The camera straps included with pro-level DSLRs from the Canon/Nikon/et al factories have improved significantly over the years, from the stingy half-inch-wide strips of yore to reasonably comfortable nylon webbing an inch and a half across. However, at the same time we’re carrying cameras increasingly burdened with additional battery packs and massive lenses. So overall comfort has scarcely advanced.
For those of us who pursue photography in the outdoors, especially in active or even hazardous situations, the stock straps fall short in several other ways. Adjusting the length from a cold morning under a down jacket to a warm afternoon in shirtsleeves is such a pain as to be not worth the trouble. And the only way to get the camera off is to lift it over your head and whatever headgear you might be wearing. Usually this is simply inconvenient, but what if you need to ditch it right now in a real emergency?
These considerations and others inspired William Egbert of Vulture Equipment Works to start from scratch and design the A2 and A4 camera straps.
The Vulture straps are made from true military-spec nylon webbing, an inch and three-quarters wide. The weave is tight but extremely pliable; I found the A2 strap conformed to my shoulder comfortably even burdened with a 5D MKII and a heavy lens. It’s also adjustable for length in seconds. But that’s not where the innovation is. The connection to the camera’s stock strap eyelets is accomplished with two short “lower risers,” which then clip to the main strap via a pair of carabiners. Not the cheesy little things you find in the jar at the counter of the hardware store—these are stout mountaineering-grade items.
The carabiners perform several functions. You can unclip one to remove the camera and strap without having to go over your head. You can also convert the system to single-point carry by clipping one carabiner to the other. Traveling alone in a vehicle? Clip the risers to the posts of the headrest on the passenger’s seat. Your camera will be instantly accessible, yet immune to bouncing off the seat. You can also easily rig slings to suspend the camera inside vehicles or aircraft, or attach extra sets of lower risers to other things you might want to carry with the strap—heavy tripods, for example.
For me, their most useful function is realized by clipping them to the Vulture Equipment Works “A2T” strap. This cunning device is best described as a reverse monopod: Picture an adjustable length of nylon webbing with a loop at each end. Clip the lower risers on your camera into the upper loop, step into the lower loop and put upward pressure on the camera. I was astonished at how much stability it adds and how much camera shake was eliminated for video work, all from an accessory you can roll up and carry in a bush-jacket pocket. A brilliant accessory (and which could be used with a standard camera strap by looping the strap through it).
The A4 camera strap is similar to the A2, but adds a true one-hand quick-release. Normally secured with a safety-wire loop, this buckle will instantly free you from the camera with a single squeeze—assuming you find yourself in a position where you’re willing to instantly free yourself from $5,000 worth of camera and lens. I can think of a couple times I’ve been close. There was this elephant in Zambia . . .
While the Vulture straps adjust for length quickly, the shortest setting was a bit long for me. I found I could easily reduce the length beyond that setting, but then a tail of strap hung loosely. I’m considering simply cutting it off and burning the end; however, that would eliminate the nice factory-stitched end. Perhaps Vulture will offer optional strap lengths in the future. I also worry about those stout carabiners damaging the camera itself—I noticed that, with shorter lenses, the carabiner could theoretically whack the front element. Whether it could do so with enough momentum to cause damage is speculation.
If you think you’ve got a need for the stoutest, made-in-the-U.S camera strap on the planet, Vulture Equipment Works is HERE.