Yesterday I received my sample straps from BlackRapid – the Wrist Strap and the awesome RS-4 – for reviewing, so without any delay, let me get straight it! Of course, big thanks to BlackRapid for sending me these free samples!
Those of you following my blog might know that I’ve been using BlackRapid straps for a while now, and the RS-4, along with a separate hand strap, is my idea of a perfect strap solution. The BlackRapid straps have the ability to attach and remove faster than any other strap I’ve tried, and that’s something I really find useful. Why? Well, I always have a hand strap attached to my camera, and need to attach a shoulder strap only in particular conditions, so the way the RS-4 shoulder strap comes on and off makes this very easy
Then comes the Wrist Strap. First of all, I love using third-party straps as they work with cameras made by any brand, right? Yeah. Secondly, it’s BlackRapid. Meaning that, in addition to the great quality of BlackRapid that I’m familiar with, it works with the same system (that I will describe later on) that my current RS-4 shoulder strap uses; so all I need to do to switch straps is to snap off the BlackRapid Wrist Strap (which would be my new hand strap) and attach the RS-4 shoulder strap whenever I want to…or vice versa. Sounds even more like the perfect strap solution than before, right? I think so! I was definitely excited when I heard of the Wrist Strap
However, this system, which sounds so good, wouldn’t be so good if things didn’t work well, or if the straps weren’t built too well, or anything of the sort. After all, things sound great on paper but sometimes are not so in reality. So how do these straps actually perform? And how well do they actually work together? Well, that’s what this review is for. Here, I’ll try to describe how to use these straps – I’ve included many pictures in the gallery and in parts below – but of course, these are just some quick pictures I took at home. If you want to see more of the strap itself, and how it works, the best place would be BlackRapid.com – check out the product videos – although my pictures here aren’t half bad! But if you’re reading this review, you should be wanting to know more about how it feels, how well it is built, how practical it is to use, and how this combination of straps work – this sort of thing – and this is exactly what I’m going to focus on in this review
Alright, so here’s how it’s going to go: first I’ll talk about the RS-4 (can’t believe I didn’t write a review on it yet!), after which I’ll talk about the Wrist Strap, before finally getting to how they work together, as a ‘strap system’ as I like to think of it. Alright then, let’s get down to it!
Oh, and of course, if you’d like to get either one of these, try my affiliate links – they always sell this stuff at a good price!
The BlackRapid System
Ok, wait – I think I should first give you a quick introduction to the BlackRapid system and explain how the strap works i.e. how it connects to and disconnects from your camera, before I talk of each individual strap. This connection system is one of the coolest parts of these straps, apart from the straps themselves, and is one of the main reasons I love using ’em
Alright, so it’s pretty simple. All BlackRapid straps come with this buckle-type thing known as a ConnectR attached to the end of it. It is, according to BlackRapid, a “carabiner hook with a swivel base and a screw-lock gate”. It’s basically a locking hook mechanism. Yeah. Then there’s this separate little lock-type thing, included with the RS-4 (but not with the Wrist Strap), called the FastenR, that screws on to your camera’s tripod socket. That’s it. How do you attach the strap then? Pretty easy. First, you screw the FastenR to your camera, and keep it there. It’s really small and doesn’t get in the way, unless you really need to keep your camera on a flat surface. Then, once you want to attach your strap, just hook the ConnectR buckle from your strap to the FastenR bit on your camera. Screw the lock into place, and you’re set. It’s super secure. If you like, you can keep the strap attached at all times too, of course
Removing it is just as simple. Just unscrew and unhook the buckle from the lock. Easy. If you want to use a tripod, you will need to remove the FastenR lock from your tripod mount, obviously, although BlackRapid has made this new (sold separately) lock called the FastenR Tripod, which works with Manfrotto’s Quick Release plate (the RC2), meaning you can directly use your tripod even with the BlackRapid lock still screwed to your camera. That’s nice – however, the Manfrotto RC2 plate actually has this little ring on the bottom of the plate too, which is basically what the FastenR Tripod is. I simply attach the ConnectR bit on my strap to the RC2’s built-in ring whenever I need both the strap and tripod, and it works fine
The parts – the lock and the connector – are nice and big. They’re not clunky and cumbersome, but they’re big enough to attach and remove without breaking fingernails and all that. I really appreciate that!
