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Impressions of the Cotton Carrier Camera Vest

by Connor Stefanison | May 17, 2012

© Connor StefanisonOne of the biggest annoyances I find in photography is dealing with camera straps. If you’ve ever been out shooting with two cameras strapped to your shoulders, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Sports, wedding, and even nature photographers are often in situations where having two ready to go cameras is crucial for shoots where changing lenses can result in missing the perfect shot. When photographing weddings, I have always dreaded having to carry two cameras swaying around, putting strain on my shoulders. When shooting wildlife with long lenses, I often find myself not taking the opportunity to take the wide angle out of my backpack to get some record shots. This is simply because I dislike juggling unsecured cameras around my neck and partly due to laziness.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed advertisements for the Cotton Carrier in various magazines. I always thought that it looked like a good solution to the problems stated above. This past winter, I finally got around to trying out the Cotton Carrier, and fully approved of it on the first day of use. Andy Cotton of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada invented the Cotton Carrier. For years, Andy had been dealing with the problems of camera straps, and being the entrepreneur type of guy that he is, he decided to create a solution. After around three years of developing the camera vest, the company is now at a point where they’re fully content with the design. Essentially, Andy Cotton has succeeded at making a system that allows photographers to carry 1 or 2 readily available and “locked in”cameras that eliminates neck and shoulder strain by placing weight on the person’s mid section.

Connor Stefanison on bike © Jess Findlay

One nice aspect of Cotton Carriers is that they are 70% North American made! Only sewn products are made offshore. The buckles are Nifco brand and the clips are UTX. Hubs and plates are 60/61 hard anodized aluminum. The Lexan receivers are produced with Lexan brand virgin black Lexan. Using materials like these ensures top quality and security for your cameras.

Kathryn Boyd Batstone with camera vest and bag © Connor Stefanison

The first thing I did with my cotton carrier was attach my Canon 1D Mark IV and Canon 400mm f/5.6 lens to the vest and I went for a run around my block. I could never have done this comfortably with a normal camera strap. With the additional help of the fastener strap, you can use your camera skiing, mountain biking, or even doing back flips on trampolines. Although this may be unrealistic for the average person, it’s just an example of how secure the product is. The vest comes in green or black, and has a mesh back which is nice for hot days. The vest includes a chest mount and detachable hip mount. The chest mount is ideal for lenses in the 70-200mm to 400mm f/5.6 size. The hip mount is ideal for a wide angle/small lens setup. This is because a hip-mounted longer lens like a 400mm f/5.6 lens will brush against your leg a bit when walking. The hip mount can also be detached and attached to the hip straps of a backpack. Cotton Carrier also just came out with an expandable lens bag that attaches on either hip and allows me to comfortably fit a 400mm f/5.6 and 24-105mm f/4 lens inside. The bag also has two interior and one exterior pocket. Overall, with the camera vest you can fit a camera on your chest, another camera on your hip, and the lens bag on your other hip. Videos of these products can be found at www.cottoncarrier.com.

Connor Stefanison biking with the Cotton Carrier in use © Jess Findlay

One concern I had before trying the Cotton Carrier was if I’d have to remove my tripod head plate. I was relieved to discover that Cotton Carrier makes their own tripod head plate that fits the attachment hub. You can even attach their plate to your L-plate, which allows for full use of horizontal and vertical compositions. I recently returned from shooting the Columbia River Gorge and Olympic National Park and used the Cotton Carrier tripod head plate the entire time without issue. The only negative aspect of the camera vest system is that it isn’t very “fancy” looking for photographing formal events. If you’re shooting an event where looks matter, I’d recommend checking out the Carry-Lite system, or just putting the side holster on your belt.

Tripod plate with an L plate © Connor Stefanison

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the Cotton Carrier camera vest thus far. The vest has allowed me to be more productive and efficient with my photography, and allows for increased maneuverability. If you’re looking for a comfortable and efficient way to carry one or two cameras and some additional gear, I fully recommend checking out the products from Cotton Carrier.

Connor Stefanison biking in action © Jess Findlay

Connor with camera on bike in action © Jess Findlay

About the Author

Connor Stefanison is an aspiring young nature photographer from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Connor started photography at the age of 17 in the summer of 2008, and has been at it ever since. Having always been involved in outdoor-based activities, nature photography became another way for Connor to enjoy and become more observant of the outdoors. Connor is currently studying biological sciences at Simon Fraser University, with a focus on wildlife and conservation biology. When not out taking photos, Connor can be found mountain biking, skiing, hunting, or fly fishing. To view more of Connor's work, please visit his website at www.connorstefanison.com.

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