* Prices may differ from that shown
All SLR's come with their own strap, usually proclaiming the brand, and often model number in huge garish letters. Some people love this as they like to show off how expensive their camera is, others either prefer subtlety in general or what something less showy to discourage potential thieves. Another possible reason for wanting to purchase another strap is the comfort factor - manufacturers straps tend to be very coarse nylon which is hard and digs into the skin.
I chose to replace my Nikon strap with the above Optech one. Why? To be honest it was because we sold them in the shop I work in so I could see and feel it before buying rather than buying blind online, otherwise I would have had no idea if it was better than my existing one.
What are the features?
The mid section of the strap is constructed from a stretchy, foam like material which is slightly shaped to account for the contours of the neck. The thinner end pieces are of nylon construction and attach to the camera by the normal method of threading through the lugs, the other ends clip into the central section for each of separation. On the rear of the middle panel are little circular beads, which look like silicon to me, these are designed to provide grip against the skin even when sweating. Further more the stretchy section is supposed to act in a weight reduction capacity which is a bonus for bulky equipment.
Optech make a number of different straps in various styles, however this particular one is available in 2 colours: black and camouflaged. Both have 'Optech USA' branded across the middle.
This is kept to an absolute minimum with just a small plastic hanger attached to enable the shop to hang them from a display hook.
Personally I found the strap easy to use and I have made use of the detachable strap feature. I went for the black version and don't particularly like having the name written across it, but this is something I have to put up with as it's just a minor annoyance. I wouldn't say this reduces weight, but if you think about it, that's an impossibility - the same camera is still hanging round your neck, what it does do is distribute the weight more evenly. In this sense it is comfortable, a lack of defined edging and the stretch make heavy weights dangling from your neck as comfortable as possible. I haven't measured it, but I'd say the strap is of average length - certainly similar to my pre-exisiting Nikon original and as can be expected it's adjustable within bounds.
Anything less than £20 is reasonable.
Would I recommend it?
Yes, it isn't ridiculously expensive and it's much superior to the branded straps that come with SLR's. If you have your camera hanging around your neck for a prolonged period of time you'll appreciate the higher level of comfort obtained by using Optech, but you're still likely to have back ache at the end of a long day.
~My Heavy Friend Who Drags me Down~
I love my DSLR camera with a great passion but it's fair to say that when I've been carrying it around all day, it really does start to weigh me down. It's a Sony alpha 330 and it's by no means a particularly heavy camera but when I've got one of my bigger lenses on, I sometimes feel I'll be hunched over like Richard III after a few hours. The strap which came with the camera was one of those standard straps that come with almost all cameras - dull to look at and made of strong strapping that does the job if the job required is nothing more than 'Stop the camera from experiencing the force of gravity and dropping on the ground'. If the job is 'Stay comfy all day long" then these straps are a complete failure - unless of course you have a neck like a bull or a very lightweight camera.
~I knew what I want and when I saw it, I knew I wanted it~
In addition to wanting a strap that put less pressure on my neck, I also wanted one which was longer than normal. In a perfect world, I like to strap my camera across my body, rather than leaving it dangling round my neck. I find this to be a safer way to carry it when I'm not using my camera bag and it's a more comfortable way too but it only works if your strap is long enough to easily swing the camera into action when you need it. Otherwise you risk looking like a little World War II evacuee child carrying their gas mask box in their armpit.
Back in October I finally found what I was looking for in the Salisbury branch of the London Camera Exchange. I'd just decided not to give LCE £80 for a Gorilla Pod which I subsequently got from Amazon for slightly more than half the price, so I wasn't expecting to find something both exciting and affordable, but I was wrong. I saw the Op/Tech Pro strap and I knew I would have to buy it, pretty much regarless of what it might cost.
The Op/Tech Pro camera strap is designed to offer more support and put less pressure on the neck when carrying an SLR so that your neck and shoulders don't get so tired. It does this by having a wide piece of neoprene rubber which wraps around your neck and spreads the weight more evenly across it. Thinking back to A Level physics it's all about pressure. Whilst the weight of the camera remains the same, the pressure is much reduced by spreading the weight over a bigger area. If you think about it, a narrow strap pushes all the weight through a very small area of your neck whilst a wider one spreads it over the whole neck. After a long day with a heavy camera, it can feel like your equipment is hanging off dental floss or cheese wire and is going to slice your head off.
~In Praise of Neoprene~
So the physics is quite simple but the materials used help even more. As an occasional SCUBA diver, I'm very fond of neoprene and these days it crops up in lots of places in laptop sleeves, camera cases and the like. Neoprene is pretty indestructible material from which to make a strap, especially when the strap is 6 cm wide. Neoprene is also nice and squishy - so the fabric acts like a simple shock absorber. The strap is reinforced with another type of slightly stretchy strapping that's sewn onto it in several places. On the reverse side of the neoprene strap there are black rubbery non-slip bits to keep the camera in place when it's round your neck.
At either end of the neoprene panel there is a clip, similar to the ones you get on rucksacks. These clips would mean that if you were to get your camera caught in something and needed to release it quickly, you can just squeeze the two sides of one of the clips and avoid getting yourself strangled. Since some people are left handed and others right handed, the clips appear on both sides. At either end of the strap the strapping is the right size to fit onto the loops on your camera. I think this is 3/8th of an inch in width and I found it very easy to fit the new strap to the camera. It's also easy to adjust the length of the strap using the buckles on the narrow strapping.
The Op/Tech strap is longer than most I've had provided with cameras. I could shorten it to the normal length but I actually like having a good long strap so I can have more choices about how I wear it.
~Op/Tech in use~
I used the strap on our two week holiday in October when the camera was rarely off my neck and I loved it. Aside from being very comfortable, it also kept the sun off my neck quite well. The only downside I had was that the neoprene makes the strap very bulky and I had to fold it carefully to get it all into my camera back. However, that's the kind of hassle I don't mind when the benefits are so strong.
I paid something like £16 or £17 for it at LCE but you can find one on Amazon for a pound or two less. I spotted a leather version in an airline in-flight magazine for Euro105 and I'm willing to be that whilst it's more beautiful, it won't be as fabulously comfortable.
I LOVE my camera strap and this has to be one of the best buys I've had in years. It's rare to find something so fabulous and effective that's also so affordable so I really can't give it anything less than 5 stars. There are relatively few products that really make life significantly better but this is one of them. To be honest, I wish manufacturers of handbags and the like would learn from Op/Tech and improve the comfort of more of life's uncomfortable burdens.
The bundled strap that comes with your digital camera is often overlooked. Yes, the manufacturer bundles something in the box, but it is often very cheap, thin, and never that comfortable. With small compact cameras this is less of a problem, as a wrist strap is often suffice. With larger digital SLR cameras that have some weight to them, the strap can make a big difference.
I picked up my Optech Pro strap on ebay, for around £14. There are many options, but I went for the 'loop' version. The regular Optech straps are just as good, but you attach them to your camera in the normal way, then they remain on the camera. The loop version that I have, has two short pieces that attach to the camera and then the strap easily clicks into place. Then when you pack your camera away in a case, you can just click the strap off again. It also allows you to use the same strap and just buy additional loops if you have more than one camera.
The part that goes around your neck/shoulder area is where you can really tell the difference. It is slightly curved, to follow the natural curvature of your body. The strap is also double padded and gives a little in just the right places. This results in superb comfort and although the camera (obviously) weighs the same, it feels so much better supported and lighter.
For £14/£15 this is money well spent.