Last updated on July 3, 2013
Today we take a look at an interesting new product to come from the mind of Adrian Floryszczak, based out of Germany. Like Adrian, many of us prefer to have our camera more close at hand, ready to use - but don't care for neck straps so much. Some folks prefer wrist straps or (camera) bags for this reason. There's another category and until now, unseen for the Leica M format... The belt "holster." Thus the Scarabaeus was born.
The packaging for the Scarabaeus is purpose-built specifically for the product. The design and execution are excellent. Upon opening the small black cardboard box, you're presented with all the components of the Scarabaeus - laid out and held in position through the clever use of cardboard flaps, cut from the insert. Simple, elegant and well done.
The Scarabaeus consists of primarily the belt holster itself, and comes with a camera adapter plate with a flat (countersunk) screw to attach it with, as well as a regular round head screw and an allen (hex) wrench that works with both. The core of the Scarabaeus itself is anodized aluminum, but the outer parts (belt loop, frame, hinge, etc.) as well as the camera base plate and screws are all stainless steel. It is 63mm x 43mm in size, 17mm thick and weighs 140g. On the inside of the holster itself are two pieces of snakeskin-patterned leather to protect the camera body. The components are cleanly machined and assembled perfectly. Both "Scarabaeus" as well as "Made in Germany" appear on the stainless steel, and look amazing - because It's not done with ink, rather with a laser, and thus appears shiny. In fact, even the anodized aluminum core has a different finish; making for a multi-layered, textured metallic work of art. This is really well done.
Setup and Use
The small adapter plate attaches to the bottom of your camera body with a dedicated flat (countersunk) screw. The plate is somewhat optional as it serves to relocate the locking pin (from which the camera hangs in the holster)... If you have an M camera with a centrally located tripod bung you'll want to use it (such as is the case with digital Ms). If you'd rather, and your tripod bung is located towards the end of the camera (such as is the case with film Ms or Zeiss Ikon, for example) there's also a regular round head screw provided. Whichever you choose, use the provided allen (hex) wrench to tighten the screw down securely. You don't want it coming loose, nor have the plate rotate if you're using that. Other than slipping the Scarabaeus itself on your belt next, that's the extent of any preparation. The fit on your belt is quite secure. While it could conceivably come loose, we don't see this as very likely or easy - removing it requires a fairly deliberate effort.
The camera is held within the holster by means of a lug - which either is (if using the screw alone) or resembles a round head screw (if using the base plate). You must slide up a safety/locking pin to insert and release the camera from the holster. This prevents the camera from accidentally coming out of the holster... When holstering your camera, it slides in easily and effortlessly. Using gravity to do the work, the angled capture slot snugs your camera up against the leather patches as it drops into place. Once the safety pin is lowered into place, the camera itself feels quite secure (though it remains somewhat loose, or floating). The action itself is smooth and easy - we found using the left hand to cradle the camera and the right to actuate the safety the most natural.
Using it the other way around or if you grab the end of the camera, in a shooting-ready grasp with your right hand, actuating the safety will be difficult at best and the Scarabaeus will have a bit of a tendency to pull up on the belt and making removal impossible. Likewise for holstering if you attempt to slide the safety pin up to put the camera back... You'll want to start sliding the lug into the holster before/as you actuate it, which will serve to hold the Scarabaeus vertical. If you place the holster closer to a belt loop, this will help to mitigate the issue, plus the tension of the detent will likely "break in" with wear of use a bit as well.
Using either the base plate or the screw alone precludes you from using a tripod or half case, obviously - but also makes placing the camera down flat (like on a table) impossible. Not a big issue unless you're a big fan of using the self timer to get yourself in the shot - or resting the camera baseplate against something in low light conditions. Using a neck strap may also prove a little troublesome as it will get in your way and hang down to your knee when the camera is holstered. Using a wrist strap is probably a more practical solution (and recommended) here. Another thing worth noting is that there are some pointed edges on the straight sections and corners which are a little worrying. Not so much pointed in that you'll get injured or anything like that, just not as smooth or radiused as we'd prefer... And could potentially damage the finish on your gear or scratch your LCD if you're not paying attention. To be fair though, these areas are on the "outside" area of where your camera will be when holstering - so chance of contact is slim. In any event, to use the Scarabaeus, you'll need to watch what you're doing as it's not an eyes-closed solution.
In practice and actual use of the Scarabaeus during regular shooting, it proved to be quite a nice way to carry the camera. Utilizing your belt to distribute the load means no weight on your neck or shoulder and the camera being held snug against your body means nothing loose and bouncing around... Or potentially swinging around and slamming into anything, sticking out or banging into things. To use the Scarabaeus, you'll need to place it more towards the front (or back) than at your side. This position also serves to be more protective than at your side (which isn't really an option anyway) as you'd hit your arm on it constantly. You do have the option of placing it on either the left or right of center also, and which you choose is strictly a matter of preference.
The Scarabaeus is a well made product, comprised of high quality materials. The design is artistic, modern and industrial. The feel, solid and heavy. There are some very smart design ideas in its execution, such as the angled slot that captures the locking pin... It uses gravity to snug the camera up against you. Likewise, the hinged design which lets you collapse the holster for when you're shooting and/or want it out of the way. It makes the outward-facing profile roughly 1cm thick, which is comparable to a typical cell phone. This product should last a lifetime, likely wearing in well and getting smoother in action as time passes.
We do have some slight concerns, mostly regarding the top corners of the holster, which are a bit pointed and could lead to damage (scratches) to your gear, especially since it's constructed of metal (and a harder one than brass at that). The lower, outer corner has a large radius as a design element - we'd like to see this extended somewhat to the top, along with more rounded, smoother edges. This would make using the Scarabaeus with your eyes closed (e.g instinctively) more of a possibility. A slightly less positive detent/lock on the safety would also reduce the tendency to pull up on the belt, making for easier holstering (admittedly at the expense of some security) - though with placement near a belt loop and continued use this should ease.
The Scarabaeus might not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's an intriguing new product that stows your camera quickly and easily. You can rest assured that your camera is secure, the load carried effortlessly and with an invigorating new freedom when shooting without a neck strap (consider a wrist strap though, which we recommend). Don't think of it as a quick draw gun holster to shoot from and more of a holstereque method of carrying in between shooting and you'll get the concept immediately. While designed with the Leica M in mind, it can work with a lot of smaller (system, compact and mirrorless) cameras as well - and it's a sure bet the Scarabaeus is more solidly built than anything you'll attach to it. It's available today for $163 USD via their online shop.