BlackRapid Classic Retro RS-4


I love and hate camera straps.  I am not a big fan of most straps because they are uncomfortable to carry a camera, but that is why I love searching constantly for the perfect strap.  Because of that, I have reviewed probably more than 20 straps at Photography & Travel.  All of which brings me to BlackRapid.

BlackRapid is the name that comes up on almost every camera strap review I have done.  People always ask why I haven’t reviewed BlackRapid.  Indeed, BlackRapid users are avid defenders of their favorite strap and I have heard their praises for years so I was actually pretty excited when someone from  BlackRapid contacted me about reviewing one of their straps.

BlackRapid sent me the Classic Retro RS-4 camera strap about a year ago and I have been testing it on everything, including family outings, street photography, travel, airports, hiking and portrait photography.  It has definitely cemented itself as one of my favorite all-time camera straps, and my favorite cross-body strap.  That is why you will find it in our Recommended Gear pages.

blackrapid classic retro

Classic Retro RS-4

BlackRapid announced the release of the new Classic Retro RS-4 camera strap to celebrate BlackRapid’s tenth anniversary in early 2018.  The Retro strap is designed to be worn crossbody as a sling over either shoulder.

The strap doesn’t come in flashy colors or bold prints, but is sleek stylish in design, with a narrow black strap accompanied by a small padded area designed to pad shoulder.  Really, what this strap comes down to is a handful of little features that make the strap extremely functional.

Why you would want a sling-style strap

Another advantage of the sling-style strap is they allow you to keep the camera down near your hip where I think a camera fits much nicer because it tends to bounce around a lot less.

Why you may not want a sling-style strap

For me, the cross-body, sling-style strap only has one major pitfall, which is ease of use for photographers that frequently use a tripod.  Because the sling-style straps (except for Peak Design) all monopolize the tripod thread on your camera, you can’t keep a mounting plate attached to your camera in most cases and would have to unthread the strap to insert the mounting plate for your tripod.
As a photographer that shoots a lot of landscapes and does a lot of work with long exposures, this used to be a deal breaker for me and led me to stop using all sling-style straps.  Luckily, since I prefer the sling-style strap, I now have a solution.

The Solution

After waiting entirely too long, I converted to using an L bracket all the time on all of my cameras (if you shoot with a tripod at all, seriously just buy an L bracket, they are cheap, and well worth it).  The L brackets I use have a thread on the outside where you can attach the sling-style strap.  The L Bracket then  has extra room to attach the camera to your tripod.
It isn’t always ideal, but it is workable.  This is especially true for the BlackRapid Retro strap, which uses a fastener that does not take up much space on the bottom of your camera.

I love the Fastener on the Retro Strap

In addition to the fastener being great for tripod use due to its small size, something else I love about the fastener on this BlackRapid strap is how quickly and easily you can detach the strap from the fastener.  I use this all the time to move the strap out of the way when I, m shooting on a tripod, when I am using a smaller bag and the strap doesn’t fit well, or just on those occasions where I don’t want to be using a strap for a short amount of time.
On most sling-style straps I have used, you have to unscrew the entire blackrapidfastener from your camera body to remove the strap.  On the Retro, you just undo the carabiner at the end of the strap and it disconnects the strap from the fastener.

Beyond just that great functionality, I actually really appreciate the fastener on the Retro for how it connects into the camera.  Due to some unfortunate experiences where my camera has dropped from a connection becoming loose, I usually avoid any mount that is hand tightened.  The hand-tightening on the Retro’s fastener though is actually really secure due to the way it is threaded.  This is really nice because it is quick and easy to thread or unthread, and I am actually confident in it staying attached no matter how much I run, climb or otherwise jostle the camera around.

If this isn’t enough for you, the Retro strap also comes with a safety tether, which allows you to attach your camera body to the carabiner on the strap.  With the tether attached, the fastener could come completely out of your camera, but your camera would only drop an inch or two before the tether kept it safe.

The Retro Strap is easy to adjust

I hate when a strap is hard to adjust in length.  I don’t adjust the length that often, but sometimes you want it a little tighter or looser, and if that involves any weaving straps through buckles, I quit.  That isn’t a problem with the BlackRapid Retro strap.  All you have to do with the Retro strap is flip open a simple clasp and then slide the strap to your desired length length and flip the clasp closed.

It is easy to shoot with the retro strap

When you are using a sling-style strap, it is pretty much necessary to have a strap that allows the camera to slide up and down the strap.  If the camera is fixed in position on the camera strap, the only way to bring your camera up to shooting position is to rotate the entire strap around your body.  For me, sliding the strap around your body is annoying enough that it is a deal breaker.

The connection on the BlackRapid Retro strap between the carabiner and the strap that goes around your body lets you slide your camera along the strap without requiring you to rotate the strap at all.  with this ability, you can quickly and easily get your camera from your hip to your eye just by lifting up the camera, almost like you didn’t have a strap on at all.

blackrapid

Now, there is one problem that usually accompanies the ability to slide your camera up and down the strap.  The problem I have experienced with other straps that have this capability is that the camera slides around when you don’t want it to.  With nothing holding the camera tightly in place, it will slide around a little with every bounce you make.  More importantly, it will slide down the strap completely if you are just moving the strap around or something without having it across your body.

BlackRapid employed a really simple solution to this problem in the Retro strap by placing two bumpers on the strap that you can lock in front and behind your camera.  These bumpers are easy to adjust so you can lock your camera wherever you want.  I usually set one of my bumpers at the top of my shoulder and the other bumper where I want the camera to rest, usually at my hip.  This placement keeps my camera snug to my hip when am not shooting, but allows me to slide it up to my eye with no further adjustment.  When I need the camera locked into place for whatever reason, I simply slide the front bumper from my shoulder down to the front of where my camera is sitting, trapping it in a fixed location.  I just love this simple process that is huge on functionality.  It is one of the many things that show the Retro strap was designed by actual photographers who thought through every step.

The Retro strap features a very convenient pocket

I find I use this pocket most when I head out with the family or when I do street photography.  In these situations where I won’t be using a tripod and don’t need spare lenses, I can put what I need in this little pocket and leave my camera backpack at home.

Conclusion

Overall, I have been very happy with the BlackRapid Classic Retro RS-4 camera strap, as if that wasn’t obvious by now.  After testing dozens of camera straps including several sling-style straps, the BlackRapid Retro strap has definitely become my favorite sling-style strap, if not my favorite overall.

If Amazon is your go-to store, you can check the current price of the BlackRapid Classic Retro with that link.

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