Nov 252014
 

Harry Benz B Strap

Simple Solution for an age old problem 

Toronto Canada

 

Harry Benz B Strap with Slow Tools Bag © Adam Marelli

Harry Benz B Strap with Slow Tools Bag © Adam Marelli

Start from scratch

While most of the photography world wants to sell you on technology and features, Toronto-based designer Harald Benz is taking a different approach.  He is ok with camera companies duking it out over high ISO performance and cameras with more buttons than a nuclear reactor.  As each year elapses, photographers are no longer asking for more, they want less.  Less complications, less kinks and less things to go wrong.

Born out of his own desire for a better camera strap, Harry Benz set out to solve a few design problems that got in the way of his photography.  The aim was to create a camera strap that did its job so well, it went almost unnoticed.

The straps come in boxes which are individually stamped and signed by Harry.  Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

The straps come in boxes which are individually stamped and signed by Harry. Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

What did he fix?

Comedian George Carlin once complained that it was impossible for something to be both “New and Improved.”  He said it had to be one or the other…well in this case the idea is not exactly new…camera straps have been around as long as cameras, but it is certainly improved.  There were four major design faults that Harry wanted to improve:

Harry designed a cleaner connection to the body of the camera by eliminating the dog ears.  Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

Harry designed a cleaner connection to the body of the camera by eliminating the dog ears. Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

Dog Ears: In order to keep rings on a strap from scratching the camera, many companies use little flaps of leather called Dog Ears.  Over time the thin pieces of leather tend to fold over, sometimes they rip and look untidy, as Harry put it.  His goal was to eliminate the dog ears so there were no extra pieces on the strap and the rings would not scratch the camera.  His solution is a tapered piece of leather, hand stitched through the strap.  It creates a solid connection that will not fail over time.

The thickness of the strap eliminates the need for a shoulder strap.  Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

The thickness of the strap eliminates the need for a shoulder strap. Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

Shoulder Strap: The idea of a shoulder strap is nice, but the delivery leaves something to be desired.  Thin straps need a pad in order to wear comfortably over your shoulder.  Harry wanted to make a strap that was comfortable to wear over the shoulder without a pad.  By selecting a heavy water buffalo hide, the strap wears well with no additional padding.  By eliminating the strap, it can be easily wrapped around your wrist while you shoot.

Some of his early customers said, “But what if I want a shoulder pad?”  

He said, “Try it for two weeks, if you want one, I will make it.”

No one has come back for a shoulder pad.

Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

Split Rings: Selecting a split ring for a strap is not as easy as “getting the best one out there.”  Very strong, heavy duty split rings require pliers to open.  There is a balance between good metal properties and too difficult to use with your fingers.  Harry feels confident that his selection of stainless steel split rings strikes a happy balance.  (Ask photographer Brigit Krippner, whose silk strap recently gave way at the ring and sent her camera crashing to the sidewalk in Brooklyn.  Leicas look cool with wear, but not with a huge chunk missing from the body and a rangefinder mechanism that now needs servicing.)

By offering the strap in custom lengths it will always fit you perfectly.  Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

By offering the strap in custom lengths it will always fit you perfectly. Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

Water Buffalo Leather:  When Harry first explained the leather, he made special emphasis that it was water buffalo leather.  There are other options like Shell Cordovan or cow leather, but he did not feel they were right for a camera strap. Those leathers are soft and pliable, which works well for dress shoes and fine leather goods.  They also have a soft underside that can feel like molting toilet paper over time.

Harry also has experience making leather watch straps for Panerai and other brands, and he said that while water buffalo is too tough for a watch strap, it does not stretch nearly as much as other leathers with a camera hanging from it and found that it held up the best over time.

Custom Lengths:  We all come in different sizes which is why the straps can be cut to custom lengths.  For me, I like a strap to be short because I normally wrap it around my wrist.  When I need to put it across my chest, I like the strap to sit high, just under my arm.  But my strap length would not work for everyone.  Harry is sensitive to this and will cut it to any length you would like.