Anyway, that’s the basic system. If you don’t like something screwed to the bottom of your camera all the time, this might not be the one for you, but then again, be open about it. I wasn’t too into the idea either, but once I started using the RS-4, it’s all been good. Very good
This shoulder strap is the first product I used from BlackRapid. Apart from the locking system, which I really liked, the strap itself is very well designed. Like I said, if you want to know more about how the strap is designed to work, BlackRapid has a whole bunch of videos describing just that, so best get to their site for more on this. But read on anyway!
Build Quality: In a word, excellent. The locks/connectors/fasteners – whatever you call them – look and feel really solid. My older ConnectR screw lock got a bit tight after I didn’t use it for a while, but in general, everything worked very nice and smoothly, and felt really good. The strap is very strong, and I’ve noticed no deterioration of anything after a couple of years of use. Full marks for build quality
Design: The RS-4 is made to be worn across your chest, from shoulder to hip. Due to the connection between strap and camera being made under the camera, the camera hangs upside down. Worry not, this is how it is designed to be used. It feels really secure, and the shoulder pad is good enough to save you from shoulder aches. To shoot, you simple grab the camera from your hip, and draw it up to eyelevel. Once you’re done shooting, just place it back down by your hip. It just comes naturally when you use it. Have a look at these pictures:
It sounds easy, and basic, but when you use it, you realize how well it actually works. A lot of thought has gone into the design of this strap, and it definitely shows when you use it
When you get the RS-4 you need to set it up properly. Don’t worry, this does not take hours – it’ll probably take 5-10 minutes – but you’re not going to be able to get the best out of it without this step, so make sure you read the instructions (and watch the videos) and do it right! If you’re wondering what there is to set up, I’m not talking about attaching the bits and pieces like the ConnectR and FastenR. That’d just take a few seconds. The more important part is to get the length right, so that your camera hangs right there at your hip, which means it’ll draw perfectly to your eyelevel, without too much slack, and without having to stretch either. Make sure you do that properly, and test it out, before you decide that this length is just right for you
Doing this is pretty easy. There’s a strap lock of sorts (pictured below) that you just need to press and release to adjust the length of it. An adjuster of sorts. I found it a bit difficult to get going at first, but after a while it came quite easily to me. The guys in the video seem to do it much easier than I ever could, so maybe it’s just me! Anyway, once it’s done, it locks, so the length never changes. I haven’t had to adjust the length in years. So that’s that. In addition, you also need to set this other bit on the lower part of the strap – a sort of secondary lock – that makes sure your camera stays at the proper place on the strap when it’s hanging off your hip, so that it won’t drag the shoulder pad off your shoulder
I’m not sure if that’s clear (I’m pretty sure that last bit at least was NOT really clear) so again, watch the videos on BlackRapid.com for more info on how this strap works!
All in all, I love the design of the RS-4 and the ConnectR/FastenR system. The connecting system makes things so very easy – most other camera straps involve fiddly little straps and tiny camera strap lugs and all that – which means removing the strap is actually something you wouldn’t give a second though about. And that’s how it should be, I feel. The strap itself is very nicely designed too, and works exactly as advertised, so all told I have no hesitation in recommending this one to you; so as long as you don’t mind having a lock screwed to your tripod mount all the time, and you like the idea of a shoulder strap (instead of the horrible neck strap), this is the one for you!
