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Gear Review – Stroppa camera straps

Stroppa is a relatively new comer in the camera straps landscape. They produce leather and rope straps that can cover different looks and usage. Let’s give a look to the Stroppa Flex, Active and Duo!

Stroppa Straps Camera Gear Review - Stroppa Flex & Active

Flex attached on the Fujifilm X100T, Active next to it.

Common features

First of all, the first thing you see is the build quality. The Stroppa straps are handmade in Poland with high quality rope and leather, and it’s quite obvious when you unpack them from the little pouch they come with. The rope looks very good, for any of the three models (more on that later). The most impressive is the junctions between the rope and the fitting rings. It’s HUGE. Absolutely oversized. Which is both a positive, and a negative thing.

The positive side is that it feels like the strap won’t break anytime soon. It’s definitively an investment that will last. I’ll come back in a few months from now with an update, but after a few weeks it really feels it’s going to last. The leather junction between the rope and the rings is much bigger than any other straps of this kind. The leather is still new and pretty stiff. It will get smoother for sure, but I don’t expect the junction to become as flexible as other brands’ are. It feels very well on the beefier cameras I own such as the Praktica or the Canon AE-1. However, on smaller ones such as the X100T I need to hold the junction with the camera as a kind of grip, so that it doesn’t go in my way.

So on one side you gain with build quality and toughness, but on the other side you lose with practicality, depending on your camera. My feeling is that the Stroppa straps were developed with film or larger digital cameras in mind that the pocketable X100T.

A small detail, but that matters: the rings are sturdier than most of the other straps on the market, but also feature a longer single row that most of them. I just love this, as my other straps often get stuck in the X100T’s very thin attachment. Only once I did have to intervene, while it’s a daily job with my others straps to unstuck them. Well done!

Stroppa Straps Camera Gear Review - Stroppa Duo

Duo on my old Praktica.

3 straps you said?

Yes, the Stroppa line has, at the beginning of 2017, 3 models: the Flex, the Active and the Duo.

The Flex is the one that, at least to me, seems to make the most sense. It’s the most flexible of the three, the one that seems the most practical in a daily basis. The rope is made of polypropylene silk. I like to roll my straps on my wrist rather than hanging it at my neck when attached to my Fujifilm X100T. Its additional flexibility is a must in this scenario, and it did a perfect job. The Flex is available in Black only, but more colors are to follow soon.

The Active is the strong one. Its rope is made of poliamid threads for it to resist the abuses of harsher environment… or heavier cameras. It’s quite obvious when side by side with the other 2 models. The rope is thicker, stiffer too, and definitely support heavier cameras than the Flex. Because of that, forget about rolling it around your wrist. However, it will be a great companion for my Canon 6D. In this case, the strap is mostly a third hand for when I change my lens, or a security feature by rolling is, with just one loop usually, on my forearm. It will fit perfectly… once I have a solution to pass the Active’s heavy-duty rings in the Canon’s small strap attachments. The Active is only available in black.

The Duo sits in the middle between the Flex and the Active. It feature the same silk as the Flex, but with a denser, and bi-color threading. It’s the go to strap for those who have a slightly heavier camera but still want more flexibility than the Active. It will be a perfect match with camera that sport a grey-and-black color scheme, such as my old Praktica. I must admit that at first, it was the strap that I was the less interested in because of its colors. But after some usage, it’s the one I prefer being in the right spot of flexibility and sturdiness. If in the future the Duo comes in full black, it may be very possible that it will fit on more cameras of mine 🙂

Stroppa Straps Camera Gear Review - Stroppa Flex

Flex on the X100T. Big junctions are big.

 

Conclusion

Overall, I am very pleased with the few weeks spent with the Stroppa straps. As previously stated, I feel they fit better with beefier cameras rather tan with smaller, pocketable ones. The Flex will be on my Canon AE-1 (once it comes back from the doctor’s office 🙂 ), the Duo is on the Praktica, and the Active will soon be on the Canon 6D. The X100T is keeping its older strap with the more flexible junction, for the time being.

Stroppa Straps Camera Gear Review - Stroppa Duo

Duo on Praktica.

Where can I find the Stroppa strap?

It’s pretty easy! Go to Stroppa’s website and have fun 🙂

Note: the straps were given to me free of charge for this review. However, it doesn’t impact this review’s objectivity.

Shoot digital like you shoot film

At some point in photography, you need to refresh you point of view, try something new, see differently. I’ve tried that by starting to shoot film. I got a Canon AE-1 last Christmas, and shot only half a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus in the first 6 months of the year. I love the mechanical aspect of those old cameras, the fact that you must think twice if the shot is worth it, how to take it, how to expose… It’s less opportunistic, it forces you to push your craft further on. Digital cameras are much more comfortable to use, maybe too comfortable sometimes. I think it’s good to remember how things actually work and not rely on too much automation.

Electric stairs. Bucharest, Romania, 2016.

