Last Updated on 02/13/2023 by Mark Beckenbach
I’ve preached about the back-saving capabilities of camera belt systems since shooting weddings with one while I was seven months pregnant. But, while I can access my gear quickly without ending the day in agony, the black nylon variety left me feeling a bit like a 90s mom at Disney world, wielding sunscreen and snacks from a fanny pack. Then, I saw that the company behind my favorite dual camera strap updated its modular system which also happens to work on a belt. The Holdfast Gear Sightseer Lens Pouches are designed to keep lenses at your waist, on a Moneymaker camera strap, or attached to the exterior of a larger bag.
The Holdfast Sightseer is a system of canvas and leather lens pouches and bags. The recently updated pouches can be fitted to a belt or attached directly to the Moneymaker strap system. The pouches are also designed to slot onto larger Sightseer bags, providing fast access and versatility. But, the leather and canvas design makes the Sightseer look more like a high-end tool belt than a 90s fanny pack.
Not convinced that wearing a photo tool belt is the way to go? I timed a lens swap with a backpack, a messenger bag, and the Holdfast Gear Sightseer Lens Pouch on a belt. The belt was twice as fast as a backpack.
“…the black nylon variety left me feeling a bit like a 90s mom at Disney world, wielding sunscreen and snacks from a fanny pack.”
Table of Contents
The Big Picture
The Holdfast Gear Sightseer lens pouches are a versatile camera carry system for swapping lenses quickly. Worn on a belt, a photographer can carry a lot of lenses and accessories without straining their back. On the Holdfast Moneymaker, the pouches can keep two lenses and extra batteries ready. The pouches also work to add more capacity to the Sightseer bags.
The Sightseer Lens Pouches are made for photographers who need fast access yet comfortable carry for all-day wear. I could swap lenses twice as fast as using a backpack. And I can customize the modular system to my gear and shooting style.
It’s not weather-resistant, however, and it’s pricier than a nylon tool belt system. Bags like the Holdfast Gear Quiver are also designed to hold more extras with many pockets.
The Holdfast Gear Sightseer Lens Pouches are an excellent option for photographers who need fast access to a few lenses, flashes, batteries, and other necessities. It’s especially good for photographers who love the Holdfast Gear Moneymaker straps. If you want to carry more than a few lenses attached to the Moneymaker or want something that doubles as an everyday bag, consider larger options with a similar attachment. The Holdfast Gear Quiver lens bag or the Holdfast Gear Sightseer Modular System 2.0 bag (which the pouches can attach to) will also attach to a Moneymaker strap.
I’m giving the Holdfast Gear Sightseer Lens Pouches five out of five stars. Want one? Check them out at Adorama.
- High-quality materials
- The leather and canvas design looks great
- Fast access to gear with magnetic closures
- Variety of size options
- Multiple ways to carry
- Add-on pouches for batteries are also great
- Not weather-resistant
- Can’t fit as many extras
I used the following Sightseer pouches with this gear inside during a 10-hour wedding:
- Sightseer Small Lens Pouch: Lensbaby Omni wands, cooper pipe coupling (for special effects)
- Sightseer Medium Lens Pouch: Fujifilm 50mm f1 R WR
- Sightseer Medium-Wide: Flashpoint Li-ion III flash, MagMod Sphere, Spektrum Effects Light Speed Filter, small mirror, SD card case
- Western Utility Pouch AA size: AA batteries
- Western Utility Pouch Battery size: one Flashpoint Li-ion Battery
- Western Utility Pouch Film size: three Fujifilm XT4 batteries
I attached the Sightseer pouches to the Tanker belt. I also tried the pouches attached to the Swagg, a canvas version of the Moneymaker. I also tested different fits, including the 50mm with the 16-80mm f4 kit lens inside the medium-wide. All gear inside is my own. The Sightseer Lens Pouches and Tanker belt were gifted by Holdfast Gear.
