I recently came across a somewhat controversial notion: an easy way to spot an amateur photographer is to see if they're using the shoulder strap that came bundled with their camera body. You can imagine how reading that felt, as I looked over to my DSLR to see the recognizable red stitching of the generic Canon strap draped over the side of my camera bag. Ouch. But as pretentious as that statement sounds, there's logic behind the claim. Some professional photographers choose not to use any camera strap at all. A DSLR draped around your neck hurts after minutes of walking around. When slung around your shoulder and across your chest, a strap can get in the way of positioning the camera for composition, and a swinging loose strap can affect the stability of your shot. In a photography studio or when using a tripod, a strap is rarely needed.
Another argument against the use of the bundled camera strap is that it's just a cheaply made piece of nylon that gives free advertising to the camera manufacturer. Canon and Nikon straps have very distinct designs, and like the red ring around EF lenses, add to overall brand awareness in public. I don't subscribe to this concern, though I can understand the argument of keeping the bundled strap unwrapped in the box to help retain perceived resale value.
The final argument against the use of bundled straps is that they're just not very good. They don't provide enough padding on the shoulders for heavy camera bodies (and equally heavy lenses!), and trying to quickly swinging a camera up from the hip to take a spontaneous photo is cumbersome. When using the generic Canon strap at events, I've taken to wrapping the strap around my arm and elbow, which makes it more of an arm brace than shoulder sling to keep my hand locked in a comfortable position. But I was in the market for a new strap--something that would be more comfortable and functional than the stock one.
A few of you recommended Black Rapid straps, so I bought the RS-4 model to test. It was $54, which felt expensive for a camera strap. But I bit the bullet because I wanted to see if a "high-end" camera strap could make a difference. The Black Rapid RS-4 is a gliding camera strap, meaning that the camera hangs loose on a loop around the nylon so it can slide up and down from hip to chest without moving the strap itself. And unlike non-gliding straps, it attaches to the camera using the tripod mount on the bottom instead of the two small metal loops on the frame. The 1/4" fastener screws in tightly and securely. The strap itself is light, the shoulder pad is comfortable, and there's even a small zipper compartment in the shoulder pad to store memory cards. But it's also $54, plus tax and shipping.
And if you study the build of the Black Rapid RS-4, you can see that it's not much more than a few common pieces of hardware strung together and attached to a padded strap. Using this CNet guide as a starting point, I went to the hardware store to find suitable pieces to make my own budget gliding camera strap.