USER REPORT: B-Grip Belt Holster Review by Shawn Reynolds

USER REPORT: B-Grip Belt Holster Review

by Shawn Reynolds

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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You do HOWEVER need to ensure that the plate is very tightly screwed into the tripod socket.

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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.

PROS:

– 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

CONS:

– Make sure the plate is very tightly threaded into your camera socket

RATING: ** ROCK STAR **

http://www.bgrip.com/bhbeltholster/

30 Comments

  1. Thanks for the fun and descriptive review on the B-Grip, Shawn. I remember seeing it at WPPI a few years ago. It is a common task for me to figure how to carry all of my gear, so I understand your quest for an easy to use carry system.

    I also have the V1 and love it, but when being paid, the D700/800 come along with me to the event. It’s tough because they are heavy and bulky, but you are correct that models/brides/grooms/etc will pay a bit more attention to you when you have a more “professional-looking” setup versus a smaller, perhaps “consumerish-looking” camera.

    I supported Peak Design as a Kickstarter, so I have one of their Capture systems. I bought the micro attachment to use with my V1 so I can attach it to my travel backpack. I have not tried to use the full size version yet on my D700/800 cameras, but I will in the near future and hopefully it will work as well as your B-Grip did for you. Geek or not, if it saves my back and shoulders after a day of use, I am all for it.

    With all of the new mirrorless stuff from Sony, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic, and Nikon, I am drooling – it is hard to keep track of all of the possibilities. In in the end, we are all camera lovers. It doesn’t really matter too much to me if it has a mirror or not as long as it works well for the task at hand. Don’t be afraid to try something if it works for you. I look forward to your next post.

  2. Fun review. Humour is tricky to pull of on these types of forums but I enjoyed your style. Product looks interesting and would certainly be better than carrying a big DSLR on the shoulder or round the neck. One question though. What’s going on at 0:12 in the product video. Does anybody really come back from a hard day’s shooting and hang their cameras up on the wall? If I went to somebody’s house and saw that they did that I’d get the heck out of there ASAP….

  3. I thanks with all my heart the coming of mirrorless cameras that are finally making all those horrendous “pro-tog” contraptions completely useless.

  4. Any camera that does not fit into your shirt’s pocket or cargo pants makes you look like a geek or, worse, a tourist. However, a good soldier carries a rifle in his hands rather than a useless pistol in a holster. He eats or drinks with one hand. Only when ordered to use both hands he is permitted to carry his rifle on the strap over his back.

    • So there you go Shawn, comfortable with your old flame but a bad soldier! How can you live with yourself?

      • Haha – I’m OK with that. I have to admit though, always carrying camera ‘in hand’ is an odd concept to me – I don’t know anyone who does that when on long assignment (maybe for a short outing, or when actively shooting).

        And speaking of soldiers, I’m amazed (and awed) at the amount and weight of gear that many conflict photographers carry with them on long treks through jungles, deserts, etc. Very inspiring!!

        Photojournalist I’ve spoken to often carry (actually ‘wear’) two cameras – one with a wide lens, the other with a normal or long lens. And when on assignment (whether covering local news, the Olympics, or in a conflict zone) they’re often madly rushing from location to location. Gear (including body and lens) often needs to be stowed away, or your hands freed for other things… but the camera still needs to be readily accessible.

  5. Enjoyed your short-story very much, makes me think again of my Dee. I´ve tried the B with my Dee here in Germany, but send it back. Not fast enough to attach and may be coming loose because of the design, the cam has no play to move. Also i could not sit in the car with the B-Grip attached. So the Spider Pro is my perfect solution, does have a little play when touching the camera and the lens is not in my way when moving, because it´s not resting on my leg but on my hip. For safety reasons i use the sleek gordy´s neck strap-sling additionally, so it´s safe when holding Dee in my hand.

    • Of the people I know and see, the Spider Pro is by far the most popular belt system, and highly regarded. The (full time pro) who recommended a belt system to me does a lot of event photography, uses a lot of heavy lenses, and is very happy with his Spider system.

  6. Never had a problem with my SpiderPro. DSLR hangs bottom-up; you can leave a speedlight attached to the hotshoe; you can leave smaller tripod qr plates attached (e.g. Manfrotto 200PL); DSLR is still comfortable when held vertically.

  7. I can promise you that you can buy a real cool accessory for your mirrorless camera in march 2014! I can’t say anything yet, but it will be great!!!

    • What’s the point in telling me that I can buy a real cool accesory in March 2014 if you can’t say anything yet?

  8. well I am glad you’ve found happiness together, don’t think it looks too bad, if you are going to carry Dee around you are going to be noticed anyway, so you may as well both be comfortable while you’re at it.

    I just sold my more er…. voluptuous camera in favour of a er…..more svelte, mirrorless model, perhaps I am just more ruthless and shallow than you are:) . each to their own, enjoy.

    • Big and small I love them all! I’ve also got/had the NEX 5,6,&7, Nikon1 V1, Panasonic GF1,2, and Sony RX100. I’ll likely also get the Sony A7/7r (on pre-order). Those stealthy little ninja cameras go places the big guns can’t!

      In all seriousness though, I do find that models and others respond… differently… when I’m using the larger body/lens combos and am ‘geared up’. I know it’s not right, but I have noticed it. Maybe it’s because my ugly mug is more hidden behind the D700. 🙂

      I take the majority of photos using the NEX-6 or V1.

    • Wow! Finally, something will take place before the classic photo vest as the most ridiculous photo accessory ever! Sorry.

    • So? I’m not terribly worried when I’m carrying my work-horse DSLR. Its hard to make a giant black brick, with a giant black tube attached to it fashionable, and I’m more worried about not breaking my kit, and being able to access it (and accessories) quickly than having people notice how camera-chic I am.

      With my rangefinder or my EP3, I might care a bit more, since they are pretty cameras. But my only nod to style there are nice leather straps (Gordy’s and a Barton).

    • Agree, Nick. There’s a fortune to be made by someone who invents a carrying system that does not make you look like a tourist or “Mr Photographer”. The guy in the shots above looks as if he might be in the main street of Tombstone, Arizona. OK, it’s likely good for those who don’t mind, but I’d be reaching for my Navy Colt .45 if approached by that geek..

    • Granted, it does look a little out-of-place when walking around town, or when popping into the local grocer’s to pick up a loaf of bread and pint of milk. 🙂

      But at events and shoots no one even bats an eye – it’s not uncommon there (lots of pro’s and enthusiasts waking around with them… and all sorts of other ‘weird’ stuff).

      Beware though – you will get nasty looks from those with pocket cameras there because you’ll be getting more attention (straight-on poses, eye contact) from the models rather than the side-on shots.

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