Camera carrying solutions are abundant, and thus it can be quite frustrating when trying to figure out which solution is the best for you and your shooting style. Previously, we reviewed the Spider Camera Holster which is definitely one of our favorite non-strap based solutions. Today, we want to introduce you to our favorite strap-based solutions the Black Rapid RS-4 and RS-W1 which are essentially the male and female versions of the same product.
Black Rapid, a Seattle-based company founded by professional photographerRon Henry, creates innovative camera carrying solutions with single or double straps. If you have neck pains associated with the neck straps, or if you’re simply looking for a more comfortable, stylish solution, then this article along with their line of camera straps is definitely worth your time and consideration.
Seen below, the RS-4, is a lightweight, low-profile strap that accommodates the needs of all types of photographers. The RS-W1 is essentially the same strap but slightly modified to address the specific ergonomic needs of female shooters. Although these are two different strap models, the core features are essentially the same so we will contain both reviews in the same article. Continue reading for more information and a detailed review of the pros and cons.
Below, you can see what both straps look like in action. A quick thank you to Justin of LJP, rockin’ the RS-4 and and Ashley of Ashley Photographer modeling the RS-W1. They were gracious enough to take time to be our models, as well as provide detailed feedback into their testing and trials of each product.
How it works: The “FastenR,” a small bolt-like device, connects directly to the tripod mount of your camera. The “FastenR” connects to a “ConnectR,” which is connected to the strap. Confusing? Check out their video below to see it in action. The strap slings right over one of your shoulders, with the camera hanging upside down at your hip. This gives you easy access to your camera, which glides up and down the strap as you lift and drop your camera, keeping the strap in place.
Compatibility: All cameras bodies and lenses with a tripod mount.
Official URL: http://www.blackrapid.com/
Price: RS-4: $54.00, RS-W1:$59.00
Links to Buy: Official Website and Amazon or your favorite photography retailer
Founder: Ron Henry
Quality – You won’t have to worry about anything tearing or breaking, as the strap and its components are well made and durable. The strap is make of ripstop nylon and Bomb-proof webbing while the FastenR and the ConnectR are made of High strength steel. In addition, the product comes with a 1 year replacement warranty. From our testing, short of taking a sharp set of scissors to this strap, nothing in the course of regular use would ever cause the strap to break.
Security and Freedom – This strap does a wonderful job of not only keeping your camera secure, but in also freeing up both of your hands and freeing the space in front of you from any camera. On several occasions, our cameras have slipped from our hands to be caught safely by the strap.
Aesthetics – The strap is simple, low-key, and stylish, as you can see from the images. In addition, since the camera hangs at your hip rather than across the chest, it is much more subtle than standard neck strap solutions.
Here’s a closer view of the RS-W1. Notice the sleek curve and the elegant design accent that make this strap unique.
Comfort – The strap is worn across the torso from shoulder to hip with a thick pad that rests on one shoulder as seen in the pictures above. The mesh underside of the pad, seen below, allowed it to breath while on our shoulders. We found that the padding and design of the strap is a big step up from most standard neck straps including the ones that come with your SLR; In fact, even after daily shoots lasting 8 – 10 hours we found that our neck and shoulders were much less sore than with using standard strap solutions.
Pockets – The R-Strap features a convenient, secure pocket for storing up to two extra memory cards in their protective cases or other small camera accessories. This may seem like a minor detail; but used memory cards are the most irreplaceable item in your bag, and it’s important to keep them in a safe and accessible place. We found the slot quite useful for storing a couple empty cards for quick access during key moments.
Ease of Attachment – The FastenR, which connects the R-Strap to the tripod socket, is easy and quick to attach. Compared to stringing a neck strap or fastening other camera carrying systems with wrenches and other tools, this attachment is a breeze. With a bit of practice, you can get your camera on and off the strap within 5 – 10 seconds with ease.
Quick Access Gliding – Black Rapid promotes the Rapid Strap as being “the fastest strap around” which is a statement we find to be quite accurate. While the camera isn’t being used, it will gently rest on your hip. When you are ready to shoot, you simply pull the camera up and it will glide up the strap where you can bring it to your eye and shoot as shown in the images below. In general, you can have the camera up from your hip and ready to shoot in a second or less. When compared to a neck strap that is actually worn around the neck, it may be a bit slower, but unnoticeably so; when compared to a neck strap slung on the shoulder, it is actually much faster. It is also a bit more convenient and quick than hip based solutions like the Spider Camera Holster being that the camera won’t possibly get caught on anything when trying to quickly pull it up for a shot.
Enables Dual Camera Shooting – These straps are prefect for dual-camera shooters. If you have one camera on the RS-4 or RS-W1 and the other around a neck strap, you can avoid camera collisions. However, if you are serious about dual camera shooting, you should also look into the Black Rapid RS DR-1.
Shoulder Pad Shifting - While quickly grabbing and accessing your camera, often times the strap will shift from the shoulder to your back. This is slightly annoying being that you must periodically reposition the strap on your shoulder. While Black Rapid does teach its users to user their specific method in raising the camera by pulling it up and away from the body creating a little bit of tension on the line, it still takes getting used to, and you may still need to periodically adjust the shoulder pad manually. It should be known though that most of our testers found this issue to only be a minor inconvenience.
However, the guys at Black Rapid have thought of everything, and if this is an issue for you, you can purchase an add-on mod to the strap called the Black Rapid Arm Defence or “BRAD” for short as seen below.
The BRAD is a $16 add on that will secure the shoulder strap under the arm preventing it from moving. You can get more information on the BRAD by clicking here.
Incompatible with Tripod – The FastenR takes up the tripod mount, so you have to unscrew the strap in order to use a tripod. This can be frustrating if time is a big factor with your tripod shots. Though given the ease of releasing and connecting the fastening screw to the tripod mount, this shouldn’t be a big issue for most as you can have your camera off the strap and onto your tripod within 20 – 30 seconds. Furthermore, the team at Black Rapid has informed us that they are working on a new FastenR product that will work with quick release systems and the R-Strap.
Upper Body Pressure – If you’re having back problems or other pain associated with shooting, there is no guarantee that these straps will alleviate the pain. Yes, the weight is taken off the neck, but instead, it’s placed over one shoulder. Moreover, the pressure is still on the upper body, unlike camera carrying solutions like the Spider Holster, which places the weight at the hip. For many shooters, these straps will be a drastic improvement over the neck strap solution in terms of comfort. However, this will vary from person to person.
Learning Curve – There is a small learning curve to the rapid strap system. While the system is very easy to connect and use, you will need to get used to changing lenses at the hip and maneuvering through a crowd with the new positioning of your camera. While on the side of your hip, you’re effectively 4-8 inches wider than your body and with a large lens attached, you might have a very expensive tail sticking out that you’ll have to get used to taking care of. We recommend when navigating tight areas to simply push and hold the camera body behind your back making it simple and easy to avoid bumping your camera or lens on any surrounding objects.
Black Rapid has done its homework. It has created a line of camera straps that address the needs and styles of most photographers. The RS-4 and the RS-W1 are no exception. Their sleek, high-quality design, coupled with the comfort of the strap and the convenience of the small pockets, make it a strap that we are proud to stand behind and recommend to any and all photographers. In fact, we now exclusively use Black Rapid straps in our studio for all of our shoots.
Great job to Ron Henry and his team at Black Rapid for creating a truly great photography product and at a very reasonable price!