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QD: The Best Sling Quick Release Ever!?

Copyright 2021 by Michael Brochstein

Camera slings are very popular and in my opinion, flawed. They are a great concept crippled by a weak link. The weak link is their use of the standard 1/4-20 tripod socket as a way to attach a camera to the sling. The 1/4-20 is great for use with a tripod which is inherently a slower and more deliberate way of working.

For a photojournalist or an event photographer, using a 1/4-20  takes too long to attach and detach and also runs the risk of coming loose if not carefully tightened - and I have first-hand experience with the later problem. The solution I found was to replace the 1/4-20 bolt with a QD (Quick Detach) connector (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: The original BlackRapid 1/4-20 is on left and QD Strap Swivel's (D-Loop style) are center and right.

A common photojournalist setup is to carry two pro-body cameras (i.e. Nikon D6 or Canon 1Dx), one with a 24-70/2.8 lens and other with a 70-200/2.8 lens. This combination weighs almost 12 pounds (including batteries). Add a flash on each camera and that brings the total weight up to over 14 pounds. To carry this very comfortably without straining my neck I use a double-sling (i.e. BlackRapid Double). I use this type of sling both for comfort and to eliminate the possibility of a regular camera strap slipping off my shoulder. 

It takes valuable time to carefully attach and detach cameras and lens feet to a sling using a 1/4-20 bolt. Doing this a multiple of times during a typical day adds to this waste of time. To balance a camera attached to a 70-200/2.8 I connect a sling to the lens's foot. If I swap out the 70-200 lens for a shorter lens then I will also need to move the sling attachment from the lens foot to the camera which wastes yet more time.

In 2019 I visited the Really Right Stuff (RRS) booth at Photo Plus Expo in New York City and discussed the cobbled together system I was then using with their Arca-Swiss style camera and lens plates and screw knob clamps connected a sling's 1/4-20 bolt. Joe & Joan Johnson, the owners of RRS, showed me the QD system and it was quickly apparent that this was a much better system than what I had been using.

The QD system system replaces the 1/4-20 method of attaching cameras and lens feet to a sling. It allows fast attachment and detachment, is very secure, is small and lightweight and is not expensive (about $12 for a "QD Strap Swivel"). The QD connector replaces the 1/4-20 connector that is on a sling. 

The sling's QD connector is made by Magpul Industries and is designed for carrying firearms (think M4 or M16 assault rifles). Given the obvious safety issues and weight of an assault rifle, a system designed to safely carry a dangerous weapon in all sorts of scenarios (i.e. war) and that weighs as much or more than a pro-camera body with a pro-lens would seem to be a good proving ground for a system that one can trust with valuable photographic gear. 

An alternative to replacing a sling's 1/4-20 connector is to buy a sling with a QD connector already attached. BackRapid and Magpul make slings with a QD connector instead of a 1/4-20. The BlackRapid QD slings are available in tan and a digital desert camouflage pattern. The Magpul strap's come in various colors but have no padding at the shoulder, something most camera slings have.

The obvious problem you might have thought of by now is that cameras and lens feet have 1/4-20 sockets built in to them but not QD sockets. Fret not, there are a multiple of solutions that don't include drilling a new hole in your camera body or lens foot.

The least expensive solution is to screw a QD mount into your 1/4-20 tripod socket (see Figure 2 and 3). This small and inexpensive ($15)  item converts a 1/4-20 tripod socket into a QD socket. The other solution is to use a camera plate or a lens foot plate that has a QD socket in it.

Figure 2: A QD mount (center) screwed into the 1/4-20 tripod socket on a camera plate that also has an integrated  QD mount (lower left).
Figure 3: A lens plate with both 1/4-20 and QD sockets (left), a QD mount that screws into a 1/4-20 (center) and a QD Strap Swivel (low profile style).

Camera plates and lens feet with a QD socket generally also have a 1/4-20 socket and may also be compatible with Arca-Swiss clamps. Kirk Enterprise Solutions (Kirk) and RRS sell camera plates and lens feet that are designed for specific cameras and lenses. They also sell versions that can work on almost any modern camera and lens which have lens foot. The least expensive option is to buy these universal plates. Multi-camera plates include the Kirk Universal Camera Plate PZ-17 ($55) and the RRS BP-CS Multi-Camera plate ($50). Universal lens feet include the RRS L-85 and the Kirk 3.6.  A major advantage of plates is that they are flat and the less expensive mount adapter discussed earlier sticks out like a stub.

The time you save getting your equipment out of its case and ready to shoot could be the difference between getting a photo or not. If speed is not the issue then avoiding a camera dropping to the ground unexpectedly is certainly worthwhile.

Feedback / Questions: Please feel free to email Michael Brochstein with any comments, suggestions and/or questions.
Full Disclosure: This is to let you know that the author has no financial interest in any of the items, vendors or websites mentioned on this page.

Michael Brochstein is an independent photojournalist based in Washington, DC and New York City.


 Last update: 2/19/2021

Copyright © 2021 Michael Brochstein. All rights reserved.