I will be the first to admit that there is little wrong with the standard camera strap on most professional cameras. Indeed, some people like having them as a badge of honour, proving to their friends which camera they are using. The standard straps are usually well made and long lasting, I don’t think I have ever seen or heard of one failing and they look fine. However for some of us, promotion of which camera brand you are using is secondary to the promotion of your own business.
A couple of years ago I began my search for a company that could supply a branded camera strap, suitable for carrying a heavy pro body. It was not as easy as I thought it would be. There were plenty of companies making straps and loads of businesses printing logos but finding one to do both was difficult. Eventually, I found www.customcamerastrap.co.uk and although their website was not brilliant, it seemed like they could do what I required. The price of £24.99 seemed to be fair for a quality product.
The only issue I came across when ordering was supplying my logo as they initially would only accept a .eps file. However they agreed to convert my .psd for me so apart from the delay due to the exchanging of files the order went through OK.
It took a couple of weeks to get delivery, however, I now see that they offer an express service for an extra £6.99 so if you need to rush it, you can.
First impressions were really positive. It is much wider than the standard strap so that helps spread the weight if your camera is heavy, finish of the basic strap is excellent and my logo was printed perfectly. It really looked much better than using a standard strap. If I had any initial concerns it was how the printing would last with regular, heavy, outdoor use.
I am always quite heavy on my kit. I shoot most days, usually outside, in all conditions, so if something will wear out I am your guy. So after two years and approx 400 days of work, how has it held up?
Amazingly well actually! The strap is intact, with hardly any fraying on the edges or connecting straps. The print is still bold and easy to read with just a little bit of fading and dirt transfer, I haven’t cleaned it at all. The biggest issue I have is with the soft shoulder pad on the inside of the strap, it is definitely reaching the end of its life and is torn at both ends. This is to be expected, it is the bit that receives the most wear and with the amount of work I do I am prepared to overlook this. A typical enthusiast or wedding professional would likely not have any concerns at all.
Ultimately I am very happy with the performance of the strap so far, it works well as a standard strap replacement and is really good value for money. I will soon be ordering a new one to be fitted to my 1DX mk2 when I receive it, which I suppose is the best recommendation you can get.
Pro’s and Con’s
I would love to see them offer a version for smaller DSLR’s or mirrorless bodies. I have a Canon EOS M which I use for certain job and the standard strap is poor, I’d love to get a narrower version of this strap for it.
You can order your own from: http://www.customcamerastrap.co.uk/store/#!/Premium-Custom-Camera-strap/p/35853484/category=5614071
I must admit this is the first review I have ever written, it is not “technical” just my opinion.
For the past 10 years I have been using the Canon 100-400 L (mk1) as my primary lens in my role as Chief Photographer for PalmerSport/MotorSport Vision. Together we have taken probably in excess of 2.5 million photos on a multitude of different camera bodies, including Canon EOS 20D, 30D, 1D2n, 1D3 and currently the 1DX. During this time I have learnt this lens inside-out. I know how it performs, its weaknesses, its strengths, it has almost become a member of the family. I have had it serviced a few times however it has never failed on me, a truly great bit of kit.
However, since purchasing my 1DX a few years ago a slight seed of discontent has been growing in my mind. The 1DX never performed as I hoped it would, particularly the autofocus. I even took it to CPS a couple of times to have it checked out but no issues were found. Deep down I knew it could be the lens just being outclassed by the 1DX but I didn’t want to admit it to myself, my love for the 100-400 was just too great.
Then Canon announced the 1DX2, with my 1DX getting on a bit with 700,000+ actuations and on its third shutter I thought it would be a good time to lease a new body and move the 1DX into backup position (currently taken by my old 1D3). It seemed to be a good time to refresh and add to my lens lineup, the Canon 8-15mm Fisheye seemed to be a good idea (will review soon) and I thought perhaps I should go for a new 100-400 mk2 as I had heard good things from a friend of mine that had been using one. However with race track safety being “improved” by having the barriers further from the track my thoughts strayed to having a longer lens, particularly since I was now always shooting full frame and lost the crop factor. Canon don’t have anything longer that isn’t a prime (and sensible money) so I looked at Sigma. Now I hadn’t had much success with Sigma before, I own a 150-500 which I kept as a backup lens and a loaner to other photographers that worked for me. It was just too slow on focusing, particularly with a CPL and the lack of the ability to lock the focal length irritated. But I kept on seeing all these reviews saying how good it was, even though other photographers I knew were sceptical. I wanted to get my hands on it.
