There are an endless number of camera carrying solutions available right now and new ones seem to appear daily. Their usefulness ranges from pure gimmick to extremely useful. The Spider Camera Holster falls into the upper end of the extremely useful solutions.
The Spider Camera Holster has long caught my eye. I very frequently carry my DSLR cameras in Think Tank Photo or Lowepro Toploader holster-style cases, often using them on a belt as a camera holster. I frequently need the protection these cases provide against falls, rocks, brush, etc.), but ... not always. Removing a camera from a case is slow and inconvenient compared to removing a camera from a Spider Camera Holster. Sometimes getting the case out of the way is freeing and increases productivity - especially when shooting events.
What has preventing me from trying a Spider to date was that I didn't want to remove my camera L-plates when using the standard SpiderPro plate - and I didn't want to screw a SpiderPro Pin into my L-plates. When Spider removed this last issue by releasing the SpiderPro Arca-Swiss clamp, I finally agreed to review a SpiderPro Camera Holster (this holster was provided by Spider).
And this turned out to have been a great decision. The Spider Camera Holster System is very thoughtfully designed, very well built and incredibly useful.
And this is a system. The primary system components are the SpiderPro Holster and the SpiderPro Pin.
The pin screws tightly (important) into the camera's threaded tripod insert - or into a plate (more below). As you are fully trusting this pin connection to hold your camera, you want to make sure the pin is tightly installed using the small hex key wrench provided.
The SpiderPro Holster is a small-but-very-substantial chunk of metal that guides the camera-mounted pin down into the bottom of a slot where it can be locked. The funnel-design of the holster makes it easy to quickly lock in a camera.
The holster's 2-position switch gives you the option of having the camera locked-in or unlocked and ready for extra-fast, one-handed release. It would be hard for the camera to fall out even when unlocked (though I'm confident that some of us could figure out how to make it happen). From the locked setting, the switch can be moved 15° (or more) to allow the camera to be released while the switch remains set to lock for the next use. You will need two hands for a release from the locked position - unless you slide the switch fully to the unlocked position first.
The back of the holster has a metal belt slot. While I've seen this slot used on jean pockets and waistbands, I don't recommend doing so. Especially if your pants are loose. I also don't recommend using your nice leather belt as it will likely be scared by the metal. Recommended is attaching the SpiderPro Holster to a Think Tank Photo or Lowepro belt - or to a SpiderPro Belt as my review system included.
SpiderPro Belts are available in single or dual camera systems. I like the ability to hang up one camera before removing the second and I like the balance that having both bodies on the belt offers, so I hope to update my single system to a double at some point. With the double, carrying three cameras becomes a much easier option - one on the neck and two in the holsters.
The SpiderPro Holster slides over the SpiderPro Belt and is then screwed into place for rock solid attachment. A likely-not-needed elastic loop is also provided to hold the holster down onto the belt. Around the holster is nylon-covered, semi-rigid and slightly padded protection for your leg(s). The protection also holds the camera to the side to maintain leg movement freedom. And it works really well.
The belt itself has a substantial amount of Velcro adjustment available. The range of waist sizes this belt will work for is huge. When handling the belt, the Velcro makes lots of hook-and-loop noise - and the shape tends to not be round. Sizing the belt requires unhooking the entire waist band strap, pulling the strap snug and then re-engaging the remaining length of Velcro (nearly 20" for my 32" waist). This process takes more effort than adjusting most waist packs, but it holds its sizing much better - and there is no dangling strap remaining. Everything is neatly tucked in (appearance definitely counts when shooting many events). Properly setup, there should be no Velcro hooks able to catch on clothing or other objects.
The SpiderPro Belt features a large, triple-lock buckle. Be sure to press the two buckle parts firmly together to insure that the smaller center lock fully engages. Mine did not lock properly 100% of the time, but a little more care when connecting the buckle completely solves this problem. The third lock does not seem necessary as the main locks are substantial.
In use, the belt is quite comfortable. With no DSLR camera attached, I barely know it is there.
Back to the SpiderPro Pin. While this pin can be inserted into the camera's tripod insert, better is to use a SpiderPro Plate. The SpiderPro Plate (above) provides many options for pin mounting location - and holds the small hex key wrench used to tighten the pin.
New at Spider Camera Holster review time is the SpiderPro Arca-Swiss Clamp (shown above). This high quality machined clamp attaches to any Arca-Swiss-compatible camera (or lens) plate and provides two pins for attachment to the SpiderPro Holster. The Arca-Swiss Clamp Pins (two provided) are anti-rotational and secured by a screw from the opposite side. The clamp screw is also heavily relied upon - it is substantially sized and captive. The clamp is quickly and easily removed from the camera for full access to the Arca-Swiss plate.
In use, the camera hangs upside down (perfect for when using a flash) at your side. There is little freedom of movement limitation with the camera in this position. Standing, walking, sitting, squatting down - as long as the camera clears what is around you, the holster does not inhibit your movement. You do of course have to allow extra clearance for the exposed camera(s) when navigating your venue - to protect the camera, the venue (marked walls, etc.) and the guests at the venue.
With the camera hanging at your side, what do you do with the neckstraps? Good question. One good option is to simply remove them. A removed strap will not catch on anything while you are walking or shooting. Or leave it on. You will can have the extra insurance from a camera drop while shooting if using the neck strap. If leaving the neck strap on the camera while using the Camera Holster, you will probably want to wrap the strap over the the holstered camera to get it out of the way.
This is a good time to talk about the weight shift from your neck to your waist. Having a strap pulling on your neck for long periods of time can result in pain <raises hand>. Shifting the weight to your waist is a great option for avoiding this pain. Do note that heavy unbalanced weight on your hips for long periods of time can also become an issue, but much less-so for me. If you leave the neckstrap on, you can easily switch back and forth, neck to waist, to vary the load on your body.
The Spider Camera Holster is a high quality product and carries a modestly high price. If you are shooting with a lighter camera, the Spider Black Widow is a lower-priced alternative to consider.
I'm really happy with the Spider. While not all carry solutions make sense for all situations, the Spider Camera Holster is definitely one of the best camera carrying solutions available for the wide range of circumstances it is designed for - including sports, wedding, reportage and other event photography - and an endless list of other photography applications. I highly recommend giving a Spider Camera Holster a try - I think you'll be hooked!