I’ve had a love hate relationship with camera straps since I got my Pentax *ist-D back in 2004. Since then I think I’ve had about 7 different types of straps, some never used (for example, the “HEY LOOK I’M USING [insert camera brand here]!!” type that comes with a new camera) some used sometimes, some passed on to others, and the latest one (and my favorite) a nifty dual-buckle version with a built in memory card holder from (I think) Lowe Pro. The problem with them has always been that they are the same type, with the camera hanging on your chest. This (to me) even with the nicest strap works fine for the first three hours, but for me around three hours and one minute my neck starts to kill me, and I start cursing the strap, swearing I’ll buy a new one tomorrow dammit. Then the next day I’ll have forgotten about it, and until three hours and one minute into the next photo shoot or photo walk, I ignore the problem.
The biggest problem with the straps is that the force of the camera pulling on the back of my neck causes pain, as well as some inconvenience with doing things like bending over (camera swinging up, or hitting down on my knees or the ground), or navigating through tight areas (between tight rows in a store). You can alleviate some of this by putting the camera under your arm and across your chest, but this makes the camera really hard to get to your eye fast.
So I finally broke down and paid $80 for the Black Rapid RS-5 camera strap. I picked it over the RS-7, which is supposed to be more comfortable, and is cheaper, but doesn’t come with the built in pockets, and I really like to have a couple of spare SD cards on me, just in case. Here are a few quick thoughts, both pro and con, about the strap.
- Massively increased comfort. When I spent the day shooting the Run for Water marathon, I had no problems at all with it causing stress to the back of my neck like previous straps.
- Fixes most of the issues with the issues of getting to the camera, having it hit the ground or knees. Having your camera body hanging on your hip, as the site advertises, is pretty much what you want for convenient and fast access.
- The strap’s pocket is big enough for an iphone, with an internal pocket or two for SD cards, secured by media-safe rare earth magnets (they even tweeted back to me when I expressed some concerns about magnets holding the pocket with my iPhone and SD cards in it closed).
- The price is a bit high at $80 Canadian, but it’s less than the previous strap I was using (about $100 if I remember right) and when you weigh (hehe) this against the comfort of your neck on a day of walking around with a camera…
Not everything is perfect in black-rapid land though. A few things I found over the last while of using the strap:
- The pouch is just a bit too large. I really would love a pocket half the size. The RS-7’s add-on pouches ($40ish) seem a bit short and wide, and while the RS-7’s pouch is nice and long, it feels a bit like it’s pushing up against my neck and face sometimes. You can mitigate this a bit by pushing the strap back so more of it’s on your back however.
- There are some swinging issues. The supplied stoppers help to keep the camera from going to far backwards or forwards, but the camera still needs a certain amount of play to allow it to move from your hip to eye, so that’s the length of play that the camera can swing about if you bend over, lean, etc.
- Keeping the strap in the right place on your shoulder can be challenging too. This might have been one of the things fixed in the newer version of the strap.
- The way the strap is connected to the camera is through a screw-on system that connects with a small carabiner. The carabiner has a lock on it, but I noticed that once is had either worked itself a bit loose, or I’d forgotten to tighten it all the way. Either way, it’s a potential failure point if it works loose or you forget to tighten it. It’s also a bit of a pain to have to undo and re-do it if you put your camera on a tripod (if you don’t have one of the supported tripods for the FastenR plates that is).
All in all, based on the comfort I’ve had the last few shoots with the RS-5, I have to say I recommend the Rapidstrap wholeheartedly.