With an Alaskan photography expedition planned for this coming August 2014, I’ve been collecting my gear and accessories and I realized that I wish there was a way to carry my camera at the ready while hiking. With a backpack you have to stop, unzip the bag, pull out your camera to get the shot, and then reverse this process to get going again. I’ve found camera neck straps and slings to be uncomfortable and a pain to remove if you want to switch to a tripod mounting plate.
In May of 2011, photographer and inventor Peter Dering launched a Kickstarter campaign that went on to successfully fund the creation of Capture. If you haven’t heard of it, Capture is a quick release plate and mount that lets you rigidly secure your camera to any backpack strap or belt. Peter went on to build a company called Peak Design to continue making and improving the Capture system as well as designing new photography related accessories. I remember seeing the Kickstarter campaign but never got the chance to try Capture until Peter’s company sent me one to try out two weeks ago.
Capture has instantly solved my frustration of trying to hike with a DSLR. I used capture for a week shooting an event in Jackson Hole and now I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I’ll be doing an in-depth review of Capture Pro – the latest version of Capture in the near future.
Capture is awesome but it wasn’t the only thing in the package that Peak Design sent me. The team at Peak was kind enough to let me try out preview versions of two new products called Slide and Clutch that are currently being launched via another Kickstarter campaign.
Remember how I said that camera neck straps are uncomfortable and hard to quickly attach or remove from your camera? Slide aims to fix those problems. I’ve never been a neck strap person but Slide has made me reconsider. It truly is comfortable but the best part about this strap is how easily and quickly you can adjust it’s length. Peak has designed a metal latch release that just works. There is no struggling or working with the strap to force it through the standard plastic brackets we are all used to and hate. I found myself adjusting the strap’s length just because its fun to do so!
Equally as well thought out, Clutch adds a comfortable, easily adjustable hand strap to your camera. Again, this is one of those accessories I didn’t know I needed until I tried it. I love being able to carry my 5D Mark III comfortably and securely with one hand and then attaching it to my belt or backpack strap with a quick click. These guys really know how to design a product for photographers.
My favorite thing about Clutch and Slide is that they can be used together at the same time. I can sling my camera comfortably and then quickly slide it up, place my hand in the Clutch hand strap and take some shots.
While I will withhold final judgement until I’ve had a chance to thoroughly test Clutch and Slide during my shoot in Alaska, I’ve used these two products enough to be able to recommend them to the active photographer without any reservations. If you back the Kickstarter campaign you can get Slide and Clutch at the discounted Kickstarter prices, but even at full price these two accessories are must haves in my opinion.
I’ve had the chance now to use the Clutch and Slide products in a variety of settings including a shoot in Alaska last August. At the time, I had only had the strap system for a few weeks. One of the unique things about Peak Design’s products is the anchor system that attaches the strap to your quick release plate and provides a quick and secure way to detach the strap when needed. While I was in Alaska, I unfortunately had one of these anchors fail and nearly dropped my camera on the ground. If I hadn’t noticed the strap sliding off my neck and grabbed the camera, I would have had a very bad day.
Here’s the failed anchor:
After contacting Peak Design about the failure, It was determined that I was using the anchors with the old version of their quick release plate which has sharper corners and is not designed to be used with the anchor system. This is what caused the anchors to fray a and fail so quickly.
The people at Peak Design were great to get as much information as they could from me about the failure and promised to use the info from my experience with these pre-released anchors to improve the product.
I watched the issue online and it seemed other photographers were also experiencing anchor failures, some with much worse outcomes than what I had experienced. Thomas Ingersoll talks about how the strap failure cost him major camera damage in this fstoppers article: Why Insurance could have saved me when my Peak Design strap Failed.
I was impressed when Peter Dering, the founder of Peak Design responded in the comments of the article:
1. We’ve upgraded our Anchor design 2 (soon to be 3) times. The Kevlar/Delrin connectors that broke on Thomas’ strap are v1 Anchors, launched at the end of 2012. This is indicated by the old logo on them.
2. We heard about the first Anchor breakage in early 2014. We paid close attention to the issue and worked closely with the customer who experienced it. We previously thought the system would stand the test of time no matter what. This incident made it clear that Anchors were subject to wear in certain use cases.
3. This realization prompted three actions:
a) We immediately put warning tags directly on Anchors, so that everyone using these products would know that these are a “wear item”, that could require eventual replacement. We were able to get this warning into the product stream quickly.
b) We wrote a blog post and help article (http://support.peakdesign.com/hc/en-us/articles/203702175-Anchor-Strengt…) about the need to check Anchors for wear, and implored people to do so.
c) We re-examined high performance cords to see if there was a better option.
4. Within a month, our v2 Anchors began being produced, using Vectran instead of Kevlar. Vectran is better against UV and abrasion. As soon as we could, we inserted these new Anchors into the product stream, and began issuing free replacements to those with frayed v1 Anchors.
5. These v2 Anchors were an improvement, but not the panacea we were seeking. The material is better, but the weave of the Vectran is looser, which fought against the its abrasion resistance. We still wanted to do better.
6. We are now in production of our v3 Anchors, which are actively being inserted into all new products. At significant cost, we scrapped 50,000 Vectran Anchors so that we could switch more quickly.
7. The new Anchors are made with Dyneema…a material that has shown to be 10x stronger than Vectran and 15x stronger in Kevlar in our reciprocating and vibratory tests.
8. v3 Anchors cords consist of three layers: a black exterior, a yellow middle core, and a red inner core. They come with instructions to seek replacement when yellow shows, and immediately cease using at the first sight of red.
9. As soon as our fulfillment centers are stocked, we intend to release this news as far and wide as we can, and provide a very cost effective way of getting these v3 Anchors into the hands of those who are already using products with the Anchor Link system.
In our biased opinion, Anchor Links remain the most innovative and convenient way to connect a camera to a strap, and we are committed as a company to never stop improving on the products we have.
After the failure, I still had some spare anchors left, but I was always nervous to use the system for fear that the strap would fail again. In the mean time, Peak Design got busy coming up with a solution. I’ve just received a new pack the new anchors and they are much improved. The material used in the cord is much stronger and coated to resist fray. There is also a new color coded core system to warn you if/when the anchors do start to fray.
I feel much more comfortable using the strap and anchor system now with these improved anchors. I’m also happy to support a company that is willing to stand by their products and make improvements when things go wrong.