My Gear: Accessories by Peak Design

Canon 760D with "Anchor Links" and hand strap "Clutch" by Peak Design

I travel quite a lot with my camera – I take it with me on vacation of course, on trips, and to events. I want to have it on hand when I need it, but the rest of the time, it should disturb me as little as possible. What bothered me the most in that respect is the original camera strap. I found it impractical for many reasons.

It comes with every DSLR: the strap that needs to be fiddled through the two eyes on either side at the top of the camera body, and that turns everyone into a walking advertisement for the camera manufacturer. With it, you can carry the camera like a neck pouch, where it dangles from side to side with every step, unless you hold it the entire time (which kind of makes the strap a moot point). Or you carry it over your shoulder – but due to the strap being fixed to the top of the camera body, the lens will point outward, which makes it very easy to hit something with. And there are even more occasions when the strap is interfering more than it helps, for instance when using the camera on a tripod. And last but not least, the way the standard straps are fixed to the camera is too circumstantial to quickly attach and remove it again. Long story short, I never use it.

Of course, there are a lot of alternative straps available which allow for carrying the camera in a more practical way. However, many of them are fixed to the tripod socket of the camera, which makes it immediately evident why this is impractical: if you want to put the camera on a tripod, you’ll have to mess around with the fixtures. I was certain that there must be a better solution. And indeed, I found one that works perfectly for me. Thus, I will present you the accessories I use to carry camera and lenses with me when I’m out and about.

PEAK DESIGN

Disclaimer: this post has in no way been sponsored or promoted in any way by Peak Design. I came across their products in early 2016 through a crowdfunding campaign. After ordering the first pieces, the accessories quickly won me over. They are well thought out and made with high quality. Hence, over time, I have added more of their offerings to my equipment.

FIXTURES: “ANCHOR LINK” AND “PLATE”

The core design element of the Peak Design accessories are the “Anchor Link” fixtures. Those are robust plates about the size of a “Connect Four” token with an attached loop. They can be easily threaded through the eyes at the top of the camera body. For the underside of the camera, special tripod plates with holes around the rim are available, which allow for up to four Anchor Links to be attached. Peak Design’s straps have matching quick-connectors, so you can attach and remove them single-handed with just a click.

An der Stativplatte "Pro Plate" können bis zu vier "Anchor Links" befestigt werden
The tripod plate “Pro Plate” allows to attach up to four “Anchor Links” – enough for hand strap and shoulder strap

The tripod plates are Arca Swiss compatible and designed so that they fit into many common tripods, such as my small Rollei “Compact Traveller”, even with Anchor Links attached. Thus, the tripod plate can stay permanently attached to the camera.

STRAPS: “SLIDE”, “LEASH” AND “CLUTCH”

Of course, I want to carry my camera on a strap around the neck or over my shoulder from time to time – just without the disadvantages listed above. The big strap from Peak Design is called “Slide”. It features quick-connectors that match the Anchor Links on the camera, so attaching or removing it is a matter of seconds. My favored way of carrying the camera is as follows: I hook one end of the strap to the eye on the top right of the camera body, and the other end to the tripod plate at the bottom side. When I carry it over my shoulder this way, the lens points down, instead of out. With a single movement, I have it at the ready without having to twist my hand or change my grip on the camera. In addition, “Slide” is padded comfortably, has an anti-glide coating on one side, and can be adjusted in length with a single hand by sliding the handle – hence the name.

Peak Design "Sling" used as a shoulder strap
Peak Design “Sling” used as a shoulder strap – the camera is readily at hand; the lens points down. You can clearly see the quick connectors, in which the Anchor Links click into place

The strap is very pleasant to use, but due to the padding, it takes up a lot of space in the bag when not needed. If space is critical, there is a smaller alternative, called “Leash”. It’s made from seatbelt-style fabric and will easily fit into your trouser pocket. Of course, you can use it as a shoulder or neck strap, but it’s much more versatile than that. An Anchor Link can be attached to the adjustment handle in the middle of the “Leash”, which allows you to securely loop it around your belt or backpack strap. This way, it serves as a safety tether, so you don’t have to worry about dropping your camera when taking pictures from a bridge and getting bumped into. It also makes it a lot more difficult for anyone who might want to quickly grab your camera and run when you don’t pay attention for a moment.

