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Black Rapid RS-5 Camera Strap
The RS-5 version of the R-Strap is based around a unique, layered design to accommodate more storage than you ever thought possible in a camera strap. Located on the front outside of the pad is a pocket for carrying a smart phone, large battery, walkie-talkie, or similar sized items. The top of the pad opens up to reveal even more storage within: enough to carry 9+ memory cards, ID, credit cards, and more. Load it up right, and you'll never run out of memory or power. The silent closures are thanks to padded Neodymium magnets, so you can sift through your storage with out making a sound. Perfect for when you are sneaking up on a grizzly bear or when the bride is giving her vows!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
That much I expected; here's what I didn't expect. Before I got the R-Strap, I would be, at any given time, either taking photos *OR* being involved in whatever was going on (child's birthday party, vacation, etc.). The camera was--literally and metaphorically--between me and everyone else. With the R-Strap it's much more natural--I can be more fully engaged with the people around me, and still have my camera instantly available when I need to capture a moment. I don't want to get all gushy about a camera strap, but this was a nice and unexpected benefit.
Now, a couple of minor issues. First, the strap does tend to slip forward or backward off of my shoulder. Not too often, but often enough that I wish they had used some kind of non-skid material as a backing. Second, all of that pocket space comes at a price: the RS-5 can get a little bulky. For situations where I can keep my camera bag nearby, I actually find myself wishing for the less bulky RS-4. I think the bulk may have something to do with the slipping problem, too.
On the plus side, construction quality is very good, and the hardware that attaches camera to strap seems very secure. It's very easy to detach the camera from the strap when you want to, but the locking carabiner ensures it won't happen by accident. And there's no velcro anywhere: nylon zippers and magnetic closures keep everything quiet.
Whichever you choose, the RS-4 or the RS-5, I'm sure you'll find it a big improvement over the old neck strap.
The RS-5 seems to be the "priciest" of the single R-Strap's (there are dual-straps that cost about dual-price), priced above the RS-4 and RS-7
I originally passed on the RS-5 after hearing of the extra bulk over the RS4. After using the RS-4 for a year, I figured it was time to try the RS-5 out for my 3rd strap.
The RS-4 is more compact - it folds up to nearly half the size for storage. The straps themselves are about the same, the difference is that it comes with more pocket-space:
The RS-4 has a small zip-pocket - enough for maybe a couple CF cards OR a battery OR some business cards. Not much else. This was more of a "nice little extra" than something worth advertising.
The RS-5 builds on that, including a "cell-phone pocket" (fits a GPS device perfectly) and 2 LARGE inside pockets. Everything is held together by magnets -- I like this because they're strong and make a "silent" opening (had it been velcro, you couldn't quietly open the pocket -- if you're at a wedding, you probably don't want to be pulling velcro apart to grab a new CF card).
Both pockets use a zipper system. I'm a little hesitant to put my CF cards in there (if you forget to zip it up, they'll go falling out -- while the magnets do lock the top shut, the sides (where the zipper is) is open). I had some paper cards fall out of this pocket when it didn't zip all the way -- had these been my CF cards, it would have been disastrous. Another issue might be the magnets - magnets + electronics don't always mix.
I also tried the RS-7 - I didn't spend much time with it because of one major problem I had - it uses "quick release" buckles. These are found on a lot of backpacks and bags as they let you easily snap/unsnap them.. the problem is that if your camera + lens are handing from a strap, you don't want the option for some(one/thing) to quickly release it (to the ground).
The big benefit I found about the RS-5's large pocket is how comfortable it is! Wearing these all day can put some weight on your next (magnesium alloy camera + battery grip + lens + flash = HEAVY). I found the RS-4 to work just fine, but was nowhere near as comfortable as it was lacking all of the extra padding the RS-5 offers. If you have no need for the RS-5 pocket though, it might just get in the way - I suggest trying both to find which works better for you.
And a tip - you can use 2 of these to hold 2 cameras. The "Dual Strap" system is nice but a bit limiting if you only want to bring 1 camera (you need to hook the other end to your belt to balance it) - using 2 RS-4/5/7's will also allow you to share whereas a dual-strap system is for 1 person. The best method I've found was to cross them over eachother, making an "X" shape. I've even had luck using 3 straps to hold 3 loaded DSLR's (2 on one side, 1 on the other).
Lastly, the RS-5 came with the newer FastenR-3 attachment - this is often an "upgrade" (15 bucks or so) for the RS-4, and definitely an improvement over the (normally included) FastenR-2, so despite a slightly higher price for the RS5 than the RS4, it becomes a better value when you factor in needing to purchase one of these separately.
One thing I had to change, though, was to make an adjustment on the carabiner. From the start I knew that the knurled lock nut on the carabiner would scratch to bottom of the camera body and it did. So I used a couple layers of heat-shrink tubing to cover it. Works great. I may also use protective tubing or tape on some of the other metal parts of the attachment/slide mechanism to reduce the risk of damaging the camera. I'm still a bit uneasy about having the camera hung by a single point with only two turns into the threading in the tripod mount. Almost want to attach a safety line to one of the camera strap brackets, but that would only mess up the great handling of the camera afforded by this strap. This strap is a must-have for anyone who does event/journalism photography where fast draw of the camera is essential.
UPDATE (10/17/10): Caution - After continual use of this strap, I have encountered some issues worth mentioning. The most troublesome is the poor durability of the strap material. Mine has started to wear and fray badly on one side. This should not happen. The material used for the strap does not appear to be of the quality needed for this type of application or even as advertized. The second issue I have is with the use of the magnets. While it is a "cool" idea in form and function, continued use will leave you a bit frustrated with the fact that the strap will stick to anything metal it comes in contact with (like standing close to a metal filing cabinet) and will even fold over on itself when stored in your camera bag and stick in ways not intended, creating a bit of a tangled mess at times. I may replace the magnets with velcro if I keep this thing. The last issue I have with the strap is the shoulder pad - it does tend to slide forward and backward during use too easily, leaving you constantly repositioning or searching for it behind your back. At this point I'd recommend looking for competitor's products and compare with these issues in mind. I've lowered by rating from 4 stars to 2 as a result.
If you've ever put a DSLR with a long zoom around your neck, you know how cumbersome it can be. If the zoom is large enough, it can even appear you are in a goofy 'zoom envy' contest. More importantly, the camera - regardless of the lens - is always in the way. This is both akward and puts your gear at risk of damage, especially in tight spaces.
With this product, which I immediately ordered (that night on my iPhone from Amazon), all of that changes. The camera hangs, perfectly balanced, at your side. It is right there when you need it - and gone when you do not. It is stable when you walk (even a brisk walk / run), and can be brought into position instantly when you need it. Go to their website and check out the videos.
The build quality is also excellent. I don't know where the product is made, but it's design, engineering, and construction are top quality. I'm hard to impress, but these guys have done it.
If you like to shoot - but don't enjoy a bouncing camera on your chest - buy this product. You will not be disappointed.
Of the dozens of accessories I have purchased (chargers, covers, bags, straps, tripods, lights, reflectors), I can say that this is the most game changing product I've ever purchased. They have literally reinvented the camera strap. Strongly recommended.