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Wednesday, 26 November 2008


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Mike: I recently picked up a Black Rapid strap to try out with my larger cameras. (http://www.blackrapid.com/) I've not not yet spent an extended period with one but I can already claim that this is the most innovative, comfortable, and "rapid" camera strap I've ever seen. It most certainly makes carrying that "circular saw" (as you've phrased it) much easier on the shoulders.

It may not be apparent how these work, but just watch the videos on the site.

Caution: these suckers aren't cheap. (This guy clearly wants to retire now.) But these RS straps are worth the price for anyone who has to carry a large body for handheld shooting all day.

Or perhaps using one of those R-straps (or a DIY version like I use). Moves the weight to the shoulder instead of the neck and is still very handy and ready to go.

Thanks for the interesting articles on camera size Mike!

I have a D3 and feared I would hate it, but I carry it on a neck strap set as long as possible (I'm 5'2"), and it rests against my hip. I swing it up to my eye to shoot. I can carry it for half-a-day, but clearly only do so when I'm planning to take photos.

Smaller cameras with long zooms (e.g. 5D with 24-105) have a nasty habit of tipping forward and not laying against the body, but the D3 settles against my body in a comfortable way. The size and weight also help me steady the camera.

A real problem is the presence of the camera - people react to the size.

I got the D3 before the D700 came out, and I'm struggling to know which I'd prefer...the high frame rate is helpful for handheld-HDR and bracketing, and the D700 with the grip is bigger than the D3.


I have a Canon 1Ds and always carry it in my right hand when shooting with it. Don't even have a neck strap on it. The original 1Ds is nice in that it has a hand strap that makes it unnecessary to grip the camera tightly the whole time. Very convenient!

just be prepared to carry enough cash to pay your sherpa. i heard ATMs are rare high up in the mountains. so that weight advantage might be gone pretty soon.
anyway.. carrying your camera in the hand or very close to it has another advantage: you can take a picture.

I'm planning on purchasing a D700 and a couple primes when $ permits. I have shot with it on 3 occasions and still find it much larger than what I "want." It will however be a very useful tool and a multi purpose rig to be sure.

I will use it as my street cam but I could not imagine this...


He and his wife/girlfriend had more gear than many mom and pop camera stores including tripods. They happily trotted down the street making photos. Guess what country they were from? ;-)

I carry cameras in the bag. This is because even if I'm out to take pictures there is usually something else I'm doing as well that I need my hands for. So I can't have the camera flopping around on my body.

Camera bags don't seem to be designed to carry cameras so much as transport cameras to a spot where you will remove them permanently. There are a few exceptions.

In general my rule is that if it can't fit in my smal Domke, it's too big and I won't carry it. Period.

After 20+ years as a full-time photog, I've developed the crooked body posture that only a photographer with a heavy Domke bag can attain (right shoulder held higher, to prevent the bag or camera from slipping off). Even when not carrying the bag, my shoulders are uneven. So, when it came to carrying a D3, I was ready. Can't carry it around the neck, but over the shoulder is perfect.


I haven't put the strap on my 1Ds mark lll. I never put cameras around my neck and that's just as much for safety as it is for comfort. I guess That boils down to where you're from, where you shoot and your subjects. I have an inner city mentality where you never make yourself an easy target. It's just easier to defend yourself without something like that hanging from your neck.

So, as someone who shoots almost exclusively with big cameras, I'll chime in...most pros use a belt system for their gear, particularly photojournalists and sports guys.

You still need a neck strap for swapping lenses in the field. The only time I put my 1D MKII on my neck is to hold the camera while doing fast lens swaps, for example, pulling the 70-200 2.8 out of the ThinkTank Lens Changer 75 with one hand, and pulling off the 17-40 with the other hand. I always carry my 1D's on my shoulder, usually one at a time, or slung over my shoulder on the monopod when I have a big lens attached (like the 500/4). A backpack in this environment is way too slow and cumbersome, and you have to take the backpack off every time to swap lenses, which is a big hassle, and basically a pain in the *ss.