Electric stairs. Bucharest, Romania, 2016. I used there my “shadow measure” of the day. Get a print.

Well, I finished my first roll, enjoyed the result, even if it was not perfect. I then spent the end of the summer and the autumn shooting much more film for some personal photos and projects, trying different kinds of film (Kodak Tri-X 400, Kodak Portra 400…). It’s so fun. And also refreshing to not worry about settings. I usually measure once for the shadows, once for the highlights, and switch between the 2 settings depending on the scene. Either changing the speed or the aperture.

Then came this idea: why not trying to do the same with my digital cameras? Measure once, and keep it this way until the light changes dramatically. Film is much more forgivable than digital, but I have Lightroom, so… 🙂 And that’s what I’m currently doing. For daylight, I set my ISO to 400 (my favourite film speed, to keep it consistent), I measure once for the highlights, once for the shadows, and I’m good to go. I know how many stops there are between the two, with only 1 finger I can change my speed or my aperture. During the night, I crank my ISO to 3200 or even 6400, I measure once for the streets lights, once for the shops’ indoor lights, and I’m good to go. Easy, right?

Sometimes, it’s even easier. I’ve host my recent Oser flea market photo essay with the very same method. It was an overcast day, only 1 measure was needed, I could even forget the dials and focus on the content of my photos. Once again, content is the key!

Why bother? you could ask. My camera’s metering system works great! you could add. And I’d agree 🙂 Here are my findings after a few weeks:

  • I am much more focused on my work. I know what my settings are at any time. I’m the one in control.
  • Being even more content driver has helped me raise my keepers rate. I actually take less photos, but they are globally more interesting.
  • I get a consistent exposure. No more surprises because the metering system was spot instead of evaluative.
  • It helps me train to shoot film, I can make mistakes at no cost.
  • All of that results in less time spent in front of the computer, which is always a blessing!

The last point is very important to me. For example, the whole flea market set was processed in around 20 minutes, including the photos that are not published here. And the majority of the time was spent to straighten the photos, as they were taken from the hip. The exposure was spot on, +/- 1/3 stop, every time.

Oser flea market. Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016.

Old film cameras shot by a new digital camera used as an older film camera 🙂 I kept a single setting for the whole day. Cluj-Napoca, 2016.

Of course, it doesn’t mean I will never ever use my cameras’ automation. It is sometimes a great help, it would be stupid not to rely on if it actually helps me. But for my kind of photography, I feel that shooting with a modern digital camera like I would shoot film with an older camera helps me raise my level.

So there it is, a little challenge for you, dear reader: try to shoot digital as you’d shoot film with an old camera, for a few days at least:

  • Fix your ISO
  • Measure your scene, once for the shadows, once for the highlights
  • Forget all the other dials
  • Enjoy 🙂

And don’t hesitate to share a feedback of your experience!

Review: Fujifilm X100T – Think different

Think different.

OK, I might be shamelessly stealing Apple’s famous slogan, but that’s truly how I feel about Fujifilm’s X100T.

Run! Bucharest, Romania, 2016.

Run! – Fujifilm X100T – B&W simulation – f/2.8 – 1/125s – ISO 6400. Get an original, signed print in limited edition.

At the time I’m writing this article I’ve been using the X100T for 2 months. 2 months where my photography has changed, and hopefully improved, quite a bit.

I’ve been shooting for the last year mainly Canon DSLRs, with some incursions into the Nikon territory, always using the top-tier full frame gear. Image quality wise, nothing to say, great stuff, consistent results, what pros or serious amateurs want. You know your camera; it delivers the stuff without bad (or good) surprises. This setup has, at least for me, one drawback: it kind of lacks soul.

This is what struck me with the X100T: it doesn’t feel like a camera, it more feels like a photography companion, a friend that sticks with you and want to help you get different shots. The shooting experience is second to none, Fujifilm really did a photographers camera, not a geeky specs maxed out camera. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, when well executed.

Fuji’s approach in having the main controls directly accessible by hand (Aperture, Shutter speed and Exposure compensation) is a great idea. When using the X100T it feels like I’m back using my films cameras, where there is no menus, no screen full of information… It doesn’t mean Fujifilm’s camera isn’t packed of features, it just mean that there is no need to go thru the menus every second shot. It’s a much more tactile feeling that with the current DLSRs, something I am very sensible on. I like to touch things, have direct buttons and controls rather than browsing a screen.

Exit light... enter night. Cluj Napoca, Romania.

Strangers in the Dark I. Fujifilm X100T – f/2.8 –  1/60s – ISO 1600. Get an original, signed print in limited edition.

I usually just set my aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation, and let the camera choose itself the ISO value. It has a very practical Auto ISO mode (actually, 3 modes) with minimum and maximum ISO values, as well as the slowest speed it can go if you let it have control of the shutter speed. In this setup I can forget the fact it’s a feature packed digital camera and browse the streets focusing on what’s happening, looking at nothing but my viewfinder. If I need to change a setting, it’s a wheel to rotate, nothing else. Just like a modern film camera.

