Camera straps are traditionally worn around the neck or slung on one shoulder, but they can become quite ungainly because they limit your movement or get in the way whenever you bring it up to your eye.
The BlackRapid system uses a patent-pending design built around a D-ring that is secured to the tripod mount of your camera. This allows the camera to hang upside down by your side from a padded shoulder strap. The camera slides from rest to a shooting position in a fluid movement, with no straps to get in the way.
In this review, we take a look at the BlackRapid RS-7 – a modular camera strap from the R-strap series, as well as the BRAD, an optional attachment that secures the RS-7 and makes sure it stays in place.
How does it work in practice? Let’s take a look.
The BlackRapid RS-7 model reviewed here features a curved, low-profile shoulder pad, allowing it to fit snugly on your shoulder. Priced at $59 USD, it is constructed mainly of ballistic nylon and feels very durable, even down to the stitching and quality of the plastic clips.There is a very small pocket on the rear of the strap, which will hold something thin and narrow, like a USB key or a pen, or perhaps some spare memory cards. The strap length is fully adjustable, and also has a clip that allows easy removal if you have a few things around your neck.
At the business end of the strap, two adjustable plastic bumpers ensure that the attachment point stays where you secure it. A little carabiner attaches the strap to the D-ring, giving the ability to swap between different camera bodies without having to remove the strap.
The D-ring screws into the tripod mount, and has a rubber base which provides a very snug fit. Once attached, I found that the D-ring stayed put and did not wiggle around.
Overall, the BlackRapid RS-7 felt very natural in use and was leaps and bounds ahead of traditional camera straps in terms of comfort and security. The contoured shoulder pad moulded to my neck area and allowed the strap to stay put without cutting or digging into the neck.
When attached, the camera hangs naturally by your side – I found that the strap sat flat against the body and the weight of the camera pinned it against the side of the thigh. The single mount point design causes it flop around a bit though when walking briskly or running, although a gentle hand by the side was enough to stabilize it.
The draw action also felt very natural. At rest, my hand instinctively rested on the camera grip and when bringing it up to eye level, all the straps ended up tucked out of the way under the camera. Throughout the whole process the viewfinder and LCD area remained unobstructed. Note that the strap slides back around your body slightly as you bring the camera up, so if you wear other equipment such as a backpack around your body, you might want to put the strap on last to allow it freedom of movement.
Long term, the metal carabiner might raise a bit of concern to those who like to keep their camera body pristine and scratch free. I found that the metal corner could potentially strike the LCD and plastic area underneath the camera – so you could experience some wear and tear under certain conditions. Perhaps BlackRapid could use a rubber coating or something similar to ensure peace of mind.
Another obvious observation is that the tripod mount system means you need unscrew the D-ring before using a tripod – a minor inconvenience. Also, the D-ring means that your camera won’t sit flat on a table anymore – another niggle that is probably inconsequential to most.
The RS-7 also features a MODS system – accessories which clip on to the strap to add functionality. Two types MODS are currently available: an underarm stabilizing strap (BRAD), and attachable pouches (JOEY) to hold additional gear. The second part of this review covers the BRAD.
The BlackRapid Arm Defense mod, or BRAD, attaches under the arm to further secure the R-strap to your body, to further ensure that it doesn’t move about. Basically, it hooks on to both front and back of the R-strap, and has an adjustable length and also a clip for easy removal. According to their site, the BRAD will set you back $16 USD.
In practice, it does what it advertises – after using the BRAD, the camera strap hardly slides around your body, giving that additional level of comfort and security. Additionally, the BRAD helps keep the straps tighter against the body, minimizing camera movement when walking about.
The tradeoff in using the BRAD is twofold. Firstly, it makes putting on and taking off the R-Strap just a little more fiddly – something that will probably become easier with practice. Secondly, I found that because the R-strap didn’t slide around anymore, it made it just that bit harder to bring the camera up to eye level. One could probably get around this by lengthening the R-strap to give it a bit more play at the front.
It may come down to individual preference, but personally I think that for everyday use, the RS-7 is secure enough without the BRAD and the additional complexity it brings. However, if you’re planning on performing activities involving a high amount of movement then the BRAD is a solid investment.
The BlackRapid system features a simple yet uniquely revolutionary design which is effective in execution. I really liked how the strap kept the camera comfortably out of the way yet quickly accessible, and how the upside-down design prevented the strap from interfering with shooting. The contoured pad is a pleasure on the shoulders and prevents slippage. The whole system oozes quality and it is obvious that a lot of thought has been put into the design, with nice touches such as clips and carabiners for easy removal, and the flexible MODS system.
On the negative side, my biggest concern is with metal bits potentially causing damage to the camera, something I hope BlackRapid could address in future. The BRAD was a nice addition but I personally found it not worth the inconvenience – although photographers who engage in vigorous or high-impact activities would probably disagree and welcome the additional stability.
Overall, I highly recommend the BlackRapid RS-7 – it is truly a useful product and is worth the investment.
Find out more about the BlackRapid RS-7 and the BRAD, as well as other BlackRapid products on their website.