Home Accessories Bowman Leather: A new British name in the camera strap business

Bowman Leather: A new British name in the camera strap business


Bowman Leather is a name you are going to hear more of in the future. This company’s accessories are outstanding in quality and available at very sensible prices that will attract new customers. Over the past few years, there has been an explosion of interest in “soft” camera accessories such as cases and straps, and the number of manufacturers has grown accordingly. Now we have a new British contender.

British entrepreneur Charles Bowman is busy developing a successful niche market for the more traditional straps from his workshop in Cumbria. He tells me that the idea was born on the kitchen table at his home, just north of the scenic Lake District National Park. After pursuing an academic career, he decided desk work wasn’t his ideal and turned to leather craft. He began handcrafting high-quality leather goods for friends and family, sourcing hides of the highest quality and gradually honing his skills.

Charles Bowman and associate

Starting in 2020 with a modest Etsy store, he featured a few items, including a slim shoulder strap for cameras. As a photographer most of his adult life, Charles was naturally drawn to expanding the range for a wider audience of appreciative camera enthusiasts. Since 2023 Bowman Leather has been his major focus, with emphasis on a wide choice of sizes and styles. Yet, all Bowman Leather’s straps are hand made and are supplied with a ten-year warranty.

Charles now specialises in simple, timeless designs which are admirably suited to Leica M cameras of any age. All straps come in three comfort levels, with neck and wrist straps starting at just £29 ($36.50, €34, A$56). By modern standards, those prices are bargains and belie the quality apparent as soon as you open the box.

Three-stage comfort

All straps are made in British vegetable tanned leather, ensuring strength and graceful ageing. They come in three comfort levels, Classic, Comfort and Comfort Plus. The Classic versions have a very traditional appearance, with square edges.

The intermediate Comfort design features rounded edges to the leather, improving the ergonomics and comfort during longer photography sessions. Finally, the Comfort Plus designs have rounded leather edges which have been polished to a smooth finish, creating a more luxurious and comfortable appearance. Available leather colours are black, dark tan, mid-tan and chestnut.

Bowman Straps also come in two widths, a traditional slim 12mm version, ideally suited to the Leica M, and a wider 19mm design which complements larger or heavier mirrorless bodies.

Test bed

Charles Bowman sent us a couple of Comfort Plus straps for test purposes: a short 70cm neck strap in black and a dark-tan wrist strap. The workmanship and finish is excellent, and I was impressed by the way in which the edges of the leather have been rounded and polished. Both sides of the straps are finished and dyed to the same colour. Sturdy double rivets at either end of the strap look neat and promise security.

Both the neck strap and wrist strap are fitted with 20mm split rings, which I find just a little on the large side. But they do mean that you can manipulate them easily and with less chance of breaking a finger nail. Despite the large split rings, however, the folded leather at the end of the straps ensures that the metal is kept away from the camera body, at least on various film and digital rangefinders that I used.

Matching leather “doughnuts” are available to give added protection to the camera (Image Bowman Leather)

If you want to be doubly sure, Bowman Leather offers neat leather “doughnut” lug protectors which fit over the lug to make doubly certain that the ring cannot touch the body. A set of these little leather lug protectors costs £5.

Above: The 70cm slim neck strap on the MP, the wrist strap on the MP and the wrist strap ready for action (Images Mike Evans)

Just the M

Bowman Leather straps exude quality and are ideal for vintage and modern cameras equipped with traditional lugs. The narrow version, which I tested, is ideal for the M rangefinder, whether ancient or modern, and looks the part on an M whatever the age. The wrist strap was my favourite, but then I tend to favour wrist straps on smaller cameras, and it certainly enhanced the feel and handling of my 20-year-old black paint MP. But the neck strap felt just as much part of the Leica scene. I purposely chose the shortest 70cm length, and it is indeed small, perhaps something of an acquired taste.

With this strap round my neck, the camera nestled some eight inches beneath my chin, which some might feel is too close for comfort. Almost all my other camera straps are at least 100 cm long. But, with an open mind, I was actually quite taken with the near-chin experience. Raising the camera to the eye from such a high level is much easier and, by the end of the test period, I had warmed to the 70cm length. In the end, I think I prefer it to a longer strap. Of course, if you want to sling the camera across the shoulders, 70cm is a non-starter. Better go for 120cm in that case. But perhaps it’s no surprise that Charles Bowman tells us that 70cm is actually the most popular length.

While these straps work well with lug-mounting split rings, they are not ideal for use with flat or slotted mounts seen on many mirrorless cameras, including the Leica SL and Panasonic Lumix S5II. Currently, Bowman Leather does not offer designs to fit this type of connector, but Charles tells me he is planning to extend the range soon.

Neck-wrist combo

In addition to normal neck straps, in various widths and lengths, and hand wrist straps, Bowman Straps offers something really unusual in the form of the Duo, a combination of neck and wrist strap in one unit. While I didn’t have the chance to examine an example, I can imagine that the Duo, in either slim or narrow version, offers the best of both worlds. Especially in the short 70cm version, using this as a wrist strap is eminently sensible, and there isn’t too much excess strap to get in the way.

