Quick Review: “Steel” Sun Sniper Camera Strap

In the studio this week, we’ve been discussing this very unique take on the camera strap.  Though opinions regarding certain design elements vary, some things are quite certain.  The California Sunbounce Sun Sniper Steel an exceptionally tough and very well-crafted camera strap.  Its ballistic nylon is the stiff, tight weave I’d expect from Lightware, if they made camera straps (and that’s high praise).  The strap has no hint of plastic aside from the fat buckle that adjusts length in the manner of a full-size trekking backpack.  The light weight, but beefy cushioning wrapped with chunky Velcro around the strap is also backpack inspired, designed for both spongy comfort and ventilation (and is remove-able).

The actual strap portion of the Sun Sniper is relatively thin and lightweight, though the whole assembly feels like it would have no trouble supporting the entire weight of whatever photographer it might be encircling.  (I can’t help but image scenarios where I and the Sun Sniper rush to the aid of a distressed friend, hanging from a cliff, just two feet too far to reach without the Sun Sniper.)  Running down the strap’s spine (and lending additional friend-saving strength) is a thin metal cable, advertised to stop the knifes of would-be camera swipers.  The most impressive hardware of all, meanwhile, is a beautiful locking carabiner and thick all-metal button that screws this militant strap to your camera’s bottom.

Yes, the bottom: the Sun Sniper “Steel” attaches not to traditional mounting points, but to to the standard tripod mount below, and that’s what has us in the Photo Arts Monthly office talking.  The camera – a Nikon D3 has served as our test mule – is wonderfully free of strap and feels naked in the hands.  If, like me, you naturally hook your right thumb under a strap as you raise a camera, you’ll enjoy just grabbing on, unhindered.  Also, advertised as drawing inspiration from a U.S. Cavalry Carbine Sling from 1885, the carabinered camera slides freely along the length of the strap, unanchored to any one point.  The cushy shoulder strap stays in place on a photographer’s shoulder while the camera slides up and down, from a resting position to firing position, friction free.

The Sun Sniper, attaching as it does, hangs the camera upside down when at rest.  It’s a quick motion to allow the camera to sit against one’s side or lower back.  Unlike a conventional camera strap, which tends to keep the camera upright and pointing out when behind, the Sun Sniper allows it to rest more comfortably and more unobtrusively.

So how does it work?

I’ve enjoyed having it attached to my camera for several days.  It allows a convenient way to tuck a camera comfortably out of the way while adjusting lights or working with a subject.  The sliding function gets it done in one smooth motion.  Also, the combination of thick, breathable padding and a built-in springy segment make for a very comfortable experience with tension on a photographer’s shoulder extremely minimized.

The only camera straps I’ve ever really used are the excellent Domke Grippers in classic tan.  I’ve always been attracted to the plain, photojournalist look, with a soft feel and simple hardware.  The Sun Sniper Steel could hardly be more different.  It’s a high-tech strap.  Depending on how flamboyantly obvious one enjoys being with photographic gear, this strap will be large enough to have some phtographers feeling self-conscious.

The trade off – and one that will certainly be worth while for photographers with heavy cameras, long days, and no concerns about how svelte a strap should be – is that I’ve never felt a more comfortable strap or one with beefier hardware.  I would be supremely surprised if anyone managed to wear one out within our lifetimes.

The Sun Sniper and The RZ33

Our featured camera this month, the new Mamiya RZ33 (introduced here) is indeed a very large camera.  It is a wonderful collision of gear-testing fate that it overlapped in our studio with the California Sunbounce Sun Sniper Steel.  The exceptionally large camera and exceptionally comfortable, springy, and robust strap area a perfect match.  The mighty Mamiya is comfortably-supported and minimally-awkward to sling around with the Sun Sniper.

One mild frustration is that the RZ33 has only one tripod mount, and it can’t be shared by both the strap and a tripod plate.  As such, I frequently have to switch the two (Unlike the 35mm Nikon D3 shown in the images for this post, the 6×7 Mamiya needs to spend a lot of time on a tripod).  The switching is an extra hassle, but once on a tripod, there is no strap in the way, which is nice.  Also, the screw mount Sun Sniper is significantly quicker to add and subtract than typical around-and-back-through buckles.

Additional Images (Click to open in a new window)

Conclusion

The California Sunbounce Sun Sniper Steel strap is a robust camera strap with a unique sliding camera mount.  The mount, which attaches to a camera’s tripod socket, allows a photographer to raise and lower the camera in a smooth motion.  While at rest, the camera sits comfortably in a position that feels natural.  The strap’s unusually thick padding and springy shock absorbing section make for a very comfortable carrying experience and a thin, metal cable embedded in its spine is designed to thwart strap-knifing camera thieves.

In certain situations, it will make life easier for photographers, particularly for those using heavy gear and able to benefit from the strap’s quick draw design.

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