Camera tool belts aren’t anything new. But, what’s unique about this system is its versatile, modular design. The Sightseer Lens Pouches can be worn on a belt, on a moneymaker, or attached to a standalone bag. It’s not the only modular system out there, but its versatility mixed with canvas and leather construction is a win for many photographers.
The Holdfast Gear Sightseer Lens Pouches are single-compartment pouches with flap closures. Inside, the pouches have a rigid insert to protect gear. A false bottom allows for some separation when carrying multiple items in one pouch.
While there are no pockets, the pouches are designed for customization. The pouches themselves can be added to with utility pouches designed to fit batteries or film. These utility pouches can attach to a leather patch on the side of the lens pouches. Or, the utility pouches can also be attached directly to the belt just like the lens pouches.
A sturdy metal clip on the back of each lens pouch can clip to a belt. The clip is secured with a leather strip that fastens over the end of the clip with two snaps. That helps keep the clip from opening so it stays put on the belt. Along with slipping the clip over a belt, the clip can also slip over the attachment loops on larger compatible bags.
After testing three different sizes, if I had to pick just one, it would be medium-wide. It was actually wide enough that I could put two primes inside. I use two camera bodies with three prime lenses, and I don’t usually need the extra width (but it does give me a spot to place the lens I’m removing before I twist the new one on). It was also tall enough to fit a flash and still had room for a small diffuser.
As a belt system, the Sightseer Lens Pouches put weight on your hips rather than your back and shoulders. That doesn’t mean your gear suddenly becomes as light as a feather. But, personally, I’d take a bit of muscle soreness in the legs over back pain any day. I wore a belt with the three Sightseer Lens Pouches and three utility pouches during a 10-hour wedding, and it was very comfortable. I only had some minor leg soreness the following day, but that was partly from spending the ceremony in a crouch so guests could still see over my head.
I had only minor complaints about wearing the system this way. The metal hook on the Tanker belt dug into my skin a bit but adjusting where the belt sat on my hips eliminated the issue. Wearing the Moneymaker, my cameras hang at my hips. That meant I had to put the pouches at my back instead of my hips. (Wearing the pouches in the front made it harder to move around.) That means it was more awkward to reach for them, but it’s still doable and fast. Finally, sliding the pouches on and off a belt (necessary if you want to thread the belt through belt loops) takes a bit of time to set up. I just skipped the belt loops, partly because the Tanker is too wide for the loops on women’s pants, but the pouches can be used with a different belt.
It’s worth noting that the experience of carrying gear on your hips can differ from person to person, or just depending on your attire. I like carrying my gear on my hips, but the experience varies based on what I’m wearing. I wear high-waisted dress slacks and a tucked-in undershirt when I shoot weddings. It’s a professional look, yet I can lay on the floor for a low-angle shot or climb on the top of a chair for a high one. The system was a bit more annoying wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Whether or not you love a belt system may depend on the size of your hips and your attire. Thankfully, the Sightseer Lens Pouches don’t have to be worn on a belt.
It’s possible to wear the lens pouches at your hips with the Moneymaker — using the second carry option. The D-shaped metal rings will slide onto the Moneymaker straps. This puts them right at my sides instead of at my back. Yet, my camera still slides up and down easily, and I can still put my arms down since the pouches sit just behind my arms. The only downside to this carry option is that there are just spots for two pouches, and the weight is distributed on your shoulders rather than the hips. The upside is that you can access lenses at your hips instead of the small of your back, and there’s no belt system to tug at your pants.
There’s a third carry option for photographers using the Moneymaker Solo and the medium-wide pouch. The Solo Gear strap (sold separately), can attach one Sightseer Lens Pouch to the side of the strap opposite the camera. The two smaller pouches don’t have the extra rings for this type of carry, however.
The Sightseer Lens Pouches are highly versatile. You can choose to wear it on a belt or attached to a Moneymaker. Mix and match different sizes and utility pouches to fit the kind of gear you want to carry with you. You can carry three or more pouches on a belt, two on a Moneymaker, or one on a Moneymaker solo. The Holdfast Gear Sightseer Lens Pouches can easily be customized to different shooting styles.
