Staying lighter on my feet while feeling and looking comfortable has been the general approach for my wedding and environmental portrait work. Substituting the institutional black slacks and white shirt in favor of a more casual look actually takes effort, especially when you are looking for wardrobe pieces that are both functional and look good. I've been a faithful user of BlackRapid's DR-1 Double Camera Strap system for the past year, but I've been longing for a double strap that carried sartorial value. Don't get me wrong - the BlackRapid options are durable and comfortable, but adorning thick ballistic nylon straps over a well-chosen outfit began to look out of place.
A fellow photographer recently tipped me on a new company called HoldFast, and their innovative products seemed to fit the bill. HoldFast applies attractive form and practicality to a realm where this combination is rarely found – photography equipment. In a world dominated by black neoprene straps and nylon bags, founder/photographer Matthew Swaggart offers timeless materials like waxed cotton duck and beautifully aging leather. HoldFast was born out of necessity, and its gear evokes a time when photography gear was not only functional, but also effortlessly stylish.
I recently purchased HoldFast's "MoneyMaker" Dual Strap System, and was immediately struck by the exceptional quality of its construction. All HoldFast products are made in the USA, and the level of craftsmanship associated with American made goods is definitely found here. One my of main motivations behind purchasing the MoneyMaker was its ability to age. A characteristic of quality leather like this is that it will start to evolve with regular use, becoming even more comfortable and creating wear patterns that are unique to me and how I use my gear.
The product came freshly oiled and wrapped in brown paper tied with rawhide lacing, with noticeable treatment soaking through the paper like a piece of meat fresh from the butcher. This was the oiled brown version; their other colorways and hides include natural leather, water buffalo, and even an American bison option. The straps are soft to the touch, but like all high-grade leathers, require a break-in period for the material to really soften up. I linked both my pro bodies up to the proprietary stainless steel hardware, and definitely felt that I could trust HoldFast's support system. Their steel rivets and buckles were very well made.
My problem with the BlackRapid double-strap design was that it never felt like a complete unit - moreso two separate straps linked together. With the HoldFast MoneyMaker, I definitely experienced a more complete yet simplified support structure that works regardless of your torso size.
As a portrait & wedding photographer, I'm on my feet all day. Besides my cameras and lenses, the most important part of my gear is my strap system. The HoldFast is an attractive solution and makes it easy to grab either of my cameras on the fly while evenly distributing the weight of my heavy gear. Look out for a followup review in a few months when they're broken in!
Check out the rest of HoldFast's collection here, as their other pieces are definitely worth a look.
Much credit goes to my editorial intern, Adam Sue, for helping me photograph and assemble this post.