case Against Hand Straps

Hand straps are pretty popular with professional cameras as they’re extremely tall and heavy. A camera like the Canon 1D has has a loop in the camera base to accommodate a hand strap. Standard DSLRs, however, don’t have such a loop so hand straps must come with an adapter plate. The sole purpose of the plate is to anchor the strap to the bottom of the camera. They’re secured using its tripod mount.

An adapter plate creates a few serious issues:

  • The adapter plate occupies your tripod mount. It might come with alternate mount location of its own but that hole will be off centre.
  • If you use a tripod with a quick release plate, you now have two plates. You either attach both, which isn’t practical, or remove the strap before using your tripod (equally impractical).
  • A poorly designed adapter plate can block access to your camera battery door.
  • Any bottom plate will make your camera taller and uneven when put on a flat surface.

Additionally, there are circumstances when a neck strap is indeed more convenient. If you use two cameras at once like a pro, you need a strap on each camera. If you just need two hands often (i.e. managing a couple kids on the loose), then a strap can sometimes be more convenient.

Camdapter: The Smarter Hand Strap

Given the issues cited above, I was about to give up on hand straps altogether until I read about Camdapter. The guy behind this product, Jim Garavuso, is actually a photographer and product designer. He sought to overcome these issues and I think he’s created a winning product.

Camdapter is actually a two-part solution: the strap and the adapter plate. They’re sold separately so you can pick the right combination for your needs.

The leather straps offered by Camdapter are thick and sturdy but it was the adapter plate that sold me. Given I already own a Manfrotto tripod with a quick release plate (RC-2/200PL-14 variety), I was thrilled to see that they offer an adapter plate that mimics the Manfrotto QR plate. This ensures the strap can stay on all the time!

Here’s a complete list of adapters they offer:

Use the compatibility chart to find the right adapter. It also assures you that the camera battery door won’t be obstructed. You can see in the photo above how there’s plenty of space for the battery door to swing open.

Below, you can see my camera mounted on the Manfrotto 496RC2 tripod ball head. It works equally well on the Manfrotto 804RC2 pan and tilt head.

Comfort and Use

After attaching the hand strap, the key was to have enough room for my right hand to reach all the DSLR controls while still offering support. After some trial and error, I found the right length and I haven’t changed it since.

Here’s how it looks in-hand when shooting in landscape orientation:

And its equally comfortable in portrait mode. Perhaps more so as you can let the camera dangle a bit when it’s vertical:

How Much and Where to Buy

Oddly enough, Campdater is only sold direct. You’ll  have to head over to Camdapter.com. At approximately US$70, it’s also not the cheapest hand strap solution on the market.

For those of you seeking tripod plate compatibility and a guarantee that the battery door on you camera won’t be obstructed, it’s well worth it. The quality of this product is superior to others I’ve seen. It is entirely metal and leather.

They have straps for various sizes but DSLR owners should be looking at the “ProStrap“. It comes in various colours and it costs US$27.

If you’re like me and have a Manfrotto tripod with the RC-2 (or 200PL-14) quick release plate, there are two adapter plate choices. Consult the compatibility chart to locate your camera model. For the Canon 7D, the “Manfrotto Neoprene Adapter” which is recommended. It retails for US$40.

In the US, shipping will be $6. For Canadian residents, it will be $18.

If you like the Camdapter system and want a replacement neck strap as well, they now have a “Shoulder Strap” that integrates with the system. The shoulder strap is $59 on its own or $99 with a ProStrap and adapter plate included.

Note that you can use the factory-supplied neck strap with Camdapter. The adapter plate offers two loops. Your neck strap simply goes from the bottom of your camera to the unused side loop. Your camera will hang sideways, which is fine.

If you have a hand strap or love your neck strap or can recommend anything else, please comment below!

Update June 24th: As I mentioned above, any hand strap can be nicely paired with a neck strap that connect via the tripod thread. It ensures they’re fast to put on or remove as you do want to use the hand strap alone on many occasions. Checkout both Black Rapid RS-5 and Sun Sniper Steel.

  • Vinh

    Great article, Phil. 

    I read it again after I encountered several issues with my strap on our honeymoon.  I kept wishing I had one of these hand grips as I found myself carrying my camera free-hand while shooting most of the time.  This obviously is very risky as I could easily have dropped my camera on several occasions (it only takes a slight knock from a passerby to do so). 
     
    Given this and as poor newlywed, I found this cheap grip on ebay.  The design at least solves the battery bay being accessible and still can have my tripod plate attached.  Of course, with the plate in, the camera will not sit flat when put on a table.   For the price, it may be worth just getting to try out if I like it or not.  I’ll keep you posted. 

     

    • Vinh
      • Vinh

        Got the strap in the mail, tried it on, I don’t think it would be very comfortable for a long day of shooting, needless to say and did not feel secure at all.  You basically get what you pay for.  The only good thing is the mounting plate design, which allows for easy access to the battery compartment.  Given this, I’ll look into upgrading just the strap. 

        • http://LearningDSLR.com Philippe Dame

          You’ll have to try mine out next time we see each other. It’s quite good.

  • Tms-50

    I’ve had a hand strap for years, but am now finding that I have shoulder problems and have had to revert to a neckstrap!

  • Tms-50

    I’ve had a hand strap for years, but am now finding that I have shoulder problems and have had to revert to a neckstrap!

    • http://LearningDSLR.com Philippe Dame

      It is nice to have both. I add my Black Rapid to the camera if the situation calls for it but it’s still rare.

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  • Vinh

    Phil,

    as you have the quick sling strap, I wanted your opinion on this non-OEM strap.  Does it appear to be similar?  

    What I like about this design is the mounting plate since it accommodates a hand strap as well.  http://www.ebay.ca/itm/200637233882?ssPageName=STRK:MESINDXX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1436.l2649#ht_2861wt_1185 Otherwise, there is the other model with the screw on “bolt” system here:http://www.ebay.ca/itm/230704297051?ssPageName=STRK:MESINDXX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1436.l2649#ht_5510wt_973 Vinh

  • Tweck

    I use a neck strap to keep my camera steady for handheld shots. My camera is too light to steady my hands with its weight, but I can steady it really well with the neck strap.

    • http://LearningDSLR.com Philippe Dame

      I hadn’t considered that but I can see how that might be useful. Thx for the comment.

      • Tweck

        Certainly! My hands aren’t always as steady as I’d like them to be, so I’ve found it really helpful for that. I do agree, it’s a real pain having two straps around your neck – my camera and bag straps are always getting in the way of each other. lol

  • Emily Taylor

    Nice but i hold it with the grip on the bottom for the verticle portrait orientation. More stable. But I agree with you I love a hand strap on the 1d

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