Review: Cotton Carrier Vest System
Finding a good system for carrying your gear is always a challenge as everyone’s needs are different. Some people need quick access, some need to carry lots of heavy equipment, others may want to have access to lots of accessories.
Cotton Carrier has been working hard to come up with different carrying options to help provide photographers with a wide range of options. In this review we will look at the Cotton Carrier Vest System.
The Cotton Carrier Vest System features a camera vest and detachable holster for securely carrying up to two cameras while hiking, biking, skiing, or just walking around a wedding facility. The system includes the camera vest, holster, two 10-degree angled camera hubs, two flat camera hubs, two tethers, two hand straps, and one universal tripod adapter plate.
The vest itself is very comfortable, sporting stretchy, mesh shoulder straps that evenly distribute the weight of the cameras. A lower strap fits around the bottom of the wearer’s rib cage to hold the vest tightly in place. Both the vest and the holster are made fro 1680 denier polypropylene and feature a Lexan top-loading camera receptacle. Loading the camera sideways and rotating it so that the lens points down will lock the camera hub into the receptacle. A velcro strap wraps across the front of the vest and over the lens, holding it snugly against the wearer’s body. When worn properly, I found that the body of the camera rested against my sternum, and the end of my 70-200mm f2.8 lens with lens hood ended up just above my waist, allowing me to actually sit down without having to remove the camera (Disclaimer: I am 6’3″, so users with shorter torsos may not have a similar experience). The camera tethers can be attached to the camera to the vest’s D-rings for added safety. However, the clips on the end of each safety strap are too large to connect directly to a camera’s built-in strap mounts. The Cotton Carrier system includes a pair of split rings to bridge the gap. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it does the job.
The camera hubs are made out of anodized aluminum and use a rubber washer. They are solid and lock easily into the receptacle. The flat hub, which is meant to be used with a regular-sized DSLR camera, is only ½ inch tall. Both styles of camera hub must be attached to the camera using a ¼-inch hex bolt. Cotton Carrier includes two Allen wrenches in the system, but I would prefer a slot-head for quick fixes on the go. Sure enough, I have already run into situations where the hub has worked its way loose, and I did not have the necessary Allen wrench with me.
Designed to be used with a full-sized camera or a camera with a battery pack, the angled hub allows the lens to rest against the body when the camera is worn on the vest. However, the angled hub is a bit taller than the flat hub, measuring ¾ inches at its highest point. I was actually surprised how comfortable the angled hub felt when I held my camera by the battery grip. The angled top edge of the hub followed the contour of my palm as I gripped the camera. Those photographers with smaller hands may find the angled hub to be more uncomfortable than I did.
The universal tripod adapter plate is also made out of anodized aluminum and allows the photographer to connect both the camera hub and a smaller tripod quick-release mount to the camera at the same time. The adapter plate connects to the camera via a ¼-inch hex bolt, and the hub connects to the plate in an offset position via its own ¼-in hex bolt. The adapter plate provides a solid connection and its rubber gasket also includes a mounting point for one of the included hand straps. The complete package (angled hub, rubber washer, adapter plate, and rubber gasket) measures 1 ¼ inches from the camera body. The offset position of the hub, now directly below the lowest knuckle of my trigger finger, combined with the added height, required that I stretch a bit to reach the controls on my battery pack.
The bonus camera holster is the killer feature of this system. Not only can it used for carrying a second camera when attached to the vest, it can be used independently when simply worn on a belt. I have used the holster on multiple occasions in its solo configuration and find it to be small enough to not get in my way, yet a convenient and secure way to carry my camera.
Overall, I really like the Cotton Carrier 2-Camera Vest system. I have used it while biking, walking, even driving, as well as on various event shoots. The vest easily distributes the weight of my Nikon D300s with battery pack and my backup D70s, even when using heavier, fast glass. Everything feels secure and close to the body, and the build quality is very good. If you’re in the market for a solution to securely carry your camera(s) without the neck and shoulder strain of a camera strap, consider the Cotton Carrier Vest System.
John W. Killinger is an event, portrait, and outdoor photographer based in Orange County, California. John’s work can be found at http://johnwkillinger.com and on Facebook at http://facebook.com/johnwkillingerphotography