Another option is to use something like the Think Tank Digital holster 50, or in Mike's case, the Think Tank Speed Freak or Speed Racer beltpacks are really the hot set-up:



A lot of emphasis here on Think Tank products, but really, this stuff is designed by photographers for photographers, and these guys really have it got it goin' on when it comes to design. 95% of the pros I know use their stuff.

The sub four pound view camera.

I've been aiming for light and portable for awhile; I think I'm pretty close. I like using a tripod; I want good image quality, but light tripods aren't stable. Ahh, but modern image stablization doesn't mind tripods. A G9 with a lensmate, polarizer, light ballhead, light tripod, shoulder strap..sub four pound view camera; though I need to hang from the nearest tree to see the image upside down.

Funny line from Prairie Home Companion's R. Ringsak, and his trip to Biker bars out west.
"Hung like Einstein, smart as a horse."

Does size matter?


When I'm just walking around looking for something to photograph with my 4x5" Linhof Tech V (about 6.5 lbs), I carry it folded from my shoulder on a strap. When I'm shooting actively, the strap goes on my neck and the camera is unfolded, and I've worked for a few hours at a stretch this way, sometimes with a strobe on a bracket attached to the camera, and I'm not a particularly big guy. It's lighter than, say, a tenor sax.

Ken Tanaka said:

"I recently picked up a Black Rapid strap to try out with my larger cameras I've not not yet spent an extended period with one but I can already claim that this is the most innovative, comfortable, and 'rapid' camera strap I've ever seen."

I tried one of these with a D300, and it's very rapid, and can be very discreet (you can essentially dangle the camera behind your hand, where it can't be seen at all from head-on.) In the space of a couple of weeks, it drove me nuts, and I'm now back to the UP-Strap. It just felt like I couldn't get it off me, and the strap was too much to wrap around your hand and carry like I often carry an Up-Strap. But I'm sure some people will think it's great.

Chuck said:
"After 20+ years as a full-time photog, I've developed the crooked body posture that only a photographer with a heavy Domke bag can attain (right shoulder held higher, to prevent the bag or camera from slipping off). Even when not carrying the bag, my shoulders are uneven. So, when it came to carrying a D3, I was ready. Can't carry it around the neck, but over the shoulder is perfect."

That's bad. A good friend of mine, a female PJ from St. Paul -- she's probably around 50, and has been shooting professionally for 30 years or so -- has had spinal alignment problems and recently a total hip replacement, attributable to the same Domke bag syndrome. You can't carry 20 pounds on one shoulder for six or seven hours a day, for decades, without problems. If you want to spend your retirement outside a rocking chair, stop this. Belt systems help this, but a lot of PJs don't like them because they really attract the eye -- they look military. Some outdoors guys don't like them because they hook up on every piece of brush that you walk past. In a sports situation, where it's obvious what you're doing, they're not so bad. But they are, IMHO, highly preferable to a shoulder bag if you carry a bunch of equipment every day. I think if I were doing it, I might use one of the fast-pivot backpacks now available.

At the end of the 90s, a lot of PJs I knew stopped carrying the newspaper-provided F5s and went to the N90s because you got basically the same functionality (though not the robustness) at a much lower price, and much less weight. In fact, if you broke one, you could get another and still not pay what you paid for an F5. It was something like the D700 vis-a-vis the D3, but the N90 was even more radically cut down.


I'm another dual D3/D700 owner (a pair of the former and a single latter). I use Optech Pro straps on all my bodies and sling them over a shoulder.

I'm a wedding photographer and typically use one D3 with a 17-35/2.8 or 24-70/2.8 zoom, and the other with a 35/2 or 50/1.4. I tend to leave an 85/1.4 on the D700 but that body gets far more use for personal shooting. I just prefer the handling and speed of the bigger Dx series bodies for 'work'.


Time for a shameless sponsor plug.


It completely changed the way I carry. I only keep a camera in a bag (separate bag) while its in the car. If I am "with camera" it is on my shoulder with the remarkably satisfying Upstrap. been using it for a couple years with my D200 and sometimes MBD200 with great success.
My walk around lens bag if I'm serious that day is a billingham 550 (beat to within an inch of its life)If I'm not so serious I take the wings off or use a small tamrac messenger for a couple lenses.


