I love non-strap carrying solutions for my camera. I've written in the past about how much I enjoy the Peak Design Capture Clip and the Cotton Carrier system. Over the years, when I had been using these two systems, I ran into a number of photographers at different events using the Spider holsters. Without fail, those photographers I met always raved about Spider.
This year I received free tickets to WPPI in Las Vegas from a local company so I spent an afternoon wandering around checking out new products and making new connections. When I saw the Spider booth, I bombarded them with questions to understand how their system works and what is different about them. Ashley, the girl I spoke with, was great and answered all my questions. After that, she graciously offered to let me test out a ton of their gear and I have been using it for the past several months
Spider's self-proclaimed mission is to provide revolutionary, ergonomic solutions for photographers from all walks of life. They have four families of holsters: SpiderPro; SpiderLight; Black Widow; and Spider Monkey. The SpiderPro is what they are most famous for and what I have seen many pro photographers using. It is designed for heavy DSLR gear. The SpiderLight is similar to the SpiderPro, but designed for lighter gear. The Black Widow is designed for point and shoot and compact camera systems. Finally, the Spider Monkey is a holster systems for all your camera accessories and water bottle.
The basic set up for the Spider systems is mostly the same among the families. A plate screws into the bottom of your camera that has a little ball sticking out of the plate. The holster, which you wear around your waist or on your backpack (depending on the product), has a small metal groove that the ball on the plate slides into. On the holster, there is a little lever you flip that locks the holster onto the ball. With this system, you can leave it unlocked to quickly pull it in and out of the holster, or you can lock it quickly and easily to keep it completely secure while only needs to quickly flip the small lever to remove the camera from the holster. I really liked this attachment mechanism as it felt very secure, but also very simple to use. There is nothing special you have to do to put the camera in the holster. It just slides in quickly and easily and can be locked easily as well. The way it is designed is also nice because you can point the camera different directions to make it the most comfortable at any given time rather than being locked into one one specific attachment. Finally, I thought the ball sticking out would annoy me, but it has never gotten in the way. While it does stick out a little and can be a little weird when storing the camera in a bag, it just hasn't ever bothered me.
The SpiderPro system is designed for the heaviest camera systems, but I have been using it with my smaller Fuji system and it works great. This family of gear includes a single and double holster system. The system is a belt that straps around your waist and has an attachment mechanism on the side with a pad that comes down lay between your leg and camera. The double camera system has an attachment mechanism and pad on both sides.
I have been using the single camera system, and I really enjoy it. Having the holster built into a waist strap is a huge advantage to having to wear it on your belt. When wearing a holster on your belt, I have found it quickly becomes uncomfortable with anything more than a very light system as a heavy camera tugs a lot on the belt and pulls it away from you. That is not a problem when the holster is built into a heavy-duty belt that goes around your waist. The pad is also nice as it protects your camera a little better and makes it more comfortable to carry. The only real downside to the waist strap is it is a bit bulky. When using the system, this is great as it makes it much more comfortable to wear. It does, however, make it a bit of a pain for traveling as it takes up a bit of space in a camera bag. I have put it in my normal luggage when I have room. When I don't have extra room in my luggage, I have made do by actually connecting the belt around the outside of my camera backpack as though my backpack was a torso. This has worked great and alleviated the issue of the belt taking up valuable gear space when traveling.
It should also be noted the SpiderPro holster can be purchased on its own if you want to hook it on your own belt or something else.
There are different attachment plates you can get to best meet your preferences. You can also get a plate designed for attaching to your lens if you are shooting with a bigger lens. I actually have tried most of the plates and find they all work great. I actually like the lens plate on my camera and use that one a lot as it is a little less bulky.
The SpiderPro line has a few additional products I haven't used, but are worth mentioning. There are lens pouches that come in a couple different sizes. These fit on any of the belts (not just the Pro line) and are designed to fit your lens on the belt so you have easy access to a spare lens. They are fold flat so you don't have to worry about a bulky pouch sticking out when the lens isn't inside. There is also a memory card wallet that fits on the belt so you can have quick access to multiple memory cards. They also make compatibility kits so you can use the Spider holster with belts from either LowePro or ThinkTank.
In the SpiderPro line, there is also a hand strap offered. I have never been a huge fan of hand straps, but they can be very useful with holster systems since you don't have a neck strap keeping you from dropping your camera. I mainly just don't think hand straps are very comfortable. While I don't have the hand strap from Spider, I did play with it a bit at the booth during WPPI and it is pretty awesome. It is by far the nicest looking and most comfortable hand strap I have ever used. It is ergonomically designed to not pull your hand at an uncomfortable angle. While the price tag is pretty steep for a hand strap, the design and build quality on this are impressive enough, it would definitely pull the trigger if I was going to be regularly using a hand strap.
The SpiderLight set up is very similar to the SpiderPro set up. You can get a one or two-camera belt with holsters on it. You can also get the holster separately to attach to your belt. There is also a smaller, but just as nice, SpiderLight hand strap available.
Where the SpiderLight line gets really interesting for me is the SpiderLight Backpacker Kit. This is another product I have been using a lot over the past several months. This kit includes a holster that can be worn on your belt or on your backpack strap. I really like this feature because I do not always like wearing my camera on my waist. When I am hiking with a backpack, I really enjoy carrying it on my chest so the added versatility with the backpacker kit is really appreciated by me. At first, it was a little difficult to figure out how to attach the backpacker kit, but once I figured it out, it really is a great design as it is very secure and keeps the camera from tugging too much. Because of this, the holster is very comfortable to carry on your backpack. I really like having two holsters, one for my backpack and one for my waist so I can switch the camera when I want without having to switch the holster between the two locations.
The Black Widow family says it is designed for point and shoot cameras, but it would easily work for the more compact interchangeable lens or bridge cameras as well. The Black Widow line up offers a very similar holster system, just smaller. It also has a backpacker kit similar to the one discussed above.
The Spider Monkey family is a bit different. It is designed only for accessories. The attachment plate is a small plastic attachment that sticks to your accessory and then slides into a small plastic holster than can be clipped onto your belt or anywhere else. You can get three of the attachment tabs for only $15 and then stick them to anything you want to carry on your belt. You can also get pouches, water bottle holders and rain pouches that connect to the Spider Monkey System.
I have found the Spider Monkey system great for carrying small things like my speed lights, water bottles, and my Platypod.
I really like the entire line of Spider products I have been using. The SpiderPro belt is very easy and convenient to use, but offers more comfort and security than any other holster system I have used. The BackPacker Kit is what I would get if I could only afford one thing because it is versatile because it can switch between your belt and backpack, which is a big benefit for me. Finally, the Spider Monkey kid is very affordable and great for extra things you want easy access to. I would highly recommend the Spider Monkey to anyone that shoots portraits or events and wants to be able to easily carry and access speed lights.