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Custom SLR's Air Strap Wants To Embrace You Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

5 March 2014

Last Saturday the U.S. Postal Service delivered an Air Strap, Custom SLR's latest invention. We attached it to the Canon Rebel and took on a few photowalks around the neighborhood. It was an interesting experience.

Camera straps, like camera bags, are a difficult subject. You can easily become infatuated with a new one but never seem to find one you can live with. No strap can be optimized for every approach but changing straps has always been labor intensive, let's say. So you live with what you've got.

But finding a better strap than the one that came with your camera is easy. It may be hanging on your guitar. Or you may prefer one of the many straps designed just for cameras.

We've covered quite a few in the past. Here's a brief round-up of your options and why your free strap may not be ideal.

SLIDING STRAPS | Back to Contents

When we wrote about sliding straps a couple of years ago, we reviewed the BosStrap, the Custom SLR Glide Strap, the Cotton Carrier StrapShot, the BlackRapid RS-Sport and RS-W1, and the Carry Speed DS-Slim and FS-Pro.

We noted then:

Were we browsing in a camera shop, we wouldn't be able to tell by looking which of these straps we'd prefer. But oddly enough, even after using them for a while here, no preference established itself (except the W1 was too small for us).

They all did the job. The differences did not really matter.

Air Strap. The components include the wide, perforated shoulder strap that buckles to the two shorter straps, one of which is the slider strap.

So you'll be surprised to learn that we settled on using the BosStrap with the Rebel, our lightest dSLR, which we like to take on walks. We don't use it daily but in the two years we've had it attached, we noticed the small part of the strap that threads through the slide has begun to wear noticeably.

What we liked about that model was 1) it's simplicity, 2) it attached to an eyelet not the tripod socket (although we really don't think that matters) and 3) its smooth operation.

But that wasn't enough to recommend it over its competitors or even the lightweight free strap that came with your camera.

Buckle. Same design as the Split Strap.

Eyelet Attachment. Just a fabric loop.

Slider. Pull the fabric loop to shorten or lengthen the strap.

Shoulder Strap. Wide, perforated, lightweight with silicon grabbers.

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We prefer wrist straps and the ones we use regularly are one model that used to appear occasionally in the Nikon Store and is now an eBay item and another made of UPstrap components, the $10 SG-XX-LOOP strap and the $14 SG-XX-QR-E-V loop ends, one of which we put on every active camera, sharing the strap.

We like wrist straps. But we use them with holsters. The holster hangs off our shoulder or across our chest like a sliding strap and carries the camera when we aren't shooting. When we are shooting, the camera is safely tied to our wrist.

Curiously, Custom SLR included a wrist strap with the Air Strap. Its $14.95 Hand Strap requires some gadget attached to the tripod socket to anchor the lower strap.

Custom SLR notes that its $34.95 C-Loop (a very clever tripod socket hook) and $69.95 M-Plate (which provides a universal quick release) fit that bill, but that's a lot to pay for as simple a strap as the Hand Strap.

Our two preferred solutions are cheaper and more robust.

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When it comes to a shoulder strap (which once upon a time was called a neck strap until legal departments realized writers were encouraging actionable behavior by using that description), we use an UPstrap shoulder strap, which indeed will not slip. As advertised.

The trouble with the UPstrap shoulder strap is just that: it doesn't slip. Sometimes you want it to slip, so you can get a little play in the strap. Then, too, it's a heavy rubber strap. When it slips, it plummets.

Those aren't really complaints, though. You learn to live with those quirks.

We reserve our complaints for the included strap, which is flimsy, bites into your shoulder when you attach a long zoom, slips, advertises your expensive gear and generally disappoints.

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The Air Strap is not any one of those beasts, really. It most closely resembles a shoulder strap, although you wear it like a sliding strap. Custom SLR makes a genuine sliding strap, the Glide Strap, if that's what you're after.

The Air Strap itself is a three-piece unit: the perforated shoulder strap, the short slider strap and a short second strap for the other side of the shoulder strap.

Fabric loops on the short straps attach them to the camera eyelets. You can also attach them to a C-Loop and from there to an M-Plate.

At the other end of the short straps is a plastic clasp that buckles securely into the end of the wide shoulder strap. The buckles are the same as the company's Camera Strap with Split Strap Technology. The company doesn't say how much weight that will bear but we suspect it can handle a long zoom and full-frame dSLR with a vertical grip.

Custom SLR released this video demonstrating the buckle's strength under fire:

FEATURES | Back to Contents

The company explained the rationale behind the Air Strap design on their Kickstarter page:

Versatility and affordability were the two driving factors behind designing the Air Strap. We want everyone -- not just professional photographers -- to be able to enjoy a comfortable, easy-to-use strap that can adapt to different situations. With our optional attachment, you can simply snap the Air Strap onto anything with hooks -- a laptop bag, a gym bag, a fishing bag, etc. -- for an instant upgrade.

