[Update February 7, 2010] Jim Garavuso of Camdapter let me know that the instructions are being rewritten and that if someone orders the ProStrap, it comes with a straw already inserted.
My friend has a hand strap for his Canon EOS 40D. When I saw him shooting with it, I thought it seemed like a good idea. The Canon E1 Hand Strap can only be attached to the BG-E2 vertical grip accessory, which makes for a bulkier, heavier camera. I envisaged primarily using a hand strap for street photography and when I do that, I often remove the vertical grip to make the camera smaller and less intimidating.
Anyway, I was all set to get one of those but I decided to do some research first. I'm glad I did, because I came across the Camdapter Hand Strap System.
The Camdapter consists of two components: an adapter, which attached to your camera and a strap, one end of which attaches to the camera body, the other to the adapter. Why would you want to do that? Well what sold me is that the adapter is attached to the tripod mount under the camera and is an Arca Swiss compatible quick release plate! They also do one that works with Manfrotto. This is convenient: the hand strap can be attached all the time, either directly to the camera body or to the battery/vertical grip; the camera is ready to mount to my tripod; and I can still use the neck strap.
Camdapter is the brainchild of Jim Garavuso and appears to be only sold directly through his website. There are various adapter models available as well as different types of strap (want one in black leather with red stitching and red crystal rivets? They've got that.) I selected the Plus Arca Adapter and went for a conservative Top-Grain ProStrap. Total cost $70 plus shipping. Wow that's expensive you might say! Well sure, it is a "system" so it is bound to be expensive... But seriously, the Canon strap is 25 bucks from B&H and my Acratech Arca-Swiss compatible QR plate is 40 bucks, so they're pretty close (the Arca-Swiss ones are about $50.) Note that shipping was lightning fast: I ordered on the 18th and it arrived today (3 days.)
It arrived in a small Priority Mail envelope and it travelled well. You will see that you get the adapter, an allen key (wrench), the strap and some instructions.
The construction quality is high. The plate is similar to the Acratech and the strap is good quality leather. Here's a picture showing the Acratech plate on the left and the Camdapter adapter on the right:
The instructions are where things get interesting. I read them a couple of times and found myself looking around the kitchen for a drinking straw and some tape. Yes, these are required tools for installing the strap. In fact, some other things may be needed too. Here's the deal: you need to pull the webbing out of the strap so that you can thread it around one of the lugs on the adapter. Once you've got the webbing out, it is a devil to get back in. The idea is to push a straw through the hole in the strap and then attach the webbing to the straw with some sticky tape. While nice in theory, this approach didn't work for me. First of all, I was confused because the instructions make no mention of the adapter. They just show a Canon EOS 1Ds that has a strap lug on the bottom, which obviates the need for the adapter. Furthermore, when I attempted to line up the adapter plate with the tripod mount thread on the bottom of the camera, the strap was on the left side of the camera (i.e. the wrong side.) So after scratching my head for a few minutes, I got stuck in and pulled the webbing out of the strap and off the adapter, turned adapter around and rethreaded the webbing. I mounted the adapter to the camera (the lip of the Plus version of the adapter really makes a difference in terms of ease of alignment) and tightened the allen screw.
Where I came unstuck was threading the webbing back through the strap. Neither of the two types of drinking straws I located were sturdy enough to make it through the strap without bending. I looked in vain for a wooden barbecue skewer (helpfully suggested by the instructions), but didn't have one. I did, however, have the metal probe of a digital meat thermometer, which just so happened to fit inside the straw thereby giving it enough rigidity to make it through the strap. Unfortunately, the straw got squished at the end of the strap and wouldn't come out but a pair of needlenose pliers soon fixed that. With the straw firmly inside the strap and both its ends visible, I removed the meat thermometer probe and squeezed the webbing so that it would fit in the end of the straw. I wrapped some tape around it and was able to pull it through. Perhaps Jim could consider supplying some kind of flat wooden or plastic stick or even some metal wire with the strap to make this process a little easier (especially if you don't have a straw or wooden skewer handy.)
I threaded the webbing through the lug at the top of the camera near the shutter release and adjusted the length so that it was a good fit for my hand. Finally, I threaded the end of the webbing through the sliplock and tightened it all up. You can see the results for yourself:
A very useful and well designed aspect of the Camdapter system is that both the CF card and the battery door are accessible with the strap installed. I can't think that a strap that requires removal to replace a battery or card would even be worthwhile, yet some suffer from this fatal design flaw.
And here it is mounted to my Acratech GP ballhead, sitting a top a Manfrotto tripod:
Finally, with the vertical grip attached, the Camdapter system works just as well. You'll see the neck strap attached to the second lug of the Camdapter adapter and the lug on the left side of the camera body:
So far I'm impressed. I took some test shots to see how the camera handled, and it felt very solid without being uncomfortable and all the controls within easy reach. Obviously the proof will be once I've taken it out to do some real shoots.