A while back, I reviewed 17 camera straps to try and find the best camera strap out there. Now, there are hundreds of camera straps so my review was definitely incomplete, and the readers were sure to let me know of all the straps I failed to review. The one missing strap that got the most attention in the comments was BlackRapid. BlackRapid users are avid defenders of their favorite strap and I have heard their praises for years so I was actually pretty bummed when I didn't have one to include in my original view. Well, lucky me, BlackRapid saw my reviews and all your lovely comments and offered to send me their newest strap for a review. Of course, I was happy to oblige given the ringing I took for not including them in my original review. BlackRapid sent me the Classic Retro RS-4 camera strap and I have been testing it for months on everything from family outings, street photography, travel, airport, hiking and portrait photography.
BlackRapid released the Classic Retro RS-4 camera strap to celebrate their tenth anniversary in early 2018. This strap is designed to be worn as a sling over either shoulder. It is not a flashy strap, but is sleek in design, with a narrow black strap accompanied by a small padded area for your shoulder. In addition, there are a handful of little things that don't jump out at you that really make the strap super functional.
When I tested a handful of sling style straps previously, I really liked them for the most part. They are much more comfortable to wear, taking the weight off your neck and moving it to your shoulder wear you aren't likely to notice it. They also allow you to keep the camera at your hip where it fits much nicer and doesn't bounce around as much. The biggest downfall to the sling-style strap rears its ugly head when you want to use your tripod. Because the sling-style straps (except for Peak Design) all monopolize the tripod thread in your camera, it can be a pain when using a tripod to have to detach the strap and attach a tripod plate. As a predominantly landscape photographer, this used to be a deal breaker for me, but I found a solution. Now that I use an L bracket all the time on my cameras (which, seriously is the best accessory you can get for your camera if you ever use tripods), it is not a big deal at all. The L bracket leaves extra room to attach the tripod ball head so it is workable. This is especially true for the BlackRapid fastener which does not take up much space on the bottom of your camera. Something else I love about the BlackRapid strap is how easy you can detach the strap from the fastener to easily get the strap out of the way when using a tripod or in case the strap doesn't fit nicely in your camera bag. Rather than having to unscrew the entire fasterner, you can just unsnap the carabiner and detach the strap from the fastener.
I actually really liked the fastener on this strap. Typically, I am not a fan of fasteners that you hand tighten as I have had some bad experiences in the past, but this fastener is easy and quick to tighten and I feel like it is actually secure. Once you tighten the fastener by hand as tight as you can, you attach the strap and there is a connecting carabiner that you can use as leverage to tighten a little bit more, which will cause the rubber washer to slightly expand so you know the strap is fastened securely to your camera. I have not had a single issue where the fastener loosened even a little and I am fanatical about checking it all the time (again, due to past bad experiences with a different brand). But, if you are still a little uncomfortable with this set up, the strap also comes with a safety tether. With this tether, you can attach your camera body to the carabiner so that even if the fastener were to come undone, your camera would not drop to the ground and would likely only drop an inch or two at most.
One of the most important parts of a camera strap is the ability to quickly and easily adjust the strap length. The BlackRapid delivers on this front. There is a simple clasp to undo and then slide the strap to whatever length you want it so you can ensure the camera sits comfortably on your hip, behind your back, or on your stomach depending on your preference.
A key feature that I require for a sling strap is that the strap allows the camera to slide up and down the strap. Without such a mechanism, the only way to bring your camera up to shoot is to slide the entire strap with the camera around your body. I have used straps like this in the past and found it quite annoying and uncomfortable to have the strap sliding around your body whenever you want to use your camera.
The connection on the BlackRapid between the carabiner and actual strap allows the camera to easily slide along the strap without causing any shifting whatsoever of the actual strap. It is very easy and quick to get the camera from your hip to your eye just by raising your arm. BlackRapid took it one step further to fix the biggest problem most of these straps have with this mechanism. The usual problem I have seen is that the camera being able to slide around the strap can become a liability when the camera slides around when you don't want it to or that it bounces with every movement.
BlackRapid solved this problem by installing two bumpers on the strap to go in front and behind your camera. These bumpers are easy to adjust to place wherever you would like along the strap. I usually set one bumper at the very top by my shoulder and one bumper just behind my hip. This keeps my camera where I want it on my hip when I am not pulling it up to shoot. When I want to store the camera or keep it as tight as possible, I can just slide the front bumper down to trap the camera in one spot on the strap. This system is hugely beneficial for this style of camera strap and is so easy to use. It is such a simple design I would have expected more companies to have copied it by now.
My favorite part of the strap's design is the small pocket in the padding. This zippered pocket is beyond useful as it is the perfect size for a spare battery and extra memory card. If you are heading out with the family or for something like street photography where you may not need a tripod, filters or extra lenses, this pocket makes it so you can have the essentials on the strap and you only have to take your camera at that point. I love being able to take my camera without a camera bag without worrying about making sure I have space on my card or enough juice in my battery before I leave the house. It is a really great feature.
Overall, I was really happy with the BlackRapid Classic Retro RS-4 camera strap. Having tested a number of camera straps, I can say this is my favorite sling-style camera strap. I felt as comfortable as possible with the fastening mechanism. I loved the ease of attaching and detaching. The bag was comfortable and full of well-thought out little extras that make the strap a joy to use. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a sling-style strap. While this particular strap was not yet available on Amazon at the time of this article, you can see many other BlackRapid straps there or you can Get 10% off this particular strap with the code BRIPSAVE10 at Black Rapid.