Edit: 11.24.14 – I’ve added new behind-the-scenes images of me wearing the MoneyMaker to the main body of this review.
We photographers can be a very obsessive gear-intensive group. We’ll gladly get into fights about what bags are good or what cameras are best or what this-and-that will fill the hole that we didn’t know existed. We photographers also can’t own just one of something – bags, straps, things, things, THINGS! We, as a group, always seem to never be happy with what we have and have to have more, More, MORE!
I used to be obsessed with camera bags – until I got to a point where I picked up some Think Tank bags and suddenly they filled that emptiness I kept feeling when I bought other bags before them. So with my bag addiction pretty much done, that really only left one more add-on that I’ve been doing over and over and over through the years: the camera strap.
Most shooters, when you start talking about camera straps, instantly agree that it’s impossible to be happy with the basic camera strap that is included with current DSLR cameras. It gets the job done, sure, but it’s uncomfortable, it puts lots of stress on the neck, and most people don’t want camera straps that have the camera brand or model sewn right on the strap. It screams “STEAL ME!” when in large groups.
So over the years I’ve tried straps by Crumpler, Kata, UP-Strap, and a bunch of others. Most recently and for the last few years I’ve been using a Black Rapid R-Strap. R-Straps are sling-style straps that you wear over your shoulder very much like a messenger bag. Those take the weight off of your neck and places the weight on your shoulder. They aren’t bad, and I had my R-Strap for a long time, but I was always looking for something else. I always felt there was something more – something a little more elegant and refined. Something a little more attuned to my personal style.
The MoneyMaker is a leather buckle-style camera harness that can hold two camera bodies that fall at your sides. You put it on as you would a vest, with the weight falling evenly on your shoulders and back and taking the stress off of your neck. The buckles of the strap crisscross on your back. This is what gumshoes wore in the 1930’s. This is Mike Hammer, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Micky Spillane, “I-knew-she-was-trouble-the-second-she-walked-into-my-joint” kinda cool. Leather and buckles and brass and vintage and style.
The strap that I purchased was the Bridle Chestnut Leather strap. This strap runs a retail price of $200, which is a pretty serious investment. There are other straps made out of more fancy leathers like buffalo, bison, and snake, but these straps can cost upwards of $490. I couldn’t allocate that much for the strap, so I started with the Bridle Chestnut which is a nice, heavy, sturdy leather.
To attach the cameras to the strap, you screw the HoldFast accessory clip into the bottom tripod screw of your camera body (or battery grip) and then attach the D-ring . This screw mount has widely been adopted by a plethora of newer “sling” style camera straps, but the HoldFast version features a plastic molded “center” in the screw portion of the clip. When you screw the clip into your tripod screw hole, the plastic in the screw clip “molds” to the inner threads and what HoldFast says “keeps tension in the threading which holds the screw tight in place”. It’s an interesting idea. Once the accessory clip is screwed into the camera, the clip then attaches to a eagle talon-style clip which is part of a leather D-ring buckle that threads through the MoneyMaker straps. These buckles are nice and robust; thick and riveted, they feel nice and safe. The buckles pull the cameras down behind your arms, so that when you are not shooting, they sit behind your arms at rest, rather than exactly at your sides where your arms can bump into them when not in use.
Some people are concerned about the cameras moving about too freely when at rest. This is especially true if you are bending over or leaning over to do something. They creep forwards and might bump into something. But regardless of what kind of strap you use; either a neck strap or a Rapid strap or these – gravity will always fight against you. Then only thing I’ve seen that prevents this is one of those chest-mounted or hip mounted Cotton Carrier units, but those are far too cumbersome and create another whole set of issues when wearing/using it.
As for my experience with the cameras moving forward when leaning over – they kinda do, but nothing that has been a problem. I’m more of a “squatter” when it comes to doing something lower to the ground and less of a “bend over” or “leaner” kind of guy, so I’m not having a lot of instances of the cameras sliding forward. And the D-ring straps that hold the camera at your sides are gorgeous – they slide up and down the leather like butter.
