Harry Benz Camera Straps
Last updated October 19, 2014
This is a full review of the B and Urūshī camera straps by Harry Benz, who's based out of Toronto, Canada. We were lucky enough to be sent one of each type, which we'll take a look at closely here.
The initial impressions are very good. Care was taken, from the custom (yet handmade) packaging - to the straps themselves. Closer inspection of the straps reveals luxurious leather(work) at its finest...
Each strap comes in a cardboard box that is custom-printed by Harry himself. The one for The B is more of a form, listing all of the options selected during the course of your order. The box for the Urūshī is more of an art piece, with imagery of Japan, including a Samurai warrior.
Inside, your strap is nestled on a soft bed of fluffy white. Coiled neatly, the strap has a card (or two in the case of the Urūshī) attached - which reads, "Congratulations! You've got yourself a new strap for your camera. Looks quite smashing. Excellent choice. Now put it to good use and go take some photos." The extra card with the Urūshī strap describes the background and techniques involved, closing with "Treat it nicely and it will last a lifetime." This does not appear to be an exaggeration, either.
The leather used for the straps exclusively is water buffalo - which is one of the most aggressive, toughest-hided creatures in the animal kingdom. It is far superior in quality to cowhide and therefore more expensive. It is stronger, tear-resistant, yet flexible and smooth. It has classic good looks and will break in handsomely with age. Unlike cow leather, water buffalo does not stretch and does not have a fleshy, suede-like underside.
Indeed, the leather of these straps feels unlike any other strap you may have handled. Despite its reassuring thickness, it's amazingly supple... As it breaks in, it will only get softer. The lack of the usual suede underside will also be a new experience for most and really takes it up a notch. These are definitely unique in a vast sea of leather camera straps available.
It is said that when it comes to design, making things complicated or cumbersome is easy. Simplicity, on the other hand, takes effort. Here are some general stats that apply to all of the straps.
One of Harry's biggest pet peeves are those ugly dog-eared protective flaps that most straps (like the Luigi/Leicatime straps) come with, to keep the metal rings from scratching the camera body. Rather than "covering up" the problem, he solved it by designing the connector pieces in a way that makes it impossible for the rings to touch the camera in the first place. The split rings are made of a high quality stainless steel with a tough spring rate; they snap back into place after insertion firmly. They won't work their way out of the camera's strap lugs, certainly. Another pet peeve of his are shoulder pads, which he regards as more of an excuse rather than a solution to a problem.
All straps are 13mm (0.51") wide and have a thickness of about 4mm (5/32") at the point where the strap goes around one's neck. To make for a more elegant look the thickness tapers down on both sides to about 3.2mm (1/8"). This, Harry believes, is the perfect ratio. Each strap is available with one or more options, including length - and are made exclusively to order.
There are no shortcuts used, like rivets or staples and such. Each step is carefully crafted - pieces are glued together and then saddle-stitched by hand. Employing a two-needle saddle-stitch, it won't unravel if a stitch should break - and unlike machine stitching, won't create a neatly-perforated line that can tear under stress. It seems as if these come apart, you'll have bigger problems to worry about first.
The B Strap
The B strap is one design of camera strap available. While it looks like a "basic strap" - the options available make it anything but. As mentioned, you can order it in any custom length that you'd like, and there's an Extended Version available for really long requirements. The first choice you need to make is the color of the strap, which affects some of the options. The B strap is available in black, vintage russet or dark browns. The embossed detail available includes one, two (or no) grooves. You have five options available for stitching color, including black, dark brown, ecru, red or orange. Finally, you can select your trim to be either orange or red - or bypass it altogether.
The Urūshī Strap
The name is a nod to the legendary Japanese artists famous for their skillful lacquer painting technique known as urushi-e. It is handcrafted from the finest, most durable black water buffalo leather and based on the same functional principles as The B strap. The edges are rounded off, cleaned, sanded and burnished to perfection for an elegant smoothness; then they are painted by hand in 5 different steps with a series of special lacquers made particularly for leather: Under normal care conditions it will not crack or peel. The result is gorgeous indeed. Rather than a raw or "heel dressed" black edge, it's smooth, glossy and vibrant in color.
The most traditional color is red, of course... Found on one version of the Urūshī strap. It looks fabulous with Leica cameras - a match made in heaven. Though if you'd prefer, you can instead opt for the Urūshī-kiiro (yellow), Urūshī-midori (green), Urūshī-orenji (orange), Urūshī-pāpuru (purple) or Urūshī-pinku (pink). The color options (and finish) are unlike anything else on the market.
The first thing you notice about either strap, is the simplicity and cleanliness of their designs. These are solid and elegant. Further examination reveals a luxurious leather that we haven't seen on any other strap on the market... As we mentioned earlier, due to the use of water buffalo hide - each side of the strap looks the same and despite its thickness, is soft and supple. They'll only get softer with use. We look forward to breaking in these straps!
The ends that capture the stainless steel split rings (which are truly stainless steel, and not cheap, chromed steel) taper to a thickness which keeps the rings from contacting the camera body. As Harry mentions in his description, this is so much more elegant than the "dog-eared flaps" that you see on most straps... Which never look good to our eye, either. Whereas The B has a longer taper, the one on the Urūshī is much shorter. The hand stitching is super clean and very robust. Upon close examination, you can see the double-stitching employed. We expect this level of care and craftsmanship should keep anything from fraying or coming apart in its (or your) lifetime.
The B strap we received was outfitted with double grooves, orange trim and stitching - and it looks divine. The orange could actually be mistaken for red at first glance; it's a lighter shade than the actual red. So depending on how you wish to coordinate with the camera, either option would be great.
The Urūshī strap on the other hand, came in the classic red color. It too, is simply gorgeous. The length of the strap edges on both sides is finished by hand, using five coats of lacquer. It is bright, glossy and fully makes a statement. Set against the red dot Leica logo, and perhaps a half case with red stitching (as available from Arte di Mano, for example) and red soft release (as available from Match Technical)... You have one seriously color-coordinated beauty.
In choosing either strap, you can't go wrong. With the customization options available, you can truly make it your own - from quiet and subdued ("stealth") to colorful and flashy.
If you're looking for a superior, high quality leather strap for your camera... We highly recommend Harry Benz camera straps!
You can pick up your own, custom strap at the Harry Benz Shop and the straps range from $120 CAD ($107 USD) to about $180 CAD ($160 USD), depending on model and options.