Review: BlackRapid Curve Camera Strap
In the scramble to get the latest and greatest photography gear, it is all too easy to overlook the little things that can come between you and the shots you want when you're out taking pictures. A case in point is the traditional neckstrap that comes bundled with most new cameras. From the standpoint of both comfort and ergonomics, the neckstrap is a terrible design, especially for the traditional DSLR camera systems whose bulk and weight can leave you with a stiff neck long before the day's photo shoot is over. Furthermore, it positions your camera gear front and center on your chest or stomach where it can interfere with anything that you're trying to do with your hands or get dinged against other surfaces as you move around. The traditional neckstrap does a reasonable job of positioning the camera where you want it when you're actually shooting, but it's far from ideal for carrying the camera between shots, which is often the much greater part of the day.
Enter the BlackRapid Curve RS-7, a camera strap that is worn like a sash, over one shoulder and across the body, as shown in these stills from BlackRapid's own instructional video. The real beauty of this configuration is that the camera hangs in a very comfortable position at your side when not in use (a), with its weight nicely distributed across your shoulder and chest. This carrying position also puts the camera much more out of the way and far less likely to be bumped against things when you're moving around. I also find it a very comfortable position in which to rest my hand on the hanging camera if I momentarily need to give it sone extra protection.
When you're ready to use the camera, the metal loop it is mounted on slides quickly and easily up the strap for eye-level shots with the viewfinder (b). One of the additional benefits of this type of camera strap is that it also works really well for waist level shots made using the kind of flip-out rear LCD screen that many cameras now feature. I often like to kneel and use the camera close to the ground to photograph flowers, to get an unusual perspective on a subject, or even to get lots of sky in the shot. This can be tough with a neckstrap which limits how low the camera can be used without having to unsling it from your neck.
Using the BlackRapid Curve is simplicity itself. The strap comes with a metal attachment loop that you simply screw into the tripod mount on the baseplate of your camera. The sliding metal loop on the strap itself then attaches to this loop using the kind of spring-loaded carabiner clip that mountaineers use for attaching themselves to their ropes. I really like that this clip also has a screw-action closuure for additional secuity, so that you can be sure that your camera will never accidentally fall off this strap, once it's clipped on. If you are using a tripod as I often am, and you don't want to use the tripod mount on the camera for attaching the strap - no problem at all. I actually keep a metal split ring on the strap mounts on the side of my camera, to which I can quickly attach the Curve's carabiner-style clip when I'm switching between using the camera hand-held or mounted on the tripod.
I really got to appreciate the design of the Curve when I was recently photographing a fast-running river in rural Vermont. The banks of the river were so steep and slippery that I had to pretty much climb down into the river and once I got down there, I found that the only way to get the shots I wanted was to stand in the water. Having the Curve was great. I really needed my hands for balance and support while navigating the river's current and the slippery rocks, and the Curve really helped to keep the camera out of harm's way without requiring me to hold onto it. For extra security, I could even leave the camera clipped to the Curve while I mounted it on the tripod, so that any fumbling with my cold fingers wouldn't end up with my precious camera gear in the water.
In the few months I have been using my BlackRapid Curve, it has become an indispensable part of my kit. There's a lot to love about this camera strap. It's beautifully and thoughtfully made, it feels secure and comfortable, and it never gets in the way of taking the picture. One example of the thought that went into the Curve is the easily adjustable stops that you can use to limit the range of the camera's movement on the strap, making it easy to orient the camera with respect to the strap's comfortable shoulder pad. BlackRapid's instructional video on their website, demonstrates very nicely how these work and is another example of the superior customer experience that they are clearly striving to deliver with this excellent product.
At around $60, this is not a cheap camera strap, but it is very reasonably priced when you consider what you're getting for your money - a whole day of toting your camera and lens without the neck ache, and the ability to shoot unencumbered by the need to keep a constant hold of your camera to stop it bouncing around and getting bumped. It's hard to appreciate how much more ergonomic this kind of sash strap is to wear and use until you've tried it. I really feel that the BlackRapid Curve is money well spent and I am pretty sure that once you have used it, you will never again be satisfied with the flimsy, uncomfortable neck strap that most camera manufacturers bundle with their gear.
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