Reviewing the Black Rapid Sport

Introduction

After trying the default neck strap from Nikon in different ways (as a neck strap, a shoulder strap, a wrist strap or as no strap at all…) and a dedicated handstrap. I noticed two things:

  1. Camera’s can get very heavy after a couple of hours, either holding them in hand, or hanging around your neck.
  2. Mounting the camera on a tripod took a lot of time (especially with the hand strap where I needed to remove the hand strap before fastening the quick release plate)

Than I came across the Black Rapid Sport. The last 6 to 9 months I used this strap in several different places and in different situations. I used it in cities, in buildings, in a zoo and outside in the nature. I used it with and without bags, while wearing thick clothes and while wearing only a T-Shirt, with Nordic walking sticks, on a bicycle and on a segway.

The Black Rapid Sport

The Black Rapid Sport is a shoulder strap designed to go from your shoulder, across the chest to the opposite hip. So the weight of the camera  is on your shoulder instead of your neck, and you don’t have the feeling the camera can glide off your shoulder like when you use the default neck strap as a shoulder strap (from your shoulder downwards).

The part of the strap that goes around your shoulder is completely made of padded material. This helps distribute the weight of the camera across the whole of your shoulder. I had no problem wearing my camera for a couple of hours. But still, after that I had the need to get the weight off my shoulder by holding the camera in hand for a while.

The camera is attached to the strap using a ring in the tripod mount. To be able to still use the quick release plate of the tripod, Black Rapid offers a special fastener. Now I can have the quick release plate on the camera while using the strap, so I only need to detach my camera from the strap to put it on the tripod. Although this special fastener is not really necessary (the strap can be attached to the Manfrotto release plate directly), it looks to me that the fastener of Black Rapid is better build and can handle larger weights.

On the downside

Since I used the Black Rapid Sport I also noticed a couple of annoying things.

First of all it is difficult to use a shoulder strap and a bag (shoulder bag or backpack) together, it is not impossible, but it  is less comfortable.

A few times I noticed that the screwed parts (the fastener and the sleeve that locks the connector) will start loosen up after a couple of weeks. So every time I use the strap, I have to think about double checking that every thing is screwed tightly.

The bumpers on the strap, which are used to keep the camera in place don’t work very well. The camera keeps bumping, but this can be easily solved by attaching a carabiner to a belt or backpack and the straps connector.

Conclusion

I really like this camera strap and I can really recommend this strap to other dSLR users. It is a joy to have your camera in hands reach without pain in the neck or arms and without the feeling you will drop the camera.

Camera bags and tripods

Over the last year or two, I bought two  camera bags and two tripods, but I never wrote any review kind of post.

Bags

I used a Tamrac toploader bag for a long time. Since I only had my camera and one lens to carry, I didn’t need a bigger one. But at some point I bought a flash, and a 50mm prime lens and I had to carry these as well.

So I started my search for a new camera bag. I had a few criteria:

  • It should store most of my gear, at least one or two extra lenses, a flash and the gorillapod.
  • It shouldn’t look like a camera bag.
  • It should have easy access to the camera.

The Domkey courier bag was the bag that fitted these criteria. It can hold all my camera gear, including battery chargers (both camera and normal batteries). It doesn’t look like a camera bag at all and the brand is not really known by non photographers (as far as I know). You can use a it as a normal bag as well by removing all the padding. Since it is a shoulder bag, you can access the camera within seconds.

I really like this bag, but when wearing it for a long time with lots of gear, you will feel your shoulder. It is definitely not useful for long walks where you don’t need to have your camera ready in an instant. In cities and in the zoo this bag is fantastic, you can reach for your camera within seconds and don’t have to hold it all the time. This bag doesn’t only store your camera, but, when not taking all the gear you have, you can also store a water bottle and a city guide.

For the longer walks and for carrying my tripod, I recently bought a LowePro backpack. Although it is on the small side it is very useful for day trips. Most of the time you won’t need three lenses, a flash and two tripods, so this won’t be an issue. You don’t have fast access to the camera, because you can only enter the bag on the “flip side”. You have to take the bag of before you can open it to get the camera out. Since this is a backpack I don’t think this is problematic, because it gives you an opportunity to watch the environment with your own eyes instead of through the lens before you take any pictures…

Tripods

I already mentioned the Gorillapod. This is a flexible tripod which you can place on almost every surface, including lampposts and trees. You really need to have some courage to place it in a tree or on the railing of a bridge and don’t hold it all the time, mine did never fall off anything. The gorillapod is light and extremely sturdy and you can get very low to ground if you want, but it can be difficult to compose a shot in that way. I have two problems with the ballhead that came with the gorillapod.  The ballhead can not turn around for pannorama photos without loosening the ball itself and with my 18-200 mm lens the camera moves down, it won’t stay in the correct position. Other than that, I think it is an useful addition to your camera bag.

My newest addition is a tripod from Manfrotto. There are so many different kind of tripods, that it is very hard to choose the right one. Here are the criteria I had:

  • It should be lightweight, when it is too heavy I won’t carry it around and I won’t use it, so keep the weight under 2 kilogram.
  • It should be comfortably height enough. Since I am over 2 meters, and I don’t want to bend all the time, it should be a reasonable height (without the centre column, or the half the centre column at the most).
  • It shouldn’t be too expensive. You can get tripods from 1000 euro’s or more but those are much too expensive, 400 euro would be my maximum.

The Manfrotto fits all of these criteria. Without the ball head, it weights 1.6 kg, and with ball head it is just over 2.2 kg.Without extending the centre column, the viewfinder is at a height of 1.60 meters.
The tripod itself is within the budget, but with the ball head it was slightly over budget, but all in all it is a good investment.

Although this tripod is light, it is very sturdy and it won’t be blown away as easily as cheap tripods. The carbon fibre makes sure the vibrations are reduced, and the ability to keep the centre column down makes it even more stable. Even though I only used it once, I think I will be very happy using it during my holidays.

Relax

relax

This self portrait is my second try, both in self portraits and in stitching multiple photo’s of myself in one photograph. The first attempt was to blurry and there was more overlap of myself which made it difficult to post process.

Making such a photo is not that difficult. Make several photo’s of yourself  in different positions and put them together in software like Gimp or Photoshop.

Here are some things you should consider when shooting the photo’s:

  • First you need a tripod or a stable surface for the camera so the camera will not move between making the photo’s.
  • Second you need to make sure the exposure of all photo’s is exactly the same. Even the white balance should be the same (or you can change it in post)
  • Third you shouldn’t move objects between different photographs, it will make it extremely difficult to align the photo’s correctly.

When editing the photo’s you add each photo to a different layer and apply a layer mask to show the part of the photo you want to show. The most difficult part is to make overlapping areas convincing. Although there are different ways of creating a layer mask, I just use the mouse and a paintbrush tool. Doing this using a mouse is quite difficult and I think a pen tablet like the Wacom Bamboo will be very helpful here.

Over the next few weeks I will try out my Wacom Bamboo to see if it is really easier to use than the mouse.