Thursday, February 20, 2014

BlackRapid SnapR Review


In this post, we review the BlackRapid SnapR, a unique camera bag designed for enthusiast compacts and smaller mirrorless cameras.



BlackRapid revolutionized camera straps by creating an innovative strap that allows the photographer to quickly slide the camera to shooting position.  Their design was very successful and was widely copied.  With the rising popularity of mirrorless cameras, BlackRapid has designed a new camera bag also functions as a sling and wrist strap, the BlackRapid SnapR.

THE ISSUE
I like having a compact camera with me most of the time.  It enables me to capture fleeting scenes that I come across.  One problem is finding the best way to bring the camera with me.  For my slimmer cameras like the Fuji W3, I use a small camera case just slightly larger than a wallet.  For larger cameras like the Lumix LX5, Sony RX1, or Olympus E-M5, I had been putting them in a coat pocket.  However it doesn't offer much protection, and with my smaller coats, it is not so quick to take the camera out, plus I'm worried about dropping the camera.  At the same time, I don't want to bring my usual camera bag with me because it's far too big for a compact and defeats the purpose of having a small camera.  I sometimes wear the camera strap, though sometimes the camera gets in the way of doing things, and I also worry about the camera getting bumped or scratched.

THE SNAPR

The SnapR offers speed, protection, and convenience by combining a sling, camera bag, and wrist stap. Imagine a BlackRapid sling/strap.  However, instead of having the camera dangle unprotected at your side, the strap has a small integrated bag that opens at the side (like a mailbox), where you can store the camera while still attached to the strap.  Alternatively, the camera can also be detached from the strap to be connected to a wrist strap. 




If you're shooting actively, then you could use the camera with the wrist strap.  If the shooting pace has slowed down a bit but you still want to be able to shoot quickly, you can attach the camera to the strap, where it can either hang freely at your side or be kept inside its bag, ready to slide out for use.  When you're shooting infrequently, then the camera can remain in the bag, zippered up.  Except when you're switching from the wrist strap to the sling, the camera remains tethered, avoiding drops, and is always ready to shoot.


Here is BlackRapid's video of the SnapR:




The SnapR has three sizes: the 10, the 20 and the 35.  The 10 looks like a flap wallet and is made for slim cameras.  The 20 and 35 both look like a very small camcorder bag, about the size of a fanny pack.  The 20 looks appropriate for larger point-and-shoots or mirrorless cameras with pancake lenses.  The 35 would be for mirrorless cameras with small lenses (e.g. Olympus 17 1.8), or a NEX with 16-50.  It will not fit with a longer lenses like the Olympus 12-50.

Here are BlackRapid's specs for the SnapR 20 and 35:

SNAPR 20:
• Fits cameras up to 5.2 x 3.2 x 2”  (133 x 83 x 51mm) 
• Exterior bag: 4.1 H x 6.3 W x 3.3” D (105 H x 160 W x 85mm D)
• Interior bag: 3.9 H x 5.3 W x 1.9” D (100 H x 135 W x 50mm D)
• Exterior pocket: 3.5 H x 4.9 W x 0.4” D (90 H x 125 W x 10mm D)

SNAPR 35:
• Fits cameras up to 5.2 x 3.2 x 3.2” (133 x 83 x 83mm)
• Exterior bag: 4.1 H x 6.3 W x 4.5” D (105 H x 160 W x 115mm D)
• Interior bag: 3.9 H x 5.3 W x 3.4” D (100 H x 135 W x 87mm D)
• Exterior pocket: 3.5 H x 4.9 W x 0.4” D (90 H x 125 W x 10mm D)

I got the 35 so that I could use it with any of my smaller cameras.  Notwithstanding the specs, it will fit the E-M5 (depth: 41.9mm) with the Rokinon Fisheye (with built-in lens hood but without the lens cap, measuring 48mm), albeit snugly.  Other lenses I've tried: E-M5 with 45 1.8 (close fit), E-M5 with 25 1.8 (fits easily).




