A strap that changed my life

By Jonah Kessel

I can break all reviews into two categories: those that are solicited, and those that are not. This is the latter. And I write this unsolicited review because I believe Blackrapid’s straps have changed my life in a significantly positive way.

Jonah Kessel with Blackrapid's RS-7

Blackrapids RS-7 Side View

DSLR News Shooter is a great resource for finding out about new gear and user opinions of the most up to date technology. Looking at the past couple weeks there are reviews of new cameras, new sliders, new glass and even a new user medium. As technology (and our gear habits) advance its easy to forget about some of the most basic parts of our kit.

But its ok, Blackrapid has not forgotten. The relatively nascent company rethought the most basic element of our kit — the strap.

Here’s how it works:

Blackrapids RS-7 Screw

FasternR System: Each strap uses a small screw which attaches to your cameras tripod mount. Between the screw and the camera is a small rubber washer unit which both protects the camera from getting scratched as well as stops the screw from unintentional loosening. After two years of using the system — the screw has never become loose enough to which it came even close to following off. I’ve climbed mountains, crossed rivers and sat on the side of helicopters with cameras hanging from this screw.

Blackrapids RS-7 on Canon 60D

ConnectR System: On the other side of the camera mount is Blackrapid’s ConnectR System — which is essentially a carabiner that allows the FasternR to swivel. These two items together make an amazing combination because you can have the camera move at your side, without the strap moving — or without needing to adjusted your clothing as you move. The straps then sling either diagonally (RS models) across the chest or vertically down the torso (DR models), distributing weight across the entire body.

Blackrapids RS-7
Blackrapid Diagram

Comfort Level: The strap has done wonders for my physical health, but beyond general comfort Blackrapid has made a strap that is completely adjustable to any body type. On each strap — there are two “stoppers” which can be placed where the user wants the camera to either fall or stop when at desired shooting position. If you place these right, pulling your camera up from your side will be smooth and the camera will stop exactly where you feel comfortable shooting. In addition, Blackrapid make’s male and female models for … varying chest shapes.

Health: For years after work I had neck and back pain from using traditional camera straps that place a heavy weight across the neck. Within weeks of changing straps, I actually felt physically better. I was less soar, my posture improved and I even began to sleep better.

Crowded Street

Mobility: Here I am in sunny India. I often find myself shooting in crowded places. With Blackrapid’s straps, the camera hangs upside down, and you can rest the camera either on your hip or toward the small of your back. Either way, the camera isnt sitting right under your face like a bullseye. This is great for a number of reasons. In a crowd like the on above you can sneak through protecting the camera with your body. Second, the straps allow you to hide the camera. In Bihar, India (where the average annual income is $350) you might stick out a bit being foreign and walking around with $10,000 around your neck. When using Blackrapid straps in dodgy places, you can keep the camera out of direct site, making it a little easier to blend in and possible — a bit safer.

The system also allows you to use your hands for other stuff, while still keeping the cameras safe. Below, I’m using a Blackrapid DR-1 Double Strap, moving a three meter jib with a Canon 60D on it, with a Canon 7D and Canon 5DMII safely at my sides.

Jonah Kessel with DR-1 Blackrapid's Double Strap

For video oriented DSLR photographers: These things are great. I hate shooting video with a strap attached to the camera. Blackrapid straps come instantly on and off. Since I normally have multiple cameras rolling the straps come in handy all the time when one camera becomes unneeded but I want to have either a lens or a camera on standby.

In addition, in between shots I often have to move small distances that would be easier to not have a camera attached to a tripod, but not far enough away where I want to put a camera away. These straps make it easy for me to not completely disable, but partially de-rig and move from place to place without carry all the weight of the camera all the time.

For still oriented photographers: These things are also great. Above, I’m at a Prada Show shooting a new collection of clothing. While its great to have 10 lenses with you, sometimes space is an issue and being nimble helps. With one Blackrapid DR-1 Double Strap I can shoot all night with two cameras, no bags and no accessories needed to tie around my waste. For fashion, news and wedding photographers two cameras and two lenses is often enough.

MODS: There’s also a ton of add-ons and modifications that work with these things. when shooting stills a Brad which helps stabilize the camera a little.

Normally, I’m not so head over heals, “ready to propose” about a product — but between the utility and the physical health benefit — this one definitely has me.

Jonah M. Kessel is a Beijing based freelance visual journalist working with the New York Times. See his web site here and follow him on Twitter here.

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