As prevalent as neck straps are, they don’t work for all photographers. They can get in the way or cause neck pain, especially if your camera is heavy. If you’re getting a sore neck from your strap, you can look at hand, wrist, and finger straps (see Part 1) or try out the following options for your shoulders and hips.
The Best Camera Straps Guide is a 4-part series dedicated to helping photographers buy better camera straps.
Sling straps are similar to neck straps, only for the shoulders. They allow you to “sling” the strap over your shoulder like a messenger bag without slowing down your shooting speed. That’s because the camera is attached to a metal fastener that slides along the strap. You can raise the camera without removing the strap, allowing for fast shots.
Some photographers use sling straps mainly for intense activities, like hiking up a mountain. A good sling will keep the camera accessible yet out of the way. You can also switch shoulders, helping to prevent muscle strain.
One popular choice for sling straps is the BlackRapid Cross Shot. It’s relatively inexpensive yet well-made and comfortable. It’ll survive a mountain trek without any sign of wearing down. It’s especially good for tall photographers, as the strap is on the longer side.
Another outstanding option is the Peak Design Slide. Some photographers prefer it to the BlackRapid strap because it’s more versatile. You can wear it in multiple ways and easily switch between tripod and handheld carrying. The Peak Design strap also fits a smaller body better. It’ll hug a short photographer’s back, instead of banging around the hip. However, the opposite is also true: a tall photographer might prefer the length of the BlackRapid strap.
Need two cameras for a shoot? Consider getting a two-camera harness. You see them most often on professional wedding photographers who shoot for 12+ hours straight, trying to capture everything. In this situation, you need as much speed, flexibility, and comfort as possible. Next to having an assistant, a two-camera harness can be a big help.
Possibly the most stylish and most expensive option is the HoldFast Gear MoneyMaker. Made of leather–which we’re a fan of (see Part 2)–it’ll help you look great for even the fanciest weddings. Expect compliments. That said, this harness has a couple downsides. The slide can catch on your shirt, and the leather takes time to break in. You’ll want to wear it often before your first wedding, since leather fragments might rub off on your shirt at first. The stiff leather will soften, though, and you’ll have a comfortable, high-quality harness that looks fantastic.
Note: the MoneyMaker also comes in a three-camera setup, in case you need a third camera!
If you value functionality over fashion, check out the DR-1 or DR-2 from BlackRapid. (The DR-1 is larger/wider, while the DR-2 is designed for a smaller frame.) Though less stylish than the MoneyMaker, these harnesses are relatively cheaper without sacrificing any quality. You can also detach the slings, giving you the option of carrying one camera instead of two.
BlackRapid has another two-camera harness called the Yeti, which sits on one shoulder. Some photographers prefer this setup, though it might not feel comfortable if you’re short or prefer wearing the strap on your right shoulder.
Our most affordable pick is the Op/Tech USA harness. At about $50, it’s a bargain compared to the BlackRapid and HoldFast harnesses, and you still get a good harness. Though the quality isn’t as impressive as the other options, it’s still a sturdy harness that gets the job done. If you’re on a tight budget, this harness will give you the best value for the price.
Camera Holsters and Vests
The idea of a holster or vest might seem strange if you love shoulder camera straps. Though unusual, these options can be a big relief for photographers suffering from chronic neck and shoulder pain. They literally take a weight off your shoulders, so you can focus on photography instead of sore muscles. If your upper body needs a break, or if you just hate straps, take a look at these choices.
You might feel like a gunslinger while wearing this camera holster from Spider. It sits comfortably and securely on a belt, allowing you to draw your camera quickly for spontaneous shots. This setup can also work great with two cameras–one on a strap and the other in this holster.
Wearing this holster can feel nerve-racking at first. You might feel like the camera is falling or going to fall, but the camera is secure. It won’t slide or come off the holster if it’s bumped, even when the Spider lock is open.
Spider also makes smaller, less expensive holsters for lightweight gear and point-and-shoot cameras. Some photographers prefer wearing a smaller camera in a holster rather than a big DSLR with, say, a 70-200 lens, as that can get awkward.
These smaller holsters also work better if you’re thin, since they attach with a clip instead of a belt. A common complaint about the SpiderPro belt is that it’s too big for slender photographers. With a clip, you can attach it to your own belt or even a backpack.
This Cotton Carrier vest is one of the best ways to carry your camera during a hike or climb. It’s well-constructed, convenient, and absolutely secure. You can scramble over rocks without worrying about your camera bumping and scraping against the stone. Then, when you need to take a shot, you can release the camera with one hand. Just turn it 90° and lift it out.
The vest is also very comfortable for many photographers. Unless you have a large chest, it’ll sit snugly against your body, taking the strain off your neck and shoulders. The fabric is also breathable, so you can wear it in dripping hot humidity, if you want.
However, if you use a tripod often while shooting, this vest may not be the best option. Every time you wanted to use a tripod, you’d need to remove the bottom plate. It’s doable but definitely a hassle.
If you just want a great setup for a long hike, though, this might be your solution.
This vest and holster from Movo is much, much cheaper than the Cotton Carrier vest and Spider holsters, but it’s still reliable and lightweight. It’ll take away your neck pain and keep your camera secure for less than $40. It may not look as sexy, but it’ll get the job done.
We’ve covered all the best options for traditional cameras, from hand straps and neck straps to harnesses and vests. But what about smartphones? If you use your phone for photography, it might be worth looking into smartphone straps for added security. Check out Part 4: Straps for Smartphones.