Every photographer has a favorite way to carry cameras. I’m no exception. I like to sling my camera over my neck. It’s always ready for action there, and I can easily tuck it under my jacket to keep it warm and dry when the weather turns. It’s also protected from stray branches as I hike.
But there’s a downside—literally. The weight of a heavy camera can cause neck strain. A wide strap eases the burden by distributing the load, though if it’s too wide it also hampers movement. My cameras all came with neck straps out of the box, but I prefer to make my own. Why? Easy. My homemade straps are stronger, more adjustable, and less restrictive. What’s to lose?
Want a for-instance? OK. The strap that came with my Pentax K200D DSLR is better made than most. Here it is:
It’s built with flat nylon webbing, has no metal hooks, and is lined with a flocked material. But good as it is, it still needs improving. The wide webbing is very stiff, with edges that are hard enough to leave a red welt on my neck. The flocked lining is comfortable against bare skin, but it’s far too clingy for my tastes. And the range of adjustment is limited: the strap won’t allow me to carry a camera under my arm or low on my torso. Plus—and this is purely personal—I don’t like being a walking ad, even for a good camera. I’m not keen on gear with the manufacturer’s name in big, bold red letters.
My solution? I made my own strap from tubular webbing. Having trusted my life to the same kind of webbing when I was climbing frozen waterfalls, I trust it to hold my camera. I prefer knots to plastic and metal fasteners, too. Knots don’t make noise or scour the finish on my camera. Now here’s the result of my labors:
Maybe it ain’t elegant, but it’s strong and comfortable. And infinitely adjustable. The subdued colors are good, too. (Red fades to black in low light.) That’s a Very Good Thing for a wildlife photographer. There are no metal bits to jingle-jangle as I walk, either. The clincher? It’s cheap to make and easy to pack. Case closed.
The list of materials is short. I used tubular nylon webbing: two one-foot lengths of half-inch webbing and one six-foot length of one-inch webbing. This can be ordered from mail-order suppliers like REI and Campmor or bought off the reel in climbing and paddling outfitters. A heads-up: Check that the narrower webbing fits through your camera’s strap lugs or rings before you buy.
Assembly is a snap. I began by forming long loops at the ends of the wider webbing, fixing them with overhand knots and leaving tails about three inches long. I positioned the knots so they ride about two inches under my collarbones.
Next, I threaded two lengths of the narrower webbing through the strap lugs on the camera body, looped them through the preformed end loops in the larger webbing, and finished the job by joining the ends of the narrow webbing with water knots, leaving one-inch tails. (Warning! Water and overhand knots in webbing will loosen and slip over time, so it’s important to check them periodically.)
My new strap allows my camera to rest just below my xiphoid process (that’s the little knob at the lower end of the breastbone), but I can easily raise or lower it by loosening the overhand knots in the wide webbing and making the necessary adjustments. So there you have it. A DIY neck strap for less than USD10. (Much less if you already have the necessary webbing on hand.) Simple and good. And cheap. What could be better?
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