Jun 202013
 

Lupico_130612_DSC01350


Are you happy with the strap that came with your camera? Whenever I get a new camera I never seem to be. These often underestimated accessories tend to be either too small, too difficult to put on and off, feel uncomfortable around your neck or simply look horrid. I tried to remidy this by buying third party straps and have gone through several types and makes. Recently I got some nice ones from Lance Camera Straps.

This is a family business based in Virginia, USA, offering fully customizable polyester cord camera straps online. They claim their products are not only stylish and very durable but also very affordable.

 

Safe to carry – durable – customizable

I usually carry my cameras with the strap pulled over neck and one shoulder. But often I use a shoulder bag and only want something to assure myself I won`t be dropping my camera by accident when I pull it out and carry it in hand only. So I like to swap camera straps depending on the specific shooting conditions.

That is why I decided to get a string loop version of both the neck strap and wrist strap cords. This gives me the convenience I need by being able to quickly detach the side clips and put on the second strap whenever I feel like it – switching from neck strap to wrist strap (or the other way round) in seconds.

 

Lupico_130611__DSF2375-2

 

If you feel uncomfortable using detachable plastic clips to secure your gear, you might want to opt for 16mm split rings (rather than string loops) that fit nicely on any camera lug mount – even on very small cameras (e.g. Fuji X20). There also is a new very durable looking metal quick connect version that might be the best of both worlds – fast release and safe to carry.
And secure and durable enough it all seems to be. I have used these straps on several different cameras – entrusting my  heavy  Nikon DSLR and even my new Leica M Typ 240 to these polyester cords. I never had any cause for concern. I believe the clips can withstand a lot of pressure when pulled and with the cords (that are spliced for better durability) you could probably tow a car. For most applications this should be sufficient. Check out the durability test on the company site. It would be nice if they gave some more detailed information on just how much pressure these clips can take though.

The camera straps are also very comfortable to wear. IMO the round cords are much nicer than commonly used flat straps that frequently get caught on clothing or chafe the skin.

I quite like the wrist strap too. But I decided to push the rubber stop ring to the inside of the wrist cord loop because I did not like the cord coming too tight. This way you can choose a fix size of the wrist loop rather than let it pull close. Additional information: I just heard from Lance that the new version of the wrist strap now comes equipped with another O-Ring Strap Bumper on the loop of the strap. This will have solved the problem I encountered with my earlier version.

 

Lupico_130611__DSF2453-3

Wrist strap fits any size and is easily adjustable

 

The straps are available in seven different colors, with even more ring and thread colors to choose from. I opted for flashy red (because I never had one in red before 🙂 ) and the more conservative dark blue cord color. The colors on mine did not fade over time at all. The straps seem to be very resistant to sunlight and generally very robust (no fraying, no odors – absolutely spotless).

Best of all, these straps are customizable not only in color but also in length. I am quite tall, so I chose the neck strap in 61“. Now I can carry my cam closer to the hip and it does not hang from the neck right in front of my chest. The custom sizes come at no extra cost.

 

Affordable

The Lance Camera Straps are quite affordable. They can be had from $24 to $68 and all products come with free standard shipping within the USA (if you order for $30 or more). International customers have to pay an extra $12 for that.

 

Compared to similar products

If you are into round cord straps at all, there are other alternatives of course. I have tried the Artisan Artist ACAM-301 cord camera strap that comes equipped with metal split rings. This is made of very nice woven silk and is very smooth to the touch. Since it was only available in a length of 37“ (approx. 94cm) it did not suit my purposes though. I prefer longer lengths to be able to carry the camera across one shoulder and neck with the cam dangling from the side. The Artisan Artist strap also features a premium price tag (around $189). The Lance neck strap comes in at about a third of the price.

The Street Strap made of black round nylon weave is also a little softer to the touch and a little thinner than the Lance Camera Strap I got – again featuring split rings for more permanent attachment to the camera. Here it is possible to get a triangular ring version, that might be of use for some types of camera. Priced at $79.99 (MSRP) the Street Strap it is a direct competitor. But again, you can not customize length (46“/approx. 117mm size for all) or color.

 

Bottom line

The string loop straps from Lance Camera Straps are thicker than most other straps I have tried, but they are still very comfortable to use. Meanwhile they also have a new line of Classic Non-adjust and Classic Quick Connect straps on offer. These are not spliced and therefore maintain an 8mm cord diameter which makes them thinner than the spliced version I got some time ago.

