Thursday, November 10, 2011

REVIEW: Black Rapid RS-7–Yeah, it’s really worth it

Black Rapid RS-7 Camera StrapRS-7 mounts to any tripod mount point
Black Rapid RS-7 – Say goodbye to neck fatigue

A couple weeks ago I got an invite from Black Rapid marketing to visit them at the Photo Plus Expo in New York. At first I really wasn’t interested, but then I remembered how many of my friends had gushed over what a great product this was I decided to give them some of my time.

I never really noticed any issues with my camera strap so thought this was just another one of the billions of photography gadgets/gimmicks out there for sell that I really didn’t need. In short, I had zero interest in this product. In fact, even after watching the video below both when this product was all the buzz and here recently I still wasn’t convinced that I need it.

An odd, but lucky twist of fate

My meeting with Black Rapid was my very first meeting at the Expo and to be honest my body wasn’t moving that fast that morning so I ended up showing up 15 minutes late to our 30 minute meeting. We ended up not being able to sync up at that time so I promised I would be back, but in the back of my mind I thought “oh well, who cares” and moved on.

Being new to the Photo Plus Expo I was as prepared as boy scout with my Canon 1D Mark IV (with the 24-105mm) around my neck for taking photos, my Modular Set around my waist with way too much gear and an Artificial Intelligence 17. Yeah I was in my full on geek gear, and I had to spend the day walking around everywhere with all of that crap.

By the end of the day my shoulder and neck were getting pretty sore. The shoulder strap from the AI 17 needed more cushion (I’ve already told TTP I want a Urban Disguise series strap for that bag) and my Canon camera strap was digging into my neck. I guess because I was doing more walking and talking than shooting it bothered me more this time than ever before, because I never really recalled the strap being an issue. In fact, when people asked me to review the Black Rapid I scoffed saying that my Canon strap was plenty comfortable. However, this day I learned the hard way what everyone was saying. I literally had a mark on my neck that looked like a hickey, yet the source was from my camera strap.

When I saw this in the mirror I was horrified as I still had another day of meetings with partners, and sadly I hadn’t enjoyed the normal way of getting a hickey so I only had the embarrassment to live with. Frustrated by this I remembered my postponed meeting with Black Rapid and went by their booth.

While waiting for my media contact this cute girl from Black Rapid walks up to me and offers to give me a demonstration. Being the gentleman I am, I indulge the young lady and proceed to listen to her spiel. I got a chance to try all of the straps and personally found that my favorite was the RS-5. I preferred the RS-5 because it was wider and more comfortable, yet it also had storage in the strap which is great for a pocket geek like myself.

When I finally got a chance to talk to my marketing contact I had already been convinced. The weight on my shoulders and neck with the Canon strap versus any of the Black Rapid straps was significant. I wanted one, and was given a RS-7 on the spot (although truth be told, I’d rather the RS-5).

I used the RS-7 the entire next day and found it to be SIGNIFICANTLY better. At the end of the day I didn’t have any pain or strain (or hickeys), so my days using traditional straps have ended. I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to try one of these out after so many trusted friends insisted that I do it, so I’m here to admit I was wrong – these things are for real.

My Advice


Black Rapid RS-2 Sport with under arm “BRAD”

The RS-7 is a big improvement over your traditional strap, but I think the RS-5 is the strap to get. If you are a photographer on the move you might want to get the RS-2 as it includes the Black Rapid Arm Defense (BRAD) strap. However, I found that design to be annoying and uncomfortable, so I stick with my recommendation to go for the RS-5.

Room for Improvement

As much as I like the RS-7, there have already been two competing products who have contacted me to review their similar products. The competition has focused on the comfort of the strap and the design of the connection point. I’d like to see Black Rapid consider bringing some of those thoughts to their future designs.

One of the complaints I’ve heard about the black rapid is that your camera swings around and hits things. During the course of the conference I had probably 4 slight grazes (nothing serious), so I ‘d say that this is a valid concern. I think when used and tightened properly you’ll find that the camera doesn’t swing around much and its ready to go for quick shooting (as shown in the video). However, I found it best to throw my hand on the end of the lens just for my own mental comfort. My hood (of my 24-105) was in the active position and my lens was usually extended so I’d occasionally have the hood tap something (typically a garbage can or table edge). but there was never enough force to even scratch it.

