On March 1, 2010 I did a blog post about my impressions of the Spider Holster after two months of daily use. Now, after another five months of almost daily use during assignments in Sudan, Mali, Kenya, Cambodia, and Thailand, I would like to update everyone on my experience with this ground breaking product.
There are a number of excellent reviews of this product on the internet; and then there are some reviews based on little or no actual field experience. I have lived with and worked with this product extensively over a period of 7 months and feel comfortable telling you that most of the skepticism is unfounded. This product has improved my ability to do my job comfortably and effectively. I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone who’s shooting style or requirements are similar to mine.
Back in March I stated that the spider holster is probably one of the most significant pieces of camera gear that has come out in the last few years…I was right, but things got even better. Back in March I was using a single Spider Holster to carry my Nikon D3S with attached 70 -200 F2 .8 on my right hip, while carrying my Nikon D3S with attached 17 -35 F2.8 on my left shoulder using Al Stegmeyer’s UPstrap. There are photos of that setup on my blog post about March 1, 2010.
Since that, I have abandoned the strap on my wide lens camera and have gone totally strapless by adopting a dual Spider Holster setup. I must say that it is a liberating experience not to have any camera straps on my shoulders. No more readjusting the straps to keep them in place, no more straps are falling across my diopter just as I’m trying to get a shot, no more worrying about swinging cameras crashing into things…. I can’t imagine ever go back to using straps again!
I have spent a fair amount of time reading the message boards and other photographers reviews of the Spider Holster. One of the most common concerns with the Spider Holster is safety. The purpose of this post is to dispel those fears.
Many photographers who may have not actually used the Spider Holster, postulated that it would be easy to drop your camera using the Spider Holster system. I will admit that for the first few days or week of using the Spider Holster system it does feel pretty strange to holster your strapless camera into the Spider and release it. Mountain climbers trust their ropes, SCUBA divers trust the regulators, NASCAR drivers trust their brakes and we as photographers trust our straps or in this case, our Spider Holster.
Truthfully, after a full seven months of using the Spider Holster I find it no more dangerous than using straps. Sure, you have to pay attention that the Spider Pin has been engaged with the Spider before you take your hand off of the camera, but if you’re using straps you have to make sure the strap is on your shoulder before you let go of the camera. So in my estimation, it’s just a matter of getting comfortable with a different system. Change sometimes makes us uncomfortable until we are familiar with a new way of doing things.
Another concern was raised in several reviews and on several message boards with regard to the buckle on the Spider Belt. Some authors worried that if the buckle failed their expensive cameras would fall to the ground. This was a concern of mine as well, I have had buckles fail in the past…it happens.
For many years, and to this day, I use the think tank holster system to transport my gear from point A to point B, and on my think tank belt I have rigged a redundant backup, safety strap, using a carabiner and a 4 inch “climber’s dog-bone” strap (Webbing strength: 22kN). See the photo below.
I did the same thing for my Spider Holster system. As you can see in the photo below I use a small carabiner and some Kevlar reinforced nylon string given to me by photographer Harry Purcell as a secondary backup safety catch in the event that I didn’t properly fasten the buckle of the Spider Holster belt, or if the buckle itself were to fail. In it’s current form, my jury rigged “fix” is functional, but damn ugly. I’ll change it as soon as I get to Burma this October, where I know a good shoe repair guy who can sew on a high strength loop of 1/2 inch black nylon strapping. For the time being though, this secondary safety strap prevents both my cameras from hitting the ground in the event of buckle failure.
Another concern that people have commented on is that with the weight of two heavy cameras on your hips, ones pants might, as they said “end up around your ankles”. I have not personally found this to be a problem, I wear the Spider Belt comfortably snug. Even with the weight of two pro digital SLRs with big glass attached, the system stays right where it should be, during extended walks, climbing and my day-to-day activities.
What I consider to be the biggest advantage of my dual-Spider Holster setup is that I can instantly access either one of my cameras without fumbling with bags or straps. In my particular style of photography speed is of the essence. I’m often switching between my wide lens and my telephoto in order to capture different parts of an unfolding story.
The nature of photojournalism is that it is often fast paced and dynamic rather than slow and deliberate. I have to be ready and able to get the shot at a moments notice. This is of course quite different from the requirement of a landscape photographer where speed and agility is less important. Essentially, what I’m saying is that the spider holster system works for me because of the type of work I’m doing, however it will not be the answer for everyone.
Now I would like to address several of the things that I that I like most about the Spider Holster system.
I like the fact that the Spider Holster has a solid, machined feel. It feels, works and acts like a piece of high quality professional gear, it is sleek and elegant and tough.
I like not having to deal with straps anymore. At first it felt strange not having straps attached to my cameras; they looked and felt so naked, but now I can never go back to straps. Less really is more!
My neck and shoulder problems have all but disappeared now that the weight of my cameras is carried on my hips rather than on my neck and/or shoulders.
I like using the single Spider Pin rather than the “Spider Pro Plate” because I find that the cameras hang in a position that’s more comfortable and secure.
Using the single Spider Pin rather than the Spider Plate, the cameras tuck in behind my butt. Since I don’t even own a tripod, I don’t need to have access to the tripod hole. If you use a tripod often or even occasionally, this set up would be inconvenient for you…you would need to use the Spider Pro Plate.
I like the fact that in dangerous situations and in crowds where pickpockets may lurk, I can flick the locking mechanism on the Spider so that it’s difficult for someone to snatch a camera from my hip. I also lock the Spider when I’m riding a motorbike so that if I hit a bump, the camera does not inadvertently “pop out” of the Spider.
Well, now you know how I feel about the Spider Holster system. As I have stated this system is not for everyone, but for me it has revolutionized the way I carry my cameras and it has increased my comfort and the speed at which I can work. I am always looking for ways to minimize the amount of gear I carry. Going strapless by using the Spider Holster system allowed me to streamline, simplify and improve the ergonomics of my overall system.