Why Insurance Could Have Saved Me When My Peak Design Strap Failed

Why Insurance Could Have Saved Me When My Peak Design Strap Failed

If you ever thought having insurance for your camera gear wasn't worth investing into, you should take a minute to read this. It's like the old saying goes, "better safe than sorry." I learned that lesson first hand this weekend, and because of a faulty camera strap, I am now wishing I had insurance.

It was Valentine's Day, my girlfriend and I packed up the car, grabbed our Golden Retriever puppy, and headed for the Grand Canyon. As we watched the sun set over the beautiful red rocks, I proceeded to capture the beauty with my Canon 6D and 35mm L lens. It had been a perfect Valentine's Day. On our way home I stopped several times to try my luck at some long-exposure shots of the night sky. We were finally on our way home when we made a last pit stop to use the restroom. While here, I decide to bust the camera out one last time to get a night shot of the popular lookout spot, Sunset Point in Arizona. With my Slik tripod in my hand, I scurry over to the ledge to set up. As I am walking over to the ledge, I hear the most devastating sound a photographer can imagine: the horrifying sound of my camera gear exploding against the cement. I pretty much freak out at this point as I try to gather the pieces of what is left of my 35mm L lens. I start to assess what happened and realized my Peak Design camera strap had failed me. One of the anchors had broke and let my equipment fall to the ground.

Editor's Update: We now have a comment from Peak Design: "The product issue described in this article was limited to Peak Design straps made before March 2015. Since then, Peak Design has changed the material of their Anchor cords from Vectran® to Dyneema®, a material that is not susceptible to the same kind of abrasion wear. Additionally, Peak Design's new Anchors feature a multi-layered cord design that shows a bright red indicator when wear is present, alerting the user to replace the Anchor. To this date Peak Design has seen zero Anchor cord failures caused by abrasion on the new Anchors. Additionally, the original author was reimbursed in full by Peak Design for repairs made as a result of the incident below." According to Thomas Ingersoll, the aforementioned reimbursement was made after this article was published.

The damage: A Canon 35mm L lens left in pieces. A Canon 6D with possible frame damage and a cracked screen. It will also take a couple weeks to fix everything, which means I have rent a camera for all my jobs until my camera is fixed.

I received the Peak Design Leash about two years ago. I loved how easy to use the strap was, and how fast I could take on and off my camera strap. This was really appealing to me since I shoot landscapes and portraits. The Peak Design Leash has been with me since my 5D and to the 6D I purchased last year.

I also love the low-key design of the strap, with minimal logos, and not having the big "CANON" across the strap (that to me screams "come steal me"). I loved all of these features until Peak Design let me down. Their patent-pending Anchor Link™ system couldn’t even last two years. One of the threads that held the anchors just snapped, allowing my camera and lens (RIP) to fall to the cement. Although I loved the strap while I owned it, I don’t think I will trust Peak Design to hold thousands of dollars worth of my gear again.

Here is a little about the Peak Design Leash system that sells for 35 dollars.

The most versatile and quick-connecting camera strap in the world, Leash™ can adapt to any camera and any shooting situation. Easily configure Leash™ as a sling strap, neck strap, safety tether, video stabilizer and more. When you don’t need a strap, Leash™ quickly disconnects and stores in your pocket, purse or camera bag. Leash uses our patent-pending Anchor Link™ connection system and comes with four Anchors for attachment.

I reached out to Peak Design in hopes of a similar outcome as the Black Rapid story. In my email I explained to them what happened and how I loved their product. This was their response:

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for reaching out to us and so sorry to hear about your camera fall due to an anchor that broke. We are continuously working to improve our anchors and you can read more here about Anchor Strength, Anchor Wear & Anchor Engineering Peak Design is not liable for any damage to your camera while using our products and are not able to refund you for camera repairs, but you can use the code ***** at www.peakdesign.com to receive a new set of anchors for free and I will send you a set of the newly designed anchors once they become available.

Best, Jen

Although I appreciate the gesture of new free anchors, I wish they had the same customer service as Black Rapid. I believe Peak Design needs to take their patent-pending design back to the drawing board. I for one think a camera strap should last more than two years. If any of you use alternative camera straps, make sure they won't leave your lens and spirits in pieces.

I am pretty upset about the strap breaking, but this incident has opened up my eyes about looking into buying insurance. Before this, I never really considered buying insurance for my gear. I always thought it was too expensive, or that I would not ever need it. I have always been so careful with my gear, but accidents happen to us all. Whether it is a mistake of your own, or something that you would least expect, like a camera strap breaking, it is always nice to have the comfort of knowing you are not totally screwed when something like this happens.

Well, as of today I am looking into insurance.

