Thursday, February 24, 2011

Review: Black Rapid RS-7

Silly story: So last Saturday I found myself on the North side of the city with an extra hour to kill. Here in Pittsburgh we recently (well, in the last year or so) got our own casino – and it was just a few blocks away. Doing the math in my head; if I decided to kill this hour with an impromptu casino visit I figured (and rightly so) that I’d lose about $100 bucks – because I hit 16 against a dealer 10 just like the book says too.

However exchanging $100 bucks for 60 minutes of downtime seemed, at least at the moment, a little extreme. But wait! The only camera shop in the tri-state area was also just a few blocks away! And I never go in there just to browse… this is a perfect opportunity to do so!!

An hour later and $139 dollars lighter I emerged….

Really, I should have known better. And for the first ten minutes I was fine; I even managed to rebuke the salesman’s initial “can I help you with something” gambit. But then I started thinking about all the little things I constantly forget I need; a new UV lens filter, light stand mount, extra cold-shoe, etc. Nothing major; but enough to open the flood gates. Inertia took over, and even the sales guy could smell it. All hope was lost.

“Well,” he said like a cobra coiled to strike, “perhaps Sir would be interested in this…”

Reaching into a display case he pulled out a BlackRapid camera strap.


In my defense let me say that I’ve been wrestling with camera straps for some time now. Sometimes I love ‘em, other times they just get in the way. The standard Nikon strap isn’t at all bad, but has (imho) a fatal flaw: It uses tension-grips to attach to the camera body. This means that if you absolutely can’t stand the strap for another second, it’s at least five minutes of fumbling to remove the thing and five more later to put it back on. I tried to “fix” this DIY-style with some $1 carabineers from the ‘Depot. Which worked, with the exception that the aforementioned carabineers were only rated to twenty pounds, and that always made me a little nauseous about the safety of my camera.

My DIY solution.
Also, my friend Zavo recently had been raving about the Luna Loop. It sure sounded interesting; and I have to admit that having hardware that is Mil-Spec certainly appeals to man-parts, no doubt. But at that moment the Luna Loop was ethereal, and the BlackRapid right in front of me. What’s a guy gonna do?

I’ll tell you: Try it on like a fancy Victorian lady in a hat shop, that’s what. And it’s here that I’ll (finally) get to something approaching a review: The number one selling point for the BlackRapid is that the thing is frick’en comfortable.

No, really. In the first second of having the strap over my shoulder I involuntarily let out a little sigh; ahhh, that’s just… better. Now, obviously, it’s a highly subjective judgment; your mileage may vary. But I gotta say that it takes the weight off my neck and puts it… well… somewhere else. I honestly think I could wear this thing for hours and still not care.

The strap it’s self is made of ballistic nylon (so there’s something to appease the boy-bits), and the connector is made of (what seems to be) quality alloy. The connector isn’t exactly what I’d call “quick release” – because you need to unscrew the locking mechanism to get it off. But this really only takes an extra moment or so, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get quicker once muscle-memory kicks in. All things considered it’s much quicker than dealing with a tension strap.

The connector clips on to a fastener, which screws into the tripod mount under the camera. I “get” the idea here, but I do have a few problems with that. First is a (probably irrational) fear that the fastener will unscrew from the body if the camera twists on my hip. BlackRapid clearly tries to address this with a little rubber “compression disk” that sits between the steel fastener and the camera body. And the connector is designed to spin, rather than the fastener; which intellectually I know should do the trick. But my brain is at the mercy of the dollar amount hanging from my hip; we’ll just have to see which one wins.

My other problem with the fastener is that, when disconnected from the strap, it sits like a giant nub on the bottom of my camera body. If I have to set my camera down all the weight is on the fastener. Shouldn’t be a big deal as the fastener is steel and all. But it just seems awkward. And, of course, you can only use a tripod quick-release plate if you get the optional FastenR-T1 for another $18 bucks.
The leaning tower of Camera.
Still, those criticisms are extremely minor; especially when you use the strap as intended. Obviously, it’s real purpose is to allow you to shoot like a gun-slinger. And here the BlackRapid performs exactly as advertised (probably better, actually). Dropping my right arm down to my side, my hand almost naturally finds the camera grip. It’s a little spooky. Going from hip to eye takes so little time I can barely say it happens at all. In just as little time the camera can be back on your hip, ready to go again.

Just as importantly;  walking, even at a fast trot (sadly my top speed), the camera stays put. If I had to run (and perish the thought), I’d probably have one hand on the body anyway (again, mind v. camera-cost). All things considered the camera feels pretty solid on my hip; and that’s not something easily ignored.

So the short version is: I’m digging the BlackRapid, and I’d recommend it if it’s on your radar. All things considered, it’s a much safer bet than doubling-down against an ace.

End of line.


  1. when the lumaloop was backordered last month, i almost caved and got one of these. good choice. =)

  2. No where in the same price range, I got a few Nishika straps some years back and have been quite pleased with the quick disconnects and weight distribution. But now that I've seen this I'm contemplating the DR-1. Nice.

  3. Have stopped many a person with this strap and they all say they love it! So it is definitely in my shopping cart! Can you still just throw the camera and strap over one shoulder on the fly or do you always have to use it across the body? I am also tempted to get the model that holds 2 camera bodies just so I can look like a member of the SWAT team at events.

  4. I won the RS-W1 from them around Christmastime. I love the thing! It's so comfortable, the only thing I would like is pockets in the strap like on the men's version. I feel comfortable slinging my 7D with the 70-200 lens on it with no worries. :)