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Review of CottonCarrier camera systems

Published by Katia Trudeau · November 17th 2011

CottonCarrier - Camera Vest. My brother made a good model for it.

CottonCarrier — Camera Vest

My first thought when I opened the box and took the Cotton Carrier Vest out was: "There is NO WAY I'm putting that over my dress while shooting a wedding." Let me backtrack a bit. I'm a wedding and lifestyle photographer. Like many in my profession I work 12-15h days, camera in hand, with a lens bag over my shoulder; all the while being dressed for the occasion. The only time I use two camera bodies is when the bride is walking down the aisle mainly because the process is fast and there is very little time to change lenses. I also try to keep a moderately low profile without calling extra attention to myself. So my initial geeking out reaction while envisioning myself wearing the vest during a wedding was quite expected. But then I actually put the vest on. Here is how it all went down.

At first it hung completely loose on me; I'm 5'6" and slim but all the straps were extended for a stocky male frame. After fiddling with buckles and adjusting the straps for a good ten minutes I was about to give up since the vest was still too big. Then I found extra adjustable straps, and voila everything fit. CottonCarrier say on their website video that the vest fits anyone between 24" to 70" in circumference. Just out of curiosity I measured myself and I'm at 26". It does take a while to adjust all the straps so the vest fits well, but once you've done so, it is always ready to go. I don't mind 'suffering' for a one time only setup like this. During my fiddling around process, I discovered how well the design is thought out...and I LOVE good design with smart details. There are even little elastic bands on the straps to hold loose ends. I did have very long straps hanging and I imagine those would have to be cut, in order to save me from my own clumsiness.

Once I had my vest on and adjusted, it was time to hang the camera from it. If you've ever put Ikea furniture together with an Allen key, you'll have absolutely no problem attaching the Cotton Camera Hub by threading it to your camera's tripod mount. The only thing I had to pay attention to was ensuring that the arrow on the hub was pointing in the direction of the lens. Done and done. At a 90 degree angle your camera slides into the chest plate receptacle and it's ready to go. There are also camera tethers that can be attached to the cam body with split rings (included in the kit) for extra safety. All-in-all a pretty straight forward set up. A page with easy to follow instructions is included with the vest in case guidance is required.

On to the testing. Being a cool kid and all, I put the biggest lens I have (70-200mm) on the camera and went for a walk. What better way to test a product then go all out with the biggest and heaviest you've got! Right? I should note that if you have a wrist strap that attaches to your tripod mount take it off before attaching Cotton camera hub. The Hub wasn't coming loose, but my cheap wrist strap was. Once I removed the wrist strap, there were absolutely no worries about camera safety. I stopped being paranoid and checking the hub every two minutes, and decided to live on the edge. I jumped around with the whole set up. It stayed close to my body without much movement and passed the 'extreme wedding shoot conditions' with flying colours.

Now to the vest itself and the comfort level. Let's start with the positives (which are huge), before I start nitpicking it apart. The main thing is that my hands were free and I absolutely loved that. Although I don't use my camera's neck strap, but instead an alternate strap, the camera would still swing off my side. With the vest it wasn't. Refreshing! The camera weight was evenly distributed on my shoulders and was much easier to carry. It was also readily available for quick shooting. Another plus, is that I would also be able to carry a backpack, if need be.

On to the nitpicking: I found that the weight of the camera was pulling the vest forward, making the back of the vest rise to my neck and cause the shoulder straps to rub against my collar bone. It wasn't much of an issue on an hour walk, but after a day of work I'm pretty sure there would be some minor chafing on my shoulders and a red line on the back of my neck. Extra padding on the shoulder straps with a rubberized grip and soft neoprene trim on the back of the vest are on my wish list. However, wearing the vest over a jacket or a sweater would solve this issue as well. I need to put in a disclaimer here. On CottonCarrier website it does say that there should be no weight carried on the shoulders but only around the chest strap. That wasn't the case with me. I'm thinking that I'm still a bit too small for the vest, because the chest strap was as short as it gets. It fit, but wasn't completely tight. Other than this, there were no other issues with the vest at all.