The standard narrow neck strap comes in eleven lengths, from 70cm to 120cm. There is a wide range of prices but, in my view, all are reasonable. As an example, the 70mm strap in Classic style costs £29, while the same strap in 120cm length in Comfort Plus style runs to £42. The wrist strap runs from £29 in Classic finish to £38 in Comfort Plus. The Duo, the unusual combination neck and wrist strap, which is actually likely to be the most useful of the bunch, costs from £38 in 70cm/Classic to £47 in 120cm/Comfort Plus configuration.

Bowman Leather

As a traditionalist at heart, I am definitely impressed by the sample designs from Bowman Leather. In general, a strap is a strap is a strap, but it is the attention to detail, the flexibility and the faultless finish that sets Bowman Straps apart. The company website offers a wide range of options, but it is easier to navigate and more comprehensible than many similar stores. I believe you can be confident in ordering.

Visit Bowman Leather’s website

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  1. Off Topic: Fuji has announced a the next camera in the X100 series – X100VI.

    The most noticeable changes I saw are:
    40 MP sensor
    AI subject recognition (I assume for both exposure and AF)
    Now 20 film simulations
    Image stabilization

    Looking forward to someone reviewing it, but I will resist buying one.

  2. I have always been a sucker for quality leather accessories for my cameras.

    I bought the beautiful leather cases sold by Fuji for my X100 series cameras and the X70.

    For my Nikons I never cared for the Nikon “eveready” cases for the F2. I tried a Nikon full case for my Df, but did not like that either. I ended up with an elegant half case for my Df made by Gariz in S. Korea. I liked it so much that I bought a similar case (not by Gariz) for my F2s.

    Camera cases aside, I have been in love with Nikon’s compartment cases for as long as I have had Nikon cameras. My all-time favorite is a black soft-leather case Nikon calls FB-14. This is one of the few Nikon compartment cases that it is really practical to shoot out of. I wore one out; the second has to last the remainder of my years.

    But for elegant camera / lens / accessory storage on the shelf, nothing beats the beauty of the tan leather cases FB-11, -12, -13, and -15. I once had both an FB-11 and FB-13; I now have an FB-15, but cannot decide if it is really worth holding on to, as beautiful as it is, it’s not very practical.

  3. Those straps look terrific, but as you say a bigger lug protector would help keep the camera body from being scratched.

    I keep seeing quality straps like this and wonder whether there’s not a licensing opportunity for Peak Design adaptors to make it easier to change straps. Watch companies have done this (e.g. Panerai) and benefited from being able to sell straps themselves and increase the appeal of their watches by the number of strap permutations available.

    • Hi John
      A couple of points which spring to mind
      First of all, I just don’t get lug protectors – twist the strap any way you want and the metal ring won’t touch the camera – you may get some rubbing from the leather, but a lug protector just makes that fatter and rub more.
      Secondly – whilst I applaud Peak design in lots of respects, their plastic clippy things absolutely do scratch your camera (I know, I have a scratched camera!) and there really is no way of protecting against them.
      All the best

      • Hi Jono, I have encountered this risk too. The hard plastic clips and the metal clasps controlling length are both likely to scratch the camera – not so much in use, but certainly when placing the camera and strap in a bag. I received a Peak-Design strap as a Christmas gift, and there are many things I like about it, but am now considering reverting to straps where are the components are soft to the touch. Cheers, Keith

    • Jon – I’ve seen a (very) small amount of companies who offer Peak anchors as an option, such as Hawkesmill’s leather straps (who I thought of as I read this article): https://hawkesmill.com/product-category/camera-straps/

      I’ve also seen Optech connectors offered as an option as well. Cord Weaver, who specialise in paracord straps but also do other materials have offered Peak and Optech (but currently only have the latter – https://www.cordweaver.co.uk/product-page/cordy-slim-qd-handmade-6mm-diameter-silky-black-braided-rope-leather-camera).

      On my larger bodies, I’ve moved from Peak to Optech for a few reasons but recently got a Hawkesmill wrist strap with a Peak anchor as a very thoughtful birthday present, so on those cameras I have both connectors now…. nice to have options!

    • Hi Jon,

      Thanks for your comment! I am actually working on a range of camera straps that feature Peak Design Anchors and they will hopefully be available on my site in the next few months.

      Furthermore, I am planning on writing a guide on lug protectors and whether they are actually needed. In short, it mainly depends on the camera! For example, some cameras have lug mounts right at the top so the split ring does rest against the camera body. Other cameras don’t have this problem so protection isn’t always needed.

      Thanks for all your comments!

      • I have decided that the main problem is with the Leica M where the lugs are attached to the body below the top plate. Most other cameras have the lugs nearer to the top of the camera with the result that there is less danger of contact.

      • You’re very welcome! Let’s hope the changes you propose continue to give you momentum. I’m not sure how much of a watch guy you might be, but Panerai is a story where owners now photograph their watches with multiple strap options they own. And all because changing straps on a Panerai has become as easy as changing shoes.


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