Just Posted! BlackRapid R-Strap RS-4 Review
Not all camera straps are created equal. They usually chaff at the neck and get in the way of a good grip. If you have a compact point-and-shoot, a wrist strap is ideal. Anything even a bit bigger — and heavier — requires a neck strap. I usually leave mine at home because I find that it gets in the way, and I really don’t like it hanging (and swinging whenever I bend down) from my neck.
Enter the BlackRapid R-Strap, which basically is a shoulder strap and you wear it across your right or left shoulder. BlackRapid sent us a R-Strap RS-4 for review. Should you ditch your conventional neck strap for the R-Strap?[Disclaimer: BlackRapid allowed us to keep the R-Strap. Our reviews are always impartial and are never influenced by whether we get to keep a product or not.]
The R-Strap is simplicity in design [all well-thought out design appears simple and the R-Strap has gone through a number of iterations since it first came out a couple of years ago] and has a number of features that make it the unique product that it is: a well endowed shoulder pad with a discreete (but highly recognizable nevertheless) “R” logo on it; an ‘AdjustR’ to quickly and easily adjust the length of the strap; a ‘ConnectR’ that allows you to clip or separate your camera from the strap; a ‘FastenR’ that securely screws onto your camera’s tripod socket (and that the Connectr clips to); and a ‘BumpR’ to tighten it all.
BASIC SETUP & FEATURES:
Adjusting the length of a conventional strap is too often an exercise in frustration. Not with the R-Strap. An ingenious design loops the strap into the shoulder pad through the AdjustR. To adjust the length, put the strap on your shoulder, apply a little tension on it at the bottom, then thumb the AdjustR and the straps slides out to your desired length. If you’ve pulled it out too long, thumb the AdjustR and simply pull back on the free end.
As mentioned earlier, the FastenR screws into your camera tripod mount (or lens tripod mount). The ConnectR allows you to quickly clip and unclip the FastenR to the R-Strap for times when you may want to hold the camera at arms length (as in above your head or low to the ground).
How long do you want the strap to be? Long enough so that when you wear it across your shoulder, the camera comes to rest comfortably against your hip.
You do want to be able to reach for the camera ‘naturally’ — i.e. you don’t want to have to under reach or over reach for it — and quickly, so adjust the strap length accordingly.
Once, you have the right length, slide the Bumpr down until it touches the Connectr and lock the BumpR.
The RS-4 has a pouch with a zipper in the pad. Inside, you can house memory cards, spare battery, credit card, ID, money and whatever else you can fit in there.
Here is the instructional basic setup video from BlackRapid. Watch it, bearing in mind what I’ve written above and it’ll be much clearer.
- At first, having the camera hanging upside down (since it is held by the tripod mount) can feel unnatural. Fortunately the ConnectR rotates freely so you can swing the camera so that it’s back rests comfortably against your hip. When you are walking around, you may find that if the camera lens is pointing behind you, you can reach for the camera’s handgrip quicker.
- You’ll notice in the introduction video above that they rest the camera against the right hip (the strap resting on the left shoulder). I’ve tried it on the left hip (strap resting on the right shoulder) and that works fine, too.
If you rest the camera against your right hip, you’ll be reaching for it with your right hand and your right hand will grab the camera’s handgrip, swing it up and your left hand will then support the camera under the lens. If you rest the camera against your left hip, you’ll be reaching for it with your left hand right under the lens and then bringing it up for your right hand to grab the handgrip. As I said, either way works.[In fact, BlackRapid has another model called the Double Strap where you have one camera hanging on each hip.]
- Another factor you may want to take into consideration (and which is not referred to in the video) is to make sure that when you sit down, your camera and lens combination do not crash on the seat. It may be unavoidable with a long lens attached, but with smaller lenses and more compact cameras, it’s quite feasible, though you may not be able to hold it away too far from your face. It’s perfect if you use the viewfinder. So do try it out sitting down, too.
- Note that you should wear the strap so that the BumpR is behind the ConnectR and your camera can then swing freely along the strap in front of your body. If you find that the BumpR is in front of the ConnectR, simply remove the strap, turn it so the BumpR is now behind the ConnectR and then put it back over your shoulder. You’ll get the hang of it quickly enough and, after a while, you’ll be subconsciously checking for the BumpR’s position in relation to the ConnectR before you slip the strap on.
- My R-Strap comes with the FastenR-3, a solid stainless steel design that screws in really easily and, more importantly, has enhanced locking ridges to stay screwed in securely. But one caveat of using the FastenR-3 is that the solid design does not allow you to rest the camera flat on its bottom anymore. For example, you may need to do so for a slow or long exposure. If you need this capability, then consider the FastenR-2, which is still made of stainless steel, but has an integral D-Ring that swings out of the way, leaving a flat surface (though only the diameter of a penny).
No review is complete without improvement suggestions and I’ve got a couple for the R-Strap:
- As alluded to above, one caveat of using the R-Strap is that with the FastnR screwed into your camera’s tripod mount, you cannot rest the camera on its bottom anymore. Even using the FastenR-2 with its D-Ring that swings out of the way, the diameter is so small that you may still not be able to rest your camera down perfectly flat, especially with the weight of a lens in front. Suggestion is to provide an accessory that allows the ConnectR to securely clip onto a camera’s strap eyelet, leaving the bottom clear.
- The strap can sometimes slide up or down your shoulder if you swing the camera a lot. An optional strap that goes around the armpit may help “lock” it in place.
There are a number of other R-Strap models. For example, the RS-5 adds extra pouch storage for a cell phone and a magnetic clasp opens silently for noise-sensitive situations. Please visit the BlackRapid website to find out more about the latest models.
The R-Strap solves many of the flaws of a conventional neck strap: it’s comfortable, out of the way when you don’t need your camera, quick to the draw when you do, and allows your camera to stay securely against the side of your body instead of swinging in front of you. It’s hard to imagine that not all straps are designed this way! It is just such an elegant and original design that we are awarding it our OriGenial Seal of Approval. Highly Recommended.