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Camera Gadget That Works
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
There are very few camera bags, straps or other camera support devices that I haven't tired. Before I sat down at my computer, I wandered briefly around my office and storeroom looking to see what I actually had laying around that I wasn't using.

After the fourth roller bag (two had never been unpacked), four Delsey bags and my tried and true 30-year old canvas camera bag, I quit looking. And when it came to shoulder straps, I was equally blessed. Cotton, leather, serpentine chain (it looked like a good idea at the time) and a pair of nearly new Black Rapid sling systems I kept putting on backwards. Having spent enough on camera bags and support gear to have bought several other cameras and lenses I know they're like any other obsession. If you think you like them, you can always find room for another one (or three).

In other words, nearly a half-century of photography has blessed me with the handgun shooter's equivalent of a very big box of holsters.

But once in a great while over the years, I've come across something that simply worked. Unfortunately, when it came to camera support gear, those pieces either wore completely out or became so dangerously thin that I was forced to quit using them.

Even with all that gear, however, I've not had anything that was capable of supporting a full-sized camera and telephoto lens comfortably. Everything I've tried either allowed the camera/lens combination to swing freely or eventually dug into the neck or shoulder beyond the point of comfort.

The trusty photographer's vest, as stylish today as a Nehru jacket or polyester pants was actually as close as I'd come to something that carried gear and spread the weight bearably across my back and shoulders. OK, it screamed "camera nerd" just as loudly as their equivalents screamed "gun nut", but it made the weight bearable.

The Cotton Carrier 2-camera vest. It isn't uncomfortable - and it works. If you regularly lug dual camera bodies around, it might be for you. Photo from Cotton Carrier.

About eight weeks ago, however, I received a package I'd forgotten was even headed my way. It was about two weeks before I actually put the components together (not a complicated operation) and started giving the Cotton Carrier 2 camera system a bit of a test. Yes, it's a "system" because it's not just one piece. And it is versatile enough to be more than helpful.

To get started, I simply put on the adjustable vest, tightened it snugly and wore it while I added a couple of round fastener plates to the baseplates of my cameras. At that point, I slipped my cameras (sideways) into the lexan-carriers, attached the safety tethers (thank you for thinking of that often-overlooked feature) and headed out to shoot some outdoor stuff.

After several hours of climbing up hills, wading shallow streams and falling on my rump (twice), I had several good images and a healthy respect for the Cotton Carrier. Never once - including both episodes of losing my footing- did I feel as if my cameras and their long telephoto lenses were in danger of either coming loose, or swinging into something.

When you're not worried about clanging your lenses off a rock face, it's simpler to get closer to your subject. And that makes for better composition. Jim Shepherd photo.
Instead, one rode close to my chest and the other hung safely to my strong-hand side. Used in conjunction with a small pack I picked up at SHOT Show, I had my cameras, strobes, batteries, memory cards and assorted gadgets all safely stored, yet convenient for easy access.

OK, I'm convinced. This system enables me to securely carry two full-sized camera bodies and whatever lens I want on either of them-without listing to one side like a leaky freighter. And the flexibility to remove one carrier by simply pulling apart a couple of very snug pieces of velcro means I can use the Cotton Carrier around the office as well when shooting pickup shots on gear, wildlife or whatever.

Like any good system, it's not cheap (the prices for their carrier system runs from $79 for their "Strapshot" to $189 for the two-camera system) and there's a support rig for big lenses called their Steady Shot that puts another $219 on top of that. If you're spending long days shooting anything from wedding candids to wildlife, you might find Cotton Carriers worth checking out.

I use Starlight Cases to store my gear when I'm not working because I know I can batter them around without damaging my gear, but I've never been that confident when actually using my gear. This weekend I'm headed for the mountains for some photography in and around mountain streams. That means slippery footing and the chance to take a tumble.

This time, I'll be moving a little more sure-footedly because I know I won't constantly be grabbing at swinging cameras. A little more confident footing couldn't hurt, right?

--Jim Shepherd

Learn more about Cotton Carrier systems on their website (www.cottoncarrier.com).

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