A couple of years back, Luma Labs made and sold the best sling strap for your camera ever. It was a comfortable strap with leather touches and a simple but effective design. But due to circumstances, the Luma Labs strap went out of production and only recently has the company been able to start producing another great strap. The Cinch (2nd generation) is an even better sling strap than I expected.
Luma Labs sent me a Cinch (50 USD), the Plate (mounting plate) (15 USD), a Membrane (15 USD), a pair of Quick Links (10 USD) and a PodMount (15 USD). For completeness sake, I should mention there is also an extra long webbing kit (10 USD) available for tall people.
The Cinch is a sling strap with a padded webbing shoulder piece and a mechanism that in theory allows you to hold the camera firmly against your body (without bumping) with the front 'cinch' slider all the way down. To operate the camera you slide the 'cinch' up — creating slack on the strap and thus freeing the camera for plenty of motion (take a look at the two videos over the Luma Labs site).
Were it not that I have previous experience with a Luma Labs camera strap, I would have been very sceptical about any sling strap having the ability to pull your camera firmly against your body, simply by sliding a 'cinch' downward. Even with my experience, I wouldn't have believed it if I'd not tested it out for myself.
I tested the Cinch strap on a photography tour with the Plate and the PodMount. The Membrane gives you the same sort of efficiency as the Plate, but you'll only use it if you insist on using your regular mounting plate. The Membrane is a thin piece of very strong material (inflatable boats use this) with a metal ring on one side. To allow you to use the Cinch strap the way it's designed, you attach the Membrane between the camera and the plate.
The PodMount is a small stainless steel screw with a small hole in the head. Through this hole you can attach a ring to which you attach the Cinch in turn. The PodMount is great for attaching a long lens and still having a good balance when hanging the camera from the Cinch.
Experience with the Cinch
I tested the Cinch with the Plate and my old Sony Alpha 700 with its vertical grip, two batteries and a Zeiss Variogon 24-70mm, for a complete weight of about 3 kilos. The Plate and the cinches themselves (the ones you slide up and down) are made of a new carbon-ceramic material called "Lumidium polymer". Luma Labs says the Plate is stronger than aluminium. It won’t conduct heat from your hands in the cold and it is extremely lightweight.
The Plate's contact surface is a 3M Bumpon surface, which is a resilient elastomer that grips the bottom of your camera. It did so very well. The Plate comes with two small screws. The Plate has been moulded in the form of an Arca Swiss quick release plate. The two small screws are for mounting the Plate on a Kirk or Really Right Stuff head.
The Plate sits tight on the camera's bottom alright. Much tighter than any other plate with a rubber bottom that I have in my collection. The Plate has two steel rods on either side to accommodate for the Cinch or its Quick Links, which I used during my testing.
On two of the Arca Swiss compatible heads that I have in my collection to try it with, I found the Plate to sit as tight as the original plates that came with these ball heads (Novoflex). The material does feel oddly out of place when you touch it and it's hard to believe that something that lightweight can be as strong as aluminium, but even when I tried to unseat the Plate from the head using a screwdriver for leverage, it didn't budge. All I got was the ball moving — just as what I got with the metal plates.
The Quick Links are a sort of sailing boat shackles with fool proof locking mechanism (a hexagonal screw that you can't disassemble from the link; you can only open and close the link with it).
The Cinch: comfort and speed
A good camera strap strap should make wearing your camera comfortable while simultaneously allowing you to quickly aim the camera at your subject. Most straps fail in one or both departments. Not the Cinch. Skinny as I am, the shoulder pad could be a tad thicker and perhaps a bit broader too, but even after an hour walking around with my kit, my shoulder wasn't killing me.
Much to my surprise, the camera didn't bounce and bump against my buttock either. When you fasten the Cinch, the camera gets forced in such a position that it tightens against your lower back. This could be different with a longer lens, but as you can attach the Cinch to at least four mounting points, I think you'll always find a combination that works well.
Releasing the cinch slider frees the camera instantly and enables a quick targeting. The entire Cinch strap will move towards your back, and that's about the only thing that worries me in that the shoulder pads have a finely 'etched' hexagonal rubberised surface that's in contact with your clothes. While you can reverse the shoulder pad so this 'tacky' side faces away from your body, I think the constant rubbing will ultimately rub off the grip entirely. How fast that happens will depend on how intensive you use the Cinch.
Luma Labs does plan to release more accessories in the future and different shoulder pads might be on their list.
After having walked around with it for the past four mornings, I can only conclude the Cinch to be an extremely comfortable and very efficient and tangle-free camera strap. An additional benefit of the Cinch is that you can make it a tight enough fit to use it as a support. Firmly tensioning the Cinch strap makes it easier to keep your camera steady when focusing. The Plate is a must-have in my opinion. You can buy the Cinch without, but it's not expensive and an extra plate, especially with the material characteristics I discussed earlier, is always useful.
p>As for the options that you can currently buy: I warmly recommend the Quick Links; they really add to the overall ease-of-use and comfort. If you have a long lens with a mounting point, the PodMount is a great buy.