Value: This strap costs around $50-60. That’s not bad, I guess…and considering the quality you’re getting, and the ease of use it brings, I’d say this is pretty good value. No complaints. Good products will cost you, and this is one very good product
Verdict: Well, what more can I say? It’s my favorite shoulder strap! I love the ConnectR/FastenR system, and I love the design of the RS-4 and how it works…so yeah…what more do I need to say? Get this strap already! That’s my verdict
BlackRapid Wrist Strap
The Wrist Strap is a far more basic product than the RS-4, or any of the other BlackRapid products for that matter. It is basically a loop of nylon or whatever the strap is made out of, with a ConnectR hook/buckle thing at the end of it. However, the size of it – smaller than a DSLR hand strap and larger than a compact camera lanyard – makes it perfect for either compact or mirrorless cameras, or even DSLRs…and that is pretty unique. Convenient too. And of course, what hit me the moment I heard this product was out was the fact that it uses the same locking system as my RS-4…which means switching straps should be a breeze. Quite exciting (for me, at least!)
Build Quality: Like the RS-4, the Wrist Strap is built very well. The ConnectR hook is the same found on all other BlackRapid straps, and is super solid, with a very smooth lock. The strap itself seems very tough, and going by my experience with the RS-4, I think this thing has been built to last too. The material is not quite as thick as that of the RS-4 but again, no complaints with the build quality – excellent
Design: Ok, as you can see, the design of the Wrist Strap is dead simple. A simple loop, with the ConnectR hook at the end. I think I already said that. That’s just what it is. However, I found this strap to be very easy to adjust in length, and I also found it pretty comfortable. This doesn’t sound like much, but I consider these rather big positives. Other straps…pricier, more complex hand straps that I have tried…were often pretty complicated to adjust to get the right fit, and were far less comfy to use. This one, simple as it is, does the job of adjusting length very easily, and I had no problem or discomfort wearing this for extended periods of time
Of course, the strap is secure. Using the same ConnectR/FastenR system, the strap locks on to the camera and feels like it’s never letting go. That’s a nice feeling to have. Same as with the RS-4
Comfort-wise, I mentioned it feels good around the wrist…but how does it feel gripping/using the camera with the strap around the wrist? Quite simply, it felt fine! The strap never felt like it was getting in the way, whether I was clicking the shutter or browsing the menus…on both a DSLR and a compact…and that’s wonderful. To be honest, my Canon E2, which I love, felt a bit restricting when I tried to press some of the lower buttons on one of my DSLRs, and while it wasn’t really troubling, it was a slight nuisance, and put a bit of strain on fingers/wrist. This one has none of that – which is why I can safely say it’s an excellent wrist/hand strap, and does its simple job beautifully
If you want a more visual way of seeing how this works, and the pictures don’t cut it, watch the BlackRapid video on their Wrist Strap
Value: The Wrist Strap sells for around $19, not including the FastenR lock , which is necessary to use the strap. If you have a BlackRapid strap (that includes a FastenR) like I do, that’s perfect…as you only need the one FastenR lock for both straps. However, if you don’t, you will need to buy one separately, and that costs around $19 itself…making the total cost for this Wrist Strap close to $40…which is quite pricey for a pretty simple strap. So I think it depends: if you have an RS-4 or any other BlackRapid strap, with a FastenR lock, you’re good…and this Wrist Strap is very good value. If not, I think $40 is probably a bit too much
Verdict: A simple strap that does a simple job very, very well. It’s one of my favorite hand (or wrist) straps already, and works with both DSLRs and compact cameras. It’s a bit pricey, sure…but having my RS-4, and not needing a separate FastenR, I think it’s a very decent deal, for an excellent product
NOTE: I sometimes get confused and may have mixed up the two parts of the BlackRapid system, the ConnectR and the FastenR. To avoid any confusion due to any mistakes I have made above (I do proofread but I’m still only human!), here’s something to make everything 100% clear:
- FastenR: The screw-in lock bit that fits into your tripod socket
- ConnectR: The hook/buckle bit that is part of your BlackRapid strap
BlackRapid RS-4 & Wrist Strap Combination
