The PolarPro Belay camera strap has a quick-release mechanism that allows you to remove the camera from the strap and instantly transition it to a ball head that uses the Arca-Swiss standard. If you find yourself switching back and forth between a tripod and a camera strap, this might be the product for you.
I love the look of his strap, and it feels like a quality product in the hand. The main buckles to shorten and lengthen the strap are ergonomically comfortable to use and slide freely when you need it.
At the lower end of the strap toward the quick release, there are two smaller length adjusters. I’m not sure of the purpose of these because I found there was plenty of length adjustment in the main part of the strap. I also found that it left unnecessary lengths of un-used nylon webbing flapping around.
Below the lower section of the strap, you can see the quick release buckle attached to the strap with a thin cord. To me, this cord looks way too thin, and even if it does support the claimed 45lb capacity, it leaves absolutely zero room for abrasive wear and tear. If you nick this little cord, or if it wears even slightly at the attachment point, it’s going to fail.
I would really like to see this thin cord removed from the design and have the strap connect directly to the quick release buckle. I can’t see any benefit of having it so thin, and I’m very surprised that more people didn’t raise this concern during product development. That said, there were certainly some things that also got through the development process on their Apex Tripod, too. So perhaps PolarPro just needs to take a look at how they are gathering feedback at the development stage.
There’s also some history in this market segment. The very first version of Peak Design’s Anchor quick release system was subject to abrasion issues and caused the company a real headache when it was first launched. It has since been fixed and they now use Dyneema in their anchors, which is the same material that climbing ropes are made from. But I doubt PolarPro wants to have similar issues.
The Quick Release Mechanism
With the included Arca-Swiss compatible plate mounted on the camera, you simply click the camera into the jaws of the quick release clamp. In order to remove the camera, you must depress the bronze-coloured button on the side of the clamp and then rotate the camera about 45 degrees. As you rotate the camera, the inner part of the clamp rotates and the clamp jaws open simultaneously.
This mechanism feels really solid. The fact that you must depress and hold the button on the side of the clamp also makes it safe. Given the positioning of the button and the fact it must be pressed during the rotation and release, I can’t see any way that this could happen accidentally.
I’m underlining this point because PolarPro also makes another similar looking product that doesn’t work so well, and I want to make sure people understand that they work quite differently. On their Traverse camera clip, the quick release mechanism looks the same at first glance.
The difference in the Traverse is that there is no side button that needs depressing. Instead, there is a sliding switch that must be manually moved back and forth between locked and unlocked. If you forget to slide the lock switch on the Traverse when your camera is inserted, you’re in for a very bad day indeed. I can’t imagine why two similar looking products have such different function. Again, it seems down to inadequate development testing using people that give honest opinions. The Belay camera strap is a much better implementation!
Strap Size Options
The PolarPro Belay strap is available in two sizes: 0.75″ wide and 1.5″ wide. In this review I ave photographed the 0.75″ version. When using the strap, I found that the 0.75″ version was simply not wide enough to be comfortable. Even with a relatively small mirrorless setup. I would skip this version and go straight for the 1.5′ version, I promise you’ll be happier.
I have used straps that are this thin before, such as the Peak Design Leash. The Leash is actually a strap that I regularly recommend to people, but the difference there is the overall design of the strap. The Leash is similarly skinny to the Belay, but the whole strap is designed to be ultra-light, and small enough to disappear into a pocket. With the Leash, you sacrifice some comfort in order to have a tiny, ultralight strap in your bag for emergencies.
The Belay will never be called an ultralight strap due to the heavy quick release mechanism. So in this instance, at least with the 0.75″ version, you give up comfort without really getting much benefit. Given that the quick release is the same size and weight on both the 0.75″ and 1.5″ versions, the overall weight difference between the two strap versions is negligible.
It’s simple. Just get the wider one if you decided to buy a Belay.
PolarPro Quick Release Plate
When buying the Belay strap, you get an Arca compatible tripod plate with it. I actually received two plates because one came with the Traverse strap mount that I’ll be talking about in a different review.
The plates design is fine, but the rubber grip on one of mine was slightly deformed from being poorly applied. What was worse, far worse in fact, was that neither of the screws in the plates was correctly machined to fit the supplied hex tool. With one of the screws, I was completely unable to insert a standard hex tool into it (supplied with the strap) because it was so poorly machined that the hole was simply not hexagonal. The second screw head on the second plate was barely any better. On that one, I was able to partially insert the hex tool to gain just about enough leverage at some angles to tighten it into a camera.
It’s clear that corners and costs were cut when procuring these screws. PolarPro definitely needs to take a closer look at this supplier and its quality control procedures. The fact that both the screws on both plates were faulty, from two different products, is quite embarrassing.
If you’re going to make products that compete with other brands, there needs to be some consideration of what the competition is putting into the marketplace. Below you will see a photo of the Peak Design Arca plate. The machining is beautiful in every way, and you can clearly see how perfect the anodized hex screw is. I was hesitant to even screw them into my expensive camera because I had zero confidence that the screw thread was machined to any better standard and wouldn’t just strip the 1/4″ 20 sockets and cause a costly repair.
This strap is by far my favourite of the products that PolarPro launched in the Quickdraw product line. The quick-release clamp is solidly built, and the mechanism to attach and detach the camera is excellent. Although I reviewed that 0.75″ wide version of the strap, it was quite uncomfortable. I would recommend that you purchase the 1.5″ version instead, and spread the load over twice the surface area.
I found it interesting that the method for releasing the camera from the quick release is different from the one used on the Traverse camera clip. On the Belay, you must push the button to rotate and release the camera. It works well and seems safe. On the Traverse camera clip, if you don’t slide the switch into the locked position, the camera can actually rotate out of the locking mechanism under its own weight. I had trouble with it, and don’t recommend the Traverse for that reason. The system on the Belay strap is much better!
Although this is a good strap, there is room for improvement. The main part of the strap is great, but I just don’t see the reason for it to taper down to such a tiny cord at the point where it attaches to the clamp. This cord offers no room for abrasion before failure. If wear and tear occur on that cord, which is barely 2mm thick, it’s going to snap. It was an immediate concern to me when I unboxed this strap, and I think other people will have the same reaction when they see it in person. Every other part of the strap is so chunky and robust that the thin cord seems oddly and immediately out of place.
At $79.99, this isn’t a cheap strap. It’s worth noting that the extremely popular Peak Design Slide strap is only $64.99, and I think this difference will be important for a lot of people. The Belay strap would be more compelling at a lower price, or if you were also using some of the other products from the PolarPro Quickdraw ecosystem. Unfortunately at this point, I can’t use the ecosystem argument to overcome the relatively high price since I had some issues with the other Quickdraw products that lead caused me not to recommend them.
Overall though, the Belay is a good strap that’s worth considering if the price doesn’t scare you off. With a few small tweaks, I think this could become an excellent strap in the future, but even now I’m happy to add it to our list of best camera straps on the market this year because it brings something new to the game with the built-in quick release clamp.
Where to Buy
At the moment the PolarPro Belay strap appears to be available only through their online store. The price is $79.99.