Custom SLR describes the benefits of the Air Strap as:

  • Breathable vents and moisture wicking fabric channel heat and sweat away from your shoulder to keep you cool.
  • Quick-adjust slider lets you keep your camera secure at your side. When you need to take a photo, just pull and slide.
  • Lightweight, portable design is perfect for travel.
  • Wider strap and ergonomic design distribute weight evenly, making your load feel lighter. Cushy neoprene padding absorbs shock for maximum comfort.
  • Rotating buckle swivels, so the strap moves with you for improved flexibility.
  • Compatible with most cameras and bags (with optional laptop bag attachment).
  • Compatible with the Custom SLR C-Loop.

One benefit that's missing, though, is documentation. All you get is on the side of the box:

Documentation. Any questions?.

We've asked Custom SLR what the retail price will be, but the Kickstarter campaign required a $25 donation to get an Air Strap.

We've also asked when it will actually be available for purchase. We'll update this review when we have more information.

PERFORMANCE | Back to Contents

The first thing we noticed about the Air Strap was how light it is. It's almost like wearing no strap at all. The wide strap doesn't dig into your shoulder. And because it's perforated it doesn't get hot and uncomfortable. It will hold position but the silicon grippers release easily when you want to slide it around.

The real attraction of the Air Strap, though, is the slider strap, which you'll want to attach as the front strap, opposite the grip eyelet on your camera. You grab your camera grip with your right hand and pull up on the loop with your free hand to shorten the whole strap or pull down to lengthen it. Simple.

That little trick means you can use this shoulder strap much like a sliding strap. Tighten the strap to walk around, loosen it to shoot.

It isn't as smooth as a sliding strap, but it's close.

We used the camera eyelets instead of a tripod-socket mounted C-Loop and that gave us a very nice balance. One of the side effects of tripod-mounted sliding straps is that the camera can pivot around at your side. Even the BosStrap, with its single strap to one eyelet does that.

And it's annoying, the camera slapping against you and twisting. We usually resort to keeping a hand on the camera so it won't bounce around. Which is not very comfortable after a while.

But using both eyelets, you don't have that problem. The camera hugs your side until you need it.

That worked fine in the field as we walked around, the camera snug to our side, not bouncing or spinning around. When we saw something we wanted to shoot, we just pulled down on the slider and brought the camera up to our eye. The shoulder strap released easily so we could rotate the camera.

So the strap did not get in the way, which is saying something.

But the real pleasure of using the Air Strap was when it was just keeping our camera close by as we walked around. It was light and comfortable. It's also pretty flexible so it was easy to pack away between outings. Which is also saying something.

One thing did annoy us about the Air Strap but it had nothing to do with using it.

There's simply no documentation. These days documentation is not a luxury, it's a legal requirement. But it would be particularly to Custom SLR's advantage since the unit mixes and matches with the company's other products. And, in the case of the Hand Strap, it's a glaring omission.

CONCLUSION | Back to Contents

We've only have the Air Strap long enough to be infatuated with it. It's a little harder to pull up than down, easier to shorten, that is, than lengthen. But it's very comfortable to wear and doesn't get in the way of the shot.

In fact, it kept our camera ready for action on our walks, easily letting us grab it, turn it on and compose the shot while just as easily letting us drop it securely back to our side as we continued our hike.

That's enough to leave it on our walkaround camera. And that's a recommendation.


Fantastic, thoughtful and intelligently written article. Thank you for it.

It partially influenced me to acquire an Air Strap for a recently acquired camera -- a relatively compact micro 4/3 Lumix GX1 -- which, among other things, I often take with me on walks, hikes and high speed urban bicycle jaunts. The Air Strap is proving almost the perfect strap for all of the above -- with its multiple capacities for both staying relatively tight (but comfortable so) to the torso -- but being able to pull/slide it out into a more accessible strap for shooting -- and the getting it back out of the way with another reverse pull.

It's really quite ingenious. And, from my limited exprerience with it so far, a truly fine strap.

So thanks for your review -- it was seriously helpful.

-- Miguel Tejada-Flores

Thanks, Miguel. We haven't tried it on the bike (where we prefer the Cotton Carrier) but we will now that you've recommended it.

We were just out yesterday with it, in fact. Attached to a small dSLR or mirrorless camera, we sling it under our coat so it isn't obvious we're carrying a camera. It pokes out front conveniently and loosens up for shooting on demand, as designed.

-- Mike

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