This review is based on my use of the BlackRapid Double Breathe Camera Harness on-set for a month. I work a minimum 10hr day so the strap is in continuous use.
As a Production Still Photographer on Film and TV it's essential that I have immediate access to two cameras. With little time and the pressure always on to keep moving forward any seconds lost in having to change lenses makes a huge difference.
I shoot day exteriors with wide and tight zooms and then switch to my various Fujinon prime lenses for interior and night shoots.
I see no point in reviewing a product that I won’t continue to use after my ‘trial’ period. No piece of gear is perfect or is going to suit everybody. So if a piece of gear doesn’t work out for me, I’ll move on and find something that does.
I much prefer to write a positive review about a piece of kit that I enjoy using than spend time explaining another’s shortfalls. This is not to say I won’t point out issues I have with a piece of equipment’s design or manufacture within a review. if I feel improvements could be made, I’ll say so
The Blackrapid double breathe camera harness is clearly well made, the stitching is even and the various clips and attachments are of good quality and fit snuggly when clipped together. They are solid in both their appearance and build.
The instruction leaflet has written instructions and illustrations to guide you through the connection of your cameras and the wearing of the strap. It’s all quite self-explanatory though.
I would definitely recommend having your cameras and lenses attached to the double breathe strap when making the various adjustments.
The small carry bag is a handy addition to keep your Blackrapid harness neat and tidy wherever it’s not in use.
Camera security is paramount, there’s a large investment hanging from these nylon straps. In addition to the carabiner-style connector with its threaded barrel that screws shut to lock the spring-loaded gate in place, Blackrapid has supplied a secondary backup in the lockstar clip. The beauty of this clip is that it will only close completely if the threaded barrel has been screwed down to lock the connector. A further backup is the safety tether strap.
The tether strap will save your camera if the fastener somehow unscrews itself from your camera. One end is attached to the standard split ring that came with your camera and the other end is locked into the connector along with the fastener.
I can’t be sure if these safety tethers come standard with all double breathe straps. The only mention of them is on a sticker added to the outside of the box. There is also no mention of them in the instruction leaflet or on the Blackrapid website video.
Without doubt they add an additional layer of camera security. What it also adds is time to remove the camera from the double breathe strap. This may or may not be an issue, for me it is so I go without them and make sure the fastener is firmly screwed in to start with.
As recommended in the instruction leaflet I use the connector as a lever to obtain the tightest connection possible. Attached to the fastener is a rubber washer that protects the camera base and helps stop the fastener from unlocking.
I can’t think of a reason why the fastener would come loose if its connected securely to begin with. The connector spins freely at its base where it connects to the strap via a rectangular ring. This removes any twisting tension on the fastener at the point where it connects to the camera.
These two images are taken from the instruction leaflet and show the front and rear views of the fitted strap. There are four fitting/comfort adjustments. 1. Harness Length 2. The front width adjuster 3. The rear width adjuster and 4. The coupler R snap strap. I have found all of these adjustments have needed to be fine-tuned as you get used to wearing and working with the harness especially the coupler snap strap.
The lower you place the coupler R strap the closer the straps hold your cameras to your body.
I have found that attaching the coupler R strap too low restricts the height to which you can lift the camera. To the point where I was unable to get the camera to eye level. By experimentation, I have found that the happy medium for me, is as the above illustration shows, to position the coupler R snap strap level with the bottom of your shoulder blades. I am right-handed and found that if I wanted to shoot in portrait mode with my LHS camera I struggled to get the camera to my eye due to the tension on the strap. Lengthening the strap would place it to low on my side so in this situation I had to remove the camera from the harness.
On each strap, there are two camera locks, one on the front and one on the rear (you can see them on the leaflet illustration above).
In normal operation, the front locks will be in the fully up position so as not to restrict the travel of your cameras up and down the straps. The rear locks will be in position on the strap equal to the where gravity naturally holds the cameras at the bottom of the straps. This prevents the camera from sliding back and forth while not in use
A second option is to slide the front lockdown on the strap of the camera not being used. This locks the camera against the rear lock and further restricts how far it can move about. My preference is to leave the front locks up on both straps while shooting and both down, to restrict camera movement when moving about the set.
Weight and balance of your equipment play a huge part when it comes to comfort. I shoot Fuji and use two X-H1 cameras both with power booster grips.
With the Fujinon 50-140mm zoom attached to one camera and the Fujinon 16-55mm zoom on the other, I carry 2.25kg and 1.78kgs respectively, a total of just over 4kg. Even with a .5kg difference between the weights of my two cameras this setup still feels balanced.
As a comparison, the Canon 5d MkIV weighs 2.4kg carrying the 80-200mm f2.8 zoom and 2.3kg using the 24-70mm, a total of 4.7kg.
The comfort of the Blackrapid harness creeps up on you, by that I mean it’s only after wearing the harness for an extended period that you realise that you’ve been going about your job without giving it a second thought.
The comfort comes from the sum of the parts. The generous width of the polyester air mesh padding spreads the load evenly over the surface of your shoulders.
Combine that with the honeycomb design of the mesh and the moisture-wicking breathable material designed to draw moisture away from the body results in an extremely comfortable first-rate piece of gear.
Working all day on set there was the odd occasion when the shoulder pads did shift out of place, forward or back, but a quick 2-second adjustment had them returned to their optimum position.
The Blackrapid double breathe harness can easily be converted to a single camera rig. Simply remove the front and rear adjustment straps and CouplerR snap strap then adjust the length if required and you’re done.
If you find yourself switching between the double and single options on a regular basis you may want to consider purchasing the Brad Breathe strap. The Brad strap is an underarm strap that adds stability to the shoulder pad.
Another option if you don’t have time to convert the double to a single it is to clip a belt loop of your jeans into the connector. This assists in maintaining a balanced set-up but in my experience, you wouldn’t want to be working this way for hours on end.
The Blackrapid Breathe Double Harness is made for the working pro who primarily requires a two-camera set-up. It’s comfortable, lightweight, strong and practical. The flexibility to convert the double strap to a single means you are effectively buying two harnesses for the price of the double.
The multiple levels of camera security, barrel lock, lockstar clip and tether can be used in any combination, or not at all, It’s up to you. Personally, I have removed the lockstar clip and at times don’t screw down the barrel lock so I can quickly remove a camera from the strap.
Blackrapid hasn’t forgotten the little things. Black is the right colour, in my line of work you try to be as unobtrusive as possible. Black cameras, black clothes, black harness, it makes sense. Once done for the day the harness packs snuggly away in its compact carry bag.
With its generous width of padding and moisture-wicking materials, so important in humid and hot locations the Blackrapid Double Breathe Harness with its multiple safety backups will hold your cameras securely through any job.
I’m looking forward to continuing my work on set having found my answer to the issues I was dealing with using my previous system.