Harry Benz B Strap
Simple Solution for an age old problem
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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
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