First a bit of background: I don't like my camera's neck strap, not one little bit. I was on vacation for two weeks this fall, and took my camera (a Panasonic FZ30) with me everywhere. In that time, I probably put the strap around my neck twice. I would, however, frequently put my hand through the strap, twist it a bunch to take up the slack, and use it as a hand strap. This gave me more security than just holding the camera and kept my hand in position near the controls without thinking about it.
When I came back, I decided this was a silly thing to do. Neck straps make poor hand straps at best, and there had to be something better on the market. Most of what I found available was similar to the Canon E1 hand strap, designed for a larger SLR (like an EOS 1D). These kinds of straps all came with strap lugs at the top and bottom, but my camera came without such lugs. There were also products on the market that didn't require two lugs, but these were simply loops that attached to one of the neckstrap lugs. These might keep you from dropping the camera, but are not designed to serve as a handgrip. Finally, there were complex systems that had a hand strap as one option, but those seemed like overkill.
Eventually I came across Camdapter (www.camdapter.com), a small online company that focuses almost exclusively on making hand straps for cameras. What makes Camdapter's product different is the use of a plate on the bottom of the camera to provide a secondary attachment point, rather than requiring the camera to have a second lug. As an added bonus, they have an adapter plate that also serves as a quick-release plate for my tripod, so I'd basically never need to remove the hand strap. (For tripod users, Campdater make plates compatible with the two common sizes of Manfrotto QR plates, as well as ones compatible with Arca QRs and simple, non-QR plates.)
The strap itself is a leather shell over a nylon strapping system to attach to the adapter and the camera. Camdapter actually makes two different classes of strap – the larger DSLR-style strap used for this review, and a second one designed for smaller point-and-shoot cameras using a tiny adapter on the bottom and a more complex strap system.
In corresponding with Jim Garavuso, the man behind Camdapter, he was unsure which style of strap would fit the FZ30 better, but the need for a quick-release plate pushed me over to the SLR-sized one. Jim was worried that the larger sized unit would disrupt access to the battery or memory card, but this has proved to not been a problem. This concern, however, is something important to consider when choosing a strap for a larger non-SLR (like any of the superzooms out there): I tried the strap on the older Panasonic FZ15, and the plate did prevent the battery door from opening.
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Installing the adapter plate and the strap was quite simple, and the included instructions, a single printed page (PDF version), provided some useful tips on rethreading the strap. Unlike the original Manfrotto plate, which uses a flip-down thumb screw to allow tool-less installation and removal, the Camdapter uses a hex screw into the tripod socket.
The plate itself is a well-machined piece of aluminum, painted black with slots on each side for the strap. The top has a rubberized area, and is smartly engraved with the company website address on the bottom in case you forget the URL.
Once the plate is in place, installation involves threading the nylon strap through, and then feeding it through the leather cover, through the camera lug, and finally through a hard nylon sliplock. Threading through the leather is a little tricky, but the instructions have a clever trick involving the use of a drinking straw as a fish-tape. Camdapter then recommends that you trim off the remaining strap, but I'd wait to do that until you're sure of the fit.
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I was a little worried about the leather inside of the strap, but this concern has been unfounded so far. Although it is a little tackier than the smooth synthetic liner of straps I've used before, the strap compensates for being a little harder to slip into by providing great retention on the back of my hand. I can't give any firm answers on how it would handle a sweaty hand, as that's not a common problem in Boston during the winter, but my experience with naturally-finished leather has been positive in this respect.
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In use the strap is quite nice, providing a good, firm grip on the hand without restricting motion in any way. I had originally worried about the gap between the strap and the camera bottom leaving a loose strap, but it turns out that the natural position of my hand is slightly torqued, and the slack accommodates this perfectly.
In its secondary function, the adapter works as a quick-release plate just as it should. I did run into some problems using the 1/4-20 thread in the bottom of the plate designed to attach the adapter to a monopod or other alternate support. As it came from the factory, the threads were coated with the same black paint as the rest of the adapter – paint that was thick enough to impede a screw. I was able to use an extra quick-release plate to break through this layer, and the clean threads work perfectly well. This did have the secondary effect of loosening the adapter, sending my scurrying for the hex wrench to tighten it.
There is no provision for a registration pin on the adapter plate, nor does this Manfrotto-compatible adapter have a lip to keep it from turning (although some of the other larger plates do). Once my little table-top tripod was installed, there was another issue: the secondary hole is at the back of the adapter, behind the normal tripod socket. This means that the entire camera is on one side of the support, cantilevered out into space. Even without a heavy SLR lens, this arrangement seemed a little precarious, although it would probably be just fine on a monopod.
In storage, the strap conforms closely to the handgrip of the camera, taking up less space than even the thin nylon neck strap originally supplied with the camera.
Pricing and Conclusion
Pricing for the Camdapter depends on the exact options selected, with the strap itself at $25 and the adapters ranging from $30 (for a simple one) to $40 (for a larger QR plate), plus shipping. That puts the entire package at about $60 – probably in the upper tier of the "small interesting accessories" price range, but well below the "might as well buy another piece of glass" range. The smaller strap for compact cameras is $30 including the adapter.
Service from Camdapter was quite prompt, with the entire setup arriving in about 2 days. Each strap comes with a printed instruction sheet and the "tool" needed to install it (an Allen-wrench for the larger QR plate and a nickel for the smaller P/S adapter). The instructions make the point that a coin can be used to adjust the screw used to hold the smaller adapter in place, and the included nickel is a cute touch.
So in summary...