I prefer the loop version because they are easily detachable but others might like the more sturdy looking split rings. For $2 extra there are O-Ring Strap Bumpers available that protect the camera from split ring to body contact. Why not try one of these straps? I think you won`t be disappointed. The only problem you will face is choosing the colors you like best 🙂 .

Lupico_130611__DSF2406More information available at Lance Camera Straps.

Lupico`s Take
Quality       ★★★★★
Usability       ★★★★★
Price       ★★★★
Recommendation       ★★★★★
May 032013
 

Right from the start let me point out that I am just as nervous when it comes to touching the delicate parts of my treasured camera as anyone else is. And I did not pick the above headline just to catch your attention, I really mean it. Sensor cleaning is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

The trouble is, cameras with interchangeable lenses pick up dust and dirt on the fly. There is not much we can do about that, even if we choose to keep a simple kit lens mounted all the time. Dust and grime will find a way to bug us for sure.

Most ILCs (Interchangeable Lens Cameras) sold today have some sort of auto sensor cleaning built in. Sucking a little air around the sensor or short bursts of sensor vibration might help a little but it will probably not prevent the accumulation of dust, pollen or even the dreaded oil spots in the long run.

Of course you can go to a professional sensor cleaning service and hope for the best. But this can be rather expensive and you will need to find someone you can trust, someone who is skilled and very, very meticulous. Or you can decide to do it yourself – risking a scratched sensor and ruining your precious camera while you are at it. Well, join the club! You will find yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Should you decide to be „brave at heart“ and give it a go, below is a little food for thought.

Some time ago, I had my new Leica M / Typ 240 serviced at Leica in Solms. There, an expert on sensor cleaning gave me a little demonstration on how it can be done quite effectively. Since then, I have felt much more comfortable using well-tried cleaning gear and going through just a few simple steps. I will give you a quick insight into the method I derived from this and what I have adapted to my own liking to use on my Leica M (and all of my other cameras) below.

But please read my disclaimer and note that there are numerous different ways to clean a sensor. My method of cleaning is only one of many. There may be far more effective methods out there. So you better google some more after reading this and make up your own mind on how it is done the best.

Disclaimer: The described sensor cleaning method is not officially endorsed by Leica or any other manufacturer. It is purely based on my perception and interpretation of given information and I have adapted this to fit my personal needs. No one ever said this is the way it has to be done, and I do not claim this is how it is done at Leica in general. If you decide to clean the sensor yourself, this is at your own risk, I will take no liability for any damages whatsoever. You will need to have sufficient eyesight, good enough mechanical skills and a very sensitive touch. If this does not apply to you, better leave it to the pros. The chemicals or methanol that you might use can be quite hazardous to your health (i.e. toxic) and general safety (i.e. inflammable) if not used or stored correctly. So be cautious in what you do and e.g. follow the instructions given by the respective suppliers. You might want to try all this on an old camera or simply use a piece of glass/mirror or the like – until you feel at home with your new method of sensor cleaning.

If that does not put you off – here are some simple steps and the materials that can be used (based on what I have learned from people who know better than me):

  1. First off, you will need to find a clean work space with minimal air flow and good lighting. I know of some people who set up their cleaning gear in the bathroom because this happens to be the most sterile surroundings they can find (unless it is covered with heavy floor carpet).
  2. Be sure to have a fully charged battery, turn on your camera and put it in sensor cleaning mode. Do not just use „bulb“ setting unless your camera manual specifically says so for use with sensor cleaning.
  3. Inspect the sensor under good lighting e.g. with a loupe that gives at least 5 x magnification. I can recommend the VisibleDust QUASAR sensor loupe. See my detailed review of it.
  4. If it is only loose dust causing the trouble, you could use a good photo blower bulb (e.g. the Rocket Air Blower from Giotto) to see if you can get rid of the problem by simply blowing the dust off the sensor (holding the camera face down). In the worst case this may cause the dust to travel elsewhere inside the camera, or you could accidentally damage the sensor by hitting it with the protruding muzzle of the blower. So this may be a disputable method. Some people like to use simple sterile sensor brushes or the Arctic Butterfly from VisibleDust that can charge its bristles to attract dust like a magnet. But I have not tried this myself (nor is this or the blower used by Leica to my knowledge).

