Artisan & Artist ACAM-301

By LightingLeica - last updated January 23, 2012

NOTE: There is a "new and improved" version out now that replaces the previous (and what is reviewed here). A&A cites, "improved ends with strengthened stitches." The new price is now $146.

Why would anyone in his right mind pay $130 for a camera strap? While some of my friends might dispute whether I am in my right mind, I had perfectly good reasons for trying out the new Artisan & Artist ACAM-301 Black Woven Silk Cord Camera Strap. The plastic ribbed neckpiece of the strap that came with my Leica chafed on my bare neck, and after a few days of having it grate my skin, I was willing to pay more than a hundred bucks to get a little relief.

According to Artisan & Artist, samurais from ancient history used silk cords to secure their armor and sheathe their swords for battle. But can they give more comfort to a weekend warrior like me? After experimenting with the ACAM-301, I have to admit that the soft, 100% silk material of the cord does not irritate my neck like other camera straps I’ve used.

At 0.3” in diameter, the rope-like strap is neither too thick nor too thin, and its 37” length puts the camera at a good spot just below my chest and allows me to shift the camera to a comfortable position on my side for carrying. However, because the strap is not adjustable, photographers with other body dimensions may find that the ACAM-301 doesn’t place their camera as well. You can also wrap the cord around your hand and use it as a wrist strap.

The silk cord is surprisingly strong and durable and has sewn-on, leather-clad ends to anchor the attachment rings and prevent fraying. It can attach to the lugs on the Leica M series cameras as well as the Leica X1 and is available in black, khaki, and red. In addition to using it on my M9, I tried the ACAM-301 on my Fuji X100 and liked the fit just as well.

While the Artisan & Artist strap both impressed me with its quality and eased my neck’s discomfort, I had to wonder whether I couldn’t achieve the same results at a much lower cost. After searching the Internet for a while, I came across the Minox Round Cord Strap for Digital Classic Camera DCC5.1 available at B&H Photo for a mere $25 plus shipping and handling. It looked just like the $130 ACAM-301 strap, although I was unable to find any actual specs for the product online. But at that price, I was willing to spring for two-day air shipping in order to give it a trial run for my Fuji X100 on my trip to South Carolina for the BMW Performance Driving School. Eager to see if I’d snagged a bargain, I awaited my rush delivery of the Minox strap.

I knew I was in trouble the second I took the strap out of its packaging. While the ACAM-301 is stout and sturdy enough to support a samurai sword, the DCC5.1, at only 0.125” in width, is as thin as a shoelace. Unlike the soft silk cord, the cotton cord is scratchy, and its narrowness causes it to dig into the skin more than the Artisan & Artist strap.

At 39” inches in length, the Minox strap keeps the camera at a similar position to the ACAM-301, but it is so cheaply constructed that one of the attachment rings bent the very first time it bore the full weight of my camera. I had to replace the flimsy, paperclip-thin rings with some triangle rings from the strap that came with my Fuji X100. Even so, I don’t trust the shoddy workmanship of the thin leather ends, which are badly sewn and glued. I would not risk hanging my precious Leica M9 from this strap for even a second. Since I won’t be able to get a decent alternate strap before I leave for my vacation, I may give the DCC5.1 another chance with my lighter Fuji camera during the upcoming trip, but you can be sure I will bring a backup wrist strap in case the Minox one breaks - a distinct possibility.

Within fifteen minutes of receiving the $25 Minox Round Cord Strap, I went back online to order another Artisan & Artist ACAM-301 for future use with my Fuji. Call me crazy for paying $130 for a camera strap if you want. If it means I can keep $7000 (or even $1200) camera from hitting the pavement, I’d be crazy not to get the best strap money can buy.