First, I love Black Rapid straps. They allow a level of shooting freedom that conventional straps, well, can’t.
I’ve been using a BR strap for the last 5 years without incident but, I have heard a few horror stories about cameras leaping from the hips of their masters only to dash upon concrete or splash into the depths. I had always dismissed these incidents as user error. Until recently, when a post on DPReview where a newly purchased Nikon D4 dashed to the ground cracking the magnesium housing. Which, having a newly purchased Nikon D4 of my own, made me think, there but for the grace of… Well you know. So, I figured it was time for a safety leash.
Upon review of the various DIY solutions I stumbled upon, being a mechanical designer and general malcontent, none struck a chord. What I wanted/needed was something simple and unobtrusive. It would need to be quick to attach/detach and also be low profile and not foul my shooting in any way. I also did not want any clasp or other appendage attached to the body 24/7.
I’ve seen many lighting safety cables and thought that would be the perfect solution. But, there were a few challenges: 1) All were much longer than need be for the job at hand. 2) All had to be ordered and with a shoot scheduled for the next day, I really wanted a fix right now. 3) I was not able to identify a clasp that would work with the already closed-loop end(s) of the safety cable. So, having the good fortune to have a well stocked hardware store nearby, one that had never failed me in the past, off I went with a concept in mind. After perusing the aisles designing as I went, I stumbled upon the perfect cable with crimping hardware hanging right next door. Score.
Below: The raw materials purchased for less than $13.00. (I bought extras of everything just in case I botched the first build. Which I did. Read on.) The end product cost less than $5.00.
- Stainless steel cable @$0.69 per foot
- Cable Clamps (Crimps) for $1.99
- One small (But robust) key ring for $0.10
- One small toggle clasp for $1.09
- Two 1 inch long sections of 1/4 inch heat shrink. (Not in the above image)
Since I was unsure of the final length of the tether, I purchased 3 feet of cable. 18 inches wound up to be just about perfect. You may choose to go a bit shorter. (I wanted a bit of slack, a service loop if you will, in my arrangement) Longer certainly would be too much. Again, I went with 18 inches for a pro DSLR body or smaller DSLR with Grip. I would estimate that 16 inches would be enough if you have a smaller DSLR without a grip.
Pretty simple. You should have a quality set of cable cutters. (Being a bicycle mechanic in a former life, this was not an issue for me) The cable can fray if you use a cheap or dull pair of cutters. If you don’t have the right tool, have the good folks at the hardware store cut it to length for you. Again, 16 or 18 inches should do it.
The first step is to feed the two segments of heat shrink onto the cable. Then the clamp followed by the clasp. On the other end, feed the cable through a second clamp. Your assembly should look like the below.
You’ll now need to feed each end of the cable back through the clamps making a loop. The resultant loop should be no more than 1 inch long. To crimp the clamp onto the cable, use a hammer on a VERY solid surface. Like the anvil section on a bench-vise or some other heavy metal surface you don’t mind taking a hammer to. Note: Pull the end of the cable back so it’s protruding from the clamp just the tiniest bit. Pound away on the clamps until the cable is completely secure. The clasp end should look like the below.
Do the same with the opposite end without the clasp. Once you are SURE – You gear depends on this – both ends are secure, slide the heat shrink (And this is the part I missed on the first pass) up and over the clamp and warm with a heat gun or a lighter being careful not to melt the heat shrink. Why the heat shrink? To aid in preventing scratches to the body of your camera from the clamp rubbing. Also, that little bit of cable protruding from the clamp? It can catch on clothing or your skin. (It’s very sharp)
You should have a completed assembly that looks like this.
Now, wrap the non-clasp end of the assembly around the Black Rapid strap and then back through the loop. Clip the clasp to your body strap ring and that’s it. You’re secure. The Black Rapid strap with the tether should look like this.
I hope you found this useful. Cheers, Bob