In Part 1, we mentioned how you should get to know your camera before buying an expensive strap. Otherwise, you might find out that you prefer carrying your camera in a different way. For example, if you get a hand strap, you could end up wanting a sling strap instead.
There’s one exception to this general rule: fashion. If you’re buying a new strap mainly because you hate wearing a brand logo around your neck, then go for it. Get a new neck strap–but at least pay attention to quality and comfort while you’re looking at cool designs.
The Best Camera Straps Guide is a 4-part series dedicated to helping photographers buy better camera straps.
Besides fashionista photographers, you might want a new neck strap if your current strap is coming apart or causing discomfort. If you’re getting a sore neck and cramped muscles after a shoot, it’s time to look at other options. A better neck strap might alleviate the pain–though it’s also worth considering hand, wrist, and finger straps (see Part 1), a sling strap, or a camera holster (see Part 3).
For many photographers, neck straps are the standard way of carrying a camera. They’re not always ideal, but for the most part, they’re secure, convenient, and easy to use–as long as you choose a comfortable, high-quality strap.
Fortunately, finding a great strap isn’t difficult.
Width, Thickness, and Length
To find a comfortable strap, you first need to think about the strap’s width and thickness. You probably want to avoid thick, bulky straps. A big strap can pull on your hair and make you sweat. Generally, the strap should be about 3 centimeters or 1 – 1.5 inches wide, give or take a little for your personal preference.
Your preferred width could also changed depending on the camera’s weight. A 1-inch strap can feel great with a light camera, while a wider (1.5-inch or even 2-inch) strap might feel better with a heavy camera.
Some straps get thicker around the “neck” part, but this style isn’t absolutely necessary or important. After all, you might end up carrying the strap around your body, too.
When choosing between different lengths, keep in mind that you might want the strap to change length depending on what you’re wearing. For example, you might want a longer strap when you’re wearing a coat versus a shorter strap for a t-shirt. That’s why adjustable straps are more convenient than just one set length.
With these pointers, you’re on your way to finding a strap you love. Now, you just need to choose the right material.
Leather Neck Strap
Leather, especially full-grain or top-grain leather, is one of the best materials for neck straps. That’s because it’s durable and adaptable to different climates. It survives just as well in a desert as a tropical forest. If a strap is well-made with high-quality leather, you can expect it to last for a long time.
From a style perspective, leather tends to look professional, an important factor for full-time photographers. It matches most outfits and social settings, from formal weddings to casual birthday parties.
Though you can be happy with a cheap leather strap, pricier leather straps tend to be more durable and high-quality. In many cases, the price difference is related to the tanning process, as well as whether the leather is full-grain (the best), top-grain (pretty good), or simply “genuine” (okay).
For a top-notch leather neck strap, look no further than the ONA Presidio. Made with soft Italian-tanned leather, the Presidio is comfortable, sturdy, and absolutely beautiful.
Another good (yet cheaper) option is the b.still leather neck strap. Lightweight and stylish, it gives you the quality and security of leather at a more affordable price.
For a vegan leather alternative, check out the vinyl camera straps from Couch. Originally a guitar strap company, Couch now makes a range of products, including wallets, belts, and camera straps. They offer well-crafted straps at affordable prices–and no cow hides are involved in the process.
While leather is our first pick, you can find excellent neck straps in a range of other materials, too. Just remember that certain materials, like canvas, tend to wear out and look grungy faster than leather. A dirty neck strap might not be a problem, though, especially if you’re an amateur photographer or don’t mind the grunge look.
Since non-leather straps come in a greater variety of designs, you might need more time to decide between different styles. To get you started, here are a few good neck straps to consider.
This elegant strap from Cecelia Gallery is made with handwoven Peruvian alpaca wool and full-grain leather. At around $100, it’s on the expensive side–but the quality is fantastic. It’s definitely made to last years.
Capturing Couture offers a wide selection of unique, decorative neck straps that can double as fashion statements. In addition to patterned straps, they have a lot of scarf camera straps like the one below. Many of their straps are geared towards women, but they do have masculine designs as well. Though their straps may not be suitable for a mountain trek, they’re fine for a laid-back, amateur photoshoot.
If you find yourself wearing a neck strap over your shoulder more than your neck, you might want to get a sling strap instead. For more information on those, check out Part 3: Sling Straps, Two-Camera Harnesses, and Camera Holsters!