It’s almost a cliché – your well-brassed camera must wear an equally weathered artisanal strap, usually leather. Venture onto any fashionable camera site these days and we’ll no doubt find such a leather strap attached to a red-dot rarity, wrapped round a cup of espresso and an overly-complicated paperback novel. But not everyone likes leather.
During my search for an upgrade from the manky old Pentax strap currently adorning my Cosina SLR, I realised there wasn’t much in the way of stylish but hard-wearing straps for those of us who choose to avoid animal products (after all, if you don’t eat meat, wearing leather seems a bit odd).
Non-leather straps seems to fall into two categories; form or function. The former is a category dominated by the likes of Peak Design and Optech. Straps by these companies provide all the functionality needed by professional photographers, without the leather.
Peak Design offers their Capture camera clips – metal hardware that screws into a tripod thread, and allows you to mount a camera on your belt for easy shotgun-fast shooting. These land a little too close to “mobile phone in a holster” category for me – a trend that should have stayed in the 2000s. With a heavy 400mm lens attached, I’d also worry over the structural integrity of my belt – nobody wants to be pantsed by their camera gear.
Another offering from Peak is the Slide – a simple webbing strap with internal padding. However, I struggle to see technology in this strap that warrants the price of $70 – the vast majority of my film cameras didn’t cost me $70, after all.
Optech have some very well-reviewed straps, with the ability to swap out the padded middle section between cameras. Their Pro-Strap comes recommended as an affordable but comfortable option for those of us with heavier gear, and is available in a variety of different colours, including camouflage, the most cursed of all fabric patterns. Constructed from sturdy neoprene, Optech’s straps look like they’ll stand the test of time. Best of all, they’re very affordable – ideal if you have multiple cameras to furnish with straps.
We now come to the most utilitarian and least aesthetically pleasing end of the camera strap scale – The Harness. Like the Photographer Vest much-loved by press shooters of old, its functionality way outshines its awful form. If you need to carry two camera bodies however, it’s undoubtedly handy, and to this end Blackrapid can offer a variety of options – full holster, or single-side, if you’re not ready to commit to dual-wielding just yet.
For a slightly more fashionable option, try Holdfast – their MoneyMaker Swagg is available in a variety of colours, none of which are camo. Holdfast tend to stray into “needlessly masculine” accessory territory – their leather options include python skin and American Buffalo, if you want to pretend you’re taking photos in a jungle (not the concrete kind).
Swinging wildly away from Manly and Extreme territory, why not try a scarf strap – with plenty of colour options available, there’s sure to be one to suit your outfit, and provided your camera of choice isn’t too heavy, the wide band looks like a comfy alternative to the traditional camera strap. There are hundreds of options available on Etsy – take your pick!
But my favourite option for leather-free camera straps are the gorgeous straps made by Hyperion. These are available in a huge variety of colour combinations – choose your cord color and bindings for a personalized touch. Importantly, Hyperion eschews leather in both their cord strap and the bindings – most other cord strap options still use leather bindings to attach the cord to the rings. These straps are handmade in Greece, just like most of ancient Rome’s mythology! For me, the Hyperion strap ticks all the boxes – stylish enough to suit any camera, customizable, handmade by an actual person, and best of all, affordable.