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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Review: Spider Holster Black Widow

For cycle touring, I tend to just carry my camera in my jersey pocket. I can reach it, grab the camera, turn it on while moving it to position, and shoot when in place. (It's much tougher to do that with phones because the latency involved and the awkwardness in getting the camera in place isn't great, but it's possible)

Recently, I've been mountain biking. With kids, I carry not just snacks, and a tire repair kit, but also a camping hammock. That means a backpack, which blocks access to cycling jersey pockets, so I've been making do with cycling underwear, and a belt-mounted camera case. The zipper'd case, however, is awkward --- in the time it takes to take the camera out, I might have missed the decisive moment. Worse, when I put the camera back, I have to take the time to zip it up.

The Spider Holster Black Widow looked promising. It comes with a pin which you attach to the tripod mount (they claim it won't interfere with the SD card or battery case, which is false!), and then you wear the holster on your belt. A retaining mechanism keeps the camera solidly in the holster, requiring a lever to be pulled while unholstering the camera (which is surprisingly doable with one hand). The clever part is that when placing the camera back in the holster, the snap-down mechanism pops right in, allowing you to do this with one hand. The entrance is wide enough and designed in such a way that you can get the bolt in 100% of the time.

I'm well aware of the alternate camera slings such as the BlackRapid. They work for running and hiking, but not biking, where the lack of an attachment will cause the camera to swing and hit you or get tangled in the bars. The various chest mounts are better, but my experience with chest mount is that you feel it all the time, especially if you're breathing hard.

In practice, the Hoslter works fine, but has a few characteristics that you might want to be concerned about. First, it offers no protection: I noticed my camera knocked against say, door sills if I walked too close. Theres' enough degrees of freedom that it won't break, but if you fell off your bike you could easily smash the camera against the ground. The second issue is that if you wear a T-shirt tucked out, there's a chance that when you want to reholster the camera, your T-shirt flaps over the holster, then you'll have to take an extra second to slide the pin under your shirt to plug it back into the holster.

Niether are major issues. The first solution is to use a rugged camera (TG-5) or just accept the fact (as I do) that if you want good pictures you have to risk good equipment. There's no two ways around it. The second is to tuck your shirt in.

The device seem sturdy, and can probably be used with bigger cameras than the compact GR-3 that I've been using. On the other hand, for one handed operation, none of the mirrorless cameras would be acceptable (they require a second hand to uncap the lens cap, and mountain biking throws up enough dirt that you won't want to ride with your lens uncapped). Certainly it's a good option for walking around town with a small DSLR or mirrorless camera while being a tourist. Recommended.

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