There are few things I see photographers skimp on more frequently than a good camera strap. While the default manufacturer straps can certainly get the job done under most circumstances they're pretty limiting in terms of style and functionality and can serve as a un-needed advertisement for the gear you're packing. The guys over at Cecilia Gallery want to give you an alternative to the stock strap that provides a similar minimalistic design with high-quality materials and some cool little nuanced touches.
I was sent two of the 14 models Cecilia offers to take for a test drive while camping, hiking and sailing on vacation last week. I tried out the challaypu alpaca wool with black leather (pictured below) while my girlfriend used the charcoal baby alpaca wool with brown leather (pictured above).
These straps are made out of handwoven Peruvian alpaca wool, a 250 pound rated ballistic nylon polyester core, and full grain Argentinean cowhide leather inside making for a comfortable yet durable strap that can easily support whatever gear you care to bring with you. While my partner used her strap on a tiny featherweight Fuji X-Pro system with it's set of small X-Series primes, I had no qualms about using mine to carry my D610 setup with my heavier Nikon flagship primes and zooms.
I'm absolutely confidant in this straps ability to put up with cameras even larger than mine (including you 1DX-ers and D4s-ists). Cecilia straps are no joke, they are carefully made and painstakingly inspected for quality and durability. Don't believe me? Check out the stress test video they did with their products. This robot lifted the strap which carried an eight pound camera / faux lens setup 100,000 cycles. They hold up fine.
There's a time and a place for the popular Black Rapid straps. They're great for a run-and-gun shooter who likes the versatility and ease-of-use of a sling-style strap. Many wedding photographers' go-to is the Hold Fast two-camera-harness-system which allows the user to keep two (or more) cameras at the ready with different lenses / setups. The Cecilia straps aren't out, to my knowledge, to challenge those two designs — they have their own place. Rather, the offerings from Cecilia are a good alternative to the run-of-the-mill straps from brands like Opteka, Joby, Tamrac, etc. as well as the aforementioned dreaded stock straps from the manufacturer.
While sharing the rather ubiquitous large neck pad and long, thin connecters found on most other straps, the Cecilia straps are more refined feeling, causing less neck and solider irritation and fatigue when compared to my strap from Nikon. When it comes right down to it I believe that this strap's design falls into the if it ain't broke, don't fix it category. This no-frills setup will hold up your camera safely, securely, and comfortably with the best of them — photographers who are looking for quick adjustability, a built-in bottle opener, or any other tomfoolery might want to look elsewhere.
Members of the Fstoppers Facebook group might already know that I roll around with an SKB hard-shell case to protect my gear. This makes fitting a camera with a strap attached next to impossible. I found that I could greatly increase the usability of my straps by adding little high-strength carabiners from the hardware store to quickly attach and detach my camera from the strap without a fuss as shown above.
[Update] Fstoppers reader, Greg Tennyson, pointed me to this video showing the potential hazards of using gate hooks to support your camera rig. The setup I'm using makes use of small high-strength steel carabiners (I believe they each support up to 15 pounds) that shouldn't allow the split ring to get under the gate like in the video, for added security you can also use clips with a screw lock.
Using the Cecilia straps in the field is a dream. No matter how you use the Cecilia straps (around your neck, wrapped around your wrist, etc.) they are long enough to let you do what you want without getting in your way. I had absolutely no issues using it over the last week in a couple different shooting environments.
Whether you wear your camera and strap around your neck or tuck it under your arm around to your back this strap keeps your camera out of trouble without irritating your neck like some cheaper straps are prone to.
What I Liked:
- Ease. If you can set up the strap that came in your camera then this one won't give you any trouble. This strap is simple to set up, easy to use, and like an old familiar camera, it won't get in your way.
- Quality. Coming in between $80 and $100 these straps aren't cheap (see below) but from the moment you take the strap out of the box you are really struck by how nice everything feels. The leather is soft and comfy, the wool is lovely. Honestly it feels like something you'd find at Hermès.
- Looks. You can't talk about the Cecilia straps without bringing up looks. These straps look fabulous with a lovely balance of leather and wool (though they do sell a couple all-leather models) and look like something I'd expect to see in a J. Crew catalog. If you're shooting with a cool camera, you know who you are, then you deserve something equally nice looking to support it. I never want to see a Leica or Fuji range-finder on a nylon strap.
What Could Be Improved:
- Price. With so many other strap offerings out there for $10, $20, $30, etc. it can be really tough for a strap company to make an impact selling premium price (and premium quality) straps. I've always been told you get what you pay for, these straps are no exception.
- Options. These straps are pretty basic in the sense that they don't have the gizmos and gadgets of some other competing products. That may be a positive or a negative thing, depending on your needs. As mentioned earlier, adding a carabiner to each side of the strap greatly improved my experience, allowing me to quickly remove the strap when I was done using the camera. You could also consider adding a tripod socket mount to give you even more attachment options.
It was really lovely to spend time with these beautify made straps over the past few weeks. I have nothing but positive feelings for these unique little straps and have every intention of picking up one for myself permanently; I know my partner will be doing the same.
If you'd like to try one of these bad boys out for yourself they're available online at Cecilia.