After finally being fed up with the Canon Pro Neck Strap that came with my Canon DSLR, I began looking around for a strap to replace it. My biggest issue with the Canon strap is that that I
do not like hate to wear a camera strap around my neck, or over the shoulder. A few hours of carrying a DSLR around like that, even with a small 50mm lens attached, is enough to give anyone a sore neck or an aching back. Instead, I typically wear my camera with the strap slung over my left shoulder and across my body diagonally, where the camera can then rest comfortably on my right hip. There, the camera is within easy reach of my hand. Anyone who does this, will know exactly where I am going with this. First, the Canon strap has a grippy material on the underside, to prevent it from slipping when…well, I don’t really know…I suppose when you’re carrying it over the shoulder. However, when wearing the strap like I do, that grippy material invariably pulls and rubs on your clothing and neck, and inevitably prevents you from getting the camera up to eye-level to take the shot without having to grab and pull on the strap. Second, in order to have the camera body rest comfortably on the hip, where it can be easily reached, the camera strap must be adjusted to a certain length. Naturally, at that length, the strap is just too short to bring the camera up to eye level. So I end up craning my neck down, to be able to see through the viewfinder. This is certainly not helping when it comes to a sore neck and aching back. I could just adjust the strap to be longer, but then the camera becomes a bit uncontrollable, bouncing of my thighs as I move around…so you can add bruised thighs to your sore neck and aching back. Isn’t photography fun?
So it was with these issues in mind that I began looking for a new strap. I found two options that I liked…various camera slings by BlackRapid, and the Luma Loop. Both are not camera straps in the traditional sense, but camera slings, meaning they are worn over the shoulder and diagonally across the body, with the camera resting on the opposite hip. The slings from both BlackRapid and Luma are very similar in their overall design…an adjustable nylon strap with a shoulder pad that is worn across the body, and camera attachment hardware that slides along the strap, allowing your camera to easily be brought up to eye level for photos. The camera attachment hardware in both designs also allows the camera to be quickly disconnected from the strap.
Initially, I was drawn to the offerings from BlackRapid, as they claim to have invented the camera sling concept. I was interested in the RS-5 and RS-7, as both were cheaper than the Luma Loop ($65 and $59 respectively, while the Loop is $70), and the RS-5 offered a strap mounted pouch that would be a great place to hold my iPhone. However, the designer in me steered me back to the Luma Loop as I felt the materials, details, and overall design were just better. For example, while both companies use ballistic-nylon for their straps, the BlackRapid slings use ballistic-nylon covered foam shoulder pad. There is nothing wrong with that design, but the Luma Loop steps it up a notch The Loop uses industrial strength, full-grain tanned leather (like you would find in motorcycle racing suits), backed with neoprene in their shoulder pad.
Then there is the hardware that attaches the camera to the sling. BlackRapid slings use a custom designed screw-locking carabiner-type clip, which attaches to a fastener that screws into the tripod mount on a camera. Again, a design I cannot fault. However, the Quick Detach Sling Swivel connector on the Luma Loop is just a more elegant and functional design. The Quick Detach Sling Swivel is made by the same company the U.S. Marine Corps have used for decades to provide quick detach connecters for their rifle slings. You have to figure if it can stand up to Marine Corps standards, holding a camera should be no problem.
So with that, I decided I wanted Luma Loop. Except for one problem…they were sold out. Apparently, Luma Labs LLC is a small company, who outsource the manufacture of their products. They made an original batch of Loops (now referred to as Loop V1), not knowing how successful the product would be. When they sold out, they tweaked and improved the design of the Loop, and went back to have more manufactured…and that was going to take a few months. So I signed up for an email alert on their website to be notified when the would have the next batch of Loops (now referred to as Loop V2) available for sale. That was in November. It’s a good thing I am patient, as it was late-January/early-February when I got an email that they were back in stock. So I mentioned to my wife that I was looking at the Luma Loop, and few weeks later she was handing me one (did I mention, best wife ever?).
When I unpacked the Luma Loop, the first thing that struck me was that it looked even better in person than it did online. Honestly, how many times can you say that has actually happened? The leather shoulder pad is gorgeous, especially with the Luma logo laser etched into it. Even the neoprene backing has Luma’s “USA Made” URL laser etched into the side. Talk about attention to detail.
