REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

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chrish
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REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by chrish » January 28th, 2012, 10:10 am

For my last birthday (2011 - I hope it isn't my last birthday :lol: ), my significant other gave me a gift certificate to cottoncarrier.com.
She had watched me struggle with my camera gear in the field for years. I have used backbacks, fannypacks, hip packs, several types of shoulder strap, a couple of different camera vests, etc. and always struggled with trying to manage my big bird lenses, my macro lenses, flashes etc. while hiking in the field. I had never heard of the system before I got the gift certificate but she had done some research and reviews were very positive.

The problem all of these setups have is:
  • 1. If you have your gear over your shoulder (i.e. on a strap), when you bend over to flip something, it swings around into the way.
    2. If you put gear into a backpack, you lose the ability to access it quickly and miss mammal, bird, or herp in situ shots.
    3. If you have big gear, it is hard to restrain without a bulky camera bag.
So I got on their website and saw the rig and thought...."uuhh, maybe not for me...".
It certainly would work for hauling a 70-200 or similar lens in the field, but I use a 100-400 and then macro/wide angle lenses. But the money had already been spent so I bought one of the chest carriers with a side holster (photos stolen from cottoncarrier.com, but since it is a positive review, I'm sure they won't mind).

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Here's a photo of the setup that I bought (I have no idea who this person is!) and about how I used it, i.e. with my photo vest worn over it for my flash, etc.. However, I only carried one camera so no side holster. Where she has the side holster (and second camera) attached, I attached a small lens carrier which I used for my macro lens or my flash.

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What the system does is attaches a small hub to the tripod screw of your camera which slides into the chest harness.

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You camera is therefore secured to the front of your chest. The little bracket locks into place, but it only takes a fraction of a second to remove your camera. This means you can comfortably hike, bend over, climb, etc with your camera securely in place but be able to grab it and get a shot in the blink of an eye. It's like having a third hand to hold your camera out of the way.

I purchased what was in effect the "vest system for two cameras". I didn't plan on using it for two cameras, but I was worried the chest harness wouldn't work for me and I wanted the flexibility of the waist harness. Turns out the chest harness works so well I haven't used the side holster thing at all. Here's a photo from their website (again, I have no idea who these people are, hope they don't mind being in my review):

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So I have used this for a few months under the following circumstances:

- birding with my big 100-400 on my camera both in the US and in Ecuador
- herping with my macro lens on my camera in the tropical rainforests of Ecuador at night

I was a little concerned by a review I read online where someone said it was too hot and uncomfortable to wear in a tropical rainforest when they took it. My response is "what a wuss". Being in a tropical rainforest at night IS uncomfortable and sweaty and hot, even if you are naked (don't ask - transgressions of my youth). I spent hours wearing this in the Ecuadorian Amazon, day and night. The system is far less hot and sweaty than a backpack. Frankly, I didn't notice it because I was too busy looking at the rainforest and its denizens.

The camera gear is out in the elements, unlike in a camera bag, but I found that a plastic shopping bag or even a shower cap make a quick, easy, cheap rain cover for the camera. If you are paranoid about your camera gear getting wet or dirty, stay in the studio. We are herpers, cameras are tools.


My assessment is :thumb: . I really thought it wasn't going to be convenient or comfortable but I was wrong.


Positve Aspects:
  • 1. It is MUCH more comfortable than having heavy gear on a shoulder strap. I have spent many, many hours in the field with a heavy lens on a big camera slung over my shoulder. Never again.

    2. Your camera is not swinging around, banging off trees, rocks, etc.

    3. It is just as easy to access the camera as if you had it on a shoulder strap. It takes a bit of practice (like twice), but it is very convenient.

    4. It is very secure. One feature I came to depend on is the safety harness that connects your camera to the system independent of the actual chest bracket. This means that if you let go of your camera it doesn't drop to the ground but is stopped and swings at waist level. So if you are handling and angry snake in the forest at night and need to set you camera down, you can just let it hang (if you don't want to take the extra second to put it back in the chest bracket). (Gentlemen, take note - it does swing just below waist level....enough said). You can see the safety harnesses clipped to the D-ring at the top of the chest plate and the camera bodies of the woman in the purple sweater. The top woman deosn't appear to be using hers - woe betide! You can still remove the camera and hold it up to you eye easily with it clipped to the safety harness so it doesn't interfere with camera use. (To set you camera on the ground, etc, you would just unclip the safety harness).

    5. You can add inexpensive "belt" lens holders, etc to the side straps on your chest harness to carry a flash or extra lens without any sense of extra weight or discomfort. It is actually more comfortable than carrying them around our waist. They are out of the way, but readily accessible.

    6. You could carry a long lens attached to one camera body attached to your chest and you macro lens on another camera attached to the side, but I think that would slow you down in the field (and you would need two separate bodies).

    7. It keeps your hands free in the field. I also like to record audio using a shotgun mic and recorder in the field and it was easy to just stick the camera on my chest and grab my microphone. It also doesn't make noise when you move as an added bonus.
So your camera is readily accessible in a second or two, but out of the way - perfect for field herping.


