Friday, June 19, 2015

BlackRapid camera strap review

BlackRapid camera strap review

Camera straps are one of those things which have hardly changed since the birth of cameras. It's just a simple strap which goes up to your shoulder. Okay, now they are wider and made of ballistic nylon, and long ago they were leather. I have a pre-war Rolleiflex double-lens reflex camera with its original strap, it's leather and I can't believe how narrow it is (and how worn). Must be around a centimeter, under half an inch. But the camera is clearly very used indeed, so it seems the strap has held for over half a century.

About seven years ago, I found a one-man company who made a strap called the Y-strap. Unfortunately he has since closed shop. The brilliance of that strap was mostly in the simple idea that you put in on the shoulder opposite the camera, so it wouldn't slide off, and secondly that the camera was mounted in such a way that it would slide on the strap, so in less than a second you could grab it down by your hip and swing it up and fire.

This excellent idea has fortunately been continued by a slightly bigger company called BlackRapid. (Though I can't say if they knew of the Y-strap.) They make several models (admittedly some of them seem to push the raƮson d'etre thing a little), and they are all based on the same idea as the Y-strap. But they have added several features, most importantly a big, comfy stretch of padding which rests on your shoulder, so even with a heavy camera and long hours, the risk of discomfort is minimized.

I've bought two: the Yeti, which can carry one or two cameras (one on each side of the body), and the Metro, which is the "compact model" for minimal space use when traveling. I am just trying out the Metro (which of course has the smallest shoulder pad), and even with my heaviest camera and heaviest lens, it feels very comfortable. Of course I can't yet vouch for how it will feel carrying it for five hours, but I can say that it does not at all feel like I'm carrying the heaviest gear I have. And that's just with the most compact strap, so that induces trust.

I found out about this strap from a video on Luminous landscape, and it was mentioned that many of the photographers on their long-range camera expedition were using BlackRapid straps, so clearly the word-of-mouth recommendations are strong.

Note: BlackRapid likes to mount the strap via the tripod thread. But if it fits you better (for example to have the tripod thread free), you can also use either side strap mount, though you may have to use a keyring-ring as go-between. 
Note 2: Some Amazon reviews complain about the prices, but I think those are people who haven't tried them yet. The Metro I think has a quite fair price ($39). The Yeti costs quite a lot more ($99), but when you pack it out: man, it's impressive. That is solid gear, I think you really get a lot for your money. (Of course it's about equivalent of two good straps, plus extras to secure it around the shoulder, I guess in case you're photographing from a plane doing stunts...)
Also the steel bits are kewl. They seem like they could lift a car (I wouldn't be surprised), and they are even nice to look at, with semi-black anodization (similar to Apple's "Space Grey").


emptyspaces said...

I have one of their earlier versions, the R-Strap, from about 7 years ago. It's still going strong, only some fabric has faded. I love how I can adjust it so my camera sits against my lower back when I walk, leaving both hands free.

If I use the LCD screen to shoot, I can pull the camera tight in front of me and the strap adds some stability for hand-held shots, too.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Cool, thanks.

Eolake Stobblehouse said...

The stabilization tip is good.
Some use a washer on a string from the camera. They step on the washer and stretch the string.
It sounds sound, but I'm not sure straining helps. Personally I find it easier at waist level, I have taken fully sharp pictures at 1/15th with a 40mm lens (without IS) that way. Maybe it helps that my muscles are more relaxed than when I have the camera raised and pressed to my face.
Of course one may have a minimum of straining to help. Could all be individual, I dunno.