My first day back after a couple of weeks off and a day of writing a spec for a job I need to do at the end of the week. Since there are changes afoot and people are wanting to know what other people do, rather than just write the spec, I’m writing the manual to the job at the same time.
I don’t mind writing technical manuals, and when I write them, I tend to write them in a training manual style, since the people who are likely to need them won’t be as familiar with the work as I am. Besides, they are better to write like that.
My first passion, when it comes to writing, is science fiction and fantasy, but with 4 kids, it’s nigh impossible to find the time to write. So I take what I can get, and at the moment, that is a technical manual and this blog.
Well, three sling straps have been put through their paces and I’ve come to one conclusion at least; sling straps are so much better than neck straps. If you’re fed up of your camera neck strap, give one of these a go. They do take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, they are so much better for carrying and using your camera. After each review I tried each of the straps again, with and without the under-arm straps. My dad came along for a shoot and tried one of them out, so his feedback will feed into the final results. (He’s now a convert too.)
To round up, rather than look at each strap individually again, I thought I’d look at how each strap fared with the qualities I was looking for.
All three performed brilliantly as far as comfort goes. I can’t pick one out of the three so they each tie. Simply put, all three straps are far more comfortable than a regular neck strap.
This is where the post-review feedback comes in. Having tried each of the straps with the Carry Speed arm strap and the Black Rapid BRAD, I can honestly say the handling of each strap is greatly improved without the under-arm straps; more on that later.
The RS-4 didn’t give quite enough slack when bringing the camera up to shooting position and the connector allows the camera to spin around far too much for my liking. The strap was easiest to adjust though.
This was the poorest performer as far as slack in the strap, although it improves greatly without the under arm strap attached. The bumpers are the hardest to adjust as was the strap itself. The flat connecting plate is probably the best connector of the three. It was the hardest to connect, but that was down to the carabiner. My Dad tried out the CS-1 and discovered that the locking screw had unscrewed leaving the latch of the carabiner free and easy. The CS-1 had by far the worst carabiner of the three in use.
This was easy to adjust, and easy to use. The connecting plate is a massive improvement over the Black Rapid one, but not quite as secure are the CS-1 plate, though not by much. The carabiner was identical to the Black Rapid one and the plate hooks on and off easily; by far the smoothest of the three. This was the only strap out of the three to give enough slack when shooting with the camera, yet keep it short enough to let the camera hang just where I wanted it.
If it were not for price, then the Black Rapid and the Quick Strap would be pretty much tied, but it is a big price difference and I’m not sure the extra £30 can be justified by Black Rapid. Don’t get me wrong, it is a great strap and going by looks alone, I would give it the top spot. But that price difference is quite big considering the differences are quite small.
About Those Arm Straps…
After the BRAD arrived, I tried it out on each of the straps and to be honest, it sucked as much as the strap that came with the CS-1. I eventually decided to mod the Carry Speed arm strap, cutting away about two and a half inches of strap and re-stitching it so that the quick release buckle was at the front rather than the middle. This improved it immensely, but although it kept the shoulder pad in place, it restricted the amount of slack on the strap and it proved very difficult to bring the camera up to shooting position on any of the straps, so my advice is not to bother with them. Yes, the shoulder pad will slip and slide all over when you’re shooting, but use the bottom bumper and the pad will sit where it should when the camera sits where it should.
And the winner is…
Factor in the price and the fact that it simply does not get in the way of shooting and the Quick Strap| Q Strap comes ahead as a clear winner. My only criticism is that it comes with a single bumper and not two, but it is a minor complaint. (After a little modding (and robbing of a Naneu Pro bag), I managed to get a second bumper on it.) That aside, for the price, you can’t beat it and I heartily recommend it.
Black Rapid are probably the market leader when it comes to camera sling straps. They certainly have the brand reputation, but with that comes a price to match. The RS-4 costs around £50 in the UK, and can be found at Jacobs, Jessops and various online retailers.
The strap comes nicely packaged in a box and has a handy elastic band to wrap around the strap when storing in your camera bag. I found that a nice touch. The RS-4 has a small zip pocket like the Q strap and will fit a couple of memory cards. It comes with two sliding bumpers, a ConnectR-2 carabiner that is very much like the one supplied with the Q strap, and the fastenR-3 connector, a small round connecter that screws firmly into the camera’s tripod socket.
