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Comfortable and Functional ... To A Degree: Joby Pro Sling Strap and UltraFit Sling Strap for Women

Your body type may determine how much functionality this design will deliver.

By Joan Sherwood

I recently tried the Joby Pro Sling Strap and the Joby UltraFit Sling Strap for Women. Both feel good and are functional, but each has its own issues. I was an early adopter of sling straps, and I’m still a big fan, but they haven't reached the perfection I envision for them one day. 

There are three ways to wear the traditional strap that attaches to the camera strap eyelets on a DSLR, and I’m not fond of any of them. I can’t stand the insecure feeling of a camera strap hanging from just one shoulder. It’s an invitation to theft or a catastrophic slip-and-break accident. A strap just over my head puts far too much strain on my neck, particularly with heavier professional DSLR and lens combinations, plus I always have to keep one hand on the camera to keep it from bouncing around as I walk. And with the traditional neck strap in a cross-body position, you can feel that it just wasn’t designed to be used that way. It doesn’t hang well across my chest, the strap is always too short, and it’s not easy to raise the camera to my eye.

The Joby Sling Straps use what they call a SpeedCinch pulley system. You wear the strap in a cross-body position with the camera hanging at your hip or cinched behind your back. The strap threads through the buckles in a way that allows you to shorten, lengthen, or lock the strap in place at a certain length. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to use, though the locking clamp takes a little practice to feel natural.

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The Joby Pro Sling Strap is the top of its line and my preference between the two Joby sling straps that I tried. The shoulder portion of the strap is strong like a seatbelt and has a ribbed underside, but it’s soft and supple so that the edges don’t dig into your neck. I think it would benefit from a gripping surface on the underside where it lies across your shoulder blade, though—something to hold the strap in place when the user bends forward. It’s far too easy for the weight of a camera to urge the strap to slide around your body, even with a fairly snug but still-comfortable cinch. The entire strap is made of a textile custom created by Joby.

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The attachment mechanism centers around a metal bolt and cylinder with a rubber washer on the bolt side and a plastic collar that smoothly rotates on greased bearings around the main cylinder. A thumbscrew lets you hand-tighten it into the tripod socket and then a coin groove allows you to secure it more firmly.

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Trust in this type of tripod-socket connection is what divides sling strap users from sling strap haters. Many photographers fear that the screw-in connection in the camera’s 1/4"-20 tripod socket will gradually come loose, and in one horrific moment their most cherished glass will crash to the sidewalk. There are horror stories out there.

The strap makers have addressed this security concern in their own ways. Joby offers a Camera Tether, which gives you a secondary point of connection as a failsafe. It loops a strong but slender tie through the camera’s strap eyelet and tethers it to the sling strap with a screw-lock carabiner that doesn’t impede the movement of the sling strap. This tether is included with the new Joby Pro Sling Strap but is listed as an accessory with other models.

The Joby Pro Sling Strap worked well for me, with certain limitations. For me, the SpeedCinch pulley system works to hold the camera where I want it to hang on my hip, but not for the full-cinch, behind-the-back, close-to-the-body position. It works great on the male model in the demo video, but I’m a short stocky woman with a moderately large chest. The closest I can get to a secure cinch is to have the chest strap above my right breast and passing through my armpit. Needless to say, this is not a look that lends itself to professional appearance. As a plus, it does come in two sizes: S - L and L - XXL.

Joby makes the UltraFit Sling Strap for Women to address the squashed-breast issue, but in my testing I found that this works only for slender women (such as the one in the Joby demo video).

201402we_joby_UltraFit_SlingStrap_Female_VideoStill.jpgThe UltraFit Sling Strap for Women is available in just one size and is only large enough to use with the camera at my hip with the strap extended to its full length. When I tried cinching it up, the strap had nowhere to go but the above-breast, armpit position. On a slender coworker, it worked as advertised but the camera strap was still easily susceptible to slipping around the body when she bent forward.

Finally there’s the issue of carrying the camera behind you. It’s great if you have an awareness of where it is at all times and how much space your camera body and lens combination occupy back there. Have you ever been wearing a backpack, and instinctively turned sideways to get through a narrow space only to be reminded that you’re now thicker in a side orientation than you are full forward? Imagine turning sideways to go through a subway turnstile or a closing door and hearing your lens smack against a hard surface. If you plan to carry your camera behind you, practice, practice, practice knowing where it is and how much space it needs at all times.

That said, I’m still a fan of the sling strap for midrange size cameras and I would recommend this one. I prefer the SpiderPro camera holster system ($135) for comfortably carrying weightier pro DSLRs and big lenses. Having that weight on your hips instead of around your neck and shoulders makes a huge difference. But the SpiderPro’s nylon and Velcro belt with its big plastic buckle are best suited for hiking gear and casual clothing. The Joby Pro Sling Strap ($69.95) is more elegant and comfortable (with your camera at your hip), and has the capacity to complement professional clothing.