The Op/Tech Company is well known for their vast lineup of straps, pouches and connector systems. We recently got our hands on the Utility Strap and several types of connectors. Needless to say, It has remained attached to my Nikon D600 since I placed it there several months ago.
The Op/Tech Utility Strap Sling with 2 Uni-Loop connectors is available for $25. Additional connectors, straps and configurations are available from their website.
Design and Construction
The Utility strap from Op/Tech is a curved strap that easily hangs across your neck or your shoulder. The inside of the strap is made of a neoprene pad designed for maximum comfort while the outside has a stretchy Lycra material that allows for movement while working. The neoprene pad offers a non-skid surface that sits on your neck or shoulder without measurable movement.
The strap is adjustable from 26.5 to 31 inches. The neoprene pad is 2.5 inches deep and 16 inches long. The strap is extremely lightweight, but has a recommended load weight of 15 pounds. I think that is a huge weight to put on the strap and your body. My recommendation would be to carry far less weight on one shoulder or your neck -- even if the strap can handle this much weight or even more.
Op/Tech products use their exclusive Uni-Loop connectors making it easy to switch your strap configuration. This means you can quickly change from the Utility Strap Sling configuration to the basic Utility Strap with long or short connectors. Also, if you would prefer, you can switch over to a totally different strap like the Double Sling or Dual Harness with just a few "unsnaps" of the quick release Uni-Loops.
Op/Tech sent us one of their new custom utility straps with our Digital Camera Review logo imprinted on the Lycra material. The logo looks great. It has not peeled and has withstood months of use and travel. People always comment about the strap and love that it can be customized.
As noted, the neoprene pad is thick enough to easily distribute the weight of even the heaviest of camera loads. And it is soft enough to wear comfortably around one shoulder or even around your neck. The springy Lycra material flexes and bends with ease, maybe even a bit too much. However, the camera stays put around your neck instead of sliding around like your kit strap does. The neoprene pad aides in keeping everything steady and in place whether it is worn around the neck or on the shoulder. Even with a large DSLR sporting heavy lens the Op/Tech Utility strap provides enough comfort for several hours of use.
Even though this strap is on the less expensive end of the market, you would not be able to tell when you examine it's assembly. The webbing on the Uni-Loop connectors is well-made and professionally constructed. The stitching is solid and has not unraveled as with cheaper straps. The Uni-Loops are made of a heavy plastic material. They have also withstood heavy use and look no worse for the wear.
I used this strap in two configurations: over one shoulder as a sling strap with the camera hanging from one Uni-Loop connector while the rest of the strap made an entire loop around my body and around my neck as a traditional camera strap. I will discuss the pros and cons to both of these methods as I feel that they have very different uses.
When I first received the Op/Tech Utility Strap I thought that using it as a sling would be my favorite method. Unfortunately, it proved a bit difficult for me to get used to. I think there are many people who will actually prefer this method over the traditional style, but even after repeated use I did not find that true for me. In order to use the strap as a sling you first need to connect the strap as a loop. Op/Tech does a great job of including instructions for configuring the strap. After that, you simply attach the camera to the hanging Uni-Loop to one side of the camera. The neoprene pad is extremely soft and comfortable on one shoulder. It has a bit of a "give" in the material which proved to be both positive and negative. On the positive side, the strap and camera combination felt much lighter than any kit strap I have ever used. On the other hand, the strap had so much stretchiness that it felt like it bounced a bit when I walked.
When used this way, the camera felt wobbly when it hung at the bottom of the strap near my hip. So I decided to see if attaching both connectors to each side of the camera would help. No dice. The connectors just got in the way of my viewfinder and I was unable to quickly snap a picture. The strap was not meant to be used this way, but I thought it might be a solution to the lack of stability when the camera was resting near my hip. Then I tried to readjust the strap to make it shorter and have the camera sit closer to my waist. Sadly, this proved to look quite unsightly on my short, curvy body. I decided the original method was actually the best -- I would just have to get used holding the camera with my right hand to stabilize it while walking.
I couldn't help but wonder why I was having so many troubles with using the strap this way. My final assessment with using the strap as a sling is that the problems are a result of my gender, namely the fact that the strap buckle sits directly in the middle of my chest and lifting the camera to my eye resulted in an uncomfortable user experience since it kept hitting and grabbing my body. If I made the strap larger, the camera became less stable. If I made the strap shorter, it was unattractive for my body type. I think this configuration works much better for men as there is less interference in the chest area.
Next, I used the strap in the traditional mode with the camera hanging around my neck. This method was much more comfortable for me. As a wedding photographer I am very used to carrying DSLR cameras around my neck for long hours. The Op/Tech Strap is by far the most comfortable one that has graced the back of my neck. No rubbing or chaffing. No irritation. Remember how I said the strap has a little too much stretchiness before? This is where it comes in handy. The strap gives the camera support, but doesn't stress your neck in the meantime. The only negative thing about using the strap around your neck is that the neoprene pad does not allow your neck to breathe, increasing the sweat factor just a bit.
The Op/Tech Utility Strap is a great option for at least half of the population when used in the sling mode. Once you get used to holding your camera in order to reduce movement, the strap is easy to use and moves swiftly when not met with bodily resistance. When used in the traditional around-the-neck mode the strap is just as comfortable for women as it is men. The neoprene pad makes the strap enjoyable as it provides a soft pillow-like feel on your neck or shoulder. And the price can't be beat. Similar straps can run you double the price of the Op/Tech system. Finally, the quick release Uni-Loops make switching cameras or straps a breeze. If you do choose to switch them out, I highly recommend picking up an extra set of Uni-Loops or another strap. The Op/Tech Utility Strap is well worth the money - especially when you find the configuration that best fits your needs.