Field Review: Cotton CarryLite (Day 2)

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

Quick access to your gear without weight on your shoulders is something of a holy grail for many working – or walking – photographers, and the Cotton CarryLite certainly addresses those issues for many shooters. For day two of my test of the Cotton Carrylite, I took the integrated belt, shoulder strap, holsters and tethers out to shoot a couple of motorcycles for the bike magazine I work for.

I’d set up the gear and Cotton CarryLitebefore leaving the office, so it was easy clip on the belt/strap, attach the tethers to the camera, slip them into their holsters and start walking. This immediately showed up one of the biggest advantages of the CarryLite: walking with heavy gear being carried on your hips is a lot more comfortable than having it on your shoulders.

Once at my shooting spot it’s easy to pull the camera out of a holster and start shooting—but I did find the mount screwed into the tripod thread to be annoying when shooting vertical, at least for the first few minutes. Then I got used to it.

I loved the way I could very quickly slip the camera back into its holster and then grab the camera in the other holster. It takes no longer than slipping a conventional camera strap through your hand, making sure the camera is secure on your shoulder and reaching for the other equipment—but with the Cotton CarryLitethe gear is secure. It’s not swinging around with your movement and not straining your shoulder.

Like many Pro photographers carrying heaps of gear, I tend to put it down on the ground a lot. Sure, this gets it dirty, risks scratching and all the rest of the potential disasters, but I think of my gear as tools, not ornaments. I don’t want to damage my gear, but a few scuffs and marks don’t bother me in the slightest.

(There’s a great old story of a short photojournalist who carried three Nikon F professional film cameras. No one could work out why until he arrived late to shoot a parade, where he put two on the ground, stood on them, shooting with the third. Undoubtably untrue, but that’s the sort of punishment working professionals want their gear to be able to take.)

Using the CarryLite, however, means you don’t have to leave gear on the ground, which is usually great, but less convenient with a super telephoto—I untethered my camera when it went on my Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USMand used the strap on the lens – which is actually another advantage of the CarryLite, because usually your camera strap and the strap on the lens get in the way, but of course there’s no conventional strap if you’re in the Cotton universe.

I was less impressed when I tried to do some low angle shots. Having gear on my belt got in the way, and you can’t just put it down, you must unclip the tethers first.

The other thing I found with using the Cotton CarryLitewas it made camera bags less convenient to carry. With a camera body on each hip I couldn’t easily use a bumbag-style bag or conventional shoulder bag, but a backpack would work very well: but they are very slow to access, so I don’t use them day-to-day. I’m keen to try out the Cotton CarryLitewith a photographer’s vest.

Although I’ve got more things with the CarryLite to try, I’m thinking it’s best suited to those carrying one camera and spending a lot of time on their feet. There’s an optional lens pouch which can used instead of the second holster, so you’d be able to carry a camera and a variety of lenses with the camera very easily accessed, secure and still be able to change lenses quickly and easily. I’m thinking photowalks, playing tourist, events, bushwalking, etc.

The twin holster set-up is better suited to those who don’t need to change lenses so often: a photojournalist with a 16-35mm and a 35-350mm for example.

Cotton Carrier products are available from B&H Photo. If you’d like to see Day 1’s coverage, go here.

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