When I first started working weddings, it didn’t take me long to realise that, if I wasn’t careful, my back was going to start staging protests about my new career. The strain on my neck and back caused by having cameras hanging from my neck all day meant that I was ending the night feeling like a 95 year-old woman (and not this kind of 95 year-old). A camera strap became an obvious solution, so I started looking for two-camera options.
Camera straps aren’t new or groundbreaking elements in a photographer’s bag. A good one, however, is a seriously useful tool to help photographers deal with the tension that carrying gear for extended periods of time can cause in our bodies.
I opted for the slim version of the BlackRapid Double (DR2). Two padded shoulder straps are connected via some straps, snaps and Velcro strips at the back and a buckle on the front (it’s significantly less S&M than it sounds). I breathed a huge sigh of relief after my first wedding with it: I was able to carry two cameras hands-free and manage everything else I had to deal with during the day, without sitting down to dinner feeling like I’d had a small child suspended from my neck for six hours.
The Lovely Bits:
Convenient – Assembly is quick. Screw the fasteners into the tripod mount holes and then attach the carabiners to the fasteners and tighten (or just don’t remove the fasteners from the carabiners). I often put the whole unit on the ground to step into or out of it, but if I’m not carrying a 70-200 lens, then I don’t hesitate to swing it onto my shoulders. Snap the front buckle closed, and you’re good to go. Adjusting the length of the straps is just a case of sliding the nylon strap at the back of the harness to the desired length, so getting your cameras to hang where you want them only takes a few seconds (looking back on it, this is kind of important to pay attention to). I now have both hands free to carry, move, or direct (or talk, since I’m a pretty expressive talker). This year, I added a Joey pouch, since my work pants don’t have pockets and I wanted to be able to have a battery and spare cards quickly accessible at all times.
Comfortable – The two lightweight straps spread the weight of both cameras over my entire upper body, so the neck strain I get when carrying anything suspended from one shoulder isn’t an issue. The fact that they’re padded made them more appealing than the leather straps that I’ve seen elsewhere. I usually wear the straps for 7+ hours nonstop and then they go on again after dinner. I’ve never run into a problem with the sliders sticking or jamming; there’s never a struggle to move the camera along the strap and up to my eye. However, each strap has front and back bumpers, should you wish to limit the range of the slide.
Adaptable – The Double can easily and quickly be converted to a single-camera strap simply by detaching/removing the fasteners on the back, which has been handy on days when I’ve been out exploring or doing a portrait session.
The Not-So-Lovely Bits:
Not aesthetically appealing – When I bought my strap, they had one option available: black nylon. They’ve since increased the variety of colours and fabric patterns for the shoulder unit and are currently running a Tutu Project promotion, but the basics are still the same: it’s a lot of black nylon. This is never going to be a fashionable piece of equipment, but then, we’re not in this business to be noticed for what we’re wearing. It’s a workhorse, not a conversation piece. If you’re looking for stylish harnesses, I’d highly recommend that you check out manufacturers such as HoldFast Gear for their handmade leather versions of this same type of system.
Not completely hands-free – Moving from standing to sitting, or rushing and turning abruptly all mean that I have to make sure that I’m holding my cameras because they have been known to swing and knock against each other (or a wall). There can be a lot of movement in the cameras when you’re on the go, which means that if, like me, you don’t pay attention to your camera height and take a minute to adjust your straps correctly, you’ll quickly learn that your thighs may end up looking like they went ten rounds with a 2.5 foot-tall boxer. The bruises I have gotten from my cameras knocking against my legs make for interesting conversations if I’m in a bathing suit within a few days of a wedding.
With the system coming in at $134.95USD through BlackRapid’s site, this piece of kit has been a durable and affordable addition to my bag. Given the physical pain that it saves me, the purchase was a no-brainer, and one that I haven’t regretted. It is an essential part of my wedding day gear. It’s not pretty, and you’re not going to win any fashion awards, but it definitely does the job.
Review by Ang Waterton.