    Giottos Rocket Air Blower

    Giottos Rocket Air Blower

  5. Alternatively or rather additionally you can then use the Pentax Imagesensor Cleaning Kit which contains a simple stick with a sticky gum-like substance on top (to pick up loose particles and grime) as well as a block of cleaning sheets. You basically just stamp off your sensor ever so lightly with the sticky surface and then clean it afterwards by stamping the cleaning sheet. So you stamp a small patch of the sensor and then stamp the sheet and so on…But you must never use the stick to wipe off dirt – or you might damage your sensor by scraping the muck across the surface. You need to follow the instructions for the kit carefully and always avoid touching the end of the stick with your fingers because this would cause contamination and you would then have to clean it thoroughly. For cleaning the sticky tip of the stick you can simply use water plus mild detergent and/or some pure isopropyl alcohol (ordinarily available at pharmacies). Let it dry off after cleaning. Then you are ready to go again.

    Stick it to your sensor!

    Stick it to your sensor!

  6. Repeat step 3 and inspect the sensor. This may be all that is needed to effectively clean it. If after inspection you are still not satisfied or you can make out striation that reminds you of the badly cleaned windscreen of your car go to the next step.
    Sensor Cleaning "Homebrew"

    Sensor Cleaning “Homebrew”

    ECLIPSE Optic Cleaning Fluid

    ECLIPSE Optic Cleaning Fluid

  7. Now it is time for wet cleaning. Choose a sensor cleaning swab of any good make that fits the size of your sensor (e.g. 1.0 for full frame sensors or 1.6 for the usual DSLR crop sensor). I use the ones from VisibleDust. Apply 3-4 drops of cleaning fluid to the tip of the swab and gently wipe the sensor from side to side and and then a second time (using the other clean side of the swab). Be careful not to apply too much pressure. Of course you can use expensive cleaning fluids supplied e.g. by Photographic Solutions (Eclipse) or VisibleDust. If you do, you should look up what solution is best suited for your specific camera make. Some sensors have special coatings that could take damage using the wrong type of fluid. IMO it is not always necessary to use the rather expensive cleaning fluids. What do I do? I simply go to my apothecary and order a mix of one part pure isopropyl alcohol and one part pure acetone. But watch out! Acetone is a very aggressive substance and could damage plastic parts. So do not stumble away from that sensor with your swab! If you do no feel comfortable using acetone at all, you should stick with pure isopropyl alcohol (which is probably used by most Leica technicians working on sensors). All of these substances have to be as pure as can be since you do not want to have any residues left on your sensor after cleaning. Personally, I have used both Eclipse and the cheap chemical stuff and both have done a very good job.

    VisibleDust Vswabs

    VisibleDust Vswabs

  8. After wet cleaning, inspect your sensor once more. If you are not happy with the results, simply repeat the same (step 7) again until you are completely satisfied. But keep in mind to never use the same swab twice. If you want to know exactly how to use these swabs, take a look at the video supplied by VisibleDust.
  9. Should there be any streams or spots left from cleaning with the swabs, try stamping them off again with the Pentax stick. It is a very thorough tool.
  10. Check your sensor again using the loupe and either be happy or cry for help! And don`t blame me if you have ruined your rig. My only remark would be: „I told you so…“ 🙂 . When you have finished your cleaning turn off your sensor cleaning mode and you are ready to go.

Happy sensor cleaning and good luck!

Apr 182013
 

Lupico_130417__DSF2049The VisibleDust QUASAR™ sensor loupe® comes with 7 x magnification and 6 bright LEDs. Just put in the included 2 lithium batteries, switch it on and place it over the lens mount.

Lupico_130416__DSF2026SENSORLUPE6SWIt works pretty well, although a little more magnification would not have harmed. But it is quite sufficient to see all that dirt and dust accumulated on your sensor or DSLR mirror. The sensor loupe comes in a nice plastic case and the mentioned lithium batteries which will last a long time – unless you misuse your loupe to work as a common flash light…

Do we really need a Sensor loupe with integrated light to effectively aid us in cleaning our camera sensors?

Lupico_130417__DSF2055SENSORLUPE X3Well, that may depend on how good of an eyesight you have or on how meticulous you are when it comes to cleaning your sensor. There are not many alternatives that I know of that come equipped with really bright LEDs. Of course you could just take your ordinary cheap loupe that came with your stamp collection, but you would probably need to heavily abuse your desk lamp to shed some light on your sensor.

I highly recommend this device if you treasure your equipment.

Lupico_130417__DSF2044SENSORLUPE X1

The only drawback is a very steep price (around 80,- Euro). But hey, just look at those LEDs… 🙂

Lupico`s Take
Quality       ★★★★
Usability       ★★★★★
Price       ★★☆☆☆
Recommendation       ★★★★

 

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