Despite these issues, the RS-7 was much more stable / usable than my traditional camera strap. I’d call these areas for improvement in future designs, but not something that should cause you to shy away from this product. If you are still unsure, remember B&H has a 30 day return policy should you change your mind.

Where to buy (support this blog)

Click here to view or buy the full line of Black Rapid products at B&H. You can also get more information at http://www.blackrapid.com. Stay tuned as I am hoping to have more exciting news from Black Rapid in the future.

Disclosure

I was at the expo on media press pass so I was given more attention than your average consumer as well as a free RS-7 strap to review. I may also get a commission if you make a purchase using links on this blog.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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9 comments:

Jon Gallant said...

I agree that Black Rapid straps are worth the money. I love my RS-Sport. The underarm strap was awkward at first but I got used to it. It is especially helpful when you are carrying a kid in one arm and your camera on the other shoulder. I can easily grab the camera and take a shot without putting my kid down.

They now have a RS-Sport 2, which is thinner.
http://www.blackrapid.com/product/camera-strap/rs-sport-2/

The only thing that disappointed me was that it didn't come with that guys biceps.

Anonymous said...

I'm using the DR-2...I upgraded to the R-T1 Fasteners (the ones supplied with it were crap and made strange clicking noises) and I have to say that I am quite disappointed as the "black nickel finish" has already started to chip after only ONE use.

This has happened on three different sets of R-T1 Fasteners.

Their finishing on some of the products is low quality IMO.

Hopefully they can invest in better finishing like powder-coating or Anodizing or something.

Other than that, they are decent STRAPS, a bit overpriced for what you get though....

Anonymous said...

I just got an RS-5 today as a birthday gift. I was a little late in letting the wife know what I wanted, so she bought it local. it was the last one (a demo) and I need to go back to the store today since I am missing the mounting clip. (it does come with it right?) I tried it with another friends mount, and so far I love it.

Reza Gorji said...

I walked around Disney Animal Kingdom with a D300 and Nikkor 70-200 strapped to my RS-7 for a period of 10 hours. Alot of weight. At the end of the day, I was NOT sore at all. I never expected this from any strap. Still don't know what system to use for 2 bodies. I know they make one for 2 bodies but not sure about its use.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why it has the weak link (quick release; PLASTIC clip). Not a good idea.

I prefer the RS-Sport.

Ron Martinsen said...

I don't understand why it has the weak link (quick release; PLASTIC clip). Not a good idea.

Not all plastics are created equally. In addition the part that supports your camera is metal so the place where the plastic is used isn't going be a problem unless you run over your strap with a steam roller or something.

I prefer the RS-Sport.
I'm starting to prefer it more too. I have more reviews to do but I just haven't got around to it yet.

You can see me wearing my RS-Sport on http://blog.thinktankphoto.com/2012/02/rod-mar-ron-martinsen-blitz/

marylou said...

A HUGE warning about the Blackrapid system. I have had my RS-7 and Connect r-2 for at least 2 years and very happy with the way it works.

That is, until a week ago. I was on a boat, sailing down the Mekong (working photo holiday), going up the stairs. The connector dis-engaged (shame on me for not constantly checking the screw-in connection), my Canon 60D with 100-400 Canon lens, power battery grip, and 32gb Sandisk Ultra Pro SD card bounced down the stairs, through the opening in the rail, into the river!!!! Only the 2nd day of the trip, thank goodness I carry a back-up camera body (older Canon model) but the lens and the images I would have taken as the trip continued are gone forever. I will be doing my best to get as much renumeration from my travel insurance as possible so I can replace the equipment but this is a HUGE lesson ......

I've written to Blackrapid, of course knowing there is no guarantee, but to advise them and see if there is any newer product in their line which would have kept this from happening.

WARNING: If you decide to use this strap (again, I love the concept of the strap) check your connection to the camera CONSTANTLY!!!!!!

Ron Martinsen said...

Ouch - sorry to hear about your disaster, and thanks for sharing.

I always remove mine when not in use and attach it firmly each time I put the camera on.

Hopefully I'll not experience your disaster! See my own disaster in my gear insurance article (right column).

Ron

Jon Snidal said...

I have a Canon 5d MkIII with the Canon hand strap. I, too, was worried about this screw-in connector and don't like to tighten stuff in to the bottom of the camera too crazily. I read somewhere that electronics are kind of close to the bottom plate. With the hand strap, tho, I can tighten he BlackRapid connector in like mad and it cannot unscrew as the strap would get all twisted up. Feels pretty good!