If only it was that easy. Neither Calumet or WEX had one available for rental so I waited a few days until The Photography Show at the NEC. Sigma had one on its stand and a 1D body for me to try it with and it seemed to be attracting a lot of interest. Initial impressions were “damn this is heavy” followed by “wow, it is really well built”. I wasn’t overly concerned by the weight at 2.5kgs, I knew I would get used to it or have to renew my gym membership, it was the build quality that I wanted to check out. I hoped that if it felt good on the outside then there was a hope that it would be good on the inside too. One thing I found out at the show was that Sigma had just launched a kit with a 1.4x teleconverter included for £100 extra (value £230) which seemed a good idea, you can never have too much focal length!
So I got back from the show, called WEX and placed my orders, only to be told that the 150-600 kit was not in stock yet and they didn’t know for sure when it would arrive. Not normally a concern but I had a job booked at Silverstone and I wanted it for then, it would be a great opportunity to test the 600mm. A call to Sigma confirm that it would ship from them on the following Tuesday to arrive at WEX on Wednesday, my contact at WEX confirmed they would ship it to me as soon as they had it. However a few delays happened and it wasn’t actually sent to me until the Friday, the day before I needed it! Luckily the courier dropped it off just 5 minutes before I left home on Saturday morning, phew!!!
So I was going to be shooting with a new lens that I hadn’t used before on probably one of the most important jobs of the year. As soon as I arrived at Silverstone, I opened all the boxes and took everything out. Damn it’s a big beast! I had also ordered the USB dock so quickly plugged it into my laptop, installed the software from their website and connected the lens. The firmware was up to date (as I would have expected) but I configured a couple of custom settings that I thought would be useful. You can set the optical stabiliser and the focus to how you normally work, including minimum focus distance which I set to 30m.
So, here I was in the grandstand overlooking the end of the pit straight, waiting for the lights to go out and the race to be underway. I had decided to connect my monopod (something I never normally use) just to support the extra weight, I didn’t want to ruin any shots due to my movement but I knew that it would also restrict my ability to pan. Anyway, everything seemed to go to plan the camera focussed fine and tracked with the cars as the came towards me. Shots in the bag, I moved to a new location and ditched the monopod. Sure enough no issues and the 600mm was proving useful. For the next 24 hours (minus a 3-hour kip) I used the lens pretty intensively, I even tried the teleconverter. I say tried, I took a few shots and decided straight away that I probably wouldn’t use it again, focusing was awful. One thing that impressed me was the 150-600’s ability to focus in low (almost none) light, it was almost ridiculous.
I came away from Silverstone being quite impressed with the lens but knew I would not be able to say for sure how it compared to the old 100-400 until I had used it in more familiar surroundings, that was my first visit to Silverstone in quite a few years. I didn’t have to wait long! The very next day I needed to shoot a trackday at my usual haunt, Bedford Autodrome. This would give it a chance to really prove itself.
On my very first corner of the day I knew I had made the right choice. I never seemed to get the full frame rate out of the 1DX/100-400 combo but the 150-600 really let the 1DX off the leash. I knew that I would have to be more careful with my bursts otherwise I would end up with way too many photos. Checking the photos immediately on the back of the camera I could see that the focusing was superb, things were looking good. I took about 3000 photos during the day and transferred them all to my office PC as soon as I got home.
I was hoping that the focusing would be better but it truly was a vast improvement. Also the sharpness and clarity of the final images was fantastic. Even the shots I took at 200mm surpassed what I was getting with my 70-200 mk1. The unedited shot above was taken with the car doing about 80-90 mph towards me, in this situation the old 100-400 would probably get a 25% hit rate. I achieved an 80% hit rate with the new lens. Over the whole day I probably got about 30% more “keepers” than usual, with the added benefit of being able to shoot further away if I needed.
So yes, I am glad I made the change. Is it better than the 100-400 mk2? I don’t know, but I do know that the extra 200mm is very beneficial to me so even if the 100-400 performed fractionally better I would still go for the Sigma. I am certainly looking forward to using it with the 1DX2 when I get it.
Pro’s and Con’s
Focusing speed Value
Weight (is a metal lens hood really required?)
Expensive CPL’s (105mm)
It is not beige!
I regularly used a Circular Polariser (CPL) to cut the reflections from car windows. Cheap CPL’s are always useless so I tend to go for the more expensive brands, my go-to CPL is usually a Hoya Pro-1 Digital. However good 105mm CPL’s are very rare, the Pro-1 is not available and I only seemed to be able to source Kenko (no thanks) or a Heliopan, a brand that I had never used before. However beggars cannot be choosers so I bought the Heliopan High Transmission CPL at just over £200. It is stunning, beautifully made and very effective, an essential purchase for automotive photographers.
I think I would like to try other Sigma kit now.
I hope you enjoyed reading this review and you find it helpful. A copy of this review is also available on my Facebook page.
AUTOGRAPHIC :: Signature Automotive Photography by Lee Marshall
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