Downsides so far (all minor):
  • 1. It does take getting used to and getting it adjusted to your body takes a few minutes when you first unpack.

    2. If you have a large flash attached to your camera (like I did), it does stick out a bit from your chest but it wasn't a big problem.

    3. It does take a second to get on or off

    4. It is tight around the bottom of your chest. It isn't uncomfortable, just different. I don't know what it would be like for a woman to wear although the reviews I read from women said it was not a problem because the tightness is around the lower part of the rib cage. I guess that depends on you body morph.

    5. It makes wearing binoculars difficult. I'm going to get a tripod mount for my binocs, attach an extra hub to that and try attaching my binocs to my side holster on my waist.

    6. You look like a major geek wearing it with your camera on it. But if you are the type of person who checks how your field gear looks on you in the mirror before you go in the field, better just go to the mall :lol: .

    7. It does look a bit military, like some sort of kevlar vest. Some of you may think that's cool, but it can get you in trouble in some places on the globe. They now have a green one (they didn't when I ordered :( ) which is better. Read this thread for some comments about military-looking gear in the field (http://fieldherpforum.com/forum/viewtop ... f=2&t=9779). I tended to wear an unbuttoned long sleeve field shirt or camera vest over it. (I generally wear loose fitting, long sleeve shirts in the field anyway because after decades of experience all over the globe, I find that more comfortable than short sleeves and I like my skin cancer free.)

    8. Mine cames with a nice free handstrap which I like, but I did have to remove my normal camera strap. Had to learn that I couldn't just throw the camera over my shoulder/around my neck, but I adapted pretty quick. You could easily snap a strap onto the camera if you wanted one.

My only thing I would change is I want to get the quick release camera plate for my tripod. I have a ballhead with and Arca-Swiss style Quick Release but I had to remove my QR plate from my camera to attach the hub. My big lens has a tripod mount so that isn't an issue, but right now I can't tripod mount my camera with my macro or wide angle lenses. The hub does have a tripod screw hole, but I want a QR on my camera body as well. Their QR plate has both things built into the same bracket. It was an oversight not to order it with the original system.

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What is interesting to me is that I would never have bought myself this system based on looking at the website, etc. It just didn't look practical for the type of photography I do.
But I had to buy something from them because I had a gift certificate. I'm really glad I was forced to try it. It is perfect for what I do in the field....and I still have all my other bags, etc, for the times I need something different.

I would give this a :thumb: for a field herper. It isn't cheap, but it isn't expensive either compared to other systems and bags and it provides things that none of the other systems do.

Of course, YMMV.

Chris

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Kevin Price
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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Kevin Price » January 28th, 2012, 12:54 pm

I have the exact same system. Having tried so many different ways to have my camera ready, but not in the way, while in the field with nothing working as I'd like it to, this setup has been perfect. Being able to have both hands free with the camera secured and not not swinging about has made being in the field with a large camera and lens far more enjoyable. The other types of camera slings and straps only work well if you are always standing upright. If you bend over a lot, and what field herper doesn't, the camera swings around and ALWAYS gets in the way or hits something it was not designed to hit. The Cotton Carrier prevents any of that from happening.

The only issue I've had with it has been one time I had my MT 24 twin-flash mounted, with the large flash unit in the hot shoe, and was flipping rocks. I forgot about the flash unit protruding from my chest and moved a large rock smack right into the flash unit scratching it all up. That was my fault and had nothing to do with the Cotton Carrier.

Good review and I couldn't agree with you more.

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by mikemike » January 28th, 2012, 12:58 pm

And the ladies can fight while wearing it!

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I've seen it before, now I might have to give it a try. I failed to shoot a lot of finds last year simply because I didn't take the time to take my camera out of my backpack.

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Stohlgren » January 28th, 2012, 1:12 pm

Interesting piece of equipment. I recently purchased this: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/8 ... ystem.html Similar priciple, I can either attach it to my belt or onto my camera bag and have my camera at the ready. It's a little pricey and I haven't really used it yet. Hopefully it will work out. My first issue was that the plate is too large for the ball head on my tripod (it says that it will fit several tripod heads though (edit: I just realized there is an adjustment screw on my tripod head, now if I could only find a screw driver)). So while reading your review I was wondering how that system would work with a tripod, but you answered that question.

That side holster looks like it might be awkward to walk with, as your arms swing it seems like you would be hitting your camera.

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Rothdigga » January 28th, 2012, 3:32 pm

I've also got the same system. I saw Kevin's and bought it online. It REALLY works well for backpacking. Because you can have your camera accessable and not have to hold it but still have your large backpack on. When in Costa Rica it was a lifesaver while hiking steep hills and needing both of my hands available. It's pretty lock tight against your chest and I wasn't worried about it at all.
Yeah, my wife makes fun of me when I'm married but whatever, it's not like I need to impress her or anything, she's already stuck with me.
Nerds unite!

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by AsydaBass » January 29th, 2012, 11:29 am

Chris, thanks for taking the time to write this up!

