Whether you're ready for it or not, Shai Eynav just sent us a pre-production sample of his Spider Holster for review. When first announced, we had our doubts as to its usefulness. After all, slinging a chunky DSLR from our belt presents not only ergonomic issues but significantly increases the threat of a high-school styled depantsing if not worn correctly. However, anyone who's ever carried a DSLR for long periods of time to shoot wedding assignments, little league games or say, CES has felt the pain inflicted by traditional DSLR neck and shoulder straps. So how did it perform? Is the Spider Holster the device that will finally free your hands and relieve punishing neck, shoulder, and back strain? Strap in hoss, we've got the answer for you just after the break.
The first thing you notice when unpacking the Spider Camera Holster is not the heavy industrial design of the Holster guaranteed to give Steampunkers pause, but the massive Spider belt to which it's attached. Unfortunately, what it lacks in superhero accessories it makes up for in utility -- something we figured out later. In our haste to give it a try we simply clipped it onto our belt like a Wal-mart clip-on tie -- you can also thread your belt through the Spider Holster for additional security. We then screwed the "Spider pin" to the tripod mount beneath our camera (a beefy Nikon D300 with Nikkor 18-200mm lens and hot-shoe flash). Time to test.
Ever so gingerly we slid the camera into the Holster. Ka-shink. It was in. And it was solid after a quick tightening of the belt to keep it from slipping. Trying to pull the camera out for a repeat of that tactile rush brought us to the quick realization that the Holster was locked. See, the Spider Holster features a locking-pin to keep the camera from ejecting itself upward during quick movements or when sitting down. A simple flip of the pin upward with the left hand allows for the camera to be lifted up out of the holster with the right. Easy, but secure enough to thwart thieves from making a serendipitous snatch. A firmer, upward push on the pin locks it out of the way in case you want to live dangerously. Ka-shink, ka-shink, ka-shink... we couldn't stop testing it, pulling it out of the holster repeatedly like an amateur gun fighter -- each successful release creating an even more fluid experience as we became one with the apparatus in a kind a spaghetti-western Zen. Ka-shink, ka-shink, ka-shink... you get the idea.
We then repeated the exercise using the Spider Belt with surprising effect. The Spider Belt helped to distribute the weight more evenly without any risk to our trousers or pride. As an extra security measure the removable Holster is locked to the Spider Belt via a retaining strap. Note that the Spider Belt is absolutely not required for lighter weight cameras like point-and-shoots or Full HD consumer-class videocameras. In fact, we bet you'll be just fine without the Spider Belt for devices as big as entry-level DSLRs. We could almost manage without it using our D300 with lens and flash as long as we cinched our belt tight and attached the Spider Plate option. A plate you ask? Well, it's another mounting accessory with two benefits: first, it allows your DSLR to hang at a more ergonomic and balanced angle that makes walking more comfortable. Second, it allows for a quick-release tripod plate to be used at the same time. But with our trousers quickly drifting south of casual and into thug territory we decided against it -- the Holster Belt is a definite for prosumer / professional shooters.
You can sit and kneel with the camera in the holster but you have to be careful. When using just the Spider Pin-only, the camera lens points down so you can easily damage it while lowering your self into a chair. Of course, you have to take care of obstacles when the camera is slung over the shoulder or around the neck too so we expect this to be something you'll adapt to. Risk is removed a bit by using the Spider Plate which lets your DSLR hang horizontally from the Holster as in the picture above. We found it best to have the lens pointing backwards as we walked.
The video above demonstrates what it's like to use and walk with the Spider Holster. Surprisingly enough, walking with the camera dangling at the hip is quite natural. For the purposes of the video we had our hand raised (awkwardly) so you could see the holstered motion unencumbered. However, since the camera hangs at exactly arm's length, we always had our hand on the camera while walking thus dampening any extra sway.
Maybe its just us but we rarely shoot without a camera strap anchored to our bodies. The length of the strap is just fine, normally, but when holstered to the Spider it suddenly becomes exceedingly long, nearly reaching the ground. The obvious solution is to wrap it around the camera or buy a shorter strap -- ultimately, we'd opt for the latter. For the time being though, it tucks into the front or rear pocket as a quick fix.
Ok, we like it, but here's the rub: hanging gear from your belt is nerdy, like, BlackBerry-in-a-belt-holster nerdy and as lame as yapping on a Bluetooth headset while riding a Segway. However, given the utter usefulness of the Spider Holster and the fact that it makes carrying your DSLR around on long shoots a breeze, well, you'll likely find a few of us editors knee-deep in Spider nerdure at the next CES. Just promise not to stare, ok?
Spider hasn't announced pricing yet but the product "launches" (we assume that means for retail) globally at the end of this month. A few more instructional videos courtesy of Spider.