The SnapR looks very well made from ballistic nylon, and with good quality zippers that slide smoothly and easily.  One concern I had was that if the camera is being slid in and out of the bag, the camera might be scratched by the zippers.  However, the zippers' teeth face out, not into the opening, which reduces the chance of scratching the camera.



The zipper for the bag's opening has two zipper pulls connected to a single handle, for quicker opening. The zipper pulls for side pockets are rubber, with the Blackrapid "R" logo.

The bag's sides and the bottom are well padded.  However, the top has no padding.  The bottom of the bag has a rubberized anti-slip friction surface.  There are two straps on the side and there are two included velcro loops for attaching BlackRapid accessories.



The strap is made of ballistic nylon.  It is adjustable in length, and can be detached from the bag and closed to form a regular strap.  However, unlike the normal BlackRapid strap, the sliding connector is nonremovable.  The shoulder pad for the strap slides along the strap and can be removed from the strap.



Also included with the SnapR are:
  • a steel FastenR Hitch, which connects to the camera's tripod socket
  • a wrist strap
  • a short strap that connects from the FastenR to either the wrist strap or the buckle on the strap.

IN THE REAL WORLD

So far we've discussed the SnapR's components and design.  How does it work in the real world?  Quite well actually.  I'm a klutz and am often concerned about dropping my camera or bumping it, especially with smaller cameras that don't have a substantial grip.  With the SnapR, I can take out the camera and store it in the bag very quickly without ever worrying about it falling.  I can even do it with one hand (while my other hand is holding on to my kid :) ).  It's also convenient when I want to hold the camera from unusual angles (ok, I admit, for a selfie) and I don't need to be afraid about dropping the camera.

Although the SnapR includes a wrist strap I haven't been using it.  Instead I just attached a small wrist strap to my camera and it stays there.  When I want to use the wrist strap, I just wear that attached wrist strap and then I detach the tether.  I find this faster than having to take out the included SnapR wrist strap, wearing it, and switching the tether from the sling strap to the wrist strap.  Alternatively you could wear the SnapR wrist strap around your wrist all the time to make it faster to switch between wrist strap to the sling strap.

I also like the SnapR because of how easy it is to store and remove the camera.  When I'm shooting frequently, I generally don't close the zipper and use the bag like a holster.  The camera may slide in and out partly, but it doesn't slide out completely unless I lean forward (when I do, I can cover it with my hand temporarily).  YMMV (depending on the weight and size of your camera).  Even if it slides out, it doesn't drop because it's tethered.  When I'm shooting less frequently or when I need to be very active, I pull the zippers only up to the side so that I can pull the zippers down easily with the handle.

Because removing and storing the camera is so easy, I don't hesitate to keep the camera in the bag, protected from bumps and scratches.  For occasions when I want to use a smaller camera, the SnapR is the best carrying solution I've found thus far.

PROS
+ good protection for the camera while not shooting
+ quick to remove the camera
+ quick to store the camera
+ camera remains tethered and thus protected from falls
+ can be used with a wrist strap
+ strap can be detached from the bag to become a regular strap (if you don't need the bag)
+ good quality construction
+ the bag can hang from either your left or right side

CONS
- pricey
- strap connections to the bag don't swivel, so the strap can get twisted.
- side pockets too small to fit anything except thin objects (lens cap, memory cards, batteries, filters). If instead of two smaller pockets it had one bigger pocket (perhaps with slots for thin objects), it might have fit an external flash.
- no padding at the top
- I would have liked a small handle on top to hold the bag while I'm wearing the strap, and also to provide a little bit of protection if the bag falls upside-down.
- adjusting and tightening the wrist strap is not quick.
- not large enough to keep two enthusiast cameras.

DISCLOSURE:
We're not affiliated with BlackRapid and I wasn't paid to do this review.  I bought the SnapR with my own money for my own use.  If you buy from the links to Amazon above, we would receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  100% of these commissions are donated to Food for the Poor, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charity that serves the poorest people in the western hemisphere.