When we spend time outdoors, it’s always nice to bring along a camera. For some, that’s a compact digital camera, for others, it’s a multi-lens DSLR. It really depends on whether you’re recording family activities, taking wildlife photos, or simply capturing the sunset or drops of dew on a blooming flower. Before going on vacation to New Zealand, I had purchased a neoprene camera strap that was promised to reduce the fatigue of carrying a large camera and 70-210 f2.8 lens. When the strap failed, it sent my expensive DSLR and lens crashing to the ground. Thanks to some quick reflexes, I was able to grab the strap and pull up quickly, causing a bungee effect as the neoprene stretched and snapped back. The end result was a large dent in the filter threads of a lens I could barely afford to purchase in the first place, let alone replace.
From that day forward, I stubbornly relied on straps that provided maximum security for my gear, at the expense of comfort. At least, I did until the 2011 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, when I was introduced to Bron Imaging’s Sun Sniper. One of the reasons I accepted it to review was to smugly prove yet again that nothing beats a heavy strap threaded through your camera’s lugs. And I was wrong. (Happens more often than I’d care to admit) Part of my skepticism stemmed from how the Sun Sniper attaches to your camera. While it’s reasonable to be concerned at first at the thought of attaching a strap via the tripod socket, there’s a rubber gasket that crushes a little as the bolt is threaded into the socket, creating tension that keeps it from loosening. Once it’s threaded in, the strap swivels easily on stainless steel ball bearings. Speaking of steel, the strap itself has steel wire running through it, which not only contributes to durability during outdoor activities, but allows the Sun Sniper to offer insurance of up to $500 if a thief manages to cut your strap and steal your camera.
After a brief courtship where we worked out our trust issues (accepting the fact that the attachment point is truly secure), I started to really enjoy the strap for the comfort it provides. Rather than hanging the weight off your neck, with the camera thumping and bumping against your chest with each step, (something I had no problem doing for 20+ years, thank you) the Sun Sniper takes a very different approach. It’s worn sling-style on your left shoulder, with the camera hanging at your right side, around hip level. A nicely padded section distributes the weight across your shoulder, while the underside is rubberized for grip. There’s some sort of suspension system built into the strap, which tames the usual jarring action experienced when walking, or running from bears. I found that once properly adjusted, grabbing my camera was a very natural motion. The thinner section of the strap runs through that loop in the swivel as you bring it up to your eye, so the strap never really moves from your shoulder. While there is a bit of friction, it’s nothing worrisome. Here’s a couple of photos, provided by Sun Sniper:
Downsides? For vertical shots, the strap can be in a slightly awkward position near your face. But that’s not really much different than a traditional strap. When worn with a backpack, there may be some interference from the hip and shoulder straps. Comfort didn’t suffer as much when paired with a Geigerrig hydration pack, but care has to be taken that it doesn’t get tangled in the hose or air line. Using it with a flash bracket was just too awkward for me, as was using a shoe-mount flash. Your results may vary. Only time will tell if the friction of the ballistic nylon strap against the polished steel loop will cause any wear, but that’s one of those issues that could take years before it’s cause for concern.
Overall, it provides comfort for me and security for me camera. If it’s good enough for Gerd Ludwig, (of National Geographic Magazine) it’s good enough for the rest of us.