Review: The Little Strap That Could (Domke 1″ Gripper w/ Swivel)

Charlene gear 4 Comments

(Originally published on Kage Collective.)

The Domke 1″ Gripper Strap with Swivel once saved me.

In 2013, not long after arriving in Mexico City, I’d made the mistake of getting into the Metrobus – as the name suggests, a rapid transit system on wheels instead of rails – at rush hour.

It was packed. I’d sardined into the bus with everyone else at the station, back against the doors, with both shoulder bag and camera (the good old X-Pro1) slung across my body to make sure they stayed with me. Arriving at the next station, the doors opened to disgorge the flood of departing bodies and take in a fresh wave of incoming ones. As they were closing, a guy who had been fighting his way to get out darted past, catching me full in a shoulder as he exited.

I started to tip over onto the platform, yelping.

A couple of arms shot out to help. One of them was grabbing for my shoulder but missed and caught the camera strap instead. It held and hauled, stopping my fall in its tracks.

“#^#&*^%#&^%&*” I’d thought as the doors closed where my neck had been before, half suspended by the strap and the good Samaritan hanging on to it. “It’s going to snap.”

But it didn’t. Camera, strap and I were still attached to one another.

Tough strap for a tough camera


A few people have come across my beat up old X-Pro1 and read about the inadvertent torture testing it went through in the years I fell over all the time. I never mentioned the strap I used with it, that I still use today.

I bought this Domke Gripper strap in 2011, a year before I threw my lot in with Fuji and got the X-Pro1. So it started out attached to a Nikon.

Price

In 2011, it cost AUD $23, which included shipping. The price hasn’t gone up by much, so it’s still incredible value for money.

Construction

I’ve always looked for straps that were tough and grippy without being bulky or flashy. I owned a couple of Domke bags at the time for all my working gear, and loved their unassuming, utilitarian design as much as their bomb-proof robustness. Domke camera straps are made the same way.

Webbing and Swivels: The webbing is made of specially woven strong-as-hell fibre, and its swivels, tougher-than-nail metal. It has borne the weight of an average sized falling human, and is still slinging.

Non-slip: It’s slipperier now on smooth fabric, as the non-slip bits have worn over 5 years of use, but one of the things I really liked about this strap when I first got it, was how it was grippy without being sticky. On the underside of the strap, two rows of rubbery non-slip material are woven into the main webbing material, so it sat on my shoulder no matter what I wore, yet didn’t pull at my clothing when I lifted the camera to shoot.

The swivel factor: Brilliant. This just does away with tangling. As a bonus, the main webbing can be removed from the camera during video filming to lessen bulk and flap factor, and the harness clipped to tripods / shoulder rigs for a little extra security.

Length: This is a strap long enough to hang from a tall person’s shoulder. I wear it at maximum length so that the camera hangs within easy reach of my hand while walking, and so I can sling it across my body out of the way like a shoulder bag when I cycle / climb rocks / do stuff that requires both hands. It’s also very handy for winding around my wrist when I’m actively shooting.

The 1″ strap suits X-series cameras much better than it does the bulkier DSLRs. This single strap has been on every camera body I’ve used since 2011, including all of the X-series bodies: X-Pro1, X-E2, X-T1, X-T10, and now the X-Pro2.

Conclusion

Left: photo by Flemming Bo Jensen | Right: special camera suspension by Flemming Bo Jensen

It is simply designed, well made and discreet. Like the X-Pro2 it is now attached to, I forget it’s there when I’m working as it stays out of the way. I value these qualities in my equipment, so for me, the Domke Gripper with swivel, is still the perfect camera strap.

Comments 4

  1. Good write up, looks like a strap worth investigating.
    I love seeing/reading about your faithful, battered, X-Pro1. To me, this is how a loved and well used camera should look. A bit like us really, after a life of ‘heavy use’, bent and battered by still working and getting the job done 🙂

    Thanks for another great post.

    Roger C

    1. Post
      Author

      It’s a tough strap for sure, Roger. Had it for 5 years and it finally frayed a couple of months ago so I had to change it over… That was a sad day. I’m with you on bent and battered as the years go by. My XPro2 is going the same way real quick

  2. I got my first Domke product in 1988. I still have it. An F/2 shoulder bag which was ubiquitous in the photography world at the time, especially the press photography world. Mine is brown, has a broken pen ink stain on the back pocket, but that bag has seen more of my photographic time than any bag I’ve ever owned. It would hold two bodies, four lenses, strobe, power pack, notepad, batteries, extras.(Standard press kit at the time.) The bag would eventually wear but only the strap which would slowly start to unravel. Walking into any newsroom in the country you would see row upon row of these babies. Same for the strap. I’ve been using those for twenty seven years. They don’t seem to ever wear out. The only thing they aren’t is hip. They are inexpensive, non-flashy, not leather and don’t come with their own IG feed. They just work.

    1. Post
      Author

      I used to have a Domke F7, a life ago (there’s a post somewhere on this site but I’m too lazy to look it up). Great bag. Kicked it around on weekend jobs for a year, then sold it for pretty much what I bought it for. If I had to cart lots of gear around, I’d go back to it in a flash. Mine would have its own Instagram account though, with puppies included. Everyone loves a puppy.

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