Peak Design "Capture Clip" with "Pro Pad". In addition, the camera is tethered to the belt with a "Leash".
Peak Design “Capture Clip” with “Pro Pad”. In addition, the camera is tethered to the belt with a “Leash”.

Most of the time, however, I do not use the camera with a strap, but with the hand strap “Clutch”. This allows you to safely hold, and comfortably carry, the camera with a single hand. The hand strap is permanently attached to my camera, without ever being in the way. It’s big enough to be easily used on my Canon 760D even with the additional battery grip attached.

CLIPS: “CAPTURE” AND “PRO PAD”

As mentioned before, I want to have my camera readily available when I’m travelling, but I also don’t want it to get in my way when I’m not using it. This includes not suddenly sliding around and hitting something when I bend down, which can easily happen when carrying the camera on a shoulder strap. I have seen rather expensive lenses not surviving such an accident.

The belt clip “Capture” turned out to be the ideal solution for me, especially in combination with the additional padding called “Pro Pad”. Fixed to the belt on the right hip, the camera with affixed tripod plate can be slid and locked into the clip single-handedly. And it is just as easy to release again. This frees up your hands when you’re not photographing, and the camera also doesn’t get in the way if you’re carrying a backpack as well. Of course, the belt clip can also be attached to the shoulder strap of a backpack or messenger bag. I find this a very comfortable solution for carrying the camera for a stroll through town as well as for a hiking tour.

Peak Design "Capture Clip" and "Pro Pad" hold the Canon 760D at the ready. In addition, the hand strap "Clutch" is attached to the camera
Peak Design “Capture Clip” and “Pro Pad” hold the Canon 760D at the ready. In addition, the hand strap “Clutch” is attached to the camera

The locking mechanism of the clip is very reliable. If you still have concerns: the release button can be locked by turning it 90 degrees. This avoids any accidental (or “unauthorized”) release of the camera. If you want to go for double bottom, then you can tether your camera to your belt with the “Leash” in addition. I do this when carrying the camera through rough terrain (where I really don’t want to drop it), or for instance in Paris, where there unfortunately are countless pickpockets. This way, nobody can simply grab the camera out of my hands.

FOR LENSES: “CAPTURE LENS” AND “RANGE POUCH”

So now I have the camera safe and readily available. Depending on the occasion, I also want to have more than one lens at hand. Many events and exhibitions, however, do not allow for backpacks or larger bags to be taken on the venue. In June, I visited the Miniature Wonderland in Hamburg again. I wanted to have wide-angle lens for landscape shots, and a telephoto or macro lens for details. But the bag had to stay in the locker.

This was a good opportunity to use “Capture Lens” mount for lenses. This can also be fixed to the belt using a “Capture” clip. It is basically made up of two opposing lens mounts and a pivot mechanism. Attaching and releasing lenses works in the same way as on the camera body. You hold the camera in your right hand, and detach the current lens with your left hand. Then you attach it to the free mount on the “Capture Lens”, and turn it around 180 degrees. Now you can remove the other lens and connect it to your camera. I manage the entire lens changing procedure, from the last photo with the previous lens to the first photo with the new lens, in less than 10 seconds. This also spares you any risky maneuver with pinching a lens under an arm or hunkering down in the middle of a crowd, where a jostle can quickly become very expensive.

Peak Design "Capture Lens" with the Canon EF-S 55-250mm
Peak Design “Capture Lens” with the Canon EF-S 55-250mm. The red button on the mount unlocks the lens

There is one disadvantage worth mentioning, though: when you carry a lens on the left-hand side, and the camera on the right-hand side on your belt, this has a distinct “Wild West” look and feel to it. I’ve heard several “let’s meet in front of the Saloon at high noon” jokes at my expense because of this. On the plus side, I did not miss several good photos because I had the right lens at hand in time.

