The Nikon D700 is, quite simply, a legendary camera. Released in 2008 it is still preferred by many over the current D600 due it’s more pro-oriented ergonomics, faster shutter speeds and proven field-tested ruggedness and reliability. Its thrifty 12MP sensor still, yes STILL!, ranks in the Top-10 for low light photography at DXO Mark (almost unthinkable for a 5 year old sensor in today’s world!)
But this review isn’t about the D700. Rather, this review is about how a $25 piece of equipment re-united two old friends. This review is about the B-Grip Camera Holster. And don’t worry, we’ll get to that… in due course.
The D700 (affectionately known hereafter as ‘Dee’) and I grew-up together in a sense. There was a time when the two of us were inseparable. We did everything together. But as early relationships often do, we began growing apart over time. As my interest grew in taking long trips, full-day excursions, 8 hour walks and 16 hour events Dee became… well… a bit of a pain. Dee’s thing seemed to be more scheduled shoots, road-trips, and shorter outings; not long marches or laying siege to a convention centre.
We tried to bridge the gap, to find some way to make these two worlds one. I started with the classic Domke Gripper strap, but alas, I still felt Dee slipping away (BTW, I think her 5lb decked-out weight is just perfect, and ‘no’, the 80-200mm does not make her look fat!)
The BlackRapid strap made me feel like a kid again… in the sense that it was like trying to remove your girlfriend’s seemingly unnecessarily-complex bra… for the very first time… subtly… with one hand… quickly before the movie ends and the lights come back on… but instead just end up spilling your popcorn.
The highly regarded Lowepro Flipside Sport (which I love) works well in those situations where a backpack is an almost-necessity, but is too cumbersome for crowded shoulder-to-shoulder events and doesn’t provide enough air-flow when exerting yourself in the disparaging heat and humidity of the tropics despite the fact that it comes with a
Smirnoff Ice Hydration Pocket.
The Tamrac sling pack is a nice design, but just isn’t secure enough when hiking up steep inclines, climbing fences, or doing even moderate activity where it would always swing free, to-and-fro, and bounce around everywhere (for some unknown reason, the AC/DC song ‘Big Balls’ would continually play through my head when wearing this pack)
The Think Tank Speed Demon belt pack fit securely, and distributed the weight nicely, but even that was a little bulkier than I’d like when walking in the hustle and bustle of some streets or in crowded areas (a great feature for this pouch in future would be a touch/bump activated “Excuse me, I’m sorry” sound… maybe with an alternate Tickle Me Elmo setting just for fun)
Having tried all these things, Dee and I just couldn’t seem to make things click, and it was then I admit that I began spending more time with other cameras. “Hello Micro 4/3, you have such beautiful eyes!” “Hello NEX, I love your exotic look.” and even… “Hi, Nikon1 – you’re D700’s younger cousin, aren’t you?”
And then one day, a bit of serendipity happened. While I wasn’t planning on buying/trying another carrying system, I none-the-less came across one when rummaging through the discount bins at a photo show. It was the B-Grip holster system (1st / original version), and it was marked-down to $25!
I had seen holster systems before (such as the Spider Holster) but they were expensive, and having invested in and tried so many other solutions I wasn’t willing to put out that much cash on yet something else that probably wouldn’t work. But $25?? That was worth the gamble, especially considering all that I’d vested in Dee over the years, who, sadly, in Howard-Hughesian fashion, had become quite reclusive lately. So I made the purchase if for nothing else as a ‘proof of concept’ (if the belt holster concept worked for me in general, I could always buy a more deluxe one in future if need-be).
At that same event I also had the opportunity to meet and speak with Peter Dering, a very nice guy, and the founder and creator of the Peak Design Capture system (which looks amazing). The Peak Design system is, without a doubt, a top-notch, high quality mount and bracket that I’d consider in future, IF a belt system worked for me. And that was the ‘$25 Question’ – would a belt holster work for Dee and I??
Peter Dering from Peak Design? Or Jim from ‘The Office’??
The B-Grip system came complete, with everything I needed. The ‘base’ and ‘quick release plate’ which is the heart of the system, a nylon-webbing tactical belt with (plastic) quick release buckle, and even a rain cover! I liked that it came complete and ready-to-use out of the box, and the rain-cover was a very nice touch.
The build materials are nothing ‘fancy’ or expensive (especially compared to something like the Peak Design Capture system) – the belt being made from (heavy duty) nylon webbing, and the buckle and quick release from (high impact?) plastic. However, from the materials to the design it has a very practical and utilitarian feel which really appeals to me. It absolutely has a ‘real-world-use’ vibe, and not a ‘Barbie-fashion-accessory’ one.
You attach the camera to the ‘quick release’ plate via the camera’s tripod socket, and then the plate clips in (using a quick release lever mechanism) to a bracket attached to the belt. The lever on top is very easy and smooth to operate. The newer version also has a ‘safety lock’. This version doesn’t, nor have I ever needed it.
As stated in the ‘Reviews: Introduction’ I won’t go over the technical specs of the products in detail here – there are a lot of other places where you can find that info. I will say that there are accessories you can get for the B-Grip to allow you to attach it to your backpack strap for example, as well as a hand grip… and that although I personally like the belt provided – the plate and bracket can be easily removed and attached another belt of your choosing. Also, the newer / current version (the “B-Grip EVO”) retails for about $50. I’ll cut-to-the-chase now, and the ‘big question’ which is… does it ‘work’? (and by that I mean, does it work to MY expectations – does it work for ME?)
DOES IT WORK?
The answer to that is… yes – it works beautifully. It’s a life-saver or, at the very least, a neck and back saver. I’ve used it when walking on busy city streets for hours on end. I’ve used it at shoulder-to-shoulder-events such as the Photo Exposure Show, and Fan Expo. I’ve walked with it, I’ve run with it, I’ve climbed hills with it. Carrying the ‘weight at the waist’ is absolutely the way to go in my opinion. I’ve worn the belt (camera attached) for 12 hours straight with no fatigue. The quick release mechanism is easy and quick to use, and holds the camera with heavy lens securely. Batman could wear this while fighting crime.
You do HOWEVER need to ensure that the plate is very tightly screwed into the tripod socket.
There was one time when mine was attached ‘finger tight only’, and after walking and jostling for a few hours it worked its way loose, the D700 and 80-200 falling from waist height onto the concrete sidewalk – OUCH! Luckily both the body and lens survive without so much as a scratch. Since then though, I always make sure to tighten it super-tight, using a quarter in the slot to get that extra torque, and checking it periodically to make sure it’s still snug (common sense really, which apparently I lack along with the ability to read instruction manuals). And of course if you’re taking more than one lens, or any other gear, you’ll need a lens pouch or some other way to store and carry it (along with your spare battery, cards, etc.) With those two minor points noted, I’d say the B-Grip was a very worthwhile purchase.
And as for Dee and I? We’re now reunited… and it feels soooooo good.
– Great utilitarian design
– Looks kind of cool
– Comfortable to wear, even with heavy gear for long periods of time
– Quick and easy camera access for rapid fire
– Reasonable price
– Make sure the plate is very tightly threaded into your camera socket
RATING: ** ROCK STAR **
Ratings Explanation ROCK STAR – the highest rating, highly recommended or essential / POP STAR – pretty damn good, also highly recommended though just slightly less fun than Rock Star / BOY BAND – not something I personally have a lot of use for, but begrudgingly admit that other might find appealing and that’s likely to be popular / GARAGE BAND – a product that’s ‘rough around the edges’ and in need of further development. Feels like a beta version. Could hold promise in the future, but not yet / SCHOOL BAND – not something I’d spend money on