A few weeks ago the folks over at California Sunbounce asked if I would test a product from their sister company, Sun Sniper. The Sun Sniper is a camera strap that is supposed to offer a few things to make reportage style shooting a lot easier, comfort and fast camera handling. How does it do that? After all a camera strap is a camera strap, no?
I’ve been using a traditional style neoprene camera strap for many years, one of those that fixes to the 2 buckles on top of the camera, sling it over a shoulder or your neck and quite comfortably go about a day’s shooting. personally there has always been a huge drawback in this type of strap, being right handed, I wear it on my right shoulder and it’s often slipping off my shoulder, giving a quick heart flutter as I snatch in time to stop the camera dropping to the deck. It’s been a way of life for many photographers, you know it’ll fall and instinct catches it, usually. The Sun Sniper design slings diagonally across your chest, meaning a right handed photographer would wear the sling on the left shoulder and the camera would hang to the right hip. Complex? Not really, reporter style bags are all the rage now and offer the same weight distribution advantage of spreading the load over the width of your body. Shoulder carrying a Nikon D3 and 70-200mm on a traditional strap all day hurts!
Not only is the Sun Sniper worn diagonally, it attaches to the camera in a different way to traditional straps too. Rather than using the buckles on the camera, it fixes to the 1/4in tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. This takes some getting used to, the camera is always hanging upside down, a rather odd feeling at first. Not only that, but the camera sort of spins and hangs around your hip area however it feels fit, this can be with lens pointing forward, backwards, sideways.. Sounds odd and impractical but it’s actually rather handy. You just reach down, grab the camera body, swing it up in front of your face and then let the strap guide it’s path back down to the hip position.
I already bought the original Sun Sniper to try out, It’s not been a favourite for one simple reason. lack of trust. You see, the Sun Sniper fits to the camera”s tripod mount with a small round plug which holds the ring that fixes to the carabiner which fixes to the strap. And therein lies the problem. Too much metalwork to clank about and in the worst case, come loose. Dropping several 1000 (of whatever currency) on the deck, inevitably causing substantial damage. Having one securing point to carry the full weight of camera and lens is scary enough, but a spinning carabiner that can slowing unscrew a very short mounting screw.. <gulp>
Enter the Sun Sniper Pro. The version sent to me to test. It seems Sun Sniper have addressed this huge concern buy doing away with the removable carabiner from the equation. The strap is now directly linked to the mounting swivel plug. Not only that, the swivel plus is actually a rather large stainless steel ball-race that spins very freely. A flush knurled grip allows it to be fixed securely to the camera’s tripod mount and there’s nothing to rub, bind or catch on the plug, drastically reducing the chance of it becoming accidentally unscrewed from the camera. Plus.. less metalwork equals less handling noise, important during a quiet shoot when you really don’t want the camera strap clunking around. This new version I’ve been testing is also the “steel’ version, this has a fine steel cable woven into the full length of the strap to prevent opportunist thieves from sneaking up and slicing the strap to steal the camera. Not something I’ve ever worried about, but I suppose it could be an issue in some locations. Both the older strap and the new Pro version also have a small shock absorbing section in the strap that will take some of the force if you’re going to move about a lot with a heavy camera on the strap.
Gripes. My main gripe with the Sun Sniper Pro is that the strap creeps around your shoulder too much. There’s a large padded area of the strap that you wear on top of the shoulder. When shooting a lot, lifting the camera and lowering it again, this padded area always creeps forwards off your shoulder, most frustrating. I seemed to spend a lot of time lifting it back onto my shoulder where it belongs. There must be a way round this, either a user fix or something for Sun Sniper to work on for the next version? One more thing. The swivel plug that screws on to the bottom of the camera has a large rubber washer fitted to it. I found that when I removed the swivel plug from thr camera after a shoot, the rubber washer remained stuck to the camera base and not on the swivel. Each time I recovered the washer but I am sure one day it’s going to vanish. packing up gear after a shoot, you’re not always going to notice is that black rubber is stuck to the black camera base. A small issue, but I think one that could be avoided.
Old habits. With my neoprene straps I’m not always obliged to wear them on a shoulder, they are supple enough to wrap around a hand and use as a hand strap too, the Sun Sniper is a lot more rigid and far less comfortable for this type of shooting. With the Sun Sniper Pro removing the quick-release carabiner, quickly discarding the strap isn’t an option either. So by removing one problem, I’ve gained another. Dumping my camera in my bag or case is also a habit that needs changing too. Up till now, I hold the camera by the strap, it hangs right-side-up and can be deposited neatly into the camera bag. the same for removal, grab the strap and run, camera comes out of the bag and ready to shoot. With the Sun Sniper Pro, the camera goes into the bag on it’s head.. Ok, so I have to change that habit and start packing my bag differently? Fine until you’re using an on camera flash or flash trigger! They’re going to get broken off. A rethink in camera handling will be needed there.
My Conclusion? It’s going to take me a while to switch from my neoprene strap setup to the Sun Sniper, both have pros and cons, neither is the perfect solution for me as a professional photographer. I need my gear to work, every time, and not slow me down. I’m careful with my equipment and I expect it to work well. There are just 2 smallish issues that I have with the Sun Sniper, not deal-breakers at all but big enough to stop me hurling the neoprene’s in the bin straight away.I honestly think the occasional photographer will love the strap, great weight distribution, good handling, fast shooting. However for the hardened photographer with habits, it’s going to take a bit of getting used to. Despite it’s apparent and obvious advantages, until you get used to it, it’s still a bit like using right handed scissors in you left hand.
Below is a photo of the 2 Sun Sniper versions. The Sun Sniper Pro with steel reinforced strap on the left and the standard Sun Sniper on the right. Under the photo is a short video review of the strap too. Don’t worry, The poor quality of the video does not reflect the quality of the Strap 😉 It was my first ever video review, so don’t shoot me. Or Snipe me…