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28 May 2015
In the world of photo accessories, Peak Design sets itself apart with a quick connecting system "inspired by high-end climbing gear." The company recently sent us one of its Clutch wrist straps and Slide camera straps to test on our urban treks.
We put them on a variety of cameras over the course of a few weeks and after trekking through San Francisco for miles and miles with them, we sat down to write our report.
Peter Dering started Peak Design in 2010 after inventing the Capture camera clip to solve his own camera-carrying frustrations. He wanted a clasp that would secure his camera to any backpack strap or belt.
After a successful product launch on Kickstarter, he started Peak Design with the goal of updating camera carrying systems with state-of-the-art gear.
The mission of Peak Design is to enable photographers, adventurers and outdoors enthusiasts to better capture the beautiful world around them. We do this by designing and building innovative, thoughtfully composed, ultra-durable products that are easy to use and versatile. Right now we are helping people better transport and physically manage their cameras, and providing new ways to shoot action video. In the future we will continue to tackle other pain points that photographers and outdoors enthusiasts face. We believe that wherever you go and whatever you do, your camera should be right there with you.
Peak Design will introduce a few new products this summer but you can get a sneak peak now.
The company offers a large selection of products but three stand out:
The $59.95 Capture camera clip, the company's first product, is designed to make your camera accessible at all times when you're engaged in any activity. It also can keep several cameras at hand without strangling your neck. You might have one around your neck and two on your belt, backpack strap or bag.
If you're a fan of hand straps, the $39.95 Clutch is the company's quick connecting, quick adjusting system using the company's Anchor Links system.
The $59.95 Slide is a camera strap that can be worn as a sling, neck or shoulder strap. Its seat belt-style webbing features internal padding for comfort and the company's patent-pending Anchor Link system for connecting to your camera's eyelets or an eyelet plus the included quick release plate.
All three products come with a small quick release plate that screws into the camera's tripod socket. The included plate is compatible with Arca tripods but a Pro Plate is compatible with both Arca and Monfrotto tripods.
The company's products are designed to handle the heaviest pro cameras and lenses. Peak Design stands behind their products with a lifetime warranty on all parts.
HIGH-END CLIMBING GEAR
Peak Design told us high-end climbing gear was the inspiration for the design of their products. It described how, for example, the Clutch shares the same goal as lightweight but reliable gear that "lets the user forget about the harness and focus on the task at hand."
High-end climbing hardware, particularly harnesses are unique in that they are quickly adjustable yet have a very smooth integration of hardware and soft elements.
This creates a product that is not only extremely strong, but also very low profile and lightweight. The end result being something that lets the user forget about the harness and focus on the task at hand. In particular, harnesses and other gear by Arcteryx and Petzel seem to do this extremely well.
With Clutch, the goal was the same: we wanted the product to fade into the background and let the photographer focus on their subject. The quick adjust and low profile design allows this because the hand can be quickly freed to access all the controls, then cinched tight when on the move.
All this is done by integrating the camera attachment and the pad into one part and using very low-profile construction techniques including ultrasonic welding/laminating and laser cutting.
Key to the strap products is the company's patent-pending Anchor Links system. Two are included with the Clutch, four with the Slide. You can buy additional packs of four as well.
An Anchor Link is a three-quarter inch loop closed by a button that is three-quartes of an inch in diameter. It connects when you slide it onto a spring that pops it out into a hole the size of the button. To remove, you depress the button and slide it back out.
There are two types of Anchor Links in circulation.
The original Anchor Link is made of Vectran but the company recently introduced a new Dyneema Anchor Link.
With constant friction, Dyneema actually hardens instead of fraying, the company told us. Dyneema, used widely in climbing and sailing products, is prized for being durabile while remaining flexible.
It features a layered color system that indicates the wear level as it frays. The unsafe red inner layer is wrapped in a yellow replacement warning layer under the original black safe layer. So as soon as you see yellow, you should swap out the link for a new one.
