Eric’s Note: We were given a Kawa Pro Strap for free to review for the blog. A.G. DeMesa, a talented photographer and writer based in Manila writes his thoughts about the strap in the review below. Expect more stuff coming from him soon ;)
A.G. DeMesa: A strap is what physically attaches a photographer to his camera when not using his hands. It lets the photographer carry the camera and take it to places where he needs to. Therefore it is important for a strap to strike the perfect balance of comfort, robustness, and durability. In addition, speed is also a factor in street photography wherein we clock long hours in the blistering sun anticipating that photo. There are many makes and models that are available in the market that fulfill the criteria but I’m pretty sure none of them is as beautiful as a Kawa pro gear strap.
About the Strap
The Kawa Pro Gear Strap is a handmade, sling type, fine leather strap coming off a successful kick-starter campaign by John Fick. A fashion photographer by trade, John wanted to have a strap that will strike the balance of comfort and style. After a series of studies and tests, John was able to find all the materials he needed and a skilled leather craftsman in his birthplace in Cebu, Philippines. Their collaboration is the result of the strap we are reviewing today.
The strap is made of genuine cow hide leather and fine materials that give it a unique appearance.
It has 2 inch shoulder pad with a felt type fabric at the other side so that the strap won’t easily slip on your shoulder. The pad also has a very subtle print of the Kawa logo and name.
O-rings connect the shoulder pad to the main strap. The main strap has an adjuster that works similar to other straps in the market. There is also a small strip of leather locked with a rivet attached to the main strap. The rivets, O-rings, and adjuster all are made of metal.
The camera attaches through the tripod screw mount. The mount is made of metal with a rubber cushion so that the mount won’t scratch the camera. The mount also comes with a locking system so that the camera won’t swing when it is on your side. They claim that the mount and the strap can support up to 195 kilos which is absurdly more than enough for street use.
Things I like
I adjusted it to my height (6 ft) with some slack left to it which makes me believe that the strap can accommodate those who are taller than me.
To test the comfort of the strap, I decided to wear and not remove the strap in my right shoulder for 12 hours straight. I felt the O-rings pressing just bellow my collar bone but I eventually got used to it’s presence. Speaking of the O-rings, it makes the main strap contour to the body as you swing your strap which is first time I have experienced with Sling type straps. The locking mechanism works as expected and is a great feature to have when I am in the tight spaces such as buses or pedestrian crossings. The metal screw mount works as it should. The metal joints easily rotate the camera when it is on your side or when you are raising the camera to shoot. It can be quite speedy.
The fact that the strap has subtle printing and has a dark shade of brown makes it inconspicuous and ideal for street shooting. It doesn’t draw attention to you, the shooter, as opposed to straps that comes out of the box with the camera with loud colors and bright logos.
But the strap excels the most is with its looks. I have used other sling type straps but none of them really comes close to how good looking this is. As a testament to that, when I was wearing the strap while assisting in a cover shoot, the stylist decided to add my rangefinder and the strap to complete the look of the person we were shooting. I also wore the strap to a few event I attended (because of my day job) and got a few compliments here and there that it doesn’t look like the average camera strap and such.
Things you should note
I also tested the strap in a non street-photography environment mostly (studio shooting). Not ideal with battery grips shooting in portrait orientation. IT makes shooting in portrait flimsy and awkward. You have to re-adjust how you hold the camera if you are going to use this strap with a battery grip. I do think it isn’t a deal breaker though.
I tested it the camera with my heaviest gear. A Sony A77 16-50/SAM and battery grip (2 batteries loaded), and a Flash. The strap can manage it but you will still feel the weight of the camera on your shoulder. Although I doubt street photographers would want that weight with them while shooting on the streets anyway.
If you put it on your right shoulder and attached a camera with the tripod thread that is not in the center, it makes it a bit awkard but it can be handled properly.
The Price is around $149 (USD). There is also an option to have a custom print of your name or logo on the strap for an additional $30 (USD). It is expensive compared to non-leather straps but you will certainly know and feel that it was used to make sure the strap is top quality. They also ship worldwide.
Perfect for Street Style Fashion Photographers (Ex. Scott Schumann or Bill Cunningham) since you will look as fashionable as your subjects. I think blending with your environment/subjects you are shooting will make it easier for you to be invisible and not intimidate your subjects.
Looks great if you have film cameras and vintage designed cameras (Fuji X series, Nikon DF, Olympus PEN)
I’d think twice bringing this to the mountains for a hiking trip (although it is certainly possible to use it for that) but I think it is great for shooting the streets or in a controlled environment such as a studio.
I think the most important thing about a strap is that you can trust it. Even if the strap’s selling point is its looks, I this one functions well to handle your camera. A good mix of comfort, style, and durability is achieved which I think justifies the price it commands. Those who love sling type straps should definitely look into this one.
For more photos of the strap visit their instagram page.
As of the time of writing, Kawa’s Website is still under construction which will be up in a week or so http://www.kawaprogear.com/. I recommend contacting them through their facebook page or you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org