UPDATE 2: Due to complaints and concerns about the holster clip wearing down with high use, Shai Eynav and company designed a new high-wear clip, which was offered for a nominal fee to all its spider holster users. It’s nice to see companies that still keep their customers in mind and not only the bottom line. This also reinforces my support for the product and the company.
UPDATE: I had lost the allen wrench that fits inside the Spider Plate and emailed the Spider Holster people if I could purchase a replacement one (it has a little plastic shim that helps keep it locked in place on the spider plate). I knew it was my fault I didn’t remove the allen wrench prior to the wedding shoot, but just wanted to get it replaced instead of having to bring my foldable allen wrench set everywhere. Lo and behold, a few days later, I see in my mail a package that contained two (2!) shimmed allen wrenches at what appears to be no charge. I do appreciate that they didn’t take advantage of what could have been a nickel-and-dime situation – shows the company has some class and respects its customers. I know I already speak highly of this product in this post, but after this, I would say I highly recommend and respect the Spider Holster company.
Since starting up in the world of photography, I’ve always been a big supporter and fan of having a camera bag that doesn’t look like an obvious camera bag, which is why I love my Complete Seed with Photo Bucket and my 6-Million Dollar Home. That being said, I also really like having my camera ready-to-go with easy access (ie for wedding work). These are almost contradictory, but I went on in search of the quick-fire solution that could be concealed in one of my two camera bags – not to say I don’t love my Complete Seed.
Read more after the jump.
The obvious, and very popular solution would be the Blackrapid R-Strap (this also applies to the Sun Sniper Strap). This has gone through its 3rd evolution of fastener (Fasten-R) and probably its 3rd or 4th evolution of strap. The advantages of this system is obvious: you keep your camera secured on an over-the-shoulder strap, but because the camera “floats” on the strap, you can quickly bring the camera to eye level. When “resting”, the camera sits up-side down with the lens facing backward – probably good to prevent running the lens into stuff.
The reasons why I chose against the BlackRapid strap (don’t get me wrong, I got a lot of recommendations for this) was because (1) you cannot easily shoot over your head for those high-angle candids or shooting over tall obstacles, (2) there are a lot of reports of the Fasten-R getting loosened during regular use, which was improved with the latest model – but I couldn’t bring myself to rely on that Fasten-R yet. (3) The Fasten-R does not allow for a tripod mounting plate to be attached simultaneously for ease-of-use. I alternate between using a tripod and not, and having to undo the Fasten-R and attach the tripod mount was just over the “annoying” mark.
Another alternative to the R-Strap was the Cotton Carrier. This holster/quick-draw style system seems to be gaining popularity for its very quick draw-to-eye-level capability and its very good weight distribution. The chest harness design is somewhat unique, and paired with the belt harness, makes a complete two-camera carrying solution. The problem: its a giant harness that puts your camera directly on your chest. I’m sure it is easy to walk around with and is easy to bring to eye level, but I really need to be able to put the harness away without bringing a ton of attention to myself. I think this is better suited for people who exclusively do weddings, or other types of high-mobility photo shoots.
Another option I was looking at was an expandable holster like the ThinkTank Digital 40 Holster. This holster would allow me to store the camera with 24-70L hood reversed OR expand the bottom and it can be stored with the hood on and ready to go. This really appealed to me because the holster itself was a camera bag that I could take with me in a bigger bag if necessary. The biggest things that made this option less appealing is that the holster is big when expanded. although it is form-fitting, it is still quite a protrusion because it offers padded protection from anything around you. Another thing is that a holster would be slower-to-draw, less comfortable due to its fixed location on a belt, and I can’t put a camera in there with a flash attached (doesn’t fit well).
And so after long, long debate, I decided on the following: the Spider Holster. The product of innovation from Shai Eynav, the Spider holster was only recently made available at in-store retailers. I purchased mine online for their promotional price $109. As comparison, the Cotton carrier was $120-160, R-Strap is about $40-110, and the ThinkTank Holster was about $70.
USPS priority box with plenty of bubble wrap. The belt was folded in its own clear cellophane wrap, and the rest of the components were in a small white box adorned with the Spider Holster logo.
The small box had a molded plastic piece holding the belt-clip (aka SpiderPro), and underneath was the Spider Plate and Spider Pin seated nicely in a foam liner. very well put together, all the pieces felt secure in the packaging.
Solid. The SpiderPro belt clip is heavier than it looks, but it gives you a sense of confidence with the product. The single-piece rail system has a switch that is consistent with the rest of the clip. Upon opening (and photographing) the pieces, I pulled out my 40D and attached the Spider Plate to the tripod-mount hole in my battery grip.
There is a slight curve on one side of the spider plate that you make flush to the curve of the edge of the battery grip. This appears to let the pin arms stick out a little bit. Using the enclosed allen wrench, I tightened down the plate and screwed in the pin. The allen wrench hides nicely in the spider plate in case of any on-location adjustments.
One thing I was really worried about prior to buying, which I only found a little bit of information online, was if the spider pin arms would get in the way when I shoot vertically with my hand on the grip. This ended up being not a problem at all – my fingers fit between the spider pin arms and was able to comfortably hold the camera in the vertical position – points for versatility!
So now the true test was putting the camera on the belt. I sized up the belt for me – I have about a 32 in. waist, and when I resized the velcro belt (it is velcro the whole length, except for the holster itself), I found I must be on the smaller end of the Spider Holster Users. I think if you have smaller than a 30 in. waist (like a smaller female) you would have to fold the end of the belt over to make it fit properly. The buckle on this belt is the 2nd generation buckle with a 3-button system. I think the company may have received complaints of the traditional 2-button buckles not being secure enough so they decided to change over to a 3-button system. Its easy to operate one-handed, just something I’ve never seen before.
So I guided the camera into the rail of the SpiderPro, heard the “click” of the spring-loaded locking switch and let go of the camera. It dropped with the lens facing backward, flash mount aimed straight down. The camera felt good when I walked around my house. With the locking switch on, I felt confident my camera wasn’t going anywhere. Even when I pulled the locking switch back, as long as I wasn’t jumping around, I still felt confident my camera wasn’t going anywhere.
On top feeling good ergonomically, this system is streamlined enough that I can pack it into my camera bag without any problem. The spider plate has some female threaded holes to mount your tripod quick-release plates – something I thought was very smart of them to do. Mounting a tripod quick-release plate may interfere with your ability to shoot veritcally, though – as your hand has to wrap around the tripod QR plate, the spider plate, and the battery grip itself – but at least with my Manfrotto QR plate, it is easy to pop on and off when needed.
Next step: Field Testing!