Cotton Carrier review

In what seems to be a never ending quest for a better way to carry my camera, I stumbled upon a design that seemed to have a lot of promise – the Cotton Carrier.  After talking to my pals at Arlington Camera, and messing around with one of the systems at the shop, I purchased one.
Prior to purchase, I had been carrying around my 7D or my 50D via a standard aftermarket strap draped across my shoulder/collarbone with the camera on the opposite hip; either with or without a backpack carrying outdoor gear/food/etc.

Full disclosure – I purchased the system from Arlington Camera, and I have not received any compensation for this review at all.

I have used the system on two occasions so far – once at a special event at work that involved me covering a substantial amount of ground while shooting images of participants over the course of the evening.  The 2nd time I used the system was a week in Big Bend country – driving in the truck with the system on as well as short hikes.

At the special event, while the carrier does a great job of relieving stress and pressure on your neck – the carrier had several drawbacks.  Mingling, interacting and moving through the large crowd proved to be rather difficult with my 7D and its 18-135 lens.  I’m already a fairly big fella – and with a good sized DSLR extending out from my chest it was pretty tough dodging people and moving through the crowd.  In addition, as working the crowd involved a ton of surprise opportunities to catch candid shots I was left with two options: either leave the camera attached to the carrier and potentially miss a shot or continue to carry the camera around in one hand which is fine for a little bit, but after awhile became rather tedious.

A side effect of hooking/unhooking the camera from the carrier which really is a simple movement is that the screw that holds the carrier mount to the camera body kept coming unscrewed.

So…. if someone were to ask me if the Cotton Carrier were a good product to use for that type of environment – and I could extend that to someone shooting weddings or that sort of thing – I would have to say at this point the answer is no and that for the time being unless I come up with something else, carrying the camera with the standard strap is going to be the way to go for me.

The 2nd opportunity I had to use the Cotton Carrier was on a 5 day trip to the Big Bend backcountry.   Contrary to the first opportunity I had to use the system, it seemed the carrier was much more at home in this kind of environment.   I pretty much strapped the vest on and left it on all week whether I was driving in the truck from shooting location to shooting location or was out of the truck hiking around various and sundry places.  I still had some issues with the mount coming loose from time to time but nothing like the first time using the system.

I would use the vest by itself or with a backpack strapped on over the top of the vest if I was going for a longer hike and in the conditions I was in (high temps in the high 70s/ low 80s) I didn’t feel that the vest was excessively hot or uncomfortable.  As mentioned above, the system does a great job of distributing the weight of the camera across your back and shoulders rather than putting it on your neck and when attached, the camera is very secure in its spot on your chest.

That being said, however, a fairly large weakness for this trip was that I didn’t have one of these mounts that would allow me to use a tripod or my monopod.  So, pretty much everything I shot on this Big Bend trip was done hand held – which is fine, but there were a few occasions I would have liked to have been able to use either the monopod or tripod.  I have the part on order so hopefully that will take care of that.

There you have it,  a rather mixed review – for use during photography work that involves trying to capture candid or ‘unexpected’ moments like special events, sports or weddings, I don’t see the Cotton Carrier as a really good option.   However, I think it has some real potential for those outdoor shoots where you are transporting the camera off the beaten path – the camera is very secure in its mount yet still very accessible for use without you having to dig through a belt pack or backpack.  While I’ll just go “old school” and use a traditional strap for those shoots that involve those unpredictable people – I’ll definitely be including the Cotton Carrier for my next outdoor adventure.

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~ by Derrick Birdsall on December 5, 2010.

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