As a wedding and concert photographer, many of the times I'm going out to shoot for a client I utilize two cameras – one wide(r) and one telephoto. As anyone who has shot a fast paced event can attest, if you're changing lenses during the event, you're missing moments.
Thus the advent of the two camera strap.
As with standard, single camera, straps, there are many wonderful and strong brands out there working to sell you their products. Today I want to look at the Black Rapid Double Breathe strap.
The Breathe Line
Many of the same qualities of this strap are copied over from their solo Breathe strap – which is a definite plus. Black Rapid has a strong brand and their decision to utilize the best features of their straps on every design may seem like common sense to a consumer – but doesn't always happen as companies jockey for a more desirous product.
If you don't want to read the review in full and just want to know if you should invest your money on this $150 strap, the answer is yes. IF. You regularly use two camera bodies in your photographic pursuits. You can check it out on Amazon here.
Overall rating – 4.8/5
Not for the beginner…
The Double Breathe is at an immediate disadvantage from something like the Hybrid, at least within the context of the hobbyist and prosumer marketplace. This strap is designed for TWO cameras. Without the second camera, the strap becomes unbalanced, and the harness will actually push in the direction of the attached camera. This can result in chaffing on the neck or shoulder, or just general discomfort. This is nothing new, however. The older iteration of the Double had the same expectation. This is a strap made for those photographers who regularly and consistently shoot with two bodies.
If you are a consistent two body shooter, but then occasionally decide to downgrade to one – perhaps to go out and do some street photography, or a portrait shoot – this strap can still work effectively for you. It has the ability to disconnect the harness feature and work as a solo strap. It can take several minutes, increases opportunity for lost halves, and can be confusing to put back on, but it can work – especially as an exception to your general shooting habits.
If you wear it, it will work
Despite this, the Double's most effective functionality comes when you wear it as a harness. It helps equalize the weight of your cameras across your entire frame, something the Hybrid isn't able to do as effectively (at least in older versions. I'm hoping to obtain a Hybrid to test for a continuation of this Black Rapid series in the next couple months). So what the Double sacrifices in diversity, it more than makes up for in longevity and comfort. If you're shooting an 8 hour wedding day, you want that weight dispersed as effectively and efficiently as possible. This allows you to focus on being your best creative self and amazing your clients, and leaves you less focused on the pain in your shoulder from carrying the cameras on them all day.
Keeping the screws loose
One of my frustrations with the Single Breathe strap is not echoed in the Double, which I find to be both fabulous and vexing (the latter primarily due to my use of the single when I am working on my fine art): the screw in the carabiners on both straps are actually loose. I don't feel like I'm wrestling with the lock every time I need to remove a camera from the strap. This is a huge win, and definitely makes me more likely to find every reason to use the Double over my solo strap (at least straight out of the box).
Other than the design differences that come with being a harness vs a single strap, many of the praises I wrote of for the single strap can be duplicated here. The material and padding are huge improvements over their predecessors, their FastenR alterations were strong choices, and I have the ability to wear two cameras for an extended period of time and experience a fraction of the physical wear.
One of the benefits to the single strap was the counterbalance strap that went under your arm to help control the balance of the camera and keep the strap from sliding forward regularly when your simply walking/maneuvering. The similar feature on the double (which is a carry over from their previous double design) is an additional strap they designate their “CoupleR”. Designed to be attached to preference on the back of the harness – it connects the two individual straps and pulls them together, allowing the camera bodies to sit closer to the back of your hips. Again, this helps keep the cameras in position while walking and not shooting.
I get by with a little help from my…
I have had mixed luck with the CoupleR. Some days it works incredibly well, other days it doesn't appear to be helping at all. I have been spending a lot of time trying to get that placement consistent and effective, and while I am confident enough in Black Rapid to believe that once I get that positioning figured out I won't have as much of an issue, this one problem is the reason for the couple points off. I don't have any ideas for how to fix this or make it a stronger feature, and the fix may just be that I need to spend time working on how the strap as a whole is set up, but that is time that is being taken away from my shooting.
Overall, the strap is a high performer. I highly recommend it as a gift or an investment in your arsenal, again with the caveat that it will be far more useful if you shoot regularly with two camera bodies. The strength and trust I have in the FastenR to hold my bodies allows me to feel confident in dropping a body off to the side, quickly grabbing my other camera in order to shoot at a different focal length. This makes my shooting more diverse and adaptive, without having to worry about weather I have successfully attached the body to a belt clip or other device. Please keep in mind that if you are dropping a camera, however, too much force or weight can likely cause damage to the joint between the body and the lens. I would never advocate dropping a camera body – even on a Black Rapid strap. Sometimes, though, the moment calls for drastic measures.
And I don't want to miss the decisive moment that makes my clients look amazing.
Overall score – 4.8/5
Strong, durable material that lets your skin breathe in high stress/high heat situations
Upgraded FastenR and carabiner design (that actually spins without an argument!)
Harness design: long shoots with two cameras = less overall exhaustion/physical stress
Harness design, not easily convertible to a solo (I'd almost rather it wasn't convertible, I feel as though it's a half attempt to placate consumers)
CoupleR takes a while to figure out optimal placement on user – until then can get in the way or cause more frustration
The cost. Man. It's definitely worth $150 if you use it regularly, but if you aren't always shooting with two bodies, the fiscally it just doesn't make sense to drop that much money
Event photography – especially weddings and concerts – where you need to have quick, easy access to a range of focal lengths without regularly changing lenses.
Buy it here from Amazon! Drop a note below if you have a favorite Black Rapid strap, or if you have a different strap (or no strap!) that you prefer to use when you're out shooting for clients, and if you're looking for something more versatile, check out my article on the single strap, and watch for a review on the Hybrid in the coming months!