The Holdfast Gear Sightseer pouches are a bit on the pricey end — but as soon as I opened the box, I knew why. There’s not a chintzy piece in sight. There’s nary a strip of nylon. There is nothing on the lens pouches that doesn’t feel luxurious.
The main part of the bag is made of canvas. The top and back are made of real leather. The protective interior inserts and false bottoms are stiff yet soft to the touch with a felt material. It’s not the cheap felt you can find at a craft store, but a combination of felt with merino wool.
The connection hardware is made with metal: there’s a stiff and sturdy belt hook, as well as metal hooks to attach to the Holdfast Gear Moneymaker.
The top flap closes with a magnetic system, but you have to pull down on the top flap to open it, so it won’t open accidentally. The larger two of the pouches have two different latch points, so you can make the bag slightly taller. The clasp pieces don’t feel quite as rigid as the metal attachment points, but they still feel sturdy.
Canvas and leather are two materials that tend to age well. Both materials will take on a more weathered patina over time. At a time where the internet is filled with people doing unthinkable atrocities to give cameras a weathered look, most photographers are going to love these materials. These lens pouches should look great for years. More importantly, I feel more like a professional photographer and less like a 90s tourist wearing a fanny pack.
The only downside to this construction is that it’s not designed for rain or snow. Personally, this isn’t a dealbreaker for me. You can’t switch lenses in the rain. So if I’m shooting a rainy wedding, I don’t need to bring the lens pouches outside.
Ease of Use
Having lenses ready at your hips or lower back means lens swaps are much faster than digging gear out of a backpack. I timed myself swapping lenses with the Sightseer pouches, then swapping lenses with a backpack. I was able to swap lenses in 17 seconds with the pouches. The backpack took me 34 seconds: I had to take the bag off, put it on the floor, swap lenses, then zip back up and put it back on. The belt system was about twice as fast as a backpack.
The Holdfast Gear belt system was also a few seconds faster than using a messenger bag. But that difference was small enough that it could have been just a user error. The Sightseer Lens Pouches will be faster than a messenger that needs to unzip, but a flap-style opening will be similarly as fast. The difference between a messenger and the lens pouches is that the weight can be distributed on your hips attached to a belt, or, if attached to the Moneymaker, on both shoulders rather than a single shoulder strap.
The combination of having lenses right at your hip or lower back and quick magnetic openings make the Sightseer Lens Pouches a very fast, efficient system to use. But, at the same time, it’s very comfortable.
Who Should Buy It?
Photographers who need to swap lenses quickly and comfortably while carrying the essentials should consider the Holdfast Gear Sightseer Lens Pouches. They are comfortable to wear on a belt or Moneymaker strap. Gear is easy to access right at the hip or small of your back, with a magnetic flap closure that’s quick and secure. As a modular system, it’s highly versatile for your gear and shooting style. Plus, they look great.
The lens pouches are made to hold mid-range zooms and smaller. The pouches aren’t made for larger telephotos, so it’s not the best solution for photographers who use larger lenses. It also doesn’t double as an everyday bag; I still use my backpack for transporting my entire system, then use the pouches for everything I need to have immediately accessible.
Holdfast Gear lists the following specifications for the Sightseer Lens Pouches:
- Small lens pouch: Height- 5.25″ x Width- 3.5″ x Depth- 3.5″
- Medium lens pouch: Height- Adjustable from 7.5″-9″ x Width- 4″ x Depth- 3.5″
- Medium-wide lens pouch: Height- Adjustable from 7.5″-9.125″ x Width- 5″ x Depth- 4”
- AA Pouch Dimensions: Width- 2-5/8”, Height- 3”, Depth- 1/2”
- Battery Pouch Dimensions: Width- 4-1/4”, Height- 3”, Depth- 1″
- Film Pouch Dimensions: Width- 5-1/2”, Height- 3-1/4”, Depth- 1-1/4″
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