December 11, 2009

Cotton Carrier Review

Guest post by: Ara Roselani Follow Ara on Twitter
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The Cotton Carrier is a nifty strap system allowing photographers and videographers to secure their camera bodies to their chest and waist.  Its quick-release system makes grabbing your primary or backup body fast, while keeping even heavy cameras secure when not in use.  It’s easy on your back and shoulders, putting virtually no strain or uncomfortable weight on them.

This one-piece strap system has a heavy-duty cloth-covered plate in the front, and a matching optional plate for your belt.  A round, military-grade bolt mount fits to the base of your camera (tripod plate to screw in below it), allowing you to pop your camera into a holding slot on the front of your chest.  Twisting your camera 90 degrees releases it, and with a quick pull, it’s ready to be shot.

The initial fitting out of the box is important, and takes time.  Straps on your back and torso can be adjusted, but the only quick adjust is velcro in the front.  All other straps should be snugly fitted before going on a shoot, or you’ll be struggling and the camera will throw everything out of alignment once attached.  It took my assistant and I about 10 minutes to get the straps fitted–doing it by yourself would take longer.  The system fit very securely with a lot of extra room in the straps for different body types.  I was able to quickly release the camera with a few practice tries.  Pulling gently doesn’t work well and the camera gets stuck–you must pull quickly and with intention, or risk being the wedding entertainment when you can’t get your camera off your chest.  My D700, battery grip and 24-70 f/2.8 lens sat securely on the chest plate and the weight can barely be felt.

The Carrier is not designed well with women in mind–it fit my male assistant much better than me.  The front plate sits somewhat uncomfortably across my chest, despite the contours that seem designed to take care of this–the plate is just too wide. The straps adjust poorly for my 30″ ribcage, sometimes leaving the entire system loose on my torso or crooked in the back.  Men with smaller ribcages might have similar fitting problems.

While practical, I wouldn’t wear this to a wedding or high-end event without a jacket or vest over it.  It looks somewhat like a laser tag vest–not the most professional gear for a black tie event.  The back has a mesh panel.  It does hide well, and the mount is positioned high enough to still button or zip something over it.  I love the belt mount for weddings–being able to grab a backup camera so easily is great!  I also used the front plate to secure my camera while changing my lens, never worrying about dropping it or exposing the sensor to wind as the body is pointed down.

For hikers and more casual events, the system is very industrial with good construction that seems like it would last well and hold up to abuse.  I was able to climb rocks while shooting landscapes without risking my camera swinging around and hitting a rock, or having to constantly take my camera out of my bag then put it back.  My camera never felt insecure, even at severe angles.

The $99 Cotton Carrier is well-made, and its clever design is great for someone with at least a medium build who wants their hands free, but still have quick access to their camera(s).  The optional belt/bag attachment for a second camera is $59 if purchased separately (or the entire system is $139 as a package).  To see it in action, check out the demo video on the Cotton Carrier site.  It shows the system used while riding a bike, hiking, and skiing, along with many tips on adjustment and use.  Buy the Cotton Carrier here.

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