A decent camera strap is something often overlooked by your average amateur photographer. Considering the value of the camera attached to it, manufacturer straps generally only serve to safely carry the camera and usually advertise the brand of camera you’re carrying. As someone who is out and about with my camera quite a bit, I wanted something a bit more than your “average” strap.
A standard camera strap is basically a bit of material that attached to the top of your camera – usually on each corner – forming a loop that goes around your neck. When you bend over, it swings forward. When you try and take a portrait shot, invariably you get all tangled up as you twist the strap. If you’re out walking for a long distance, it bangs against your tummy and puts quite a bit of pressure on your neck. Of course, you could put your camera in a bag, but that removes the availability of having the camera close to hand.
If you loop the strap over your shoulder, you generally get less freedom to work with as the manufacturer strap is usually quite short and not designed for over-the-shoulder operation.
I like to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. I’ve done a little street photography and having the camera quickly available but unobtrusive is an important benefit. I also like to go on long walks without taking many kilos of camera equipment. My 24mm or 50mm prime and the camera are enough for me. I’m also getting out and about on a new bike as part of a 52 challenge and cycling with a DSLR on a standard strap would just be an exercise in frustration.
So why go “top-end” for the Black-Rapid? For me – the answer was quite simple. If my camera is dangling down by my side, I want it to stay there and not drop off. Canon’s 70-200 f2.8 lens is not cheap, and dropping it would make me very sad. No photographer wants “dropped kit”. I’ve now done almost 200 miles on my mountain bike and had various lenses banging around against my back. Not one sign of a loosening strap! the Black Rapid isn’t “top end” either. The Sun Sniper strap has a steel cable running through it making it pretty much impossible to cut through your strap. However I decided against this based on the fact that anyone coming to get my camera with a knife, is better off slicing through the strap and taking my camera than getting frustrated by the steel cable, and taking that frustration out on me. With the aforementioned knife! Other companies such as OpTech and Joby do lower priced versions of the sling strap (Link to other sling straps), but I spent the extra for the peace of mind.
The Benefits of the Black Rapid RS-7.
The benefits of a sling strap are great…
- No pressure on your neck. The camera sits across your shoulder and hangs comfortably down by your side. The shoulder part of the strap is padded and slightly curved to better fit across the shoulder and it is a far more comfortable weight to carry.
- Ease of access. Hanging down by your hip, the camera is in a great place to quickly bring up and shoot when you need to. There are two “restraining” clips on the strap. One in front of the camera to lock it in place, and one behind the camera to prevent travel. With the strap locking to the camera via the tripod mount, there is no tangle of strap cables in portrait shooting modes.
- Inconspicuous. It’s easy to wear the strap under a coat. Whilst this keeps the camera inconspicuous, it also allows you to (for example) button up a raincoat and protect the camera from inclement weather.
- Great for cycling/active photographers! The two strap locks can be used to “fix” the camera position on the strap, stopping the camera swinging about during certain activities (such as cycling). The front clip is quickly and easily released to allow access to the camera for shooting. See image to the right for how this works.
- I have no real idea how this would work with a left-handed person. Most cameras are not designed for left handed people, so I’m (perhaps arrogantly!) assuming that if you’re left handed and you can operate a camera, then the strap would be the least of your problems. I would definitely recommend actually physically trying a sling strap before purchasing though!
- Tripods. because the strap connects via the tripod mount, you lost the ability to screw the camera to a tripod. This was of minimal issue for me as I don’t need the strap if I’m using a tripod. Tripods tend to imply a degree of time setting up a shot, and the Black Rapid is more for … well… rapid use. If this is a real problem though, Black Rapid have developed a FastenR-T1 for use with a Manfrotto tripod plate.
- With the camera hanging by your side instead of on your chest, there is a danger of bashing the camera as you walk past things. I tend to walk with one hand on the camera body if I’m either in a crowd, or somewhere where I might bash it. If you adopt this practise, try and avoid looking like a western gunslinger. Unless you’re going for that look that is 🙂
The Black Rapid RS-7 Camera Strap was without doubt one of the best investments I’ve made accessory wise for my camera. I can go out walking or cycling without looking like a tourist and I can walk hand in hand with my wife wherever we are and it doesn’t get in the way. Well worth the money and an excellent gift for a photographer who gets out and about.