Because I like to feel reinforced with multiple points of contact, I’ve actually created a secondary connection from the camera to the strap. I took an old Kata camera strap and cut the strap and clips off and threaded them into the camera. Then I attach the clip portion onto the leather D-ring clasp of the MoneyMaker. This way, knock on wood, should the accessory clip ever unscrew for some unknown reason, the camera won’t fall to the ground because of the second makeshift clip I’ve created. It’s a bit anal, and it in no way reflects on the craft-work of the MoneyMaker. This is simply for my own piece of mind. It works for my workflow, but I do admit that having that much clip connection at the base of the camera makes it difficult at times to shoot in the vertical portrait position because of all the claps rings underneath. I work with it, but I know others who have seen my setup and shake their heads at it. Different strokes.
The rear of the strap crisscrosses in the back. Both straps are adjustable just like a belt so that you can tighten or loosen as you see fit. If you are only shooting with one camera, you can tighten the strap that goes under your opposite arm to help create a little more balance for shooting with one camera. While there is a pretty even balance when two cameras are attached, tightening up the opposite strap when shooting with only one camera is recommended. Each of the straps also has two D-rings riveted to them. HoldFast has a series of straps and accessories that can attach to these rings. The main usage is a third set of straps that you can purchase to use them to hold a third camera that would hang down in front of you on your chest. I have never ran into an instance where I needed three cameras hanging from my tubby body, so to me that is an accessory feature that I won’t ever use. But if you think you will, you can buy the MoneyMaker in a “three camera” setup (cost is extra).
(above: The camera falls down and slightly behind you. When I dropped my arm in this photo, the camera stays down and behind and my arm doesn’t “bump” into the camera. Good clearance.
The D-rings are also useful for all kinds of extra things. Personally, I have an angled military flashlight that I can slip into the clip and project light forward if I’m shooting as it gets dark and remain hands free. Those little D-rings are pretty handy. You can also order the straps without those D-rings in case you don’t want them for a more streamlined, clean look.
The actual leather itself is a bridled chestnut leather. The straps arrive waxed and oiled and a little on the stiff side. When I first got my MoneyMaker I proceeded to wear it any time I was at my studio – just to wear and slowly break it in. It’s become a little softer over time, and I’m looking forward to years down the road when the leather gets nice and soft and starts to develop it’s own unique look and feel. This is truly the first camera strap that will get better with age. Just remember to care for the leather and oil it up every so often so that it doesn’t dry and crack.
I hardly ever use a tripod. I don’t use one when I’m shooting on location, but occasionally I will use one when I’m shooting in the studio. With the MoneyMaker slung on my back recently, I haven’t touched a tripod at all. It feels so intuitive to just let the camera drop to my side and behind my arms when I’m not shooting and talking with the client or moving stuff around.
Customer service has been top notch. I’ve emailed Matthew, owner of HoldFast a few times over the last few months about a few things including advice for branding my strap with my own custom business logo leather stamp, and he’s been fast to respond and offer advice. Top notch.
Enough with all the blabbing. How does it WORK?
Over the last few months I’ve assisted a wedding photographer and I’ve shot multiple events where I had two cameras attached to the MoneyMaker. I’ve also had shoots in studio and on location where I’m just using one camera. In the instances where I’ve been slinging two cameras, it has been phenomenal. The very first time I used the two-camera setup was shooting over 8 hours at a wedding, and I did experience a tiny bit of back pain, but I think that was because my body was trying to get used to this new way of weight displacement. After that, everything has been smooth as silk. I’ve been able to grab one camera and then the other and it’s been so smooth. You can just feel how smooth it is when the metal D-ring slides up and down the leather. I can’t explain it. It just feels like butter. Or melty chocolate. I dunno, I’m a fat guy, so I like to eat creamy things. Enter your own butter-substitute simile or metaphor. When only shooting with one camera body, the other D-ring clasp can attach itself to the D-ring so that it isn’t hanging down at your side. It’s great.
There have been a few instances where I’m trying to shoot vertically with the camera that would hang on my left side. In those instances I found it very difficult to angle the camera properly in a vertical format with the amount of length that the accompanying D-ring strap has. It simply isn’t long enough. However, HoldFast does make what they call the Portrait Slider; which is a slightly longer (about two inches) strap that slides on the collar mount. I picked one of those up for about $22 and it works perfectly. HoldFast states “These are not included as stock to the MoneyMaker since the design of the original MoneyMaker slider is ideal for speedy transitions between cameras and a more snug fit to the body, this however provides a secure and longer slider with greater length that is ideal for shooting in portrait mode.” It’s a little extra out of the pocket, but it corrects the problem. But I’d still like to see at least one offered optionally when ordering the $200-and-up camera strap.
