In the Field with the Cotton Carrier CCS G3 Harness

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My first thought when asked to test the Cotton Carrier CCS G3 Harness system was, “why would I need a harness? I’ve been operating just fine with basic camera straps over my shoulder for years, and a harness will only impede access to my cameras.” It didn’t take long to realize how wrong I was and, while I may not need a harness, I certainly benefitted from its advantages. Yes, you will need to get past the baby carrier and bullet-proof vest jokes, but you will take comfort knowing that hours after the echoes of laughter have faded, your back, shoulders, and neck will still be comfortable.

Cotton Carrier CCS G3 Harness-1

Like most camera accessories, the Cotton Carriers tend to suit a certain type of photography, and my line of work calls for carrying two cameras, one with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and one with a larger 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. That is common across many disciplines. However, I normally work press conferences and semi-formal affairs, so I was a bit hesitant to wear a gray vest with large cameras strapped to it; I prefer to be a bit more discreet, or as discreet as possible while carrying two DSLRs. My other concern was that it would be difficult to get the cameras out of the harness in time to catch a fleeting moment. Initially, I considered the Cotton Carrier more a tool of landscape and wildlife photographers who often hike many miles to get to their set-up spot or wait patiently for the creatures to appear. I also thought of some photojournalists and sports shooters who have no need to be discreet and are on their feet for hours at a time and may have to run with gear, or even those who cycle or ski or otherwise need two free hands and a camera at the ready. To a lesser degree, I thought wedding photographers could benefit from the comfort and access, but they too need to consider their appearance and often need their cameras always in hand.

With these thoughts in mind, I used the Cotton Carrier CCS G3 Harness-2, which also comes with the “Wanderer” Side Holster, on two jobs—one a press conference and, the other, a casual outdoor music event.

Cotton Carrier Wanderer Side Holster for All Camera Body Styles

The Good

Let’s start with the obvious: this harness distributes the weight effectively, making it very easy to carry two (or more) heavy cameras with less discomfort and fatigue than you would have with any strap or traditional harness. Its ergonomic design and padded straps are very comfortable and, when cinched properly, keeps the camera high on your chest, minimizing strain on your back. Despite my initial concern, the twist and lock system used to secure cameras did not make it difficult to remove the camera from the harness receiver. Rotating the camera 90° to the right and pulling it up, you are ready to shoot as quickly as if you were swinging a camera forward with a strap.

Yes, cameras with long lenses and speed lights attached are a bit trickier to twist up and release, but after a few tries, you get the rhythm. Putting the camera back into the receiver is a bit more of a challenge, because it helps to see where you are sliding the hub, but again, after a few tries you get the hang of it. Of course, if getting one camera out of your hand to grab another is a time-critical step for your work, it’s something to be aware of. It’s also important to remove your camera strap when using the Cotton Carriers because they can get tangled if just left hanging, unused. Not having a strap around your neck or shoulder requires a psychological leap, a trust fall if you will, but the harnesses include tether straps to hook to your cameras as a safety measure, in case the hub doesn’t slide into the receiver or any other unforeseen glitch arises.

The side holster attaches securely to the waist strap of the harness and is then in an ideal place for your second camera. The holster can also be attached to a backpack waist strap or even your belt. The receiver-and-plate that holds the anodized aluminum hub is very sturdy. I think only a calamitous impact would damage it. For your further peace of mind, the Cotton Carriers are protected by a three-year technical warranty.

The Not-So-Bad

There really are no “bad” aspects to this harness, it delivers exactly what it promises and does so comfortably and efficiently. I could point out that it’s not ideal for every type of photographer, but what gear is? I should mention that it may be less useful for some women photographers, given where the camera hangs and that having the harness be snug to your body is important to its proper function. I also found that when cinching the shoulder straps, the back-side hook-and-loop fastening slipped a bit and that adjusting the shoulder strap took two hands, when it should ideally take one. These two “issues” I would chalk up to the “newness” of the item and, once corrected and adjusted to my size, never reoccurred.