The X100T packs Fujifilm’s X-Trans 16MP APS-C CMOS sensor. I must say I was a bit reluctant in going back to APS-C after years of full frame. I’m pretty please of the results: this sensor coupled with the 23mm f/2 lens (35mm equivalent in the full frame world) gives quite sharp pictures, with a very acceptable noise up to ISO 3200. ISO 6400 is still usable, but with less margin than a full frame camera such as my Canon 6D. Actually I like having a larger depth of field for street photography, so the APS-C sensor may actually be a plus for the X100T.

Strangely, I would say image quality doesn’t really matter for this camera. Its scope is not to replace my 6D in every single usage. Its scope is to be with me all the time, in my pocket, in my bag, everywhere I go.

Having a large camera taking awesome shots is great, but at some point you can’t have it with you all the time, you can’t be discrete with it. It’s big, heavy and cumbersome. Very often I didn’t take my large DSLR rig with me at events or party, having to rely on my phone or on crappy point and shoot camera, and missed awesome shots? Way too much. How often did I miss an incredible candid expression in the street because I got spotted in the last moment with my big camera? Yeah, you got the idea.

 

Baker Street Underground station. London, Great Britain, 2016.

Baker Street Underground station. Fujifilm X100T – B&W simulation – f/4.0 –  1/60s – ISO 3200 – Get an original, signed print in limited edition.

While I know I may not get the ultimate image quality with this small camera, I know I’ll be able to get “good enough” shots in the very last majority of times, including shots I would have never had with my big rig. And that is priceless to me. That is a new way to take photographs, being and feeling always ready to shoot. It keeps me more alert in the streets, more attentive to details, colors and contrast.

That’s where I feel I’ve improved my photography in the last weeks. I’ve went from capturing a scene in a very clinical way, searching for maximum sharpness and having the frame full of details, to something a bit more abstract, less “ultimate image quality” oriented to a more “feeling” oriented photo. Exact like how I feel when using my Canon 6D versus my Fuji X100T.

And the funny thing is all of that… is that every single photographer that have used my camera in the last weeks have all felt the same way 🙂

One last thing… for the first time in years I’m comfortable shooting JPEGs. Fujifilm has done an incredible work having a reliable auto white balance, and pretty awesome film simulations giving a great look and the correct dose of instant gratification on any shot you’ll take. You can even bracket the simulations and decide later what to keep. The simulations are also available as camera profiles in Adobe Lightroom, so even if I shoot RAW I can process them much faster than the Canon RAWs. In general, I feel that the Fuji RAWs are easier to process than Canon RAWs.

Little girl. Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Little girl. Fujifilm X100T – f/5.6 –  1/500s – ISO 1600 – Get an original, signed print in limited edition.

Of course, not everything is perfect. The battery life is ridiculously short; it’s like when I got my first smartphone, always looking for a plug to charge it! Hopefully it can charge via USB, so I don’t need to take the external charger with me. But I know that for a walk of more than half a day I need a second battery.

My second regret is the choice of a focus by wire for its lenses. I just don’t like the feeling of it, without beginning or end, without depth of field scale. I enjoy zone focusing for my street shots and I can’t do it without looking at a screen. However, manual focus is a child’s game thanks to the hybrid viewfinder and the focus peaking with zoom on the focus zone.

Last regret, that its lens is not a 50mm equivalent, which is ma favorite focal length. At least this way, at 35mm equivalent, it gains versatility. And there are the two 28mm and 50mm equivalents you can screw on the filter thread, if needed. But it adds to the bulk, so no way for me, for now.

So, in the end, I’m really pleased with my experience with the Fujifilm X100T (if it wasn’t obvious already J). It has become like an extension on my right hand, it’s my photography companion that is always there for me. It’s often called the “poor man’s Leica”… let’s say I’m glad I’m a poor man! And last but not least, I feel like a better photographer, which is pretty much every photographer’s goal, no?

Edit: The X100T gets even better for me with the addition of a Lensmate Thumbrest!

Dutch angle. Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Dutch angle – Fujifilm X100T – f/5.6 –  1/500s – ISO 320 – Get an original, signed print in limited edition.

Airport stairs. Munich Airport, Germany, 2016.

Airport stairs – Fujifilm X100T – f/8.0 –  1/125s – ISO 6400. Get an original, signed print in limited edition.

Barcelona. Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Barcelona. Fujifilm X100T – Classic Chrome film simulation – f/5.6 –  1/250s – ISO 6400

Surprise! Cluj-Napoca, Romania, 2016.

Surprise! – Fujifilm X100T – B&W simulation – f/2.8 – 1/60s – ISO 1600. Get an original, signed print in limited edition.

Strangers in the dark III. Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

Strangers in the Dark III. Fujifilm X100T – B&W simulation – f/2.8 –  1/60s – ISO 6400. Get an original, signed print in limited edition.