I used to have a problem with the standard EOS camera strap on a 5D with a 24-70. They are uncomfortable and because of its width regularly cause conflict with shirt collars and spec cords, what's more in Australian 30deg + heat they are hot on the neck. So I purchased several Upstraps through this site and for the most part - problems solved!

I have since carried the same kit on working shoots for up to seven hours at at time and I have to say the Upstrap is very comfortable for me.


I currently use a ThinkTank belt-mounted bag.

And a camera strap like the Y-strap or the Wrist Wonder.

I, too was concerned about weight and size when I ordered my own D3. My friends wern't so concerned, as they new that I routinely carried a 500CM or ELX with no strap at all. 35's I usually carried with a wrist strap or one that wrapped around my hand.

The laughs on them. The D3, and just about any other digital SLR camera worth owning weighs more than a 500CM. I wisely purchased an Upstrap for it, as the one I got for my Xpan pleased me a lot. Stegmeyr is right! The stupid thing hangs from my shoulder, ready for me, with almost no sore shoulder. The key, I realize, is that since the pad does its job, I'm not cramping my shoulder trying to keep the camera off the ground.

Order the Upstrap. Do it today.

Bill Pearce

Several years ago, while shooting around the Daikakuji area in Kyoto, Japan, I saw one Japanese man who found the ultimate answer to his gear problems: his wife. She was his quite docile schepp-walla and toted around his tripod, and a bag. He was duded up with a an extensive set of cameras and lenses (Pentax, I think) and topped off his attire with a backwards baseball cap on his head, and fingerless shooting gloves. (I guess the gloves were a fashion statement--the day as a bit warm for them.) Of course this is a rarity (I know very few Japanese women now who would do this), but it was a more interesting sight than the cherries and temple buildings.


I hate neck straps. It just seems to me like the camera flops around, bangs against things (including me) and my neck hurts after a short period of time.

My favorite 35mm film cameras were/are my Pentax MX and my Pentax ME Super*, since it was very easy to "palm" them (I have large hands, but I just hooked my thumb over the mirror housing and the rest of the camera fell naturally to hand). This is how I carry all of my non-autofocus, non-motor drive 35mm film cameras. No straps at all.

When I bought my Nikon D300, I was in for a rude awakening. The camera was light enough in the camera store, but seemed to get bigger and heavier every step I took outside the shop. I quickly bought a Nikon AH-4 handstrap and the problem is solved. I know many Canon shooters use these straps as well. (See here: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/37060-REG/Nikon_649_AH_4_SLR_Leather_Accessory.html/BI/2144/KBID/2882) Now I can comfortably carry the camera in my hand all day long. I can just relax my fingers and let the camera hang when it's not being used, without worrying about it falling or getting stolen. Highly, highly recommended.

Best regards,

*For anyone who has never looked through the viewfinder of an ME Super or (even better) a Pentax MX, it is a revelation. The MX has 0.97 magnification and 95% coverage in an absolutely tiny SLR. It beats the pants off any other 35mm camera I own, including my Nikon F3 and F3HP, which seem small and dark in comparison (my Olympus OM-2n comes close in terms of magnification and coverage, but the shutter speed display is tiny and hard to read), and even beats the viewfinder of a Pentax 6x7! When you realize that you don't have to have a huge camera to have a great viewfinder, it makes the viewfinders on dSLRs even harder to accept (I haven't looked through an A900, but even if it is as good as the view through an MX, the A900 is significantly larger).

Note: For vacation trips where I carry additional gear, I use a belt system. Makes me look like a complete dork, but it is very fast and easy to use, is not tiring to carry and it is amazing how much you can fit in there. While it probably makes you a target for theft as well, I didn't have any problems during three weeks in India.


I'll bet many of us have a closet full of camera bags and many of those were the "perfect bag" when we bought them. There is likely a bag full of "ergonomic" neckstraps in there as well.

I ditched my neckstraps about 6 months ago when I tried a handstrap.

The camera can dangle from your hand when you want to give your fingers a break, or, to do some (very limited) two-handed task without setting your camera down.

I use handstraps on my EOS 3 (with battery grip) and my 40D. It is a comfortable, ready-to-shoot carry system - even with my EF70-200 f/2.8.

