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The Leica and the Lobster Clasp

I have the kind of personality that loves attention to detail and fine engineering. It plays an important factor not only when it comes to deciding what I purchase, but even those that are beyond my reach, or that I am not particularly interested in. I also appreciate the little things that separate an item from the ‘me to’ crowd. 

Because of this trait I have had a long love affair with Olympus film cameras, choosing to use these over more popular brands for more than thirty years. Their reliability, build and innovative design has never disappointed me and I have retained a core OM film system to this day, which continues to perform flawlessly. 

The Leica and the Lobster ClaspFor several reasons, my interests have gravitated towards Leica products recently. Not only did I become curious to try out Germany’s only remaining camera manufacturer, but was attracted to the beautiful engineering that today seems to be lacking from most other brands. Having played with many different brands over the last three years or so, few match the spartan elegance and ergonomics of Leica. My most recent Leica acquisition was a Typ 113 (or the new ‘X’), which has replaced my much loved X1. When purchasing a new camera I always buy a protective case as I am not one to knock things about unnecessarily. So it went without saying that along with my new camera I brought home a genuine Leica brown leather ever ready case.

If you have read my thoughts on the Typ 113 from my previous blog, you will be familiar with my comments regarding the dumb shortcomings when using this case along with a strap. Contrary to what is written above, here is a prime example of complete thoughtlessness and lack of attention to detail that causes the owner to either 1) forfeit the use of a genuine Leica product in favour of a properly designed third party solution or 2) go in search of a solution to make the case, strap and camera ensemble work. I recall that even thirty years ago, cases were purchased that simply worked without having to go in search of a solution to correct a fundamental gaff.

The Leica and the Lobster ClaspTo summarise the problem, when using the 113 with a strap, there is no easy way to add the case without first removing the strap from the camera and threading it through the holes in the case. So what is the problem I hear you say? Well it comes when wishing to change the battery, card or plug a USB cable into the camera; The holes in the case are simply too small to allow the strap to be fed through them thus giving enough room to release the camera from the case to gain access to battery/card/port. Even using the strap that Leica include with the 113 it cannot be done easily. What happened to press studs over each strap hole on the case to allow the camera to be removed completely from it? Clearly it was an exercise in simplicity that could not be allowed in todays complicated society. I even purchased a narrower strap thinking it would help, but the rings that connect strap to camera are too large to easily pass through the case holes.

So what is the solution? The best thing would be for Leica to try and use their own products and see how infuriating such a simple task as changing battery has become (cue Mr. Soft background music), and redesign the case to work properly. Given that this is unlikely and offers nothing in the short term, I introduce you to the humble lobster clasp - an object usually found in varying sizes on jewellery, bags and purses.

Abundant in many sizes and styles courtesy of the internet, I experimented with a few different ones before settling on a 31mm swivel type that was small enough to pass through the cameras strap eyelet but large enough for my sausage fingers to be able to release them easily. Assuming the camera is in its case, simply attach the swivel end of the clasps to the rings at each end of the strap. Now open the clasps and hook them through the eyelets on the camera. Viola! an easy solution to a problem that should not have existed in the first place. A couple of seconds and the strap can be detached allowing the camera to removed from the case for essential maintenance. 

Thank you Leica for giving users of your case a completely unnecessary problem to solve and it is with bated breath I wait for the next case iteration that moves it further from the ‘ever ready’ to ‘never ready’ realm. Attention to detail on your camera bodies and lenses is absolutely wonderful, but you really need to take a closer look at peripheral items (perhaps use them?) and ensure that such attention to detail is constant though all components.

To all those users who face the same challenge as I did, 31mm lobster clasps are the way to go.