After writing the rest of this, this bit will probably be rather shot, and is included simply for completeness. I write about this combination because, as you know, I find that no one strap can bring me full satisfaction. There has to be two: a hand strap and a shoulder strap. Call me what you will, that’s just how I like it! If you find yourself unhappy with whatever current strap you use, and dissatisfied with many others that you’ve tried, chances are you are like me and you need more than just one to do the job
On a Canon system, I’d still recommend my current set-up: The Canon E2 hand strap, plus the BlackRapid RS-4. But what if you don’t use Canon? I find the Nikon hand strap (The AH-4) to be too complicated and messy to use comfortably. I don’t know if any other bands (Sony, Pentax, etc.) even make hand straps. What then? Third party, right? Yeah. Herringbone is one brand that makes excellent hand straps, and their Heritage hand strap is very similar to the Canon E2 in design, so similar that without even using it (just by looking at pictures online) I can tell that it’d be very comfortable to use…so yeah, that’s an option
Then there’s the BlackRapid Wrist Strap. Why use this strap? Well, first of all, it costs quite a bit less than the Canon…and if you’re going third party, you will find that it goes for around one third of the cost of the Herringbone. Sure, the Herringbone is a fancy handmade leather one, but the BlackRapid does not lack for quality. No way. So there’s that. Then there’s the most important factor of all: the ease of which it works in conjunction with other BlackRapid straps – in my case, the RS-4. With the Canon E2, I could never take it off when I wanted to use the shoulder strap – it’s just too complicated to do so – so it was always attached, and though it works alright with the RS-4, I’d much rather take it off and have one strap on at a time. Same with the Herringbone (or the Nikon AH-4)
With the BlackRapid straps, all you need to do is undo the buckle from the lock, and your Wrist Strap is off. Fix the buckle of the RS-2 shoulder strap, screw it in place, and the shoulder strap is on. The entire process would take 20 seconds of very light, easy, un-fiddly work. The locks are nice and big, as I mentioned, so note the ‘un-fiddly’ part. Camera straps are renown for being very fiddly and difficult to attach…and much harder to remove…being all about tiny little loopholes, strings and all that…but BlackRapid has none of that. That’s the beauty of it
Note that I never mentioned why I use the RS-4. I mean, I think we’re past that point, right? The RS-4 is just a great strap, and is the best shoulder strap I’ve ever used. That’s all there is to it. My quest so far has to be to find the perfect strap that goes with it, in those circumstances where a shoulder strap is not what I want. And now I think that quest is over!
Well, I already wrote verdicts on each strap, so you know my thoughts on it. You already know what I think of the BlackRapid system too. So I guess this bit is a bit unnecessary! Anyway, just to clarify – I know some of you skip the entire body and read the conclusion – I love both straps. The RS-4 is one I’ve been using for the last 3 years, and it’s always been solid. The quality is great, the design is fantastic, and if I ever had to recommend any single shoulder strap, it’d be this one. Of course it would. The BlackRapid guys have quite a few other models these days, but I still recommend this classic one as the one to get. It works very well with all DSLRs
The Wrist Strap is what I am replacing my old Canon E2 hand strap with. The comfort of using it is one reason, but the main reason is the ease of which it can be detached when I want to use the shoulder strap. That is just fantastic, and absolutely perfect for my needs. It works with compact cameras, along with DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and pretty much anything else that has a tripod socket…and thanks to its nice size, it never feels awkward around any of these vastly different cameras
They work beautifully together, thanks to the connecting system that they share, and for that reason, together (of course) with the great quality and design of both straps (especially the RS-4), I highly recommend both. And I’m done for today. Thanks for reading. If I’ve managed to convince you (I’m going to be shocked if I haven’t!), you could use my affiliate links to purchase either one, and help my blog keep running along the way! That would be very kind of you!
Leave a comment with anything you want to say regarding these products…and I’ll see you in my next post! Until then
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By Heshan Jayakody All content in this post is my own