With my right hand through the strap, I can still operate the right-hand camera controls.

I find that the handsrap isn't in the way, as much as a neckstrap, when the camera is on my tripod.

I bought Camdapter straps (camdapter.com). They are well constructed. The hand pad portion is leather (not sweaty plastic).

The Camdapter straps connect to one side of the camera body - the top strap lug and the lug on your battery grip or L-plate. If your camera doesn't have a battery grip or L-plate, they supply a base-plate adapter (which also fits into RRS or Arca type ball heads).

I prefer using the handstrap with an L-bracket (or the adapter) over connecting to the bottom of the battery grip. It is much easier to adjust the handstrap (when I need to wear gloves) by loosening/sliding the L-bracket than by fiddling with the strap webbing.

Hey, try one. If you don't like it, it won't take-up much more space in that closet.


Cheers! Jay

Neck Straps always get in the way--Tried the Hand Strap in Italy for 3 weeks on the 40D with the battery bottom thing.--
Worked great--very fast and always at the ready. Used the fisheye on it, made for great quick grab shots. Never really liked fiddling with the hangman's noose, had them all they all get in the way and are piled up neatly some where out of site.
The less junk you have to fiddle with the more time you will have to take photos.

Carrying style has a lot to do with what tools you are using and how you need to use them. Personally I try to have as little on me while I'm working as possible. But I'm a working editorial/news photographer not a hobbyist or casual tourist/snapper.

I must say that it cracks me up when people comment on how huge and bulky a D90 with a kit lens is. They have never tried spending all day running down a football sideline to get into position before the next play with one "pro" body on a 400mm f/2.8, another "pro" body with a 70-200 f/2.8, a third "pro" body with a 17-35 f/2.8, a waist pack with 30 flash cards, 2 teleconverters, 4 spare batteries, a flash and a 14mm f/2.8. That is a bulky kit.

I have always tried to have the smallest SLR and lens that I can get away with for both size/weight encumbrance as well as the way that large equipment makes you stand obvious. I work mostly with people and when doing intimate portraits a large and intimidating camera makes shy people even less likely to want to be photographed. I used primarily the Nikon N90s when many of my peers used only the F5. Now I use the D700 instead of the D3. I hated dragging my old D1x's around because at the time we had no pro quality DSLR in a smaller size. Oh and I regularly use 2 bodies at the same time.

Camera bags of any kind are not really meant to be worked out of but are to carry your necessary gear around and cameras are really only useful if they are in your hand. So all 14 of my camera bags/cases are set up to get my gear to where I'm going to be making photos and then out comes at least one camera which then goes to work. If I have a lot of gear it goes into a backpack. If I have a smaller amount it goes into some size shoulder bag. I do work out of waist packs often as they are now set up to be opened from the top while worn in front. That takes weight off your shoulders and keeps you from getting truly bent out of shape. If I have more stuff than can fit into a backpack it all goes into flight cases that are rolled around on a cart.

My cameras are never on my neck but on my shoulder with the lenses pointing behind me. That way they are not sticking "out" and getting in the way especially when the lens is a 70-200 f/2.8. I use the Domke "Gripper" straps and they are simple, cheap and stay put. I use the ones with the quick release so that I can take the strap off when I'm on a tripod or the camera is set up as a remote.

But those days when I'm just walking around with just my tiny Voightlander Bessa R and 35mm f/2.5 lens and 2-3 rolls of HP5? Bliss!

Back when men were men......

My father used to carry around a huge speedgraphic with a flash, and the outboard battery to power it. The battery itself was about the size and weight of a lunchbox filled with sand.
That was portability back then!

When I was a young man, I used to carry my Nikon F3 with say a 135mm lens, motordrive, and flash, on a regular strap all day long with no problems.
Well, age has caught up with me.

Here's a list of what I believe to be the best solution to avoiding neck/shoulder strain:
-regular old neck strap. Probably the worst thing out there, although, surprisingly, I'm using one with my D700/24-70 f2.8 with no problems -yet.

