Forget the strap, user your hip
Whenever an innovative solution to camera carrying that does not involve neck straps is introduced, I like to ponder the history of camera-carrying solutions. With the SpiderHolster Black Widow belt camera carrying system, it's time to look back, then see how well this new innovation does the job.
A quick history of camera carriers
First there were “never-ready” form-fitting camera cases that used to be included when you bought an SLR back in the film days. These cases often had built-in straps and closed up over the camera, guaranteeing that the camera was never ready when the decisive moment was in front of you. Like the Dodo bird, these useless cases are virtually extinct.
Then there were camera straps, which are in use to this day and are a reasonable solution unless your camera weighs over a few pounds. Then you need padding to protect your neck or shoulder. If you need to bend over, you put your camera at risk! And after a while, neck and back strain is inevitable.
Then there were hand straps, a fine idea—the camera is always there, ready to use. These are often standard issue when you buy a compact camera. But what if you want to rest your hand and put the camera down for a while? You can hang it precariously from your wrist or higher up on your arm, but it might bang into something, and odds are that it would hit lens first. Did you know that hitting a camera's lens when it's zoomed out is the most frequent cause of camera death?
A hands-on look at the SpiderHolster Black Widow
Which brings us to the SpiderHolster Black Widow. This is a hands-free camera carrying device that doesn't rely on the usual neck strap or any variation thereof. Instead, it allows you to carry your camera—from point-and-shoot to fully-loaded DSLR—on your belt.
The SpiderHolster Black Widow has two parts: the belt holster, and the camera pin. Attach the holster by pulling your belt through the two back loops and tighten your belt. Then attach the camera pin (with the supplied washer first) by screwing it into your camera's tripod socket. Use a wrench to carefully tighten it. Then slide the round end of the camera pin, with the camera attached, into the holster and you're ready to go.
I walked around for a day with a small camera dangling from my belt this way, and generally liked the experience. The camera was always a moment away, ready to go. While not as convenient to get to the camera as when the camera is hanging from a neck strap (you need your left hand to release the camera, the right hand to pull it out of the Holster) when you're walking around it is not as intrusive. When I switched to a heavier camera (a Canon 7D) I found my hips could handle the payload for a longer time than expected, while my neck would have felt the strain sooner. However, I would recommend using this for lighter DSLRs rather than pro rigs. I also think it's a great solution for carrying compact cameras.
When carrying the lighter camera (a Panasonic GF3) after a few minutes I hardly felt its presence but knew it was there, ready to be deployed at a moment's notice. It was great to have my hands free when not using the camera; I could drink a cup of coffee while taking a break from a shoot without having to put my camera down somewhere or have it hanging precariously from my shoulder. However, I had to be careful and aware of the camera's position on my waist so I would not walk too close to objects near the camera lest I accidentally bumped it against a wall or post.
The pin screwed in to the tripod socket on the bottom of the camera slides down into the holster, where it snaps in and stays securely although you can turn it around within the holster for maximum carrying comfort. To release your camera, your other hand must push the red lever up. Then you can pull the camera up and out, ready for use.
I did have a couple of minor issues with the SpiderHolster Black Widow. First, the washer is small and could easily be lost, and second, you need to bring an additional item—a pair of pliers—to properly attach the pin to the camera. If you try doing this by hand, the pin will quickly loosen and the camera could fall and break.
I can see this as a useful way to carry your camera when traveling, doing street photography or to carry a second camera when shooting weddings and events. For $50, it's a useful gadget and a great $100-or-less photo-centric gift. See more photo gifts for under $100.
Learn more: Here's a video that Shai, the Spider Holster Black Widow's inventor, has posted on YouTube demonstrating how it works.