Fstoppers Review of the BlackRapid Sport Breathe Camera Strap

Fstoppers Review of the BlackRapid Sport Breathe Camera Strap

BlackRapid has been making unique, useful camera straps for a while, but recently released an updated product line. For this review, I took one of their more popular straps out into the field for a rock climbing photoshoot, as well as used it on a location scout.

<--break->The new BlackRapid Breathe line is an update to their popular line of camera support straps. A new material is being used on the shoulder pad that's lighter, breathable, and moisture wicking. Other small changes include spring-locking cams, an updated fastener, and a redesigned carabiner connector.

Before I jump into things, let’s get a quick overview of the Breathe line of straps from BlackRapid. The unifying element of all of their straps is in how they attach to your camera, which is through a threaded fastener that screws into the camera’s tripod mounting point. This fastener is connected to a small carabiner that slides effortlessly along the different straps. This is where the BlackRapid products begin to separate themselves; different strap systems are made for different users.

From simple sling designs that are made to be worn on either shoulder, to double camera harness systems for dual DSLR wielding wedding photographers, BlackRapid offers quite a few options depending on what your style is.

I specifically was interested in the Sport Breathe because I shoot a bit of adventure sport content, and honestly had never tried out any BlackRapid products before, as I was pretty happy with my Tamrac N-25 neoprene strap. While I normally take a small selection of lenses when I go out on an assignment, on more casual shoots I stick to one to stay light and fast, so the Sport Breathe appeared as though it might be ideal for that scenario.

I got to use the Sport Breathe when I met up with rock climbing trainer and book author Eric Hörst, and snapped some images of him and his two sons during a day of climbing. Here are a few images from that day.

First of all, the look of the whole Breathe lineup is similar, with shiny black straps running along your body and a black shoulder pad that is backed by a mesh-like material. If you’re into loud colors and designs, this strap isn’t for you; this has more of a tactical look and feel. There’s noticeable branding on it in white, which I wish was in black, but that’s pretty non-consequential.

Except for the metal carabiner that attaches to the fastener, and the metal removable underarm strap hook, all cam and buckle parts are plastic. With as close as this will be worn to your body, I wouldn't expect anything to break anytime soon, so this should be a non issue.

Here's a video from BlackRapid that shows how the strap is setup and meant to be used.

When it comes to the features, the main attraction is the sliding action this setup provides for quick access. At a moment’s notice, your camera easily slides along the front strap for clicking away, and then settles into place at your side. What’s novel with this design are the two cam locks, placed on either side of where the camera connects to the strap.

These cam locks can be easily placed at any point along the strap, and will restrict the camera form sliding beyond it. This means that it will hold the camera in whatever position along your body that feels the most comfortable for you. It also means you can lock it into a single place, so that if you plan to walk or hike and not shoot for a while, the camera won’t inadvertently swing around. Using these did take a little getting used to, as the action to unlock and slide them requires lifting the tab open, but once I figured it out, I could see why they were designed in this manner– it's very quick and smooth to adjust and set these.

The carabiner and fastener system works as intended, with the fastener screwing into a tripod mounting hole on a camera or telephoto lens. The carabiner clips into the loop on the fastener, which is then twistlocked, and then backed up by a flat cover which effectively keeps the twistlock from accidentally coming unscrewed. The rock climber in me appreciates redundancy, so I dig this method of locking into the fastener.

While I wore the strap and bounded around rocks and along trails, weight distribution felt great, and the resting position on my body was quite comfortable – much more so than that of my usual shoulder strap. I found that the camera body would take a position very nicely at the side of my hip, and my hand easily rested on it as well.

On a different day, I walked around downtown Lexington doing location scouting with my DSLR. For about two hours I made my way around town, with warm temps and high humidity. The shoulder pad didn't leave a large sweat mark and was comfortable the entire time.

What I Liked

  • When not in use, camera settled in a very comfortable position on my body
  • Shoulder pad fits great and doesn't leave a big sweaty spot
  • Underarm strap is removable

What I Didn't Like

  • I wish the branding was more subtle, but that's getting really nitpicky
  • I can't think of anything else that I didn't like!

Bottom Line

The Sport Breathe sells for about $82, so it’s not exactly cheap for a strap. If you shoot several times a week though, I could imagine that you'd use it enough to justify the cost. Also, if you’ve ever had a sore neck or shoulder from wearing a camera all day, then I might ask how much it’s worth it to you to be rid of that pain? And if you’re left-handed, they’ve got you covered with a left-handed option (For those who are interested, I hear BlackRapid is offering a trade-in option for owners of a previous strap, with a 40% discount on a new one).

Whenever I’m planning to go out and shoot with just a lens or two and want my camera by my side for most of the day, the choice is clear. I hadn't used BlackRapid products before but the Sport Breathe is going to be replacing my old shoulder strap on many of my shoots in the future.

Thanks to Seth McCubbin for the BTS photos!

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9 Comments

William Howell's picture

I use Up Strap, their branding is subtle, but prominent, I believe this is the brand most pros use.

