It's hour number 3 of the event you are shooting. Your neck hurts. You have another 2 hours to go before the event is over and while you are happy that the strap that came with your camera shows the world what brand you invested in, on the inside you really want to ditch the thing. In a world of numerous options for camera straps, I settled for what may be the almost perfect solution, the OP/TECH Utility Strap™ – Sling.
INTRODUCTION TO THE OP/TECH UTILITY STRAP™-SLING
One of the great things about purchasing a new DSLR is the fact that it comes with a strap already. In fact, the manufacturer has forked over a few bucks as most of these straps are well constructed and they are emblazoned with the name of the manufacturer. When it comes right down to it though, the design of these straps have a serious deficiency.
After spending 4 to 6 hours with my DSLR hanging off my neck shooting off road, my neck was shot. I spent a lot of time researching replacement options and found some really good solutions with lots of rave reviews. I also stumbled across the website of OP/TECH. I was sold and had one of their Utility Strap™-Strap on the way to my house.
Although the first use of the strap I was still running my itty bitty beginner DSLR. Most of the day when I was not shooting, I did not even notice the camera. Once I started showing up with my new camera with battery grip attached, the strap showed it's true colors and I have not looked back.
OP/TECH's thought process definitely was on target with this design. The strap itself features a padded area that is cut to conform to the user's shoulder and that is attached to a long piece of nylon webbing via plastic buckles and is adjustable to the user.
The camera attachment method is in one word awesome. There is a plastic buckle that is threaded to the nylon webbing and the other half of the buckle has a small piece of material which attaches to the camera body's sling point. Yes, this means that you can put the strap on minus the body and attach it to the tripod, monopod or if you need to put the camera in a unique position for a shot, all you have to do is squeeze the release tabs on the buckle.
One of the main benefits of this quick release system I found was shooting on the sidelines at the football game. I can sling my camera and carry my monopod and once I have found a spot where I want to set up, all I have to do is attach the monopod to the camera, release the strap from the camera and start shooting. I still have the strap on, so once halftime hits, off comes the monopod, the camera is reattached to the strap and I can go about my business.
The strap that came with your camera will let you know the camera is there and your neck will remind you of that fact. This might be find if you are using some lower level DSLR and small lens, but believe me that beyond that, your neck will probably hate you. If you are shooting a body with a battery grip and a 70-200 and you need to move around, forget about using that stock strap and upgrade that strap ASAP!!!! I have been on the track for the better part of a day with my K-5II with battery grip and 70-300 hanging off my shoulder and at the end of the day, my neck was not screaming at me.
Like I mentioned earlier, the sling strap allows the photographer to grab ahold of the body, bring it up to eye level and take the shot. The movement is fluid and easy. It allows the photographer to move around without being hindered by a couple of pounds swinging in front of them. The camera is slung to the side. While the sling does not hold the camera body tight to the photographer's body, when I am moving around, I just rest my hand on the camera, keeping it in tight so it is not swinging around. I have found this highly useful at certain off road tracks where I have to bust through some vegetation to get to a spot.
While I have mentioned just the sports aspect, this sling can be used for a variety of different situations. Besides shooting motorsports and football, I have also used it for portraits and weddings. Basically, the only time that I will not be using it is if I am goofing off around the house or if I am out in the field taking a shot here or there or when I am shooting off the tripod a lot.
While the price of the system might question the durability of the strap, I can attest that it is well made and long lasting. Some of the environments I shoot in from time to time are not the cleanest places to say the least. With tons of dirt being thrown into the air by high powered machines, usually with a nice breeze blowing, there have been a couple of times that my strap has taken on a distinct brown hue. I definitely do not want to show up to a client shoot with a strap that looked like it was dragged through a hundred miles of Oklahoma dirt roads. A quick hand wash in the kitchen sink quickly restored the strap to it's original luster.
The Neoprene internal support foam that makes up the portion of the sling that carries all of the weight shows very little wear after three years. In fact, the most wear I can detect on it is the fading of the company logo that is screen printed on the foam and even then, after spending hours upon hours out in the sun of the High Plains and California desert, it is still bright. But we do not care about that, do we.
Having a background in using high performance tactical gear, and a little background in the construction of such gear, I can see that OP/Tech spared no expense. The thread that was used to sew the nylon webbing to the neoprene is no the same thread that was used to sew your dress shirts and slacks. The thread itself is heavy duty. At the points where the nylon is sewed to the neoprene and the nylon webbing is sewed to nylon webbing, the techniques used are commonly seen throughout tactical gear design. This means even when there is some signs of thread fatigue, the sewing technique is so overlapping that the system is still good until it needs repaired. As of now, just a little over three years after purchasing this strap, it does have some points where the thread is frayed, but these are so minor that I am not worried. At some point, I'm sure I will pull out one of my antique, heavy duty Singer sewing machines and make some quick repairs, but that is down the road. The only other visible wear is the small loop that attaches the sling to the camera strap mount. Again, this is very minor wear that does not compromise the integrity of the system.
The price for the OP/TECH Utility Strap™ – Sling is very reasonable. The price is $24.43 for the black system, or $21.95 for the “Nature” pattern. You can purchase the OP/TECH Utility Strap from Amazon. There are several other options listed on the site. For this particular system, the “SLING” option is the one being reviewed here.
I have two cons from my standpoint. The first is that even though the large portion of the strap is non-slip neoprene, it has a habit of sliding up and down when there is slack in the strap. Not a deal breaker for me. The other is the fact that the plastic buckle is right at my mouth when I am shooting in landscape mode. Again, not a deal breaker, but are times that I have make adjustments and it can hinder giving verbal directions to a client. Again, not a deal breaker and easily fixed, but something to think about.
Another con, which was brought up to me by another contributor is the lack of adjustment for certain body types. I am 5′ 11″ with I guess what could be deemed a regular length torso. I still have about 2 inches of adjustment left. The contributor that I talked to stated that he has a long torso and was unable to adjust the strap to a length that suited him, so he went with a system from another company.
In closing, the OP/TECH Utility Strap™ – Sling is an affordable, yet performs at a high level. Minus shooting off tripods, the system pretty much can perform in any photography environment. Gone will be the days of sore necks and awkward body movements through throngs of people.