MY ONLY (AND UNINTENDED) INDULGENCE TO STYLE: HARRY BENZ “THE BROGUE” STRAPS REVIEWED!
People who know me, know that I normally do not care at all about style in my choice of equipment. I am a professional Fine Art landscape photographer, often working in extreme environments. I don’t pamper my cameras and I need my equipment to always work perfectly to be able to create the best possible images under any possible conditions.
This is my guiding principle, and I choose my cameras and lenses accordingly, my filters, tripods and heads accordingly, my tech clothes and working footwear accordingly and – you guessed – my camera bags and camera straps accordingly as well. With all respect for people who does, I am certainly not the guy who’ll buy crocodile leather 50.000 US camera bags: for me, that is simply nonsense.
Today I’ll talk about camera straps, a neglected but very important piece of equipment: when you are in the field, the last thing you want is to have a strap failure causing your camera to fall off a cliff, and you certainly don’t want your strap to be cutting into your shoulders or neck down to the bone after a couple of hours of use.
Before moving to Leica SL, I always used semi-elastic straps from OpTech and LowePro, and I thought they did a pretty good job. When I got my Leica SL, however, I faced a new conundrum: the Leica SL design and UI that I love so much for their essentiality, came with a different arrangement to attach a camera strap. Gone were the moving, round lugs I was used to, replaced by fixed slots perpendicular to the camera body.
Any of my usual straps would fit perfectly, but with the camera on my neck its weight would make the strap turn at its connecting point with the camera, exerting a rotating strain which would quickly ruin the strap introducing the risk of having it break when least expected.
So, I went online and started searching for a strap that would work well with the Leica SL’s slots. Among various less interesting solutions, I found out about Harry Benz’s “The Brogue SL” straps (follow the link to his website here: HARRY BENZ). As it always happens when I see something well thought of, I immediately got intrigued by their design: The Brogue SL straps offered a different, genius system to connect the strap to the camera while they didn’t have any large shoulder pad such as those you’ll find in regular straps.
Thanks to the introduction of a simple pivot point, raised off the connecting slots, The Brogue SL solved the problem introduced by the angular forces working to ruin your regular strap at the point of connection: efficient, essential and genius!
Still, I had doubts about the comfort of wearing such a leather strap, without any shoulder pad to distribute camera weight. A little more research online made me find various forum posts with people asking the same thing: reading comments both from Harry Benz himself, explaining the theory behind his design choice, and from various happy users confirming the validity of the theory in practice, reassured me somehow about The Brogue SL’s comfort in use. Still, everyone’s requirements are different, and I wanted to see by myself if The Brogue SL was really comfortable after using it for hours in the field.
Since there is no way to adjust the length of the strap, upon ordering The Brogue SL strap you have to indicate which strap length you need. As well, you can select among the different colour options and colour combinations. Harry Benz will then custom-make the strap according to your specifications, a process which will take “a minimum lead time of 8 weeks, not including shipping”.
During my search, I was also intrigued by the brogue pattern that Harry Benz carved into his straps, all by hand: it really looked like a lot of work, and it was definitely very beautiful to look at. As I said, however, I was never one to choose anything for its style, so the strap’s beauty sort of went below my radar when I ordered my first The Brogue SL to try it out. Until I received it, that is!
The Brogue SL turned out to be simply an amazing strap. Amazingly beautiful, and amazingly functional at the same time. The pivot system works exactly as advertised, preventing the strap to get ruined at the point of connection with the camera. The Water Buffalo leather is indeed softening with time, as Harry Benz states on his web pages: after a couple of months of use it already became much softer, and after two years it’s just beautifully soft, but no less tough. Carrying the Leica SL with any of its zooms, including the 90-280mm, with The Brogue SL is really easy: surprisingly enough the absence of a shoulder pad does not make the strap carve into your neck at all (something I was a bit worried about, I have to admit).
Finally, as a very welcome bonus, the strap is truly beautiful, a real work of art. The carvings are done with patience and perfection, and the leather is indeed among the finest. I haven’t changed at all my stand on what the fundamental qualities of a piece of equipment should be, and I would never just keep a working tool because of its beauty if it didn’t do the job perfectly. However, The Brogue SL not only is working great and is one of the most comfortable straps I have ever used, but it’s really beautiful to look at as well, which certainly doesn’t hurt. Somewhat to my surprise, it became the only touch of style in what is otherwise an extremely utilitarian bag with no gratuitous concessions to style whatsoever.
As a result, I ended up purchasing one more The Brogue SL for my (then) Leica S (Typ 007), with which it worked equally well, a strap that now I use on my second Leica SL body. After that, I also bought a The Brogue Wingtips, the version of the Brogue made for cameras with “classic” style strap lugs, to use with my (then) Leica M10: it now is perfectly at home on my Leica CL.
In short, with The Brogue, Harry Benz got it perfectly right: in all its declinations, The Brogue is a beautiful and very comfortable family of strap. In particular, The Brogue SL is a strap that solves what can become a problem on the Leica SL and on cameras with similar strap connections, and does so with genius simplicity, in true Leica philosophy, and with great beauty and grace at the same time.
A quick look at all Harry Benz’s other straps will show you the love and passion he puts into his craft, passion and love definitely showing in his products.
Last, but certainly not least, is Harry himself: a true gentleman to deal with, extremely responsive to messages and ready to go the extra mile to help. I just wish that there would be more craftsmen like him around. Highly recommended!
Disclaimer: I have no business relationships with Harry Benz in any way other than being a very happy, repeated customer. I am a professional photographer looking for the best equipment for my work, I buy all my gear with my hard-earned cash and I don’t get paid by anyone to write articles for my blog.
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Technical details: all the quick and dirty product images have been shot with the Leica SL equipped with the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm f/2.8-4 on a Really Right Stuff tripod equipped with an Arca-Swiss P0 Classic ballhead. All photos have been developed and finished in Adobe Photoshop CC.