Product Review: Black Rapid RS-4

Last Friday, I received a couple of packages. One of them was my brand new Black Rapid RS-4 camera strap. I’ll be covering the other at a later date. So, now, I present the Black Rapid RS-4.

Since I had watched some of the videos on the Black Rapid site, I had an idea of where to begin. First, I removed the FastenR-3 from the ConnectR-2 (more on that in a bit). I simply screwed the FastenR into the tripod socket on the bottom of my camera. I made sure it was nice and tight so the rubber washer is compressed between the camera and the FastenR.

The rubber washed appears to be designed to increase friction so that it it unlikely the FastenR will free itself from the camera. Also, since the ConnectR swivels, there is little reason for the FastenR to move. Given that the strap is connected to the bottom of the camera, it goes without saying that your camera will hang upside down. While it can be unnerving, I screwed the FastenR so tight that it is actually difficult to move. A tip I learned from the Black Rapid Setup and Tips page, is to wet the FastenR prior to attaching to the camera to increase the bond. Since I learned this tip after I had already attached it to the camera, I decided to leave it alone for the time being.

The ConnectR is simply a D-ring that will swivel as well as slide along the strap. The ConnectR is actually one of the few complaints I have about the R-Strap. For the most part, it is fine, but the locking mechanism concerns me. As you might be able to tell from the above picture, it is unlocked. The wide part near the strap should be more towards the camera to prevent the hinge from opening, but simple jostling around in my bag seems to be enough to the loosen the lock. Instead of screwing into the locked position, I think I would prefer a spring that constantly forces the lock closed. Only time will tell, but I think I am more concerned about that lock than the FastenR unscrewing from the camera, but I do want to emphasize that it is a minor concern and does not deter me from using the strap in any way.

As you can see in the above picture, there are two sliding clamps on each side of the ConnectR. Black Rapid refers to these as bumpers. I will say that the inclusion of a second bumper was a surprise, since I had not seen it mentioned in any of their product videos. The purpose of each bumper is different. One bumper will be behind you, the other in front. When you are setting up your strap, the one in the rear is supposed to be right up against the ConnectR. If your strap happens to slide when you raise your camera to take a photo, when you let it go back down to your side, this bumper will catch the camera and slide the strap back into position. The front bumper is more for storage. I like to keep it next to the ConnectR, as shown above, while my camera is in my bag. That way, I don’t have to worry about the strap moving much and simplifies getting the it out of my bag and onto my person. Once on, I move the bumper up to the shoulder pad. It can be used to direct the camera so it will be slightly behind you, but after trying this, I decided to just let it hang freely. Leaving the bumper down and locked makes it harder to bring the camera up quickly, and Black Rapid is about speed.

The shoulder pad of the RS-4 has a simple pocket for extra memory cards or batteries. I must admit, I haven’t utilized this at all yet, but it is nice to know that it’s there. The strap is much more comfortable that the strap that came with my camera. The pad is straight, though if you would prefer a more ergonomic pad, the RS-7 may be a better choice.

So, other than the locking mechanism on the ConnectR, was there anything at all to dislike about the R-Strap? Not really. I was surprised that there were no directions shipped with the strap. However, if you go to the Black Rapid website and find your strap on their product page, they include product videos for every strap. The only exception is for the RS DR-2 Slim Double Strap, but I’m assuming the directions are similar to the RS DR-1 Double Strap, so you should be able to look there. After messing around with my strap and having a little difficulty getting it set up, I watched the video for the RS-4 and that answered most of my questions. The only thing that threw me off was that front bumper. Since it wasn’t in the video, I had to watch a different video to get an idea of what it was for. I also wasn’t completely sure if it should be locked down always. That’s when I turned to Twitter.

Back in November when I was first really thinking about getting a Black Rapid strap, I asked a friend on Twitter how they felt about the strap. Since I used Black Rapid’s Twitter name (@BlackRapid) in my tweet, they knew I was asking about them.  I must praise them in this area because LaRae, their “social networking gal”, immediately offered to help me choose a strap or answer any questions I might have. She answered the one question I remember I had at that time. When I placed the order for my strap, I was excited and so I Tweeted that I had ordered my @BlackRapid strap. A few days later, LaRae asked if I had received it (I hadn’t yet) and if I had any questions. When I did get it, I had a little trouble with the front bumper. She answered me within an hour or so of my question and even offered to give a consultation via Skype. Since my only question was answered, I turned her down but I was very impressed with the customer service. It was very hands on and friendly. It made me feel like they valued my business, which is something that can be hard to find at times. So, thank you very much, LaRae.

Overall, I’m very impressed with the Black Rapid RS-4 R-Strap. I’m still getting used to it, since it hangs quite differently that my old strap but I’m getting better at it. While I was practicing with it, my wife compared it to a quick shooter practicing drawing their gun. Honestly, I agree with her. I can’t say it is faster, but it definitely feels that way. Plus, since it hangs by my side, it doesn’t swing as much while I am bending over or moving around a lot. It also does a good job of hugging my side while maneuvering through tight spaces, like crowds. I would definitely recommend Black Rapid to any one I know and would definitely buy from them again.

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Disclosure: I have received no compensation for this review. I bought the camera strap with money out of my pocket.

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