In contast, the Vectran links show wear by fraying and should be replaced when "badly frayed," according to the company.
Among hand straps, the Clutch is rather elaborate.
The Arca-compatible quick release plate requires an Allen wrench (included in a small black bag) to tighten it to the tripod socket. The documentation shows you in pictures how to attach it to your camera.
The requirement to use an Allen wrench isn't unusual but we've become spoiled by having an fold-down handle on our favorite quick release plate, making it simple to tighten without a tool.
We found the batting in the padded strap a bit too stiff, too. This isn't an issue when using the strap but it was a constant annoyance when packing the camera in a bag. You don't expect an argument from a strap.
When we asked about the batting, Peak Design told us:
The outside is made of Hypalon with a microfiber inside. The padding is compression molded EVA foam. The stiffness of the strap actually helps the user keep control over larger bodied cameras by allowing a more rigid hold.
It's very easy to loosen and tighten the strap by just pulling on the free end to open the clasp. But we're not sure why you would continually adjust a hand strap. Hand size varies, certainly, but snugging up a wrist strap isn't a great idea. You want to be able to slip in and out of it easily. It shouldn't fit like a glove.
Nikon has shipped a variety of hand straps. The one we use to use (before we settled on a wrist strap), was adjustable on installation through the eyelet and that was it.
One problem, even with adjustable hand straps, is accommodating a vertical grip. When you move the tripod socket further away from the camera's closest eyelet, the strap usually does not stretch far enough to let your hand back in.
To its credit the Clutch is one of the very few hand straps we've tested that can accommodate a vertical grip on a dSLR. We tried it on a Nikon D200 with Nikon's vertical grip and found it very comfortable. In fact, it was no more trouble to attach or fit with the grip than without it.
The Slide is made of 45mm tubular seatbelt-style webbing with internal padding. It has aluminum quick-adjusters and comes with four Anchor Link connectors, one standard quick release plate, an Allen wrench in a small black bag and instructions.
The Slide suffers from the same batting problem as the Clutch. It wants to lie flat.
But we really liked the two quick adjusters on the strap itself that let you shorten or lengthen the strap.
They never budged when locked in the closed position. And all we had to do to adjust strap length was flip one open (the front one, of course) and pull.
One adjuster would have been fine, though, because you can, with the Anchor Link system, always attach the strap so that adjuster would be in front.
And adjustment is very easy to make in the field, much like the Custom SLR's Air Strap. We like both slide mechanisms about the same, frankly, although we prefer Custom SLR's lightweight strap.
We found the Slide very comfortable in the field carrying an APS-C dSLR on long hikes.
The word "over-designed" came to mind immediately when we looked at the Peak Design products.
If you were hanging 1,000 feet in the air against a granite cliff, the word might not occur to you. But taking a walk around the block, you realize you don't quite need this level of sophistication.
Why two slide buckles on the shoulder strap when one would do? Why the pull tab on the Clutch when a tight fit isn't really a good idea?
We're not sure we're complaining, though.
Two buckles adds a little length to the should strap, for example. And the pull tab on the hand strap makes it a bit more versatile, stretching long enough to accommodate a vertical grip.
There's nothing wrong with the design sophistication. And as we used the products we found them to be both comfortable and competent. That isn't always the case with camera accessories.
Peak Design's products are available from the usual resellers, including these online vendors:
Reviews like this are only possible because our readers use these sponsored links when purchasing the products.
Peak Design has engineered some very robust camera accessories. We have some quibbles about a few design decisions but they're just quibbles. The materials and workmanship of the products are all top notch.
We were particularly pleased to discover the Clutch hand strap could accommodate a vertical grip. And we really liked the Anchor Link design to buckle a strap to a camera. It seemed much more secure and less likely to break than the usual pronged clip.
But the proof was in the field. Carrying our gear with these straps was effortless and comfortable.
Four photo corners for very well made if slightly over-the-top products that we enjoyed using.