On location in Kyoto at a private temple and master plasterers.  Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

On location in Kyoto at a private temple and master plasterers. Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

From Sardegna to Kyoto

Harry asked me if I would try two of his straps and write a review.  I was on my way to Sardegna and four months later, I would be coming back from Japan.  The travels seemed like the perfect opportunity to see how well the B-Strap would do under my regular shooting conditions.  The strap went to the coastal towns of Sardegna, bell makers’ workshops in Japan and about 12,000 miles in between.  The strap became softer with use and worked so well, I almost forgot it was a new item.  The whereabouts of the other strap will be revealed in another article. Let’s say for now, that it has a proud new owner based in Luxembourg because I like to share with my follow photographers.

The wrist wrap as I normally carry the camera.  Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

The wrist wrap as I normally carry the camera. Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

Who is this strap designed for?

When picking any product, it’s helpful to understand who it is designed for, because the perfect maternity dress is not going to do you any good if you need a tuxedo.  The B Strap is for a photographer who enjoys the classics over fads, prefers to tell the bartender which gin to use in a G&T, and likes to pay a little more to avoid the hassles of a crowd while traveling.  This is the discerning client that Harry had in mind while he built this strap.

The box which will arrive at your home.  Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

The box which will arrive at your home. Harry Benz B Strap © Adam Marelli

As an added touch, Harry put his art direction background to use for the design of the box.  Each box is hand stamped and filled out by Harry himself.  If you would like to check out the B Strap and some of Harry’s other strap offerings, you can visit him here, http://www.harrybenz.com

And you can read additional reviews on:

http://lavidaleica.com/content/harry-benz-camera-straps

http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2014/10/jch-product-review-urushi-camera-straps/

http://stinnphotography.ca/blog/essays/2014/10/harry-benz-the-b-extended-strap/

Best-Adam Marelli

 

  8 Responses to “Harry Benz Camera Strap: The B Strap”

  1. Nice strap.

    One question: does it slip off of your shoulder when you wear it over one shoulder?

    I can only use one strap; the Leica carry strap because it’s the only one that won’t slip and also isn’t MASSIVE…and believe me, I’ve tried them all.

    • Hi Bob,

      The strap is a happy medium between “too sticky” and “fine leather smooth.”

      My experience is either that straps are so grippy they pull the clothes off of your shoulder and you walk around looking like nobody’s child…

      Or the silk or canvas is too slick and it slides way too easily.

      For me its worked well…

      Best-Adam

  2. Adam: Thank you very much for this beautifully written review. I am deeply honoured by your words. Thank you kindly. -Harry

  3. If I may chip in here …

    Hi Bob, that slippery feeling you are talking about is another one of my pet peeves. Big time.
    When I designed my straps I pretty much questioned everything about the status quo. And one of the big questions was: Why are leather camera straps so darn slippery?
    The answer is rather simple: Cow leather.

    Allow me to explain. No matter what it’s called – fine Italian leather, top grain, vegetable or saddle leather, etc. – all of the above is in fact nothing but cow leather.
    It is the material of choice for most straps on the market because it is easily available, soft, subtle and comes with a nice looking grain on the top and a fleshy, suede like underside.
    (Well, that’s what suede leather is: Leather with its top layer removed….)

    Anyhow, this fleshy underside feels nice but at the same time it’s also the very cause of our problem.
    After only a short time of wearing a new strap the fleshy part mashes together and hence, becomes as slippery as a piece of butter on a hot griddle.

    Instead of putting a band-aid onto the problem (read: shoulder pad) I looked elsewhere.
    To make a long story short: The leather I am using, Water Buffalo, does not have a fleshy underside. In fact, its underside almost feels like the top. Because of this – or the lack thereof – my straps don’t slip. Ever.

    Harry

  4. Adam I’d very much like to buy one of the camera bags when they’re available. Can you tell me what color/colors you’re having made. (I’d prefer a more or less khaki color. I’ve been using Leica Ms for decades and your concept looks like just the thing.
    Congratulations & thanks
    Greg

Add Comment Register



 Leave a Reply

(required)

(required)

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>