Saturday, August 29, 2009

Black Rapid strap review

(all photos copyright Black Rapid Inc)

So, if you haven't been paying attention or have just joined the audience, Black Rapid held a contest recently where it asked users to make their own awesome straps. They promised the winner a brand new RS-5 strap. There were only a few entries into the contest so they decided that everybody was getting a strap. They gave me a "nod of the head" due to my innovative (and slightly ridiculous) storage/pocket system, and sent me the RS-5 (whereas I believe the rest of the participants received the RS-4).

I received my strap yesterday just in time to put it on and run out the door for a shoot of NAU's Women's Soccer team. Overall, I like it, but I'm going to discuss some of the pieces in detail below.

1) The magnets. I applaud Black Rapid for this. Shooting photojournalism, the goal is usually to be as quiet as possible. Rather than ripping Velcro all over the place (my cheap-o solution on my DIY strap), I simply pull on a part of the strap to get to whatever I need. The magnets are totally silent and strong enough to hold the pockets closed.

2) The pockets. There are a total of 3 pockets on the RS-5. The one on the exterior is clearly designed for a cell phone. My cell phone lives in a holster on my hip along with my knife, lenses and notepad, so I keep extra En-EL3 batteries in this pocket. If I had the En-EL4's, I'd keep one there as well.
The other two pockets are inside the strap. One runs the length of the strap and one is shorter due to the space needed for the cell phone pocket. They are kept hidden via the magnets mentioned above. One is mesh and clearly designed for memory cards. I carry 2 spare 4gb cards in the mesh pocket along with the R-Fastener that came with the strap. Because I use a monopod with some frequency these days, I keep my quick-release head on the camera and hook the strap to that. It works just as well as the R-Fastener, though it doesn't look nearly as pretty. The larger internal pocket is big enough to hold batteries, more memories cards, business cards and lens cloths. With nothing else in it, it is big enough to hold a granola bar. The zippers on these pockets are also fairly quiet when used quietly... O_o
3) Hardware. The end of the strap has a mini locking carabiner (side note: Blogger's spellchecker doesn't know how to spell carabiner). I find the locking part fairly superfluous; it gets in the way from quickly attaching and detaching the camera from the strap. Assuming the biner is unlocked, it is a very effective and easy system. It is small enough to attach to the ring on the bottom of a quick-release plate for a tripod/monopod head but it still feels beefy enough I'm not worried about my rig (regardless of size) falling off. The R-Fastener would be useful if I didn't have my quick-release plate and is definitely small enough to stay out of the way when shooting on the vertical grip (as I usually do).

My only real issue with the strap is:
The makeup of the part of the strap that rests on my shoulder. On the DIY strap I mailed Black Rapid today, the inside of the strap is a fairly sticky rubber that just doesn't move. This strap, especially when loaded with batteries and memory cards, has a tendency to sliiiiiiiiiide around on my shoulder. Granted, the reason the strap is made with the material it has is to make it "breathable." I'd much rather the strap stay put on my shoulder, but that might just be me.
It stays put fairly well when it has a camera w/ some weight attached to it... but when I take my camera off the strap and stick it on the monopod, I end up with the pocketed part of the strap hanging at my waist instead of staying put on my shoulder.

Other than that, the only thing I would add to this strap is a convenient place on the front to keep a pen or two. Overall, I like it and I will definitely be using it for the foreseeable future. It certainly feels more solidly constructed than the DIY strap I used for the past month!

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