Another, less ostentatious solution is the “Range Pouch” lens bag, which is available in three sizes. I have the medium one, which suitable for all my lenses (except the 70-200). The bag is weatherproof and well-padded. You can carry it either by using the belt loop on its backside, or you use the pre-mounted Anchor Links to attach a “Slide” or “Leash” as shoulder strap. Of course, the “Range Pouch” can carry not only lenses, but all kinds of other useful stuff as well.

Peak Design "Range Pouch"
Peak Design “Range Pouch”, shown with the Sigma A 18-35 mm ƒ/1.8
Peak Design "Range Pouch"
Peak Design “Range Pouch” with reat belt loop and Anchor Links

BAGS

Peak Design also offers a variety of bags: a backpack, a tote bag, a small shoulder bag, and a messenger bag. I don’t own any of these because I already had good bags for carrying my laptop or my camera with accessories before I came across Peak Design.

 


CONCLUSION

Recommendation: I highly recommend the well though-out and high-quality accessories by Peak Design. Hand strap, belt clip and the quickly removable straps have made it much easier for me to take along my camera for trips and events. If you think about getting any of the items introduced above, also have a look at the offered bundle deals.

What I’ve learned: There’s a solution to every problem, including carrying your camera. Well-made accessories aren’t cheap, but for me, they are worth their price – if you invest larger sums into your camera and lenses, a good strap should cost more than 20 bucks. Especially considering that I expect the accessories to last longer than the camera.


LINKS

Picture Credits: All pictures – own images.

On a personal note: System decision – Why Canon APS-C?

Canon 760D

When you are new to photography, or think about switching to a different camera, the predominant question is which system to go for. A compact camera or one with interchangeable lenses? Single-lens reflex or mirrorless? Micro-Four-Thirds, APS-C or Full-frame? Each of those has its applications, its specific strengths, but also its particular weaknesses – there is no “one size fits all”. Of course, there are “all-round” cameras – usually, they turn out to be Jacks of all trades, masters of none. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for.

The decision for a particular brand comes later. The technical differences between comparable cameras of different manufactures have become almost negligible. Thus, the choice is often one of personal taste: What controls and menu system do I prefer? Which cameras did I own before? To come to a good decision, there is one central point to ponder:

What do I want to photograph?

Calendar 2018

I already went through all these considerations once, about two years ago, when I picked my current equipment. Now that I am thinking about switching to a camera with a wider range of functionality, all these questions come up again.

DISCOVER THE POSSIBILITIES

There are many different disciplines within the area of photography that all have their own requirements. The following – drastically simplified – list gives a short overview of typical criteria:

  • Landscapes – great dynamic range
  • Portraits – shallow depth of field
  • Nightscapes – good image quality (little noise) event a high ISO values
  • Wildlife – long range with telephoto lenses
  • All-round – wide selection of lenses
  • Travel – light-weight, compact size
  • Video – good video auto-focus, connections for peripherals

It is clear that some of these criteria contradict each other: if you want to take classic portraits with minimum depth of field, you will need a full-frame camera and a lens with a wide aperture. A Canon 5D Mark IV with just its kit lens already weighs around 3.5 lbs.; with a portrait lens such as the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 it’s over 5 lbs. This might not be a problem in a photo studio, but when going on a hike, you will think twice before lugging it along. A Sony RX100 III, on the other hand, weighs less than a pound, is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, and still gets highly recommended by many photographers as a very good travel camera. It has its limitations elsewhere.

For taking pictures at night, the best choice is a large sensor with low resolution, so that each pixel can gather a lot of light – such as the Sony A7S, for instance. This is a full-frame camera with just 12 megapixels, but outstanding low-light performance. For wildlife, a smaller sensor has its advantages, because it provides a longer reach with telephoto lenses due to its narrower field of view. A Canon 80D has 24 megapixels and a crop-factor of 1.6, which means that with a 300mm lens, it provides a view similar to a full-frame camera at 480mm.

Hence, the question you should ask yourself is not: Which camera is the best? You should ask yourself: Which camera is the best for me?

