Like most professional photographers I know, I have several photo bags. This is because photo bags have different jobs. I use my larger bags to transport my gear to the location. After I arrive at the shoot, it can be inconvenient to carry a large bag full of gear everywhere I go. Enter the belt – mounted systems.
Event shooters, wedding photographers, sports photographers and others who have to “run and gun” are familiar with belt systems. You wear a belt that supports different cameras, lenses and accessories. The problem with most such systems is that once you’ve weighted them down with your gear, they’re either unbalanced – failing to properly distribute the total weight of all the gear across your torso, or they slip. I’ve even had such systems slip right off my hip. (To be fair, as a horizontally challenged photographer, it’s not easy to make a hip-mounted system that will stay on me.)
ThinkTank Photo’s solution to this problem is the Belly Dancer. ($44.95) It is comfortable and reliable. It holds a wide variety of camera, lens and accessory pouches. While I am sure you can get several pouches from different manufacturers to fit on the Belly Dancer, I tried ThinkTank’s Skin Set. ($149)
The Belly Dancer offers plenty of padding, shoulder straps across the back and a harness system that keeps it all in place no matter how much gear you hang from it. At roughly 12 ounces, the Belly Dancer won’t add much weight to your gear-hauling solutions, but does offer plenty of flexible combinations. More importantly, even larger photographers will be able to wear this system. The belt size ranges from 27 to 64″. (Finally something where my size is in the middle of the range!)
I was able to take my 70-200 mm lens, my Speedlight Flash, my Lensbaby 3G, my pack of Compact Flash Cards, my 17-40 mm lens, my 14 mm fisheye lens, and some filters, a dust blower, cleaning cloths, flashlight and other accessories using the basic Skin Set.
The pouches affix to the Belly Dancer very securely and I never had to worry about them being exposed to the elements. Each comes with its own rain cover.
On a recent two-hour photo walk through Venice Beach, California, I was able to work with my gear and transport it in relative comfort. The belt reduced bulk, allowed me to carry only the gear I needed, was very stable and performed excellently. The materials and fasteners are top-notch and I can highly recommend this system to anyone looking for a belt-system to carry their gear with.