Camera straps are a deeply personal thing. Some people are more than happy to just keep using the strap that came with their camera. Others want something more padded, thinner, more stylish, or with different functionality. I’m of the opinion that there is no universally right strap, only the right strap for a given situation.
That said, the market place for camera straps can be daunting. Not long after I got into serious photography I picked up a Lowe Pro replacement strap, which I quickly abandoned as being “meh” at best. For a long time after that I settled with just the straps that came with my Canon cameras. Then I found ThinkTank Photo’s Camera straps and snapped them up as my default straps.
I’ve been eyeing Black Rapid’s sling straps since they first came out. I really like the premise; camera at your side, out of your way but easy to grab. Beyond that, the orientation works very well in a number of ways. But there are a lot of models to choose from and they’re not cheap. So which is the right one?
Picking the Right Black Rapid Strap
Black Rapid makes a number of different straps in different configurations and weights. I own two of these, the Sport (reviewed here), and the Backpack strap(link to my review). Beyond that they offer the Curve, Metro, Kick, Yeti, Double, Double Slim, Shot and Cross Shot. Each bringing a slight different feature set to the table.
I’ve not tried all of their offerings, but this is my take on the matter.
The curve isn’t really curved, it’s a straight sling strap. It’d be most ideal for a lighter camera setup as there’s neither a lot of padding nor is it designed to curve around your neck and shoulder to keep it from digging in.
The Metro is similar to the curve, but introduces some kick to the strap/shoulder pad join to help it keep the pad flat on your shoulder while the strap crosses your body. Like the curve, the Metro is probably best again for light camera setups, mirrorless or light DSLRs. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t use it with a full frame DLSR, but you’re probably not going to like a 1DX and a 70–200mm f/2.8 hanging on it all day.
The Kick is the little brother to the Sport. The shoulder pad is larger than the Curve or Metro, and bent so that it sits vertically over the shoulder and the straps angle away across your body. It also doesn’t include the underarm stabilizing strap that the Sport comes with, though one can be added. The Kick is good for medium weight camera setups; something like a semi-pro body (5D/D810) and a 24–70mm f/2.8 should be easily handled.
The Sport is the big brother to the Kick. They’re both styled the same, but the sport has a larger shoulder pad, and comes with an underarm stabilizing strap. The stabilizing strap insures that the shoulder pad can’t slide towards your neck and dig in when carrying a heavy camera rig. I’ve comfortably used this with a full-sized full-frame SLR (gripped 5D or 1DX) and a 70–200/2.8 or 100–400 zoom without any comfort issues
The Yeti is the smallest of the multi-camera straps. Very similar in design to the Sport, or Kick, the Yeti does away with the underarm stabilizing strap and adds a second camera strap in its place. I think the Yeti should be good for 2 light weight or 1 light and 1 medium weight camera rigs. The Yeti is the only double camera strap from Black Rapid that retains a strap slung across your body for one camera.
The Double is the big daddy of dual camera black rapid setups. It uses both shoulders, unlike the Yeti, to sling two cameras rigs on each side. Strictly speaking, it’s also not a sling strap like any of the previous straps. The camera hang directly below the shoulder harness on each side. The Double, and the Double slim are designed to be separable into two independent camera straps as well that are functionally similar to the Sport.
As far as I can tell, the Double slim is just a slimmer, lighter weight version of the Double.
Obviously I went with the Sport when I picked out my strap. I tend to carry heavier gear, like a full-sized body and a 100–400 or 70–200/2.8, and the extra stability (or neck digging insurance) that comes from the underarm strap was a desired trait. If I shot more frequently with 2 bodies, I would have certainly jumped up to the Double instead.
The backpack strap is the sling option for a backpack wearer. Unlike the other Black Rapid straps, it’s only half a strap — the front half. Instead of having a shoulder pad, the Backpack strap relies on your backpack harness to provide the support and positioning. The strap itself is perfectly fine for pretty much any camera load, what will actually be comfortable though will depend on your backpack’s straps.
Ergonomics and Camera Handling
On the ergonomics side, the strap is designed to hold the camera upside down on your right side with the lens pointed behind you. This has the side effect of orienting the camera’s grip to naturally match the orientation of your hand when you go to grab it. You can easily grab the camera at your side and swing it up and start shooting without having to reorient your hand on camera. It’s an equally fast and comfortable move to stow the camera when you’re done shooting and move on.
The natural positioning of the camera at your side was one of the big factors that really attracted me to the strap. I do a lot of shooting of products on table tops where I either have to make adjustments to the product or the lighting while I’m working.
I could use a tripod, but that would slow me down considerably and the benefits it provides are limited for the kind of work that I’m doing. What I’ve generally done in the past is set my camera down somewhere handy.
With the Black Rapid Sport, that handy place is within reach at my side all the time. Moreover, I don’t have to worry about accidentally knocking the camera off wherever I put it, it’s firmly at my side.
The second aspect that I really appreciate is the added level of what you might call security or protection, when I’m out in the field.
With my ThinkTank straps attached to a backpack mount, the camera was largely free to rotate and swing when I was walking. I could keep it tucked away under my arm, but doing so required some active control.
With the Black Rapid Sport, I find the camera is much less prone to do its own thing when I’m walking around. It just sticks to my side as tightly as possible.