All packed up for the next photo excursion
All packed up for the next photo excursion

WHY I DECIDED FOR CANON APS-C BACK THEN…

Looking ahead on the upcoming upgrade, it is worthwhile to revisit the original considerations. Foremost: What has changes since then? Essential insight from back then: I am mostly an all-rounder. I do not have a particular area that I deeply specialize in. I photograph whatever I like: landscapes, but also people at events. Sometimes nightscapes, sometimes animals. A tiny detail here, the ‘big picture’ there. I want decent image quality, but I also want to be able to carry the camera along an entire day without it becoming a millstone around my neck.

After thorough consideration, I decided for the Canon 760D. In my blog-post about the camera, I have described in detail why. I’ve never regretted this decision.

The crucial points were the articulated touch screen, the (for me) intuitive handling, and most of all the huge range of lenses that are available from various manufactures. Last but not least, the price played a role as well, of course. The 760D has more than fulfilled my expectations, and I was able to take many great pictures with it – far beyond what I had originally thought of.

I have learned a lot over the past two years, and with skill, the requirements grow as well. Hence, I have asked myself increasingly often over the past few months: Is a camera like the 760D still the best camera for me?

…AND WHY I HAVE DECIDED NOW TO STICK WITH IT

Over the course of time, I have purchased numerous lenses of various brands (Canon, Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang…). In order to keep the financial impact of an upgrade at bay, it was clear from the beginning that I would stay with a Canon camera. That still left three options: mirrorless, full-frame, or an APS-C upgrade.

Mirrorless cameras are clearly on the rise, not at least because their live-view auto-focus systems, for a long time the Achilles heel of this type of cameras, has significantly improved. A DSLM would certainly have advantages for me: the electronic shutter can take thousands of pictures for a time-lapse video without wear, and focus-peaking makes focusing manually a lot easier. The problem, however, are the lenses. In theory, I can keep all my lenses and use them with an adapter, on a Canon EOS M5 for example. Reviews from many sources show that in practice, it’s not so easy. Not every lens works with every adapter, and oftentimes, autofocus issues remain. Of course, there are lenses made specifically for mirrorless camera – but that would mean an additional investment. Also, the limited battery life of most DSLMs is a factor for me. Last but not least, there is a very irrational reason: the feeling to have a “real” camera in my hands and the clunking of the mirror are an integral part of photography for me. The bottom line is, mirrorless is not (yet) the way for me.

That leaves full-frame. When the new Canon 6D Mark II was released recently, the temptation was big to go for it. I compiled a list and compared the overall costs of switching to full-frame with an upgrade on APS-C, and the advantages and disadvantages of each choice.

On the assets side, I listed realistic (compared across several platforms) selling prices for my current camera as well as lenses that are for APS-C only, such as my “always-on“. On the spending side, I listed the costs for the new camera, as well as for the replacement lenses needed to complete my lineup again. For the APS-C upgrade, the price difference of the camera was the only factor.

All in all, I concluded that switching to full-frame would cost me around 1,500 € more, mostly due to the lenses. I asked myself: Is it worth it?

The headline already gave it away: No, it’s not. The gap between APS-C and full-frame has become significantly smaller over the past few years, much owing to lenses such as Sigma’s 50-100mm ƒ/1.8. This allows you to take great portraits and nightscape shots even with a smaller DSLR. Of course, some gap remains. But the occasions where this would really make a difference for me are so rare that this is not worth the extra 1,500 €. And there are other disadvantages as well: A Canon 5D with its kit lens is in every dimension (width, height, length) four fifths of an inch wider than my 760D with the ‘always-on’ lens, and it weighs one and a half times as much. What good is a great camera if I don’t take it with me because it’s too bulky?

Hence, I will stick with Canon APS-C DSLRs. For me, they are the ideal compromise between size, flexibly, functionality and image quality. Current rumors indicate that in the spring of 2018, the successor to the current Canon 80D will be released. If this comes true, I will take a very close look at that camera. The main reasons for the upgrade can be summarized quickly: increased functionality and vastly improved auto-focus. Until then, I will certainly enjoy my 760D, and the pictures I’m taking with it, a lot.

I hope these considerations have also been helpful for you.

– Jochen =8-)

Picture Credits: All pictures – own images.

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