I also used the hub and receiver in my own manner, one probably not endorsed by the manufacturer, due to the risk of your camera falling, but this simple adjustment made it even easier to extract and replace the camera. When attaching the hub to your camera’s tripod thread (with included hex wrench), you are instructed to align the arrows on the base of the hub in the direction of your lens, thus enabling the twist and lock aspect of the system and preventing the camera from falling, but if you adjust the arrows perpendicular to the lens, you can slide the camera into the receiver without twisting the camera first. This will leave your camera vulnerable to slipping out of the harness, but only if you are running or bending over, otherwise it stays in place just fine and allows you to just slip your camera back in place without twisting it first.

The Handsome

As mentioned, a concern I had about the harness was the way it looked, and this is no fault of the harness itself, which is a handsome charcoal gray design made from very sturdy Kodra Synthetic canvas with DWR coating. Compared to most camera-support gear and even to high-end leather straps and harnesses, the gray CCS harness (it is also available in Realtree Camo) holds its own. I wore it under a suit jacket to my press conference and it fit well enough, but having a jacket over the harness does somewhat hamper access to the camera at your waist and these are ideally meant to be used over your clothes, something to consider if your job requires a certain attire.

The Extras

The Cotton Carrier includes a few extra features that prove its practicality and hint at its intended users. A lens stabilization strap runs across the bottom of the harness to hold a long lens snugly in place and keep it from swinging or bouncing if you are running, biking or climbing. It also comes with a rain cover that will easily slide up and over your camera. A pocket on the inside of the breast plate is made for a cell phone or other similarly sized item, at the front there is a small item pocket and in back, a stretchable woven pocket fits medium sized items. There is also a model that includes a binocular bracket for those (bird photographers) who need one at the ready. Finally, and available separately, is the CCS G3 Strapshot, which offers multiple ways to carry a camera, including with the shoulder strap of the G3 Harness or any other backpack shoulder strap.

Cotton Carrier CCS G3 Binocular and Camera Harness

Conclusion

Cameras are getting lighter, but we are all getting older, and any way to lighten the load and stave off long-term neck and shoulder damage should be taken seriously. Even though using this harness screams “photographer!” and may not be the best choice for all occasions, it is relatively unobtrusive for the comfort it offers and is ideal for any outdoor photographer who carries cameras for long periods of time. Let us know your thoughts on harnesses compared to straps, and the appropriateness of using harnesses at formal affairs.

5 Comments

I had the earlier model of the Cotton Carrier harness.  In addition to the advantages highlighted in the article, I found that it is probably better used in not so warm/hot environment.  Although it has a meshed material on the back, the overall snug fit does not allow too much breathing room.  I often had sweaty spots when I wear them.   Another thing is related to the intrinsic design that it uses the tripod screw hole for the anchor hook.  Then I have to remove them for using the tripod.  So it depends on the types of photography you want to do.  If I have the leisure time to retrieve the camera I would still used the backpack.  Only when you need free up the hands or to have the quick retrieval of the camera, this Cotton Carrier harness will be useful.  

I bought an Optech shoulder strap for use at a practice round at The Masters golf tournament. I had my Canon New F-1 with the FD 28mm f2.8 hanging from the right side (so my right thumb would be ready on the film advance) and my 5D III with EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L on the left.

I scheduled the next day off so I could recover from carrying two cameras for several hours. I thought that I would have to visit my chiropractor, but I was surprised. The shoulder harness distributed the weight to the shoulders instead of to the neck.

On my last travel I had a lot of tools to help my shootings with me. But non of them was as helpful  to me as cotton carrier. If you shoot actively on the field on your legs cotton carries is important as a special lens or tripod.

What is that circular thing on the front element of these lenses? Like in first pic and the woman in red.  I'm seeing more of these on the field. Obviously I'm an amateur photographer.

Front the looks of it, I'd say it is a type of filter or lens protector  but I could be wrong

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