Here is a great article by Philip Vukelich that gives more insight about affordable insurance..

And finally, here are some of the last pictures my poor lens took.

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Bert McLendon's picture

This article is going to cost them way more than the replacement cost of your gear. Companies should be better at math and turn tragedies like this into positive advertisements for their customer service the way Black Rapid did. Sucks for them, I'm staying away from anything they make after this read. =)

Bill Blount's picture

Did this happen as a single traumatic event, or was there evident wear before the malfunction?

That looks like a crappy design for a strap attachment to me, but can't imagine that there would be no sign of impending failure if inspected frequently unless your camera was too heavy for the strap.

I always inspect my strap; it's really easy to do, especially if you are "attached" to your camera.

Thomas Ingersoll's picture

I did not notice any signs of stress, but I also never regularly checked the strap. I don't think a camera strap is something a person should be constantly having to check, but in the future I probably should to avoid accidents like this.

YoGi G's picture

I have first generation capture clip from Peak Design, and I've been using it over 2 years now. Back then they didn't have the camera strap, however, I personally am bit paranoid about "quick release" straps. I use another strap which has clips to remove the part of the strap to make it shorter (when needs to be used on tripod, without having to leave the strap hanging).

I was wondering if I should buy Peak Design, but those threads always concerned me and I don't think I'll be buying it after reading this article.

John Flora's picture

That anchor strap looks pretty worn/deteriorated from use/elements rather than a sudden catastrophic failure. Stuff wears out. The lesson here is to check your equipment regularly and replace it before it fails. An insurance company might even have grounds to deny coverage if it got a look at the amount of wear on that strap.

c c's picture

I'm agreeing with john here. As tough love as it may sound. That cordage is pretty beat. All the pivoting, twisting and weight on those single points obv took its toll. I've been experimenting using s-biners to clip to the camera mounts regardless of the type of strap. Carryspeed's plate and ball mount seems pretty rugged to.

Thomas Ingersoll's picture

I definitely will be checking my straps from now on, lesson learned.

c c's picture

Regardless, sorry to hear about your damaged gear. You got some great images though.

Pedro Oranje's picture

I'm ashamed that this website would publish a story that is potentially so damaging to a small company. Using the f/stoppers brand to either extract $ from Peak Design or to harm them out of spite is beneath you. The writer calls himself a professional, he should check the state of his gear before use.

Thomas Ingersoll's picture

I am not using Fstoppers to extract money from Peak Design. I am simply sharing my experience from a piece of faulty equipment.

Pedro Oranje's picture

Sorry I don't buy it. You're calling the company out. If the point of the story was to educate the readers from your experience, a "lesson learned" (see your reply to another thread), your focus would've been on the value of checking gear and/or having professional insurance. The headline and your comparison to the Black Rapid incident reveal your motive. Beware the damage you do to this small company and by extension this website. Your actions are those of a bully.

Marcos Villaroman's picture

From the photo, it looks like it ripped around the camera's neckstrap lug. Looks like the cord material used in anchor ties needs to be more durable.

I personally use Op-Tech USA's quick release system. I've had many years of excellent results with whatever material they use for their straps designed for heavy gear.

Please let us know how much it cost to repair your gear.

As for camera insurance, I often wondered how many claims you could make before the insurance company refuses to renew your policy. But, I supposed I rather find that out before I find out what it feels like to get your gear stolen or broken without insurance.

Kevin Chau's picture

I just invested heavily into Peak Design's ecosystem. There are warnings everywhere telling you to replace your anchor loops with ANY sign of fraying. They'll even send you new anchor loops for free when your current ones have frayed.

The fraying issue isn't specific to Peak Design, I had 3-4 sets of Op/Tech's mini QD loops and they frayed way faster. Not to mention - the latest iteration of PDs anchors are 2 layer, where as the Op/Tech minis are just braided with no core.

Check your gear. Anchor loops are cheap (free), camera repair is not.

Marcos Villaroman's picture

FWIW, Op/Tech's mini QDs are meant for light weight like P&S cameras and binoculars; there aren't for DSLR gear.

I do wonder: how often have the Peak Design anchor loops require replacement when the gear is used as frequently as a pro would use his gear? If they do require replacement, I wonder if the camera brand in question matters; the 6D's attachment points are very similar to my 5D3's.

Brad Camp's picture

I really like my Peakdesign straps, The anchors could be a little better but I try to inspect them and I make sure I have two attachments to reduce any chances of one breaking and dropping everything. I agree, they should last longer than two years, but they do sell replacements.