Jay Jay's picture

As someone who originally owned and wore a BlackRapid for many years, and recently bought (and then returned) the Breathe and Breathe Slim, you really need to check out the Sun-Sniper Rotaball Pro. The shoulder padding is twice as thick, has a non slip grip on it (though BlackRapid claims they have non slip on theirs, it will slip like crazy). The shoulder piece on the Sun-Sniper is also much wider, so the camera doesn't put a strain on your shoulder like the thin BlackRapid does. On top of that, it has security wires sewn into the strapping to prevent someone from cutting your strap and running off with the camera. There's also true strap management, with a plastic piece that completely keeps the loose ends from flopping around, as well as the shoulder pad, which also lets you tuck the excess strap in. (The BlackRapid has a tiny plastic clip where you slide the loose strap in, but the strap never stays in and it does not keep it taut, so it will flop around). Also, wearing the BR is like wearing a Toyota Celica, whereas the Sun Sniper is like wearing a Mercedes... you'll definitely notice a difference in quality.

I used BlackRapid for a good 3 years and gave the Rotaball a try after seeing Joey Wright mention his on the Fstoppers Swimwear Photography video, of all places. Once you try that, you'll never look at a BlackRapid strap again, i promise.

Btw, i see you fastened just their connector to your plate. I did that too, until i came within a 2mm turn of that screw nearly dropping my then brand new 5D MK 3. BlackRapid reps acknowledge their screw can come loose and advise you check tightness before every shoot (though they don't state this anywhere on their site or documentation). You'll want to get an OP/TECH 1301062 Uni-Loop for $7.00 on Amazon- one part attaches to the rectangular piece that your clip is fastened from, and the other piece will attach to the little metal loop on the bottom of your Canon. Snap both ends together to lock, and you now have insurance that your camera will never drop, for any reason. (applying Loctite #242 before screwing your BR Fastener in will also prevent it from torquing loose).

Sean Gibson's picture

I have their original sports strap, and still tell people after 3 years and all the expensive gear I've bought, that it's one of the best purchases I've ever made. It's so comfortable that it makes a 5D with grip and my 70-200 2.8 attached feel like I have my polaroid on my side.

I tried BlackRapid a while back and couldn't abide by two main issues. First and foremost; No anti-slip material on the inside of the strap. MAJOR deal breaker. Second was the use of their attachment on the tripod mount. Attaching and removing every time I wanted to use my tripod was a royal pain and their attachment for the Manfrotto RC422 was a barely viable solution due to a few things; 1: It was a complete pain to undo and re-attach the strap due to how the attachment flopped around and 2: After switching to an Arca-Swiss type plate, utterly useless.

After having used OpTech straps (Wide neoprene with an inner non-slip surface) I found that they make a similar glider type strap and I attach it to the left strap lug and also the mount plate on the bottom of my D3 and D800. Not only are the straps secured at two hard points, I don't have to mess around with anything to attach it to my tripod.

Best yet, while attending Photokina in 2014, I went to the BlackRapid display and asked one of their employees if they had any straps with non-slip material on the inner portion and he had no idea what I was talking about. I had to explain it to him like I was talking to a child and he still had trouble comprehending.

Jay Jay's picture

Use an M-Plate, which moves the screw hole about 2 inches away from the camera/lens mount to allow you to screw in the BlackRapid fastener bolt, and at the same time, provides an Arca plate mount. You can keep your Rapid still fastened, yet mount the camera/tele lens to an arca tripod. I have one on both my canon and on my 70-200. https://customslr.com/products/m-plate-pro

Jay Jay, I actually considered that a few years back, thank you. It still would have left me with a strap that had no anti slip material on the inside and I really liked the idea of a sling strap that I could attach to two hard points. Custom SLR certainly does have an impressive looking line of products, that's for sure.

Jay Jay's picture

Yes, that's still a week point with BlackRapid (do they ever test their products in the field with actual photographers?) after years and years. The strap i use now (Sun-Sniper), is the same, but with a thicker and larger shoulder pad that has non slip rubber on the bottom, plus is designed with a hard crease in the top center, so it rests directly over your shoulder and doesn't move. It's a german company, so german engineering, you could say, lol.

I have nothing but great things to say about Black Rapid. A short backstory. I purchased a Black Rapid strap while on vacation in Montana. After about a month of use I had an issue with the carabiner latch. I contacted black rapid about the issue, not really expecting much of a response. To my surprise their customer service was outstanding! They requested a couple of pictures of the issue I was having which I promptly sent. After looking at the pictures they were quick to provide me with a brand-new replacement strap. From the time I set my initial email till the time the new strap arrived at my house it was less than two weeks. I say that I was surprised because I can be a bit of a cynic. I thought that customer service was dead. Black Rapid definitely proved me wrong on so many levels! Excellent product and I will continue to be loyal customer.
I personally have the Breathe strap and love it. I use it for events, concerts, street photography and hiking trips. It is a rock solid product that I'm sure give me many years a reliable service.

I love mine. The only thing I don't care for is that the metal removable hook that attaches the under-arm strap to the back of the shoulder strap is a little too removable. I'd appreciate a latch to lock it in place (like ThinkTank has on their backpacks) to keep it from coming apart and me losing the strap (again).

I shoot in Texas heat and really appreciate the breathability of this strap. It's going be awesome shooting portraits and weddings this summer!

[updated 5/31/17] - What an awesome company! Heather from BlackRapid read my comment here and contacted me to offer me an updated version of the BRAD strap I was having an issue with free of charge. I got it in the mail yesterday and it's so much better! I no longer have any reservations about recommending this product after the updated design.

Thank you, BlackRapid, for being a company that cares about your customers!