Even before the joys of owning 2 camera bodies, I could already tell there was a dire need for a new product over that awful out of the factory strap we get when making the expensive journey from point-and-shoot cameras to DSLRs. The alternatives to a guaranteed soar neck or shoulder aren’t numerous, but more than a few options are available nonetheless.
You can go the way of the extra-padded neck strap with other such modifications as clip-on O rings, or detachable neck from body enclosures allowing for easier stowing. Then there’s the famous cross body strap with the camera which hangs to your side for ease of manipulation. A Wedding photographer favourite, a patented holster that settles right above your hips after being slid through your belt, thus rendering a ‘minimal classier look’. The last two solutions have in common their attachment point: the camera tripod mount located at the base. Finally there’s slight modifications to the typical belt holster system, which allows the camera to be strapped to your chest, across a backpack, or even on the strap itself. Personally, I’ve only tried the extra-padded strap with detachable neck from body enclosures as I gladly recycled the factory one (I can recycle those right?).
Though I can’t speak and won’t bring down any of the other alternatives, let me share my thoughts on the Cotton Carrier 2 Camera Vest. For me, the biggest selling point was that if I chose to shoot with 1 camera on any given day, the systems flexibility allowed me to choose either the vest or 1 camera holstering system. I like flexibility because without it, sacrifices need to be made. Now I may not be the most extreme outdoor photographer, but I like to think I’m a little more extreme than your typical Joe. I will put myself in any situation necessary to get the shot, which is why I try to purchase the best weatherproof gear (note: 5D classic is not weatherproof but wanted an affordable FF). After weatherproof gear comes the issue of how accessible is my gear when I need it right there and then. Thankfully, after many camera bag excursions and a lot of my $$$ spent, I’ve settled on the one bag which I trust with the entirety of my gear, the 37L Mountain Series F-Stop Loka. I would do a review, but chances are I’ll get the new model (Ajna) in the upcoming year. This bag has a secure compartment accessible only through the rear, which means I need to take the bag off every time I want access. Though great for traveling purposes, it can get arduous to constantly put the bag down. Yet, having the old camera strap dangling around my neck as I hike caused quite a bit of strain, so that wasn’t viable.
So where was I, enough chatter and let’s get to the nuts and bolts. The Cotton Carrier 2 Camera Vest system allows for flexibility, a secure alternative to other carrying solutions when exercising outdoor activities (rock climbing, biking, hiking) and most of all, a system for 1 or 2 cameras. The kit includes: 2 Camera system, 2 hand straps, 2 tethering loops, 2 mounting brackets and hubs, 1 universal adapter, 1 rain cover, 1 instruction sheet, 1 tripod mount and an allen key.
Now before the actual review, I want to state the unique patent for this product lies in the mounting system seen in the picture below. The hub which attaches safely to the underneath of the camera needs to be inserted at a 90˚ angle into the mount (lens pointing left or right) before locking in place and resuming a 0˚ angle (lens pointing down). This means you can safely go about biking, climbing, hiking or any activity without the fear of having your gear accidentally fall off. In it’s default position with the weight of the lens, the camera is pointing downwards and requires actual human force to twist 90˚ then off.
The company advertises this product as a 1 size fits all. Let me tell you that at 5’5 and 132 lbs, with a torso circumference of 33” and torso height of 21”, I’m pushing the limits in adjustability of this system. Now you can all go measure your torsos and get an idea before even contemplating this purchase, if you ‘fit’ the build. After all, it has to be a snug fit if you are to be comfortable doing all these outdoor activities.
Regardless of my size, this product is extremely well built with cinches to adjust for my lower torso, shoulder straps and deltoid girth.
• 2 velcro straps to keep cameras from dangling
• for the price (~200 CAD), well equipped with no real need to get anything else for carrying system
• all materials of premium quality whether it be the Velcro straps, ballistic grade nylon or stainless steel marine grade screws
• flexibility of 1 camera or 2 camera use
• arca swiss compatible tripod plate
• built in insert for umbrella is a nice touch to keep hands free
• free rain cover
• comfortable and breathable
• you will look like Rambo and people will take you seriously (www.instagram.com/francoalophoto)
• fits comfortably under a backpack for prolonged hours
• borderline limit for adjustability, in my particular situation
• not as compact as I’d like, difficult to fold and stow in my backpack
• again, maybe due to my torso length, when using the 1d mk iv with 70-200 f2.8 and 2x extender, set-up is so long it becomes difficult to carry either at my side or directly in front of me as it’ll constantly knock me where it shouldn’t with each step
• due to my frame, after customising, deltoid straps stick out of back mesh a lot which is a bit of an annoyance
• could use some refinement in terms of aesthetics as you’ll quickly get noticed
I have yet to test this the Cotton Carrier 2 Camera Vest rigorously for an extended period of time. This is my personal opinion based on a 1 month use. I will be curious to see how much wear the main system exhibits after repeatingly inserting and removing the camera from the hub. I would suggest this product to any sports photographer who wants not only the comfort and ease of carrying 2 cameras, more importantly the security of knowing that this minimalist system works well. Photographing roller derby with this system has been a dream as I am often crouched the entirety of the game. I’ve added a few photographs below to showcase everything else. Please feel free to ask me any questions I may not have covered.
1 Camera system
Tethers for each camera