One of the first things we recommend you do when you get a new camera (particularly a DSLR), is buy a new camera strap. Not only are stock straps uncomfortable, they’re like a big flashing beacon for thieves.
BlackRapid has quickly made a name for itself with its variety of quick-shot camera straps. The main difference between these straps and the standard versions you typically see is the way 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 hassle of getting a strap that’s sitting across your chest up and over your shoulder every time you take a shot. Honestly, it’s fantastic.
Since the first models hit the market, the range has broadened to include straps for more specific needs. As an active adventure travel photographer, the company 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 near the top of your camera. Instead, you screw what they call a “FastenR” into the tripod mount on the camera bottom. Screw it in until the rubber washer expands a bit and it’s locked in place, 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, though, 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; instead, the camera itself moves along the strap. Take your shot, then put the camera back down by your hip.
There’s an adjustable stopper that prevents the camera from going back too far, so it always ends up back in the same position on the strap.
The BlackRapid Sport Strap Slim
The Sport Strap has a couple of features that distinguish it from the rest of the range. First, it has an ergonomic shoulder pad made for either right- or left-handed shooters.
Secondly, it comes with an accessory strap the company calls a “Brad,” to secure the main strap around your chest (under your arm) for more active shooting. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test out this secondary “Brad” strap, since the wrong version arrived for me to test.
The “Slim” in the strap is a nice touch. It’s made for slightly smaller bodies (human, not camera), and as I’m a little short and slim myself, the 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 and capturing festivals in Thailand to hiking and jetboating in New Zealand, I’ve put it through its paces.
I’ve used two cameras in my tests, the heaviest being a Nikon D7000 with a Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens, and the lightest being a Nikon D90 with a Lensbaby.
Using the Sport Strap Slim while shooting in the streets of Yangon and Shwebo in Myanmar (Burma) meant I could quickly bring my camera up to capture a moment that I might have lost when using a traditional strap.
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’s nothing worse 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 you have to unscrew it to mount your camera on a tripod.
The folks at BlackRapid have a solution for this: the “FastenR Tripod,” which works with the Manfrotto RC2 quick release plate system.
Sadly my standard travel tripod doesn’t use the same system, so I needed to unscrew my camera from the strap when I wanted to use it.
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 worked fine when wearing a backpack. I just needed to remember to put the backpack on first, then slip the camera on.
One problem I did have with the camera strap was the length adjustment often loosened, becoming slowly longer over time. 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.
- Being able to 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 that’s not part of the Manfrotto RC2 system.
After using this style of strap, I have no desire 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 can’t be beaten.
The BlackRapid Sport Strap Slim is an excellent strap for the active shooter, especially if the next iteration solves the loosening issue I mentioned. The strap retails for $69.95 (check prices on Amazon) and comes with all the accessories you need.