Adam Ottke's picture

A lot of people seem to think it's common sense and obvious to check your camera straps for wear. I find this odd, however, as I know (and own) plenty of straps that really should and do last just about a lifetime. There are materials out there that can really stand the test of time, even with abuse. So I'm wondering why that isn't expected of a premium camera strap brand with premium prices (or at least not cheap "chinese-copy" prices). If you get what you pay for, I'd expect to have gotten a little more than what Thomas seems to have gotten....no? Am I crazy?

Anonymous's picture

^^^^ What he said

Michael Kormos's picture

I can tell you one thing - the OEM straps that come with your body are probably the most secure straps available. As soon as you put anything third party, you're taking a chance. Even if they advertise lifetime warranty, and guarantees, these are marketing gimmicks designed to lure you in. Who can say for sure if they company will even be around 2-3 years down the line when their strap fails and your beautiful new telephoto hits the pavement?

John Flora's picture

Your premise is sound, but it still does not relieve you of the obligation to check your equipment. Had he found this wear in time, the company would have replaced them under warranty.

Casey McCallister's picture

I have used Peak Design's Capture Pro and Leash ever since the Kickstarter in some pretty rough conditions and never had one come close to fail. Count me as one extremely satisfied customer.

Thomas Ingersoll's picture

I think They have a good product, I just don't think it is as durable as a camera strap should be.

Jonathan St Gelais's picture

If you have a strap with the original (old) links contact Peak Design about getting them replaced. The new ones are stronger and have wear indicators that could have possibly saved Thomas' camera

J J's picture

That's a pretty weak looking system. Unless there was metal threaded in there I couldn't see using it. I use a different quick release system and it's a lot more robust at the lug.

You got some great photos man. But, I'm surprised you've got enough work lined up that you've got to be renting, and you're writing for a photo blog, but you don't have equipment insurance. As long as you have liability insurance I guess it doesn't really matter. But FWIW - you could look at joining a group like PPA that has a built in equipment policy.

Good luck - bummer about the lens. Sort of not psyched on the idea of shaming the company in the hopes of getting a repair. But, that said I'm a 100% for putting out the experience of equipment failure. It's very useful when people report failures. Sort of like Kelby and Drobo.

Thomas Ingersoll's picture

Ouch, your comment is a little rough, since the accident last weekend I have had a wedding and several other shoots, plus I had to move a couple shoots back till I get my gear back. Since Photography is my full time profession I shoot and work as much as I can. Just because I write for this site doesn't incline me to have camera insurance, but i will be looking into it now. And this article would have not been written if the strap didn't fail. I am not out there to shame them, in fact I love the product, but I am disappointed in the products durability. I am sharing my experience, I wrote the things I liked about the strap, but I think its fair to let people be aware of when equipment fails.

TImothy Tichy's picture

As a working pro, why no backup gear? If your camera fails in the middle of a wedding, what do you do?

Otherwise I'd agree with others, check your gear. The strap is right on top of the camera, it's not exactly like you have to open a hidden access port to see it.
In the automotive industry a frayed seatbelt gets replaced. Why? Because it can fail. I recently replaced a BlackRapid RS5 that I've had since they came out simply because the strap was fraying.

One other note, I've been using an Op-Tech utility loop to attach my straps to my cameras for several years with no visible fraying or wear. The utility loop connectors are stupid tough and only $6 a pair. ;)

J J's picture

Hey Thomas; I'm not sure if we crossed wires. I'm only surprised that you don't have insurance (because you're already a busy working photographer). As for the rest; when I buy a product that turns out to be crappy I'm mostly angry at myself for buying the shoddy product. I don't expect companies these days to do much. I guess I wouldn't have been hoping for an exceptionally above-and-beyond kind of outcome from their customer service. I think that wasn't a reasonable expectation. That black rapid did at some point (or Spyder holster when they had some mechanical failures) is more the exception than the norm.

I only have good vibes for you man - I wish you the best and it sucks that this happened regardless of the whole insurance or mechanical issues situation.

Kendrick Howard's picture

I think you read that wrong. I think he meant to say that he's surprised that since you are a pro and have alot of gigs that you don't have insurance.

Johnny Rico's picture

Photographer drops camera and blames someone else besides himself.

That whole kit is all of what, 3k? If your business doesn't have that much liquid capital on hand to buy replacements you should probably charge more, or just close up shop.

Christ "Professional" photographers (aka BS blog writers) are getting whiney these days.

Michael Kormos's picture

Yup, kinda agree with you there about filing a claim for mere $3k worth of damage. When it comes time to renew your insurance policy, they're going to bump your premiums if they notice you filing claims for such small dollar amounts in the past. Save your insurance for $10k+ claims, and liability suits, and take better care of your gear.

Paulo Macedo's picture

Now imagine the sound of a Canon EOS 6D + Grip + EF 135 f/2 L smashing the ground...i still don't know how mine doesn't have a single scratch or problem...

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