Then there’s the Quick Detach Sling Swivel (QDSS) connector. A 1/8″ metal ring wraps around the ballistic-nylon strap, and allows your camera to slide along the length of the strap. This metal ring is connected to the male end of the QDSS, which has a quick-release button, and inserts into the female end of the QDSS. The female end of the connector has a nylon string that will attach to most any existing strap attachment points on your camera. If not, Luma includes a 1/2″ steel split ring for mounting to smaller attachments points easily. The female end of the QDSS appears to be machined from a piece of solid of steel, and is covered in four rubber o-rings to prevent metal-to-camera contact. When the male and female ends are attached, four ball-bearings hold them together, and your camera is securely attached to the Luma Loop. The tolerances on the QDSS are tight, and the whole assembly feels very solid…which is a good thing when you can be hanging several thousand dollars worth of camera gear from it. In my opinion, the Quick Detach Sling Swivel connector is the best part of the Loop. It’s smaller and better looking than the screw-locking carabiner-type clips, just as secure, and allows you to detach the camera from the sling very quickly, with the press of a button.
A plastic Rock Lockster clip, to easily put the Loop on, or take it off, sits on the front of your shoulder…not the back as with the BlackRapid. Otherwise, all attachment points on the Loop are metal, and have a brushed nickel look to them. Even the two Chicago screws on the shoulder pad, which secure the loops that the metal D-rings and Rock Lockster clip attach to, have a brushed look to them (although, this is probably more from the machining process, than an actual finish).
So we’ve established that the Luma Loop looks fantastic. But does it actually work? The answer is yes, and quite well. It is comfortable to wear…very comfortable. After a few days of use, I could feel the leather starting to form to my shoulder, just as Luma claims. The shoulder pad feels great, distributing weight over your shoulder evenly, not creating pressure points that start to wear on you the longer you carry your gear around. Again, this is just as Luma claims on their FAQ (which is worth a read). In my longest photo excursion since owning my Loop, I had my camera on my shoulder for over 4-hours. At no time, was my shoulder or back tired or sore. It just felt great.
Once I adjusted the nylon strap, and attached the female end of the QDSS to my camera (I chose the strap attachment point closest to the handgrip), my camera rested comfortably on my right hip, I began testing how bringing the camera up to eye level to take a photo felt. It was perfect. The metal ring that attaches the QDSS glides right along the strap and allows you to bring the camera up to your eye with ease. There is no pulling on your clothing, that prevents you from getting the camera where it needs to be to get the shot. The only issue I ran into was bringing the camera to eye-level in a portrait orientation. When shooting like this (without a battery grip), I typically keep my shutter finger hand on top of the camera. Here, the QDSS connector would get in the way as it would fall in between the camera and my face. I could fairly easily grab the QDSS with my thumb and move it out of the way, or simply move to a position in which my shutter finger hand was below the camera. I never felt it impeded my shooting, as I could still get the shot, just proved to a be a bit of a distraction until I got used to working around it. However, if I found this to be too big a distraction, I could play with other attachment points for the QDSS to see what was the least obtrusive.
The Quick Detach Sling Swivel performs beautifully. With the camera hanging at your hip normally, gravity does you a favor and keeps the release button protected by the 1/8″ metal loop and the strap. In order to press the release button, the ring needs to be moved to the slide, which is good in that it prevents accidental pressing of the button, and prevents a ne’ er-do-well from intentionally pressing the quick release without you noticing. The only real issue I ran into the with QDSS was that I would occasionally have difficulty reconnecting the male and female end after I had disconnected them. I’m putting that down to the fact that I am still getting used to the connector, as sometimes I could do it no problem, other times it took a few tries before it slotted and locked in place.
I do have one minor annoyance with the QDSS when your camera is detached from the Loop, and the female end of the QDSS is still attached. When grabbing your camera, the connector falls between your hand and the camera, which feels like holding a marble in the palm of your hand while holding the camera. There are ways I could remedy this, namely switching the connector to the opposite of the camera. That would be easiest, but I like the convenience of having the hand grip on top as the camera is hanging on your hip. Otherwise, I could buy a Luma PodMounts, which screws into the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera and allows you to attach the Luma Loop there…thus negating the issue altogether. So my annoyance should have an asterisk next to it I suppose.
I’ve used a few camera straps over the years, and the Luma Loop is, by far, my favorite. It’s comfortable, looks great, and performs in the real world. You cannot ask for much more. Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than the offerings from BlackRapid, but the great design, quality materials, and superb construction make it worth it. If you’re looking to replace your camera strap, I don’t think you can wrong wrong with the Luma Loop.
If you are using larger lenses, such as the Canon 70-200mm f2.8L, the Luma PodMount would probably be a good addition to the Loop, as it gives you an attachment point on your larger lens.