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The Cotton Carrier Camera System is a unique camera carrying system suitable for the pro and amateur alike. Most of my friends who spotted me wearing it said it looked like a Baby Bjorn for cameras. And, indeed, that is a good description, coming from someone who has worn both.
The heart of the system is a chest harness, typically worn high on the torso. The harness contains a unique keyed slot in the center to accept one of Cotton’s patented adapters, which screw into a camera’s tripod mount. There are two types of adapters and they can be used with quick release plates for easy chest-to-tripod use.
The harness has four adjustment straps and can fit a wide range of torso sizes. It can either be slipped over a head as with any vest or, more comfortably, one snap on each side is unbuckled and an arm slid through. I found the harness comfortable to wear around all day, with or without the camera. I used it in the sunny environs of Joshua Tree National Park as well as on the Coleman Glacier on the slopes of Mt. Baker in Washington State. Adjusting between winter parka wear and no coat required I adjust the harness while it is off. This is not much of an issue in the long run.
Once fitted, a camera with adapter is placed facing sideways, slotted into the chest plate, and then turned down. I mainly tested the unit with a larger Canon 7D with battery grip and 28-300mm lens. A setup that typically weighs about 7lbs. For long lenses Cotton provides a shaped adapter allowing heavier equipment to rest more comfortably against a stomach. Long lenses can also be held fast to the body with the velcro strap that runs across the front of the harness. This strap was designed to keep cameras from flopping forward. While it was nearly too short for my setup (due to the battery pack adding height), it did in fact reach, but I did not use it that often.
In actual use, the Cotton Carrier takes some getting used to. The action of rotating the camera sideways and pulling up and out of the harness takes practice. It also helped to use the unit a lot and wear down some of the finishes on those two parts to aid the speed of use. With practice came proficiency. It takes two hands, typically, to remove the setup I was using, while a friends Canon 50D and 24-105mm lens was easy to remove with one hand. Just like any piece of equipment, the more I used it, the more it became second nature to easily swing my camera into place.
The biggest gain I found in using the Cotton Carrier was the lack of fatigue. I didn’t use the unit on a wedding shoot but I am accustomed to hauling around heavy gear for a full day of shooting. In the desert, where we were climbing for 9-10 hours each day, being able to set the camera into the harness made a huge difference in arm fatigue for me. Also, with my torso size, the length of the keeper strap ( a small strap that clips on to both the harness and camera to ensure nothing is dropped) was perfect to simply let go of the camera when my arm was at my side. The weight was then being held where the keeper strap attached to the harness, up high and near the shoulder. Further, the camera’s orientation when left to dangle typically stayed at the ready. I certainly would not walk anywhere with the camera dangling like this, but it was an easy way to get a quire respite and relax my hand.
I asked fellow photographer Eileen Ringwald to try on the harness for a bit, weight it down with a camera, and give me a woman’s impression. Here’s her take from a short trial with the Cotton Carrier:
“Will a truly made-for-women front wearing camera harness ever be made? I hope so, but until then I think I could comfortably live with the Cotton Carrier for professional rigs. I didn’t get to wear the Cotton Carrier for an extended time, however I did try it on loaded with a Canon 7D with battery grip and found it could securely carry the weight. The positioning of the harness was a little tricky but I found an acceptable position and proceeded to do a bit of scrambling on some nearby rocks. I’m not sure but I’m guessing that all day wear of the carrier with such weight on it might lead to a little irritation on the stomach area (where the carrier was digging in due to it needing clearance on my chest area). Thankfully the majority of weight was still on my shoulders, and that right there is a comfort saver.”
Cotton also included a side holster as this package was intended for someone using two cameras. The side holster seen here is a slimmed down plate with industrial grade velcro flaps on the back. The flaps ensure three layers of attachment to the Cotton Carrier harness or any other belt loop. With some imagination, this holster could be used in other areas, such as on a horse saddle or backpack waist belt.
PRICE: $169USD for the two camera system
The Cotton Carrier two camera system is a solid product that fills a niche’s need. It is not for everyone, that is for sure, but a wide range of active photographers will find utility in its design and use. The carrier succeeds in holding a camera firmly and comfortably in place in a manner that helps prevent arm fatigue from all day shooting. Any photographer who wishes to have their hands free during an activity, yet have a camera close at hand and not tucked away in a bag, will enjoy using the Cotton Carrier.
Disclaimer: The author was provided with a complimentary system for the purpose of this review.