There is a list of accessories that, when used properly, can easily lift your photography to a next level: tripods, flashes, reflectors and so on.
Having shot a 24-hours sports event twice and noticing how my wrists would hurt afterwards, I figured a sling strap might also be such an accessory. The regular straps that you get when you buy a DSLR work more like a necklace: they are too short to sling around your shoulder. Other roller derby photographers recommended the Blackrapid family of sling straps almost unanimously, so with two games coming up on Sunday, I bought one last Saturday.
Note that I hardly ever use the regular strap the way it was intended. Instead, I wrap it around the wrist and just carry my camera in the hand. Hence the wrist ache instead of a possible neck ache. The sling strap makes it so that you don’t have to hold the camera all of the time. You can just let it hang when you’re not using it.
The model I got was the Blackrapid Sports, but I can imagine my findings apply to most other brands and models of sling straps.
So here’s what I discovered in one day of shooting:
- When you’re running, you still need to steady the camera with your hand to stop it from swinging about.
- I’ve never heard the IS mechanism in my sports zoom make such a racket before when running with my camera.
- The Blackrapid attaches to the tripod mount. This has a couple of disadvantages:
- You can no longer set the camera down on its (flat) bottom plate (unless you detach the strap, which is admittedly easy enough, but … but … if you just want to change lenses or it just feels awkward even to have to think about this – OK, I admit, this isn’t really a huge issue).
- The mount is unavailable for tripod use (see above for the seriousness of this issue).
- The camera hangs upside down, which means that you lose fractions of seconds bringing it to up your face. This can be problematic when shooting events.
- You need to be extra careful with your expensive lenses dangling out of sight.
- Unlike regular straps, a sling strap with its padded shoulder band and its plastic bits is a comparatively unwieldy thing that takes some getting used to just being there, knocking over cups of coffee and what have you.
The best I can say about a sling strap so far is that most of the time, I did not notice it was there.
I guess what all this whining is supposed to say is that a) I still need to get used to the thing and b) I had no clear idea of what a sling strap was supposed to achieve. The latter is still an important point to make. Holding your camera in your hand may not be ideal, neither do the alternatives seem to be.
I can say this though: the day after, my wrists feel just fine. On the other hand, this is the first time every I had muscle pain in my upper legs after a shoot. Go figure.