The strap is a thick seatbelt type material that sits somewhere between the Q strap and the CS-1. The pad is nicely padded and is made from a rip-stop material that gives it a different look to the other two straps Adjusting the strap is much easier than the other two straps and the bumpers slide up and down the strap smoothly and are also easy to adjust.
The strap is comfy, like the other two and sits nicely on the shoulder. The camera sits nicely on the hip, though I did find that the camera tended to spin round thus proving the point the other manufacturers make about the flat connecting plate allowing the camera to sit more naturally at the hip. It doesn’t sound like a big thing, but it was really irritating.
I did find the strap had an occasional tendency to fight you when bringing the camera into shooting position. Like the CS-1, you need the strap a little longer than your want in order to get the proper amount of slack. It didn’t seem to be a problem on the Q strap though.
The bumpers worked well. The BRAD arm strap hadn’t arrived in time to test it, so I tried Black Rapid’s method of using the bottom bumper to push the strap back into position and it worked fine without being irritating. The top bumper slid down to lock the camera in position, preventing the camera from lolling about when leaning forward.
All in all, the RS-4 is a great strap and I really liked it. They could learn from the competitors connectors, but the strap is great. The only down side is the cost. The quality is great. The design is great, in use it is very good, but is it worth £50? That’s a question to be settled on another day.
Instead of copying the Black Rapid strap, Carry Speed took the sling strap and put their own stamp on it. Designed in Houston, Texas, it gets some good reviews on YouTube and is good value for money, so I was interested to see how it stood up against the Q Strap. The strap is available from their website, but if you’re outside Canada or the US, you’ll only be able to get it on eBay. It costs £17.95 with Express international postage costing about as much again, so factor that in if you’re a foreigner like me.
One thing Carry Speed has thought a lot about is the quality side of the strap. They point out the strengths of the connecting plate (the same type of plate as supplied with the Q strap), the fact that the carabiner can take up to 150 lbs in weight and the fact that it comes supplied with the ‘Uni strap’ (more about that later.)
Indeed, first impressions are good. The strap arrived without any wasteful packaging, just the strap, attached to a display card. I liked that as it meant I was paying for the strap and nothing else. The pad is made of a similar material to the Q Strap, but has a substantial waterproof backing. The pocket is a full length one, more than doubling the size of the one found on the Q strap.
The strap is really comfy, and sits nicely on the shoulder, but I did find that I either had to have the strap too long, else there wasn’t enough slack to bring the camera up for shooting.
In use the strap starts to let itself down. The connecting plate, although the same design as the one used by the Q Strap, does feel sturdier on the camera, however, getting it hooked and unhooked was a real pain. The hole on the plate just kept bashing against the hook, rather than sliding onto it. The twin bumpers are also more awkward to adjust, as is the strap, which really became an issue while trying to get it the right size for my son, and then re-adjust it for me. The other thing I realised is that there is an awful lot of strap to adjust, giving the impression it wasn’t designed for people with less than a 40 inch chest.
The real bonus was getting an under-arm strap and the ‘uni strap’. First the ‘uni strap’. This little gizmo loops onto the connecting plate and also hooks onto a trouser belt loop. This prevents the camera flopping around when you lean forward. It has a quick release clip for when you want to use the camera. In reality, it was annoying. Bring the camera up to shoot and this extra dangly bit just gets in the way. It does work to prevent the camera flopping around, and provides a little extra security, but I really didn’t think it was worth it.
So onto the under-arm strap. After all, this was the main reason for buying the strap. Boy was I disappointed. First gripe is that carry Speed really don’t design for slim people. This strap is so big I couldn’t get it tight enough. Ok, so I can jerry-rig it and fix that, but the second gripe is that the quick release buckle is right smack bang in the middle, so it sits nicely under the armpit, right where it shouldn’t be. It was so uncomfortable I had to take it of after a couple of minutes. Sure, I could jerry-rig that too, but it’s something Carry Speed really need to look at if it wants to gain a bigger market share.
