One of the first things we recommend you do when you buy a new camera (particularly a DSLR), is buy a new camera strap. Not only are stock straps uncomfortable, they’re a great advertisement for thieves.
BlackRapid has quickly made a name for themselves with their quick-shot camera straps. The main difference between their straps and the standard camera straps you often see is that your camera ‘floats’ on a BlackRapid strap. This means you can bring it up to your eye effortlessly, while the strap itself doesn’t move from your body. This eliminates the pain of getting a strap that is across your chest over your shoulder to take a shot. This is fantastic.
Since their first models have hit the market, they’ve broadened their line to include straps for more specific needs. As an active adventure travel photographer, they sent me a BlackRapid Sport Strap to try out in the wild.
How the BlackRapid System Works
The first thing you notice about the strap is that it doesn’t connect to your camera using the typical eyelets on the top of your camera. Instead, you screw in what they call a "FastenR" into the tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. Screw it in until the rubber washer expands a bit and it’s locked in and you’re all set. Next, grab the camera strap and unlock the carabiner (ConnectR) at the end to attach the camera to the strap. The camera hangs upside-down at about hip-level.
At first, it was admittedly a little strange to have my camera dangling upside-down at my side. It didn’t take long to become not only comfortable with it there, but enjoying where the camera grip was positioned: ready for action.
To shoot, just grab the camera and pull up (and out a bit) to bring it to eye level. The strap itself doesn’t move on your body, only the camera will move along the strap. Take your shot, then put the camera back down by your hip. There is an adjustable stopper that will prevent the camera from going back too far, so the camera always goes back to the same position on the strap.
The BlackRapid Sport Strap Slim
The Sport Strap has a pair of distinguishing features from their standard straps. First, it has an ergonomic shoulder pad made for either right handed, or left handed shooters. Secondly, it comes with a strap they call a "Brad" to secure the strap around your chest (under your arm) for more active shooting. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test out this secondary "Brad" strap as the wrong strap arrived for me to test.
The "Slim" in the strap is a nice little touch. It’s made for slightly smaller bodies (human, not camera), and as I’m a little short and slim myself, the slim strap does a good job of fitting my body, without added bulk. It’s not often manufacturers design products for us smaller shooters so kudos for BlackRapid for thinking about the little guy (literally).
This is a premium product, and as such, it looks and feels great. The materials and stitching are all perfect, and nothing feels like it would wear or give way prematurely.
Testing in the Streets, in the Fields, and on a Volcano
I’ve been using the BlackRapid Sport Slim strap for the past two months. From street shooting in Myanmar, capturing festivals in Thailand, and hiking and jetboating in New Zealand, I’ve put it through the paces. I’ve used two cameras in my tests, the heaviest being a Nikon D7000 with a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 and the lightest being a Nikon D90 with a Lensbaby.
Having the Sport Strap Slim while shooting in the streets of Yangon and Shwebo in Myanmar (Burma) meant that I could quickly bring my camera up to capture a moment that I might have lost if I was using a traditional strap. There’s no doubt that when shooting in the street, those split seconds count for a lot. I also like that the strap isn’t flashy, essentially all black, as there is nothing worst than a yellow strap screaming at your subjects on the street to get away from your giant camera as you try to steal their soul.
I shot a few festivals in Thailand, including one that required my tripod. As the “FastenR” screws into your tripod mount, this means that you must unscrew it to mount your camera on a tripod. The folks at BlackRapid have come up with a solution for this with the “FastenR Tripod” which works with the Manfrotto RC2 quick release plate system. Unfortunately for me, my Velbon Ultrek UT-43D tripod (check prices on Amazon) doesn’t use the same system, so I needed to unscrew my camera from the strap when I wanted to use my tripod.
Finally, on my recent trek on New Zealand’s Tongariro Alpine Crossing, the second locking clip on the front of the strap came in handy. I could just slide it down to lock the camera down at my hip so it didn’t slide forward when I was climbing over boulders. I also liked how I could quickly unhook my camera from the strap to take the odd self-portrait from the summit for posterity. The strap works fine with backpacks, just be sure to put the backpack on on first, then slip the camera on.
One problem I did have with the camera strap was that the length adjustment often loosened and became longer. This was a problem when I put the camera down or in my bag, and at its worst when I was running down the mountain, requiring adjustment every few minutes.
The build quality and materials are top notch.
Impressive design is changing the way camera straps are made.
Use the same strap with multiple cameras with multiple “FastenR” accessories.
Sport Strap doesn’t slip over your shoulder.
Strap often gets tangled in my bag.
Length adjustment doesn’t lock very well and changes the fit.
Extra step involved if you’re using a tripod head not part of the Manfrotto RC2 system.
After using this style of strap, I have no wish to go back to using a standard camera strap again. The ease of just pulling your camera up to your eye without the strap getting caught on your shoulder just cannot be beat.
The BlackRapid Sport Strap Slim is an excellent strap for the active shooter. I hope the next iteration solves the length adjustment issue in particular.
BlackRapid Sport Strap Slim retails for $69.95 (check prices on Amazon) and comes with all you need.