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BlackRapid has the proud achievement of designing the first upside down strap system. Using a D-ring mounted to the tripod socket of a camera, their R-straps allow the camera to hang upside down at rest, and to be brought up to a shooting position easily. While traditionally aimed towards SLR users, BlackRapid are catering for compact users with the SnapR series.
Billed as a 3-in-1 bag / sling strap / hand strap combo, the BlackRapid SnapR is a cleverly designed bag and strap system with the ability to be used in three different configurations. It functions as a strap and bag combo by default, but when you want to lessen the load it can be used a sling strap alone, or as a wrist strap as well.
The SnapR series comes in three different sizes, priced at 29.95, 39.95 and 44.95 USD (RRP) respectively. The SnapR10 fits cameras up to 5″ x 3″ x 1″ and comes in a wrap style case more suited to small compacts. The SnapR20 and SnapR30 is more of a bag style with 2 handy outside pockets and can accommodate cameras up to 5.25″ x 3.25″ x 2″ and 5.25″ x 3.25″ x 3.25″ respectively. The largest should accommodate cameras such as the Fuji X100 and most micro four thirds cameras with a pancake lens attached.
In this review, we take a look at the middle of the bunch, the SnapR20.
Disclaimer: We made a slight oversight in ordering the right size for the review. The SnapR20 is actually quite a tight fit for the Fuji X100 and Panasonic GX1 with 20mm F1.7 lens depicted in the photos – we would actually recommend the SnapR35 instead for these cameras.
The BlackRapid SnapR20 is constructed of a nylon outer shell, with some handsome touches such as a rubber grey and yellow logo, grey highlights on the pocket linings, and rubberised zip toggles with a bright yellow R. The strap itself has a comfortable, removable shoulder pad that is very broad and has a non-slip backing to ensure that it doesn’t slide around easily when wearing.
The interior of the pockets has soft padding perhaps a sixth of an inch thick – but because the pockets have padding both sides there ends up being quite a bit of cushioning all round. One thing I did notice is that in the main compartment which houses the camera, only the bottom and the two narrow sides have the soft padding – the top and the two sides that would be in contact with the camera’s front and back are made of nylon. My concern is that the LCD screen or lens of the camera may eventually be abraded by this material and I think the design could be improved if the padding was moved from the inner side of each pocket to inside the main compartment instead.
As a right of reply, the lead designer at BlackRapid have responded with these reassurances: “The padding could make sense on the inside, the reason its not is to allow for less friction internally. Basically by having the padding outside the compartment the customer gains an easier experience when sliding your camera in and out of the bag. Furthermore it’s a nylon fabric that shouldn’t in any way scratch the screen of your camera. The fabric is strong and the texture is a part of that strength, but should in no way be abrasive”
There are two large outer pockets, front and back, which are large enough to fit a wallet, smartphone, spare batteries or other accessories. These pockets and main opening are secured by zips that open smoothly but at the same time ensure that nothing will fall out unexpectedly.
Now, the strap system is where the ingenuity of the designers start to shine through. Firstly, there is the D-ring (albeit a mini one) which attaches to the camera’s tripod socket to allow it to hang upside down on the strap. This D-ring is attached to a mini strap which clips on to the main strap on a gliding mechanism – this allows the user to slide the camera from the bag up to a shooting position.
The two ends of the main strap also have clips which attach to the camera bag, but as alluded to previously, these can be detached and joined together so that you can use the strap without the bag. Finally, you can also discard the main strap in favour of a small hand strap which BlackRapid has supplied – this clips on to the D-ring and mini strap.
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The nice thing about this system is that your camera is tethered to the strap at all times minimising any chance of dropping your precious camera when taking it out or putting it back into the bag.
I also like how you eliminate a redundant set of straps. Traditionally, there would be one strap for the camera bag, and then another neck strap or hand strap for the camera itself. Shooting would involve taking the camera out, putting on the camera strap, and oftentimes you will end up wearing both straps at once, leading to a tangled mess if you tried to take them off in the wrong order.
Modularity is also another plus – there are times when you don’t feel like carrying a camera bag with you, and just using the main strap or hand strap alone can be liberating. As to whether having a compact hanging upside down and bouncing around by your side is practical – it will probably come down to personal preference.
The strap itself is also very comfortable – BlackRapid have done well in designing a ergonomic shoulder pad that stays in place, while still maintaining a slim profile. Carrying the SnapR20 out and about for a whole day is not a burden in the slightest, and the pockets do really make handy storage for a wallet and phone.
In short, I think BlackRapid have hit on a great idea here with the SnapR20. The whole system is clever, flexible and offers great protection while promoting quick shooting. The bag itself looks quite attractive, and the two pockets increase the usability, making carrying it with you bonus and not a liability.
My one reservation is with the choice of materials in the main compartment, although once again, BlackRapid have assured that the nylon fabric will not damage cameras in any way.
Overall, the BlackRapid SnapR20 is another quality product from BlackRapid, great value for money and a worthwhile investment for compact camera users.
Find out more about the BlackRapid SnapR20 as well as other BlackRapid products on their website.