Would I use it? Well, not for work, and this is just personal preference. Based on the fact that I photograph weddings with only one camera body and it never leaves my hand during the day. However, I think it would be a great product for hiking, kayaking, and travel, and I would use it on those occasions. Just not snowboarding, because I can so picture myself wiping out with the camera, breaking it in the process together with a few ribs. I'm not a very good snowboarder... at all.

I can completely see sports and nature photographers using this, or anyone who needs more than one camera body and carries lots of equipment. If you visit the CottonCarrier website, there are a lot of videos and photos of people doing some crazy things while wearing the vest. I'm sure that if you think you need it, then you definitely need it. It's just one of those products.

1. Release clips on shoulder straps
2. Elastics to hold loose ends on shoulder straps
3. Tether strap attaches to D ring on the shoulder strap
4. Chest strap buckles
5. Chest plate is rigid, but with a bit of flexibility. Receptacle made out of strong plastic.
6. One of four D-rings.
7. Extra padding on the inside of the chest plate. Back of the vest is made out of breathable nylon mesh.
8. Small front pocket with velcro closure. Fits two CF cards comfortably.

1. Pro-body angled camera hub with a rubber washer
2. Regular camera hub with a rubber washer
3. Universal adaptor plate with a rubber washer
4. Allen key
5. 1/4" hex bolt
6. Two split rings

Cotton Carry-Lite. My brother as a model. He liked to carry the cameras on the back instead of sides.

CottonCarrier — Lite

This is the second product from Cotton Carrier that I tried. This is pretty much a belt to which you attach a holster or two and slide your camera in the same way as with the vest. The whole contraption sits on your hips with an optional shoulder strap. Now, this is something that I can actually play around with while on the job. I think the vest option is too manly for my liking, so the belt works much better. Yes, it comes with it's own limitations, but it suits my needs.

Let's start from the top. Once I took it out from the mesh bag it came in, it was a simple strap adjustment to make everything fit well. The holsters velcro in on the sides of the belt, hubs attach to the camera bodies and slide into receptacles. Everything is ready to go in less than five minutes. Plus I feel like a hip cowboy, ahem.. cowgirl, while wearing the belt. After attaching the first camera to the holster, my initial thought was "YOU KNOW WHAT WOULD BE COOL?!?! - A LENS BAG that attaches on the other side. Here I proceeded to think that I'm the smartest person around, which lasted for about a minute until the website told me that they already have a lens bag. Gah, all my brilliant ideas are always taken!

I have no complaints about the belt design or its quality. It has the same sturdy materials as the vest: D rings, tether strap, extra secure buckles, padded shoulder strap (although I detached it right away because it felt a bit awkward to me). As for functionality, there is a bit more of the camera swing while walking. You can't really attach a huge lens since it'll be hitting your leg, and it will touch the ground if you squat down. I also found that it's better to have two camera bodies attached (or a camera and a lens bag) since it balances the weight a lot better on each side. The belt also directly competes with your pants belt, so it's either one or the other, unless you can make them sit at different heights. You also have to watch the camera lens when you sit down. Once you get up, there is a need to pull the belt down because it does rise up a bit.

1. Holster with a receptacle for the camera.
2. Shoulder strap and tether strap attach to D rings
3. Belt buckle with extra security
4. Adjustable buckles
5. Shoulder strap with extra padding

At the end of the day, both products are unique in their own ways and certainly have a specific customer base. If you're the adventurous-athletic type the vest is a definite winner here. Personally I prefer the carrier-lite system for my work and the vest for those occasions when you find me hiking.

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Katia Trudeau  almost 3 years ago
Ryan, the vest for regular camera without holster, and Cotton-Lite both start at $99 USD.
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Ryan P. Fonkert  almost 3 years ago
How much $$ are these things going for?
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Nathan Blaney  almost 3 years ago
The person who invents useful camera/bag/strap/etc gear that DOESN'T look like it was designed for a SWAT team will be a millionaire. I love the functionality of my Newswear Chestvest, but it (and this CottonCarrier) look like suicide bomber gear... hard to be subtle wearing this stuff.
Luka Bošković  almost 3 years ago
Buying this. Now. The CCS 100.
Den April  almost 3 years ago
very interesting!
great systems.

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