I have to say I really, really wanted to like this strap, and in a way I do. The look of the strap is my favourite of the three, including the Black Rapid. The pad is comfy and I don’t feel the weight of the camera at all. But in use, it sucks. I can’t say it any fairer. They need to shorten the length of the strap, make the bumpers easier to open and adjust, change the design of the under-arm strap, and give up on the ‘uni strap’ as a gimmick, sort out the issues between the carabiner and the plate and then…..they’ll probably have the best sling strap on the market and be in a position to give Black Rapid a run for their money.
Is it a bad strap? Well, let me put it this way – if I had to choose between a nice luxury neck strap, or the CS-1, I’d choose the CS-1. Would I choose the CS-1 over the Q Strap? I so want to say yes, but the honest answer is no. The Q Strap is just a better strap. All that remains is to see how both of those stand up to the Black Rapid.
The Q Strap, Quick Strap, or whatever they’re calling it today, is a direct knock off of the Black rapid straps. They’ve even copied the logo, replacing the R with a Q!! Chinese made, the main difference is the camera mount. The Q strap uses a flat plate with a hole at the side which allows the camera to hang at a more natural position, allegedly.
It arrived in a plain poly bag with the Q logo. No extra fuss or packaging. The strap looked good, but the plate stank and it took a couple of months to get rid of the smell. No amount of cleaning could get rid of it. It did go eventually though, but I’d be cautious about leaving it your camera bag until the smell goes away. That said, it is a genius mount and has two major benefits over the connector that comes with the Black Rapid, which I’ll cover later.
Build quality seems okay. The carabiner is a gun metal colour and the gate has a locking screw so it doesn’t unhook accidentally. The strap is made from a seat-belt type material which I like and includes a single bumper, which acts as a ‘stop’ for the camera, making sure it hangs where you want it too.
It can be bought on eBay for about £15 and is the cheapest of the 3 I’m looking at.
The pad is pretty comfy with plenty of padding. It sits nicely on the shoulder thanks to it’s slight ergonomic design. This brings me to the first advantage of the connecting plate – the camera really does hang at your waist in a more natural and comfortable position. The lens hangs back against your waist and the camera doesn’t feel heavy at all.
The pad has a small zip pocket that holds two memory cards. Not really necessary but useful to have. The carabiner glides smoothly up and down the strap allowing you to grab and shoot quickly. The only irritation is that the pad does slide back over your shoulder with use. There are two ways around this. First push the camera back against the bumper when returning it to your waist. That pushes the pad back into position. Second – buy an arm strap. Sadly, The Q strap doesn’t have that option, so you’ll have to fashion your own, or buy one from a competitor.
The connecting plate also allows for a tripod quick release plate to be attached, making it quick to unhook, attach your camera to the tripod, shoot and hook it back onto the strap. That’s another benefit not offered by the Black Rapid connector.
It doesn’t include a second bumper, and there’s no arm strap, but other than that, the Q Strap gets a thumbs up. Considering it is less than half the price of the Black Rapid strap, it is excellent value for money.
Rule number 8: Camera Straps are a pain in the neck
I’m not a fan of camera straps. If I have one attached to my camera, I tend to wrap it around my wrist. I could live without them, but it’s nice to have the security of having something just in case I get clumsy, which I’ve been known to be from time to time. The biggest problem with them is that after wearing your camera around your neck for a bit, your neck feels like it’s spent a couple of hours at the gym.
My first stab at cracking the camera strap woes was under the guise of the Optech Pro strap. This is basically a shaped chunk of neoprene that sits around the base of the neck and distributes the weight. It also detaches from the camera attachments, which then clip together to form a short strap. As a piece of design work, it is genius. I gave it a full day’s testing at the Waddington Air show, and afterwards decided it was time to ditch the neck strap all together. The problem with the Optech strap was that it rode up my neck, making the camera heavier than if I’d just used a regular strap. Plus, on a hot day, all that neoprene makes for a sweaty strap.
So I got onto the net and looked at sling straps. There are a few to choose from, especially if you live on eBay, and over the next week or so I’ll post reviews of the Q strap, Carry Speed CS-1 and the Black Rapid RS-4. After reviewing each of them I’ll do a comparison between the three and make a few recommendations.