Several years ago, I purchased my first Black Rapid strap. It seems silly, but it felt like such a huge step in the world of being a photographer: graduating from the OEM camera strap to a more versatile, photographer focused design. I believe the model I purchased was the Yeti, though I may be remembering that wrong. Around a year later, I purchased a double strap from Black Rapid, as I had been thrilled with the way my first strap worked, and I regularly shoot concerts and weddings with two camera bodies.
Well Black Rapid upgraded their designs, and released their “Breathe” line. I had the opportunity to do some testing of the straps, and what follows is my review of the Sport Breathe – their single strap. If you don’t care for the ins and outs of the review (perhaps you’re looking for that last minute Christmas gift for the photographer in your family?), I’ll give you the final verdict here:
The Breathe line is absolutely worth the investment. I would rate the Sport Breathe Strap at a 4.8/5.
In fact it's so worth it, here's the link to the Amazon product page so you can purchase it right now!
Now to get into the review! First let’s look at what makes the Sport Breathe single strap:
- The material has been changed. It is now a moisture-wicking material which feels lighter, and the shoulder pad actually feels more padded than the earlier designs.
- The FasteneR (the actual connector used to hold the camera on the strap) has an over-molded nylon frame, versus the metallic material of the previous iterations (possibly aluminum?).
- The carabiner (ConnectR) has a cap and pin design which allows for an easier swivel and stronger connection
- There is an additional support strap that connects under your opposite arm (I believe this was present in older Black Rapid strap models, just not one that I owned)
I put the strap through a few simple trials. First, I took it out with me for a simple night out – I actually had my Canon AE-1 with me, as I was shooting film that night. The lighter weight meant that the strap had no difficulties holding up to the evening – I could (and intentionally did) drop my camera from my eye level and the strap caught it with no problems. The connecter did not appear to lose any integrity in the connection to the camera.
Second, I took my 5D Mk III out for a spin. This is where I finally learned the amazing power of the counter balance strap that goes under the arm opposite the camera side. One of my difficulties with my old straps was that when I wanted to slide the clips to keep the camera tucked more out of the way (if I was dressing a scene at a wedding shoot, for example), the weight of the camera would simply cause the strap to slide over the shoulder, thus bringing the camera to my side again. With the underarm strap, that issue is gone. I am able to tuck my camera just behind my back so that I can interact physically with the environment and not worry about the camera bumping into the object.
After the end of the day, which included indoor and outdoor shooting, mostly street photography and urban images, the camera was still firmly on the strap. Once in the safety of my house, I did one more experiment to test the solidity of the strap. I conducted a similar drop test (though since the DSLR is much heavier than the film camera, I did this over some cushions just in case), and was not surprised by the ability of the strap to keep a firm hold on the camera. While we all try to refrain from dropping our camera, mistakes happen, and it makes me happy to know if I need to suddenly drop my camera for any reason, I can be confident that it will not clatter to the ground and potentially damage sensitive electronics.
Finally, I took the strap with me to a concert at a nice hot, dive-y, out of the way bar. I wanted to see how the material held up to the sweating that goes on in those environments while the photographers are out grinding, trying to make our living. My love of the previous straps aside, I would occasionally walk away from a show or a hot environment with minor chafing on my neck. I believe this was a result of both the material and the additional strap under the arm. The material, as a whole, was a very successful move from Black Rapid, and I’m very happy they made this change.
The strap is extremely comfortable. The only downside to it (and every other strap) is that I live in the Midwest, and in the winter, it gets slightly chilly, so fitting the strap over my coat is frustrating. Once donned, however, it’s easy to forget the strap is even there. The ease with which one can position to clasps to allow for an individuals most natural movement with their camera, keeping the strap out of the way of the image taking process almost entirely, and the new moisture wicking material keeps it from chafing the neck like the older models would in concert settings.
I would highly recommend this strap for any photographer family member or friend who is looking for a new strap. Perhaps they’re tired of the one that came with the camera (they aren’t usually very comfortable or very efficient), or maybe they’re looking to upgrade or try something new. I will be reviewing the Breathe double strap early in 2018, as I want to work that particular model through a few different events to see how it holds up, so if you are interested in getting a double strap, stay tuned!
One (just one!) frustration that I have with the strap, which may work itself out over time, is that the screw that locks the carabiner closed for safety is SO MUCH HARDER to screw than previous models. As I said, this may just be a result of the youth of the strap, and after a few more months of use it may loosen up, so I may update the article at that point. But boy, it was tough to screw that thing down. It became easier, in times where I was rushed, to just remove the FastenR from the camera.
If it doesn’t loosen up, that wouldn’t stop me from buying the strap for everyone I know. There’s always WD-40 after all. I would give this a solid 4.8 out of 5 – a tremendous improvement on an already great product. Keep up the great work, Black Rapid!
If you'd like to purchase a Black Rapid Breathe Sport strap for yourself, or someone you know, click this link to go to the Amazon product page! Happy hunting, photogs!
What’s your favorite camera strap to use? Or do you go without, and prefer a wrist strap? Let me know in the comments below!