Field Review: Cotton Carry-Lite (Day 1)

The camera strap has been with us a long, long time, but carrying heavy cameras on it is a relatively new phenomenon. Back in the day heavy cameras were invariably used on tripods, and only lightweight cameras used hand-held. These days we seem to carry a ton of gear: Cotton Carrier is building camera carrying systems to take away that strain, and also provide better security for your gear against inadvertent drops and slips.

About 30 years ago motor-driven professional 35mm cameras and fast, heavy lenses started to become available, and the search was on for a comfortable way to carry this gear and, importantly, be able to get it to the eye quickly and easily.

I regularly carry two camera bodies with lenses and flashguns: a Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USMand an Canon EOS 1D Mark II Nwith 70-200mm f/2.8. This is a heavy kit, and I’m tired by the end of a day carrying it all around, I can tell you – and feeling the strain in the neck and shoulders, too. Not only that, but cameras swing around on straps when you’re working quickly, banging into things and if a strap slips off your shoulder, it can end in disaster.

The company manufactures a number of systems. For The Phoblographer’s evaluation, the company sent me a Cotton Carry-Lite and an additional camera holder, mounts for both of the cameras listed above and a wrist strap.

Here’s how the manufacturer describes the new Carry-Lite:

“The Carry-Lite is tough enough to handle the heaviest load of camera and lens, with a design that keeps your camera comfortable and ‘quick draw ready’ so you never miss a shot.

A heavy-duty padded waist belt with 3 point buckle that sizes from 20” to 54” comfortably hugs your waist. An adjustable Shoulder Strap reduces tugging of weight as well as providing a steel D-Ring to clip the included Camera Tether onto, ensuring your camera is protected against accidental drops.”

The idea behind the Carry-Lite system is to have the cameras securely mounted and carried on the hips. This is done by using circular mounts screwed into the tripod screws on the bottom of your cameras. The cameras then slide into a holster with a Lexan holder. You turn the camera sideways to slide it in (or out) of the holder, rotating it so the lens points down and it locks into place. To use the camera just grab its handgrip, rotate and pull up – the camera comes out, up and into your shooting position very quickly and easily.

With a holster mounted on each side I was able to slide a cameras into its holster and grab the other very quickly, and very confident there would be not disasters.

Turn the camera sideways to fit or remove the camera from the holster.

With the lens pointing down the mount and camera lock into the holster so it can't easily slip out.

Press shot of photographer with Carry-Lite and dual holsters.

Set-up is more time consuming than you think. Firstly you need to pull the straps off your cameras, screw the Cotton Carrier mounts into the bottom of the cameras, loop a ring onto the camera’s strap eyelet (for the tether strap), then put on the belt/shoulder strap carrier and adjust. So it’s not really a system you will want to be changing to and from regularly.

The gear I was sent to test included the extra holster, so I could mount a camera on each hip, but surprisingly there was only one tether strap (note: Cotton have informed me there should have been two tethers with the kit and if one was missing it was a shipping problem) – this links a loop which sits around chest height on the shoulder strap to the camera, so if you do drop it the camera probably won’t crash into the ground, at least if you’re standing.

With the cameras in their holsters walking – even at a fast pace – is comfortable. Running might take some getting used to. The weight is carried on the hips, which is the best place to carry a load, and it felt very easy to get a camera up to one’s eye and, importantly, to get one camera out of the way and the other up to my eye quickly and safely.

At this stage I haven’t had the opportunity to use the system in a pressure situation, so keep an eye on The Phoblographer for updates, but so far the Cotton Carrylite system looks like it fills a need for many photographers very well.

Cotton Carrier products are available from B&H Photo – click Here

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