BlackRapid, a Seattle-based camera strap company, has been one of my go-to strap companies for quite a few years. In fact, I worked with them as a consultant and ambassador in 2013 and 2014. They’ve always represented quality and ingenuity by elevating the lowly camera strap to something much more elegant and utilitarian.
After a very long effort, BlackRapid has finally updated their entire line of camera straps and marketing them as the Breathe series. While the build quality was always there, the new series takes it up a notch by adding a poly air mesh in the padding to make them much cooler. Another improvement is the new hook which attaches to the updated FastenR5 which has a nylon molding over it with a rubber washer. The FastenR5 screws into your tripod mount and the nylon molding makes it nicer to the touch as well as scratch protection to your other gear. The new hook system, with it’s barrel lock feels much more substantial and secure. The new locking mechanism seems to have fixed the issue of not staying locked that plagued the earlier models. During my use of the new Sports Breathe, I found it much more secure and stable than the previous incarnation. This is great news!
There are several models to select from. The Sport Breathe comes in both right and left handed models. This strap has a substantial pad with an underarm strap to keep your strap firmly in place. This is great for walking or even running while chasing down that perfect sports shot. The Cross Shot is a leaner, simpler strap that goes cross body. As with all BlackRapid straps, these go across your body with your camera hanging at your hip. As you lift the camera to your eye, the connector smoothly slides along the strap. I think these new straps are even smoother than the older models.
New to the lineup is the Street Breathe. Priced at $39.95 (about half the cost of the sport), this strap is designed for lighter weight, mirrorless cameras. I’ve been pushing for a mirrorless version of their strap for a few years, and we finally have one. Paired with my Fuji X-T2, this strap is lightweight and works perfectly for my smaller camera.
Their double strap has been a staple of mine for concert and event photography. I can carry two full-frame DSLRs and large lenses all day using this shoulder harnessed double strap. Each camera hangs at a hip for easy access and drop and shoot speed. I’ve loved this strap since day one. The new version is even better. One complaint I’ve had with this strap was it could be quite warm on a hot, sunny day. Since it’s already September here in the Northwest, I haven’t been able to test out the Double Breathe, but just feeling and trying it on, I’m convinced the Breathe will live up to its new name and be much cooler. This will be well received by sports and wedding photographers who know what it’s like to carry 20 pounds of camera gear around on a hot day.
I’m also excited to see the release of a new hand strap, which I will review at a later date.
For me, there’s one downside to the entire BlackRapid line. To use these straps, you have to connect them to the tripod mount of your camera. For most, this may not be an issue. For me, there are a few. I shoot vertical a lot, especially with a grip. This means, when I go to shoot vertical, the strap is connected right in the middle of where I put my hand. Also, I have L-Brackets on all my cameras. That means I need to either attach the FastenR5 to the bracket and removing it to put the camera on a tripod, which negates the advantage of keeping the bracket on the camera, or I have to use an adapter from Acratech or Really Right Stuff which adds even more bulk.
One other downside, though not a deal breaker, is you are carrying your camera upside down. This is great while shooting for several reasons, but chiefly because when you have the camera to your eye, the strap is below and completely out of the way. I’ve always loved this about the BlackRapid strap. Not so when shooting vertically. But, that also means when you put your camera down while holding the strap, you tend to put it down on the camera’s top which is the most sensitive part of the camera. It’s not a big deal if you’re careful, but remember, the strap is attached to the bottom, so you need to pay attention to how you are laying it down. After a while, this can become muscle memory and easily avoided.
All in all, the new updates are a welcome change. The new hook and fastener give me increased security that my camera will stay safely attached to the strap. This is great news for BlackRapid fans. If you already own their straps, I’m not sure you need to run out and drop a hundred dollars on a new one (the Double Breathe is $150, though the air circulation may be worth the investment), but, if you are looking for an advanced, functional strap, the new lineup may be just the thing.