Keith Briley has never felt inclined to take a camera strap on his landscape adventures, until the Black Rapid Yeti landed on his doorstep. Having put it through its paces, has he changed his mind?
I'll be honest with you, I didn't think I was a strap guy. My process of getting ready for a shoot is… camera - check, battery - check, filters - check, card - check, camera bag to hold all my gear - check. What is the need for a strap?
They say you learn a lot in the first year of marriage, and I learned a lot on our honeymoon. We were unloading gear in the mountains of Washington state, when I looked across the roof of our car to see my wife unloading just her camera and one lens. Thoughts of her short changing her options ran through my head, until half way up the mountain that is. There I was lugging a 50lb bag and embarrassing myself in front of my new bride with my lack of physique, while she easily navigated the switchbacks with her camera on a strap. I learned on those first few days of marriage that I might want to follow her lead. I also cut back on the late night bowls of cereal.
When the BlackRapid Yeti appeared on my front porch, memories of that lung-burning hike jumped back into the forefront of my memory and I knew I needed to really put this strap to the test. How comfortable would I feel about being naked without my bag and gear? There are not a lot of places that I would go without my camera bag, but admittedly there have been circumstances of late where this strap would have come in handy. For example, we lead photographic workshops/tours in Charleston, which include helicopter tours, and the strap we recommend is the BlackRapid because of the details they have implemented to protect your gear. So let's get started...
First off, the Yeti is designed with two straps for double camera bodies. I particularly liked this for weight distribution. While performing this test (in one of the instances) I used the Lens Flipper on the secondary side of the strap so that I could have lens flexibility on my shoot. This is a great option if you are a one-body shooter and I would highly recommend the Lens Flipper, but I'll leave that for a different review.
When you pull the Yeti out of the box you will note its durability, the quality of the material used and the attention to detail that went into its construction. You will first note their signatory ‘R’ in yellow and, when flipping the strap over, you will see a rubber mesh piece tightly sewn into the cushion of the strap. This supports the weight distribution very well. It also helped the strap from shifting to uncomfortable positions on my body and helped avoid unnecessary movement.
If the two-strap system of the Yeti ($99.95) is unnecessary for your outing, you can easily remove the second strap and use this strap as if it were their sport strap ($73.95). I really like this option and frankly I would spend the extra $26 to have that versatility. If you were not carrying an extra camera body or Lens Flipper, it would also work well with a Nalgene water bottle. Truly the only limit is your own creativity for that second hook.
I initially met the guys at BlackRapid at a tradeshow and received a hands-on demonstration. In terms of gear safety, I was informed that you could hang a small child from the camera body and the fastener would hold strong. I believe it.
Setting up your Yeti is quick. You screw the fastener (made of metal) to the bottom of your camera and you can tighten it with the metal carabiner. There is a rubber washer located between the fastener and your camera, for added camera protection and tightening. There is a small cylinder that screws over the top of the carabiner opening for maximum security; that camera isn't going anywhere unless you pull out a knife or you unscrew the cylinder.
There were additional straps that came in the box, which I soon realized were under arm body stabilizers and underarm stabilizer for additional support. If you know me personally, or have seen my picture, you will note that I am a barrel-chested guy (at least that is the gentle way my wife puts it). Surprisingly enough, this fit around my chest and was comfortable. One additional feature I would like to point out is that all of the clasps have a double locking mechanism, whereby you have to press down on the front of the plastic piece before pressing in on the sides to release the male side from the female side of the clasp.
While walking, I didn't like that initially the camera continued to hit my thigh. I had to take a minute, stop, figure out how to adjust the strap and get it to a level that was comfortable and did not run the threat of hitting anything sacred. This was pretty easy to do and can be done quickly once you get the hang of the adjustments. Once you have things in place, the Yeti has a plastic piece on either side that you can easily lift up and adjust (much like an airplane seat belt), to limit the camera movement. This is particularly handy if you are making large strides forward or bending to climb over a log. I can't say this enough: spend the time adjusting the lengths to fit your body before venturing out. You will be frustrated if you don't.
I recently had a client book a helicopter tour and while having him up front with the pilot, with his BlackRapid strap, I sat behind. I don't recommend changing lenses while up in the air with the doors off, so the Yeti came in handy for me to attach two camera bodies with a prime 50 and a wide 24-70. This allowed me to have both securely attached to me, and the flexibility to move as needed to get my shot.
In summation, I would recommend the BlackRapid Yeti strap. I do believe that the BlackRapid strap has few competitors, but if a strap is needed in my landscape adventures, this will be the one I go to.