I wasn’t really hyperbolizing when I said that the Leica 14312 is the best camera strap in the world. I own one for each of my Leica bodies and swap them onto my other rangefinders and SLR’s too.
So when Mark from Due North Leather Goods in Canada reached out to me about test-driving one of his handcrafted, custom leather camera straps, I figured he either hadn’t read my blog or was up for a challenge!
Whichever it was, I didn’t mention it so as not to jinx this great opportunity, and quickly accepted his kind offer. Because hey, what shooter doesn’t appreciate a nice, leather camera strap?
The cognac brown Racer Strap with red stitching that Mark made for me is different from the other straps that I use, which, I thought were simple and smart. But the Due North Racer is even simpler and smarter.
Due North straps come in a wide range of lengths, a variety of stylish colors and are fitted with quality hardware for different purposes. You can add a touch of style by specifying the color of leather and even the color of stitching used to make your strap.
The Racer is perhaps the most basic neckstrap that Due North offers. It consists only of a thin leather strap with hand-sewn loops on either end which securely hold basic metal split-ring clips. Also included is a pair of matching leather o-rings to protect your camera’s finish – a feature with many previous iterations by other manufacturers, but none quite this clever and attractive.
No buckles. No snaps. No b.s.
There’s nothing inferior looking or feeling about the assembly. It has the kind of refreshing and trustworthy simplicity that is consistent with a nice manual and metal camera.
Importantly, each Due North neck strap is cut to the customer’s desired length. So there is no need to adjust the strap once you receive it, or ever again. Just install it and go.
Speaking of installation, one of the reasons I enjoy the Leica 14312 is its easily removed and installed anchor rings. The Due North is a back-to-basics rig though. You won’t be installing and removing it from your camera frequently. The intention is to put it on and leave it on. So there’s a bit of a commitment to this strap. It’s not adjustable and it isn’t quickly removed. The trade-off is that there are fewer points of potential failure and the strap is very compact, light weight and doesn’t demand any attention in use.
They say that a good camera gets out of the photographer’s way. Well, the Due North Strap also gets out of the way!
MATERIALS & CONSTRUCTION
Admittedly, I am not well-versed on various types of leather, types of stitching or metal clips that are used in camera strap manufacturing. The Due North strap is described to be made from “7-8oz full grain leather.” With a little bit of research, I found that full grain leather is actually the most durable. It is prized for its unique surface qualities that age well in appearance. Full grain leather is tough and hard wearing so it requires skill and good tooling to shape but can last for a very long time.
I’ve been carrying my 1930 Leica III with the Due North Racer Neckstrap for about a week now and it really feels and looks at home on my camera. The cognac color is in keeping with early fitted camera cases and straps. It’s construction is probably some order finer because of, if for no other reason, the tight, accurate stitch-work.
Because the Due North Racer does not feature any buckles and because the strap is very soft and pliable, I have found that it wraps around my camera easily without risk of scratching the finish or exterior glass, while maintaining a compact profile. This is good for stowing the camera in my bag or anywhere when not in use.
Also thanks to its small profile and softness, I have found that the Due North is comfortable in my right palm when taking a photo too, something that I’ve struggled with with other neck straps that hold my camera perfectly well but hinder its actual use. The lack of hardware also keeps weight at a minimum, which seems to be another factor in its comfort.
If you’re new to rangefinders, and are used to wider straps that are common on larger SLR’s, you will also find that the thin width of the Due North strap helps prevent finder blockage. In fact, the Due North Racer is very similar to the original Leica straps of the 1930’s through 60’s that lack finish protection and use metal rivots instead of stitching.
Truth be told, while I still think that the German nylon and plastic Leica 14312 is the best GENERAL camera strap in the world, and pairs well with my M6 TTL and other more modern cameras, I don’t think I’ll ever put it back on my 1930 again.
The Canadian Due North simply looks and feels right for my old Leica. It seems to share the same gestalt of quality components and careful precision that I admire in the camera. In terms of style and enjoyment of use, this strap is a perfect compliment to my favorite little rangefinder.
I’m so thankful that Mark let me test out one of his straps because I was completely happy with the Leica strap and never would have thought to change it out otherwise. My only problem now, is what color scheme I should go with for my second Due North Racer neck strap! Maybe I’ll slide the cognac and red over to my chrome 1947 Leica and go with black on black for the 1930?
What do you think?
Which strap would you choose for your favorite camera? Check out the Racer and other fine neck and wrist straps at Due North Leather Goods.
Thanks for reading and happy shooting!
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February 2021 UPDATE: Well, I’ve been feeling a bit conflicted since I typed up this review and want to get my thoughts off my chest. I’d feel a bit fraudulent if I didn’t. When Mark offered to send me a quality leather strap, free of charge, I was excited. Not only to get a cool, free strap, but also because I felt like I had earned it in a way that I don’t usually earn camera equipment – via my reputation as a blogger. What I didn’t include in my review was that I had accidently provided the wrong length to Mark. Consequently, the strap that he made for me was slightly too short. For a couple months, I wanted to enjoy the strap and make it work. I was happy with its quality and happy with the work I’d done to earn such a fine item. I wanted to attach yet another great memory to my 1930 Leica. But the length of the Due North strap was really bugging me. I talked to Mark about returning it and buying a correct length strap but I never followed through with it. I chose not to buy a replacement because, to be perfectly honest, my income has been impacted by COVID due to lack of photo work. And of course, I don’t actually need another camera strap. Particularly one that costs twice as much as the Leica ones that I usually use and am happy with. I also can’t help but feel that paying twice as much money for a leather strap than a standard, nylon one is a bit cosmetic and superficial – it won’t help my photography in any way as well will it likely fail before a nylon strap. So in conclusion, I’m going to stick with my cheap nylon Leica straps. And while I still recommend Due North leather straps for those looking for a fashionable leather strap, I even more so recommend checking the measurement that you give them very thoroughly before ordering one of these hand-crafted beauties!