I've already skimmed the website, book marked it, and sent it to a friend who has been complaining about daily (12 hour) hikes with his 100-400mm / 60D around his neck. I can't wait to explore the products more thoroughly later tonight.

Pura Vida,
-Don

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Biker Dave » March 3rd, 2012, 5:00 pm

They are releasing in April a system that attaches to a backpack shoulder strap ... here is the link...

http://www.cottoncarrier.com/cotton-car ... strapshot/

Anyone think this would be too uncomfortable or put the pack off balance?

dave

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Rothdigga » March 3rd, 2012, 7:25 pm

Dave,
I think it would be good, but I still would probably prefer the traditional one in the middle of your chest. Mostly because I envision taking off the backpack with the camera still attached and wondering how many times I would do that on accident. I like having my photo (or backpack if I'm out on a backpacking trip) on my back and being able to take it off hands free. This might make a nice addition though for an extra lens or something.

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Biker Dave » March 4th, 2012, 6:42 am

I thought about that as well. But here in the desert of Arizona I think it would get too hot having my backpack AND a chest harness too. I think that would also apply in areas where the humidity is really high too.

Dave

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Biker Dave » May 19th, 2012, 1:34 pm

Well I broke down and got the full rig. I got the OD Green Chest harness with second "holster" for another camera on your belt or the side strap of the harness. Yeah, it looks pretty dorky, but it frikking works!

The set up is great for flipping rocks. If your bent over you aren't continually sliding your camera/strap back over your shoulder. The camera stays exactly where it should be. The claim by the manufacturer that it takes the strain off your neck is true. And the camera has yet to fall off. You have to rotate it 90 degrees for it to come out of the harness. It takes some getting used to, but after about 15 minutes it becomes second nature.

Yes, I get sweaty in the chest area where the harness is at, but in the Arizona desert heat I would think its to be expected. Have yet to try up in the Sky Islands during the humid part of summer Monsoon, but I am not expecting any major issues.

So far I would recommend this set up for a herper (if you don't mind looking kinda odd with the camera sticking out of your chest!).

Dave

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Rothdigga » May 19th, 2012, 2:35 pm

Dave,
Glad you got one of these. It's been a neck-saver for me for many trips now that I've had it. Night hiking is nice too because you can have a flashlight and hook or whatever handy and not worry about also holding your camera. I really like just being able to grab onto boulders and climb up things without worrying about my camera swinging and hitting a rock. For sure though, it's about the most dorky setup there is, but at this point, who's trying for cool points anyways.

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Biker Dave » May 20th, 2012, 11:02 am

Rothdigga

I'm already too cool to have to worry about losing points and being uncool! I have plenty to spare.

Hahahahahaaa!!!!!

Dave

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Rothdigga » May 20th, 2012, 5:49 pm

Biker Dave wrote:Rothdigga

I'm already too cool to have to worry about losing points and being uncool! I have plenty to spare.

Hahahahahaaa!!!!!

Dave
Funny, because I'm so far past being cool that I can't catch up anymore, so I just fully gave up. Maybe I've come full circle and am cool again? Nah.

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Biker Dave » May 20th, 2012, 7:28 pm

:beer: :beer: :beer:

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Biker Dave » November 3rd, 2012, 12:10 pm

Well I used my Cotton carrier all season with no complaints. Yes, here in AZ it makes you sweat a lot in the chest, but maybe that will help we lose some poundage! Anyway, the system is now part of my herping gear all the time! Wouldn't be caught with out it.

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Put it on your Christmas wish list!

Dave

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by jimoo742 » November 5th, 2012, 6:19 pm

If I'm getting this right, it has it's own plate, right? It isn't usable with the quick release plate for your tripod... like the Peak system...

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by Biker Dave » November 5th, 2012, 8:17 pm

There is a "plate" connector available. Check out the website http://www.cottoncarrier.com.

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by jimoo742 » November 6th, 2012, 5:15 am

Thanks, makes it more interesting...

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by chrish » November 6th, 2012, 6:28 am

That's one of my only issues with the CC system - it means I can't use my QR plates.
I have been meaning to get their Arca-Swiss QR adapter, but haven't yet. B&H now carries them - http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/8 ... Plate.html

If they would design a secure ballhead system where you could mount the normal CC plates in a ballhead, it would be perfect. I guess the bracket above accomplishes that.

What I really miss is being able to use my L bracket. Once you have gotten used to an L bracket it is hard to go back to not having one.

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by jimoo742 » November 6th, 2012, 7:30 am

That is what attracted me to the Peak Design system, that it uses the QR plates. They are the same price (for just the strap mounted version), so not sure which way to go. I met the Peak Design guy several times when I lived in SF (He is an active Wisconsin alum), before he launched the kickstarter (which took off), so I want to go that route, but the cloth system seams like it might lie against the body better...

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Re: REVIEW - Cotton Carrier Camera Harness System

Post by chrish » November 8th, 2012, 2:29 pm

That Peak Design system is pretty cool. I like how it is Arca-Swiss (and Manfrotto RC2) compatible.

It's too bad they don't make a chest harness for the system (yet?).

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