Monday, August 6, 2012

Sliding camera shoulder strap for under $8

I've been looking at the R-Strap and C-Loop strap mount for some time now. I like the idea of both but can't bring myself to spend over $70 for a camera strap with a 1/4 20 screw. I've had a idea on how to make my own for awhile now and today I finally got around to doing it.
I started by heading down to my local Home Depot and going though the fastener isle. I found a few different option so I brought more parts then I ended up using.

This button snap ended up being the key to the whole mechanism.

The snap is the exact size of the inner hole of the large washer and it's height is slightly more than the thickness of the washer. So it made for the perfect spacer. This allows the larger washer that the camera will be attached to spin freely but still have the 1/4 20 screw be tightly fastened.

The inner hole of the button snap is a little less than 1/4 inch so you have to drill out the center with a 1/4 drill bit. It's thin metal so it is easy to drill and could be filed out if a drill isn't available. Here's what the mechanism looks like assembled. Starting from the bottom you have:

  • A 1-1/2 inch outer diameter rubber washer with a 1/4 inch center diameter. $0.40
  • A 1-1/2 inch outer diameter metal washer with a 1/4 inch center diameter. $0.50
  • A snap rivet with the center bored out to 1/4 inch. $0.40
  • A 1-3/4 inch outer diameter metal washer with a 11/16 inch center diameter. $0.60
  • 1/4 20 screw. $0.80 (alen key versi



Next was the 3 fastener types I was going to try out. A alen key, bolt head, and flat head screw.

The three screw all had +/- to using them. The Alen key screw has a large head and low profile, the bold head looked to be the right length already and the flat head wouldn't need special tools to tighten/lossen. I wasn't able to fine all the fasteners at a short enough size so 2 had to be cut down. To do this I 1st I took one of the longer bold head screws and threaded it into the camera as far as it would go, then put a piece of tape around it do show the depth of the camera mount when the screw is removed.

Then I assembled the mechanism with the flat head and alen head screws and used this to mark the cut points.

I used a Dremel with a cut off wheel to do the job, but a hack saw would work also. Just be carful to not damage the starting thread. If you do mangle the threads, go back with a file to straighten them out.

And here's what everything looks like attached to the camera. 
The bolt head can be tightened with any hex wrench, but looks kinda plain.

The flat head screw has the advantage of not needing any tools to tighten/loosen, just some spare change, but protrudes pretty far.

The Alen key screw has the smallest profile of the 3 and if you have ever bought any furniture from IKEA you are sure to have one of these alen keys around you can throw into your camera bag. I ended up going with this one.

Next step is attaching the shoulder strap to the mount. First mark off 2 spots to drill 1/8 inch holes, they should be near the edge of the washer but not too close.

After drilling the wholes make sure to de-bur them. Rough edges in the hole could wear away and the string/ropes used to attach the camera. You can do this by using a larger drill bit to put a small bevel on each side of the holes, or use a small round file the smooth the holes. I also slightly bent up wash side of the washer to raise the holes away from the camera body.

Now you have to choose what type of string you want to hang your camera by. It needs to be strong as it will be the only thing keeping your camera from falling to the ground. For example you could use a shoe lace. Strong yet soft with all kinds of colours to pick from.

Being paranoid myself I ended up going with something a little stronger and more industrial looking. 

Whatever you end up choosing, make a loop about 6 inches long and attach it to the holes in the washer. I chose to also make a loop at the end of the rope for 2 reasons. It will stop the camera from sliding up/down the rope and more importantly it gives a safety redundancy. In creating the loop, if one of the connections to the washer should break, the loop will keep it attached to the other side and not have the camera just slip off.

If you also go with the aircraft cable, one thing to watch out for is the end of the cable fraying and stabbing you when you brush against them. To stop this I soldered the ends after crimping everything together.

The last piece is to add a clip and attach the mechanism to the camera body. I went with a threaded link so there is no way it could open accidentally open ($1.99). A carabiner would work here too. 

Now we move to the strap part of the project. I happen to already have a camera strap I really like that I received as a free gift from the good people at SmugMug through a promotion. So as long as you have a strap that is thin enough your good to go, if not you'll have to fine one and that might increase the cost of this build. I also picked up a pack of 2 harness rings (2.99). The 1st is used to attach the ends of your camera strap together.

The second ring is looped though the strap so that it can slid up and down your chest. PS, add this ring before attaching the 2 strap ends to the other ring.

And now you just have to attach your threaded link to the ring on the camera strap and your done. Adjust the back buckle on your strap ends to change the hanging height of your camera

Now there are still a few options left to talk about. The reason I added the ring to attach the ends of the camera strap is that I also added a carabiner to attach that ring to my belt or belt loop on my pants. This way the bottom of the camera strap is anchored to my hip and if I lean over to pick something up the camera won't swing forward.

If this isn't a concern for you, you could omit the ring connecting the ends of the camera strap and just use the buckles to attach the ends directly to each other.

That's pretty much it. It should take someone about 1/2 hr to put together with the most complicated part being the drilling of the button snap and washer as long as you can find a screw the proper length.

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