Monday, March 01, 2010

The Spider Holster: My impressions after 2 months of daily use

Let me start out by saying that the Spider Holster is the most significant piece of camera gear that I has come out in the last few years.  Rarely do I get this excited about a new product, but I must say that the Spider Holster, has for me, forever changed the way I carry my camera. 
 For many years, I was constantly trying to find a camera carrying system that allowed me to carry my cameras without the shoulder or neck fatigue associated with traditional straps. I wanted a system that was secure, yet allowed quick access.

Over the years I tried LowePro’s Street and Field hip/belt system and then switched to the Think Tank Speed Belt and bag arrangement. (See those reviews here). As a working photojournalist, I see the bag and belt system and the Spider Holster as having two separate and distinct purposes. I use the Think Tank Speed Belt system for transporting my cameras from point A to point B, and I see the Spider Holster as a platform from which I can work, once I am “on location”. For me, working out of a belt and bag system is too slow and cumbersome. I will do it when there are no other options (inclement weather for example), but when it comes to my daily work, the bags stay in the hotel and I hit the street wearing only my Spider Holster. The freedom of movement, security, comfort and the speed at which I can access my cameras is key, and the Spider Holster makes that all possible.
Photo by Harry Purcell
As a bit of background, I’ll tell you that I always carry two cameras. Both are Canon Mark II, one with a 16-35 2.8 and the other with a 70-200 2.8 (see my gear here). The body with the 70-200 is attached to my right hip with the Spider Holster, while the 16-35 is slung over my left shoulder using an UPstrap (see review here).
photo by Fara Sunderji
In early January I arrived in Southeast Asia for a series of assignments and photo tours (see my photo tours here). It is now March and these are my impressions after daily use for a solid 2 months. I literally have worn the Spider Holster 8-12 hours per day for the last 60 days. So please feel confident that what I am telling you is not some two hour evaluation resulting in opinions and or fears based on “perceived” ideas of how it may or may not work or perform. I have read things in several reviews indicating that it’s dangerous not to use a strap, or “what if you drop your camera” or, what if a pick pocket sees you with an expensive camera hanging on your hip…..OK, OK, enough with the “what ifs”, the reality is, if you pay attention, (as you should), the Spider Holster system is as safe or safer than a strap or bag and certainly more user friendly. For me, a camera is a tool not a jewel, I make my living by actually using cameras, therefore anything that gets in the way of me “using” my camera is a pain in the ass, and any product that is ergonomic and allows me to do my job quickly and easily, is a godsend.
Photo by Henry Greene
 So, here’s my scoop about the Spider Holster. It’s built tough, it has a solid “machined” feel….it is a piece of professional gear. The Spider Holster hip based system keeps the weight of a heavy camera/lens combination off at least one of my shoulders, and gives me quick and easy access, just like a gun holster. Let’s call it a “quick draw” camera system.

Here’s a picture of me shooting at the Leper Terrace at Angkor Thom in Siem Reap Cambodia. As you can see the camera is hanging on my hip. Shai, the developer of the Spider Holster suggests using the Spider Plate rather than the Spider Pin, but I find that the Spider Pin allows my Mark II with the 70-200 to hang in a comfortable position. To each his own….do what you want but for me, the balance point is perfect with this set up.
 Photo by Harry Purcell
 I do have two minor complaints, and these may already have been addressed with the newer version of the Spider Holster. Let me explain….from January 6th to late February I was using an older version of the Spider Holster, then, one day the boat on which I was traveling from Pak Beng to Luang Prabang Laos sank. I was able to save my camera gear and computer, but my luggage, paperwork, guide books and my Spider Holster ended up at the bottom of the Mekong River! I was happy to get out of the incident in one piece, and a few days later a Laotian diver retrieved my baggage. Most everything was salvageable, but the Spider Holster was never found. I was totally bummed, and had to resort to my old camera carrying system for about a week. While in Luang Prabang, I sent an email to Shai at Spider Holster and asked if he could ship a replacement unit to my attention at the Foreign Correspondent’s club in Phnom Penh Cambodia. Amazingly, a week later, when I showed up at the FCC, there was a FedEx package waiting for me.
 Anyway, back to my two minor complaints….the original Spider Holster belt that I had was beginning to show signs of wear (some loose threads and fraying) and the constant friction of the Spider Pin against the groove in the Spider Holster tended to create some gray particulate matter similar to graphite shavings. This “dusty” debris would get on my hands, or on my pants, or on whatever came in contact with the Spider Pin. Although this was an annoyance, it made no difference to me, because when laundered my pants cleaned up nicely. Perhaps Shai has found a solution to the wear and debris issues with his “newer” version. If not, don’t let these minor issues stop you from getting a Spider Holster. I can tell you, when my one Spider Holster ended up at the bottom of the Mekong river I was severely bummed. The loss really impressed upon me, just how much I love the Spider Holster. In all honesty, I will never go back to a shoulder strap, the Spider Holster is the absolute best. Get one, you won’t regret it for an instant. If Shai can ship me one on short notice to Phnom Penh, I am sure he can get one to you, wherever you are. The Spider Holster is worth every penny, it’s the biggest advancement in camera carrying systems to hit the market. For working professionals, it will likely become the system of choice. Bravo to the Shai and his Spider Holster, this is the killer product of the decade!
 Photo Harry Purcell


Austin Curtis said...

right on Karl!

I love the spider holster too! It feels so good on your hands, doesn't it - its very solid in construction. Thanks for the review :)


Shannon Murray said...


1. Why don't you use two spider holsters?

2. assuming that you like the 1 strap+1 holster, why?

3. Have you tried a black rapid R-strap ( and what are your thoughts on that style of strap?

4. Unrelated - is most of your work available light, or do you use fill flash?

Warm regards,
Shannon Murray, Sydney - Australia

Jaime said...

Hey dude . . . I am not a Pro photographer , but I do take a lot of pictures , and go out to "flick out" (that is how I call it)

My question is : how safe and secure is the spider belt , I read on a review that this guy camera fell hard to the ground , because the belt opened some how !!

And last but not least . . . does it drag your pants down ?? do you feel like you have to get something on your left side (assuming you use it right side) in order to compensate balance ??

Thank YOU

Ryan Smith said...

Great review, I use my system constantly. I actually use two Spider Clips now on weddings and couldn't live without them.