I think a lot of this comes down to a combination of having only a single point of connection, the end of the sling strap. And since the strap can be attached to a lens’s foot, the entire package can be better balanced especially when carryon a longer or heavier lens.
Aside form the camera not spinning around a lot, it also means that I can generally keep the lens pointed behind me. This means that as I’m walking through brush or around tables, generally anything that could hit the front of the lens and scratch or damage it, that part of the lens is pointed away from danger.
One potential consideration for using a sling strap is how well it will fit larger people, or say over bulk clothing like a heavy winter jacket. Black Rapid definitely took this into account. I’m not the most in-shape person in the world, and I’m nearly 6 feet tall, and my Sport has a long way to go before it reaches its extension limit. Moreover, if that’s still not enough for you, the strap can be extended in 15 inch increments using 1 or more Berts (buy from amazon(Affiliate Link) ).
One of the biggest concerns that crop up with any of the Black Rapid straps is the security of the camera mount. The standard way of mounting a camera or lens is to screw the connector on the strap into the camera’s or lens’s tripod socket. That of course raises the concern that the screw will back out with use.
Black Rapid mitigates that problem by putting a grippy rubber washer (for lack of a better word) on the camera connection bit. In my experience this does a real good job making it very difficult for the screw to work its way out. On top of that, the clip that attaches the screw to the strap swivels, and does so a lot easier than the screw will, so it will tend to take up any twist before the screw can start unscrewing.
The screw solution is universals, but it’s neither the fastest solution to get on and off. And if you have the right, or wrong, kind of quick release tripod plates for your tripod may not even be feasible.
There are a number of ways to address this.
To start with, Black Rapid sells 50 mm and 70 mm Arca Swiss style tripod plates, that have flat flip-up loop screws. When you want to use the strap, you simply snap the strap’s swivel through the flip-up loop on the mounting screw. When you want to go on a tripod or monopod, you detach the swivel and fold the loop on the screw flat.
The other option is to go all out and mount a quick release clamp to the Black Rapid Fastenr mount. I use Really Right Stuff clamps and plates across my gear, and their B2-FABN works really well for this application.
It seems to me that even with the Black Rapid mounting system being what it is, there’s a number of people, myself included, that are still somewhat concerned that the camera might come off and go clattering to the ground.
Black Rapid themselves sells a solution to this as well in their Tether Kit. Though I have no experience with it.
My solution to this problem was to press in to service a loop of 250 pound test para-cord. I’ll detail my entire setup at the end of this review.
Cons, Hurdles, The Down Sides
With all that said, nothing is ever perfect, and some time deserves to be spent talking about the cons and problems.
Quite possibly one of the biggest hurdles to the Black Rapid straps is price. Outside of designer or hand made leather straps, the Black Rapid straps are flat out expensive.
My ThinkTank Photo straps only cost me $27 a piece, and up to this point they were the most expensive straps I can recall having bought. A wide heavily padded strap, like those made by OpTech USA(Affiliate Link) , can be had for around $20.
On the other hand, the stand alone Black Rapid Straps start around $50, with the Sport coming in at $74, and a double camera strap like the Double coming in at $135.
Let me put it this way, I’ve been eyeing Black Rapid’s straps pretty much ever since they announced them, and every time I would go add one to my cart on Amazon or B&H, I would cringe at the price and not click the button.
So what made me change my mind?
A friend of mine got one, actually one of the Nikon branded AN-SBR2’s, and I got a chance to play around with it for a bit one day when I was over giving him a hand with some computer stuff. Suffice to say, I was impressed enough by the build and features to give one a try.
The next real hurdle is that these straps don’t play well with backpacks or shoulder bags. Either you put the strap on before the backpack, in which case you can’t pull the camera all the way up. Or you put it on over the backpack, and it doesn’t fit right since it goes around the backpack.
Fortunately, Black Rapid makes a backpack strap that attaches directly to the backpack’s harness instead of wrapping around you and this completely solves the backpack problem.
I have both the Sport strap and the Backpack strap, and use whichever one is a better fit for me at the time. However, regardless of which strap I’m using, the overall setup is the same.
I’m using the stock Fastenr fasteners that come with the Sport or Backpack strap. Black Rapid sells other alternatives but the stock ones work just fine for me.
On my Fastenr I have a Really Right Stuff B2-FABN Arca Swiss style quick release clamp. Though a bit expensive, this is a very versatile clamp that I use for a whole lot more than just having on the end of my Black Rapid strap.
Finally as an added security measure I have a loop of 250 pound para-cord
One end of the safety cord I have looped through the strap loop part of the mounting clip. The other end of the loop I have looped through the strap mount of a Peak Design Anchor Link, since I use these style of quick release camera strap mounts on all of my bodies and straps.
The combination of the Really Right Stuff clamp and the Peak Design QR strap mount makes it very quick to attach or detach my camera from the Black Rapid strap, and remain very confident that should anything in the primary mounting system fail, there’s a study backup in place to stop my gear from hitting the ground.
Like most things in photography there is no one end all be all strap that solves the strap problem forever. I certainly can’t say that the Black Rapid Sport would be the last strap you need to buy — as I bought a Black Rapid Backpack strap to use when I’m wearing a backpack.
Suffice to say, I really do like this strap. Honestly, I wish I had just bought it back when I first saw them instead of waiting. If you’re on the fence, as I was, I think it’s worth the investment.