-spongy stretch neck strap. These things work great. Makes the apparent lightness seem about half. (I know, I know, you're probably wondering why I don't put mine on my current Nikon set-up. Well.... everything was so shiny and new when I bought it, I just couldn't bear to put my dirty old stretch strap on my new camera. I'll probably eventually get around to it)

-Black Rapid strap. Great idea! I have one, and I'll probably still use it from time to time.

-carrying your stuff in a bag/pack-sack.

-using only a point & shoot! ;-)

Nowadays, Dad, who was a professional photographer for his entire adult life, and is in his late seventies, and retired, owns nothing but a point and shoot.
He still takes great shots too!

Best way Í've found for carrying a big slr and lens is to turn the camera away from you and then put it over your shoulder. This way the lens points down parallel to your body and sits close to you. Especially effective when carrying 2 bodies.

Re Large cameras and Sherpa

I recently discovered that some traditional LF camera makers have realized that not all people that want LF quality can afford (or have access to) an assistant for carrying the monster ;-). I was very pleased with this development from Linhof ...


I remember just how humongous the D3 appeared upon first sighting, it's enormous viewfinder/prism looking every bit the bulbous, elongated monster head from the Alien sci-fi movies. My second thought being- if that's what a full frame sensor entails, you can have it.

Carrying even "the least amount" of equipment the majority of daylight hours eventually take its guaranteed toll. I refuse to wear waist packs for the same reason I refused to be seen with a fanny pack in the eighties. Backpacks are a great equipment transportation device, but are utterly useless in the field- and very adept at spilling your entire photographic inventory unto the pavement should you be tempted into reaching in for a quick grab shot.

A long term Domke user, I've recently graduated to a Crumpler $6 Million bag. It's roomy enough and lush in comparison with ample padding (less of a bouncing brick against your waist), and if it doesn't fit- it ain't worth carrying. I sling it on my left shoulder across my chest, and when that gives out, switch and let it hang from the right. When they both give out, I carry it by its padded handle until I find a place to have a drink.

Don't have a D3, but do often carry a D300 with battery grip and a 16-85 zoom (lighter than the 17-55, I know, but the whole rig is nevertheless chunky) for several hours at a stretch. I hate camera bags and backpacks, but I'm too clumsy to risk just carrying it in my hand. I've found that using a longish Optech spongy shoulder strap and slinging it from one shoulder but across my body minimises weight, stops it flapping around but still leaves it ready use quickly. Just round the neck is a killer; over one shoulder and one turns into Quasimodo (and it slides slither clunkety-clunk THUD BANG tinkle bloodycamerabuggerbuggerbugger off your shoulder and down to the ground if you move suddenly). In dodgy urban environments you can cover it with your forearm. If you are doing anything active, (like scrambling over rocks), you can pull it up your chest and it stays nicely out of the way and doesn't bang into things (like rocks).

The only trick to it is to have the strap fairly long, otherwise vertical shots are a struggle. Mine rests more or less at the top of my hip-bone. It's still perfectly accessible even with a backpack put on after the camera.

If I do have to carry a shoulder-bag, I carry it the same way, messenger style.

I suspect people don't do this because it's dreadfully uncool and makes you look a bit of a prat. On the upside, this means photophobic local ganstas don't find you quite so threatening.

If I think I might need to change lenses, I put a couple into an unpadded ThinkTank waistbag on a simple black webbing belt. The whole ensemble goes surprising well with an LBD, silver mules and a feather boa.

Thanks to Adam for pointing to the Nikon AH-4 strap, I'd not heard of that one.
It's not cheap, but I got it new from eBay much cheaper than Amazon UK sells it.

Black Rapid's strap looks interesting, but Lutz from http://www.leicagoodies.com/strap.html has had a similar idea for years now. And his other hand strap for Leica M's is pure genius! http://www.leicagoodies.com/sling.more.html

Regarding that new development from Linhof--I've handled the Techno at PhotoPlus in New York. It is a beautiful camera and the one I would buy if I were in the market for one of the new architectural cameras, but I wouldn't call it super light weight. It's all solid metal construction, at least as heavy as, say, an all metal 35mm SLR with motor drive and battery pack.

For a really lightweight view camera, look at Toho Shimo or the Gowland PocketView.

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