The other element to this system is it’s style. My “fashion” or “style” (if you can call it that) has always been slightly retro. I’ve always been one pair of suspenders away from being some 1930’s Irish dock worker or hired Irish muscle (I’m a lover, not a fighter!) The very first time I saw this strap, I knew I had to have one on my body. All the pieces just fell into place. Firstly, it’s American made leather. Leather is timeless and forever. It defines style. It oozes style. It’s form and function rolled into one. We’ve used leather for a bajillion years because it’s robust and sturdy and strong and supple and comfortable and because it looks amazing. This strap is the perfect marriage of style and art and utilitarianism all wrapped up in one. Going to shoot a wedding? Put this on and make yourself more dapper. It’s dressy without it even trying. Let’s see your ballistic-nylon-Call-of-Duty Rapid Strap do that.
This isn’t the first leather product I’ve owned and used; I have a gorgeous leather satchel bag that I use as my daily man purse and that doubles as my weekend grab-and-go Hasselblad kit bag, and from watch straps to belts to coats, I decorate myself in leather quite often. But this is the first time I’ve ever had a camera strap that makes me excited. Because it reaches back into the past for it’s design. It’s the kind of strap that all the other straps would see in a bar and go nowhere near it because they know if they irritated it it would just turn around and whip their asses to the curb. This strap is John Wayne. It’s Steve McQueen. It’s Clint Eastwood when all other camera straps are too busy trying to be the latest Tom Clancy movie.
Now, granted, 200 bucks is kinda pricey for what is essentially two belts riveted together. But it’s made right here by hand in the USA, and it really does work. It feels robust and sturdy and it has made something as small as wearing a camera strap feel important again. Someday I’d love to get one of the nicer straps, like the American Bison (you reading this, HoldFast? Send me one and I’ll sing it’s praises till the end-of-times) but, like the Think Tank camera bags I have, I think I’ve finally found the camera strap that will end my cycle of looking for camera straps. And the fact that this thing will only get nicer and more comfortable over time only reinforces why it is leagues above anything else out there.
The other straps offer state-of-the-art, up-to-the-minute fabrics and nylon and webbing. The MoneyMaker by HoldFast offers history, lineage, blood, sweat, tears, and good old fashioned hard working leather to show the rest of them how it’s really done.
I can’t recommend this strap enough. Save your pennies and pick one up. Browse the HoldFast website and tell them I sent you.
EDIT: (06.21.14) I’m about 9 months in now on my MoneyMaker and just wanted to update that this strap has only gotten better with time. The leather is starting to get nice and soft, and I’ve found that my small Domke F-5XB bag can clip on to the strap when I’m rocking one camera. The Domke fits one extra lens and my viewing loupe, so it is a perfect size for when I want to just walk around with the camera and two lenses. Perfect fit. I love this strap.
EDIT: (11.24.14) – Matt sent me some of the new shackles/clips that he is now using on the MoneyMaker. These shackles are modified versions of what sailors use on boats. He sent me one of the regular sliders and one of the portrait sliders. These new sliders also have a 2nd point of connection, similar to the ones I ramshackled together and had been using (as seen in some pictures above). The shackles themselves are absolutely perfect. The tension spring holds these shackles good and tight. I don’t see how these shackles would *ever* disengage. Paired with the new second point of connection, and your cameras won’t be going anywhere at all. Top notch improvement. I’m really glad the MoneyMakers have moved over to these new shackles. (image below)
ALSO: Check out how I branded the MoneyMaker with my own custom leather stamp. Good stuff!
*This has NOT been a paid advertisement or paid endorsement. This review is based solely on the thoughts and experiences by me. As a freelance self-employed photographer, every penny I spend for my business has to be well thought out. After lots of researching about the MoneyMaker I spent my hard-earned cash for it. I hope this review will help others, like myself, who are looking for high quality items that will last a long long time. Thank you to Jeff Borkowski of coSeedPhoto for these behind-the-scenes shots of me working with the MoneyMaker. Go visit him. Admire his work.